can’t see the forest

Sen. Barack Obama’s Apologetics for Israel; or, “To AIPAC, With Love”

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Sen. Barack ObamaFrom Counterpunch on March 5 comes a curious speech from (the staff of) U.S. Senator and Democratic Presidential hopeful Barack Obama. The title of the speech reads in its dogmatic tone a bit like a heading from Mao’s Little Red Book: “We Must Preserve Our Total Commitment to Our Unique Defense Relationship with Israel.”

The speech was delivered on March 2 to the AIPAC Policy Forum in Obama’s [political] hometown of Chicago, Illinois. For all that which is exemplary in disgustingly obsequious political pandering, completely devoid of any measure of critical thinking or meaningful directive, I encourage you to read the speech in its entirety via the above link. For now, here are some highlights.

Thank you so much for your kind introduction and the invitation to meet with you this morning.

Last week, this event was described to me as a small gathering of friends. Looking at all of you here today; seeing so many of you who care about peace in this world; who care about a strong and lasting friendship between Israel and the United States, and who care about what’s on the next page of our shared futures, I think “a small gathering of friends” fits this crowd just right…

…Our job is to never forget that the threat of violence is real. Our job is to renew the United States’ efforts to help Israel achieve peace with its neighbors while remaining vigilant against those who do not share this vision. Our job is to do more than lay out another road map; our job is to rebuild the road to real peace and lasting security throughout the region.

That effort begins with a clear and strong commitment to the security of Israel: our strongest ally in the region and its only established democracy. That will always be my starting point. And when we see all of the growing threats in the region: from Iran to Iraq to the resurgence of al-Qaeda to the reinvigoration of Hamas and Hezbollah, that loyalty and that friendship will guide me as we begin to lay the stones that will build the road that takes us from the current instability to lasting peace and security…

…Unfortunately, history has a terrible way of repeating itself. President Ahmadinejad has denied the Holocaust. He held a conference in his country, claiming it was a myth. But we know the Holocaust was as real as the 6 million who died in mass graves at Buchenwald, or the cattle cars to Dachau or whose ashes clouded the sky at Auschwitz. We have seen the pictures. We have walked the halls of the Holocaust museum in Washington and Yad Vashem. We have touched the tattoos on loved-ones arms. After 60 years, it is time to deny the deniers.

In the 21st century, it is unacceptable that a member state of the United Nations would openly call for the elimination of another member state. But that is exactly what he has done. Neither Israel nor the United States has the luxury of dismissing these outrages as mere rhetoric.

The world must work to stop Iran’s uranium enrichment program and prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. It is far too dangerous to have nuclear weapons in the hands of a radical theocracy. And while we should take no option, including military action, off the table, sustained and aggressive diplomacy combined with tough sanctions should be our primary means to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons…

…We must preserve our total commitment to our unique defense relationship with Israel by fully funding military assistance and continuing work on the Arrow and related missile defense programs. This would help Israel maintain its military edge and deter and repel attacks from as far as Tehran and as close as Gaza. And when Israel is attacked, we must stand up for Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself. Last summer, Hezbollah attacked Israel. By using Lebanon as an outpost for terrorism, and innocent people as shields, Hezbollah has also engulfed that entire nation in violence and conflict, and threatened the fledgling movement for democracy there. That’s why we have to press for enforcement of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, which demands the cessation of arms shipments to Hezbollah, a resolution which Syria and Iran continue to disregard. Their support and shipment of weapons to Hezbollah and Hamas, which threatens the peace and security in the region, must end…

…But as I said at the outset, Israel will have some heavy stones to carry as well. Its history has been full of tough choices in search of peace and security.

Yitzhak Rabin had the vision to reach out to longtime enemies. Ariel Sharon had the determination to lead Israel out of Gaza. These were difficult, painful decisions that went to the heart of Israel’s identity as a nation.

Many Israelis I talked to during my visit last year told me that they were prepared to make sacrifices to give their children a chance to know peace. These were people of courage who wanted a better life. And I know these are difficult times and it can be easy to lose hope. But we owe it to our sons and daughters, our mothers and fathers, and to all those who have fallen, to keep searching for peace and security — even though it can seem distant. This search is in the best interests of Israel. It is in the best interests of the United States. It is in the best interests of all of us…

Well, it appears that there aren’t any egregious fallacies in the last paragraph. Certainly there are many Israelis who wish for missile attacks and apartheid to become unfortunate details of the past. It appears to be hardly worth mentioning—at least, hardly worth mentioning to AIPAC—that Palestinians have feelings, too.

But for those with even a cursory knowledge of the violent, hegemonic history of Israel, the Senator’s remarks will come off, on the whole, as villainous and hypocritical fawning at the feet of money changers. In telling a crowd of influential political lobbyists exactly what it wants to hear, Mr. Obama is not acting in a particularly surprising way. Political campaigns run on money and media power, both of which AIPAC hoards plentifully.

That which has been said, though, cannot be unsaid. Never again can Mr. Obama present himself as a man of integrity, possessed of fair and open-minded views in foreign policy. He has marked himself as what he is: a pawn of the wealthy and powerful, not a “man of the people.” The heartwarming story of his altruistic-identity quest-Southside Chicago comeuppance is no longer very relevant. This cozy discourse among “a small gathering of friends” has now been published for all to read.

The deception that dominates this speech, and which dominates the mindset of AIPAC and its friends, is that Israel is first and foremost a victim state. Poor old Israel just can’t “achieve peace” through perpetual and synchronized campaigns of genocide and propaganda, so something must surely be wrong with the rest of the world, something only the wise and benevolent United States of America can help sort out with jet fighters, cluster bombs, missile shields, and speeches such as this one.

The Persian language is not, apparently, one of Mr. Obama’s strengths, as he used this speaking opportunity to further the widely propagated falsehood that Iranian President Ahmadinejad has ever called for Israel to be “wiped off the map.” Ahamadinejad’s words in Farsi were: “Imam ghoft een rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods bayad az safheh-ye ruzgar mahv shavad.” This translates as: “The Imam [Supreme Leader] said this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time.” Surely if Israel and the United States are able to vividly and publicly express their distaste for the regime in power in Teheran, the leaders of Iran should be afforded the opportunity to express distaste for the regime in power in Jerusalem. Mr. Amadinejad is indeed quite bullish in his words, but he spoke nothing about “maps” or “wiping,” nor did he mention the name “Israel.”

It is important that American voters realize Mr. Obama is no superman. Like most of those who have come before him in the quest for political power, he is content to distort and falsify for his own purposes. Thank you, Mr. Obama, for showing your true colors so very early in what is apparently, in your mind, little more than a game of words with the White House as the prize.

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8 Responses

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  1. Dave On Fire said, on 3/6/07 at 5:34 am

    How very disappointing.

  2. Joelsk44039 said, on 3/6/07 at 8:26 am

    Another anti-Israel screed. Seems that no matter how much land Israel gives up, it’s never enough for its enemies. And the poor, poor Palestinians always respond with knifings, shootings, stabbings and suicide bombings — just the normal way that any people would respond to the same provocations.

    Let’s face it. Israel is under seige by a blood thirsty, irridentist set of enemies that can’t stand the fact that another religion could, in fact, exist in its midst.

  3. NoPatience said, on 3/6/07 at 5:49 pm

    Let’s face it. Israel is under seige by a blood thirsty, irridentist set of enemies that can’t stand the fact that another religion could, in fact, exist in its midst.

    All righty then. Let’s take you argument at face value, O great master of Hasbara. We’ll stipulate that whole mess is just a misunderstanding about religion which could be cured by a little more tolerance and good will toward men, all property rights notwithstanding.

    You’ll stipulate that Israel will return Paletine to Palestinians if such religious consideration is given. Fair enough. Such a bargain too.

    If all we want is recognition of our respective religious territory, then certainly mere property rights are secondary considerations. The morals of the Jews are much more righteous than those of the people they murdered to establish Israel in the first place. Good point. Cut and paste more arguments like that one.

    Seems that no matter how much land Israel gives up, it’s never enough for its enemies.

    Isn’t Israel ahead in this acre counting game? Depends upon when you start keeping score, doesn’t it? Do you want to start in 1948? 1967? How about 1890? When should we start the land counting game to see how much land Israel has to give up before it’s enough>

    The real question is how much [more] land does Palestine have have to “give up” at the point of a gun before it’s enough for Israel?

    Go back to Hasbara school. You need more practice before they turn you lose with an intelligent audience.

  4. Curtis said, on 3/7/07 at 10:05 pm

    It may be presumptuous of me, but I doubt strongly that there are very many readers who would idly accept the portrayal of Israel’s existence as a continuous cession of territory—at least not without the initial understanding that the territory was seized and occupied illegally and inhumanely in the first place.

    Also, the idea that Palestinian Muslims somehow “can’t stand” another religion in their midst displays an appalling (and hopefully willful) ignorance of the history of the Levant, which was marked by relatively untroubled cooperation between Christians, Muslims, Jews, and others for numerous centuries before the arrogant foundation of a “Jewish” state on multicultural territory. As in other areas of the Middle East, only more acutely so, the terrible atrocities committed by Israel—and the lamentable violent reactions from its indigenous population—are primarily artifacts of callous colonialism.

  5. American voting citizen said, on 3/14/07 at 4:22 am

    Yeah I’ve heard some good things about Barack Obama. I heard he had an Iraq de-escalation act. Even people who supported the Iraq war when it began, would probably now agree that it resulted badly, with civil unrest and violence still occurring in Iraq: so probably Obama’s policy is favourable, there. I heard he also wanted to improve the schools, and increase literacy rates, and all of that. I guess I’ll have to read what some of his detractors have to say, to learn the negative side. I’m trying to decide whom it would be best to vote for!

  6. Peace said, on 6/19/07 at 10:53 am

    It is unfortunate – but perhaps not surprising – that someone would take such exception to Senator Obama’s comments. Put down the coffee. Read it again. What did he say that got you so worked up and in a dander? That Israel’s security is a legitimate issue for its ally the United States? That Mr. Ahmadinejad is a fascist who threatens war upon his neighbors? That threatening to murder Jews has historical precedence (and painfully tragic consequences)? Did Mr. Obama once imply that Palestinians don’t have feelings? Or is that the transfiguration of your own feelings about Jews?

    Let us state his argument simply for you.

    Israel and the Uinted States are allies – tied together by commitments to Democracy and Freedom.

    Jewish people have been threatened before and we cannot forget the consequences of these threats.

    We should not be cowed by threat of force or violence.

    BTW, its a cheap and inflammatory trick to refer to AIPAC as the “money-changers”. No literate person will fail to appreciate the allusion. Was that inadvertant or truly antisemitic?

    Also your Farsi is way off. Consult me next time you plan to translate. A native speaker will explain the literary flourishes in Furher Ahmadinejad’s comments.

  7. Curtis said, on 6/19/07 at 2:17 pm

    Thank you for your histrionics.
    Israel, one of the world’s wealthiest nations as it is, would have no need to consume one third of the foreign aid offered annually by the United States if it did not insist on existing as an all-Jewish state at the expense of the multicultural society—principally but not exclusively of Arab ethnicity—from which it robbed its territory. Medinat Yisrael is a “victim” only to the extent that any common thief is liable to be the victim of the self-defense of those from whom he seeks to steal. Only inhabitants of a fantasy land far removed from reality would dare to insinuate that the actions of either Israel or the United States in the Middle East are in any way representative of a “commitment to freedom and democracy.” It is only the empty streams of meaningless words proffered as policy by both governments which (falsely) claim that mantle. Perhaps not since the days of the Old Testament has one nation so openly and self-righteously strangled another in the name of God as Israel is now trampling upon the despairing Palestinians. Perhaps one day the taxpayers of America will grow tired of supporting the Zionist crusade; then, I expect, we would see a new humility from Tel Aviv. Until then, I am sorry to say that I can only expect continued suffering among innocent Israeli families and their Palestinian and Lebanese counterparts. I hope I am wrong.
    I am sorry that you seem unable to differentiate between opposition to Israeli apartheid and genocide and opposition to Judaism in general. They are clearly not the same.
    Please offer specific corrections if you intend to criticize my translation. I cannot find any fault in it after reviewing it, but I am certain that there are several Farsi-literate readers of this website who could benefit from your linguistic prowess. Evidently German is not one of your stronger skills. The word for “leader” is normally written Führer.


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