Barack Obama went to a Florida synagogue and made his pitch for Jewish support. He faced a skeptical crowd that did not exactly give him a hero’s welcome. But what was most striking were comments like this that are breathtaking in their audacity:
“Don’t judge me because I have a funny name. Don’t judge me because I am an African American. People are concerned about memories of the past. … That is exactly what I am fighting in the African American community when I hear anti-Semitic statements. We are bigger than that.”
First, the insinuation, which he has made more than once, that Jews oppose him because of his name or his race (or because another African American made anti-Semitic remarks) is insulting and condescending. He should drop it from his repertoire and address the real concerns Jewish voters have expressed.
That brings us to his jaw-dropping comment that he has been fighting anti-Semitic statements in the African American community. Excuse me, but did he rebuke Reverend Wright for the Israel is a “dirty word” remark (before Wright’s National Press Club attack on his political sincerity) or when Wright launched into his tirade about a fantastical ethnic bomb created by Israel? Didn’t he attend Farrakhan’s Million Man March? One wonders why Obama would make such a remark, knowing as he must that his association with and choice of a hatemonger as mentor who spewed anti-Israel venom is one of the key concerns for the very audience whose votes he now seeks. Perhaps an apology for years of ignoring Wright’s vile comments would have been a better approach.
Obama also made his appeal at the synagogue as a defender and friend of Israel, defying anyone to find an anti-Israel comment he has made. And he vowed not to negotiate unconditonally with Hamas or Hezbollah. No such promise with regard to their state sponsor Iran, however. He claims it is “distortion” by others to claim he wants to negotiate unconditionally with the terrorist groups themselves. But of course, that is a distortion. The focus of the debate is on his promise with regard to state sponsors of terror and his apparent indifference, indeed his understanding of the reasons why Hamas would look favorably on him as President.
Many Jews have real concerns about Obama’s toleration for Wright, his willingness to provide an international publicity platform for the world’s most prominent holocaust denier, and even his close association with Palestinian activists who defame Israel. To win voters over, he will have to be honest in assessing and addressing their concerns. Then he can try to articulate why it would be in our national security interest, and in Israel’s, to talk without preconditions with Ahmadinejad. That’s the basis for a real dialogue with the Jewish community on matters of foreign policy.