A senior AJCommittee staffer wrote a memo dissing Barack Obama’s commitment to Israel. After the Forward published it the Committee renounced the document. All this happened in context of the upcoming make or break Super Tuesday primaries in which many states with substantial Jewish populations will be voting. The Forward also places the leaked memo in the context of Hillary Clinton and Republican efforts to portray him as insufficiently loyal to Israel’s interests:
Obama’s approach to dealing with Iran “raises questions,” said the document, which circulated within the American Jewish Committee. It also suggested that Obama placed the burden of solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict primarily on the Jewish state…
Quoting Obama’s much buzzed-about statement early in the campaign that “no one has suffered more than the Palestinians,” Feuer questioned the lawmaker’s potential as a peace broker.
“He appears to believe the Israelis bear the burden of taking the risky steps for peace, and that the violence Israel has received in return does not shift that burden,” Feuer wrote.
She also expressed concern about Obama’s emphasis on diplomacy, particularly in dealing with Iran and other “rogue states.”
“The Senator’s interpretation of the NIE raises questions,” Feuer wrote, referring to the new National Intelligence Estimate, released in November 2007, which determined that Iran had halted its alleged nuclear weapons program in 2003. While Feuer did not explicitly elaborate further, she included a number of statements Obama has made that encourage diplomatic engagement with Tehran and are critical of the Bush administration.
Feuer also noted Obama’s presence at a fundraiser headlined in 1998 by the now late Edward Said, and of public suggestions by Ali Abunimah, a Chicago-based Palestinian activist, that the senator was more openly critical of America’s approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before his first run for Senate.
The memo appears to contradict the stated policy of Israel lobby groups like AJC, the ADL and AIPAC to remain politically non-partisan. Perhaps that’s why the group rushed to distance itself from it as soon as word leaked out.
Thankfully, Obama’s Florida campaign chair Robert Wexler took strong exception to the sentiments included in the document:
In an interview with the Forward, one of the senator’s chief backers, Florida Rep. Robert Wexler, argued that the memo reflected “political bias on the part of the drafter of the memo, rather than the facts.”
Wexler, who chairs Obama’s campaign in Florida, said he took particular issue with the idea that Obama’s calls for diplomacy should cause alarm within Jewish circles, given that a number of Jewish lawmakers have advocated the same position.
“The whole notion that if a lawmaker supports renewed diplomacy with Iran, that that somehow suggests a position that the American Jewish community should be concerned about — well, put me on the top of that list,” Wexler said. “Put Tom Lantos on the top of that list, put Howard Berman and Gary Ackerman on the top of that list.”
It should be noted that the recent AJC annual survey found that only 45% of American Jews found Obama a credible candidate as opposed to 70% for Clinton. Makes you wonder…
Tom Lantos, whom Wexler puts in a group of like-minded people to him, is one of the most reprehensible people in the Congress. He is a hypocrite, a war-mongerer, one of the strongest and loudest voices in the “Israel is always right” crowd. He opposed US aid to Lebanon after Israel’s assault.
One wonders if Wexler knows who he’s hanging out with.
Walter Ballin says
Congressman Tom Lantos recently announced that he will not be seeking re-election, and revealed that he has cancer of the esophagus.
Richard Silverstein says
I don’t like some of Lantos’ views esp. about Israel. But he is a Holocaust survivor & that counts for a lot in the Jewish community. Many people think of Lantos as a hero. Palestinians think of Yasser Arafat as a resistance hero though some of the things he believed were reprehensible. This is by no means to excuse Lantos’ views just to explain the regard w. which he is held in some circles.
If I can spam my blog this is my (granted, I was ticked off when I wrote it – for personal reasons) take on the whole mess:
Feel free to delete this post if you feel I am spamming my blog here, Mr. Silverstein.