Oy Bay!

"My heart is in the east, and I in the uttermost west." — Yehudah Ha-Levi

Barack Obama: Divest from Israel?

Posted by Oyster on March 3, 2008

obama israelWhoa.

I was shocked when an anonymous Oy Bay fan dropped this bomb on my head. While I usually shy away from non-Jewish politics on Oy Bay, this story seemed to strike a personal nerve with me. I fought tooth & nail when I was a student activist to stop the Divestment campaign that started at UC Berkeley. So, when I followed the link to Stop Obama, a political blog focused on criticizing Barack Obama, I was shocked to read how his spiritual leader is vehemently anti-Israel, Ralph Nader backed up his anti-Israel credentials, he back-pedaled on his ‘supremacy of Palestinian suffering’ statement in Iowa, and he never objected when his spiritual leader declared that their church was going to actively push for divestment from Israel (despite his spin that he’s a great friend of Israel).

This is really nuts. I hope this isn’t true, but I think that there’s enough material there to warrant that the Jewish community should really scrutinize Barack Obama’s previous stance on Israel, and force him to clarify his previous statements and actions. He shouldn’t get a free pass for any reason whatsoever.


20 Responses to “Barack Obama: Divest from Israel?”

  1. benD said

    Wow! Unbelievable. And to think I voted for this guy! I thought he had always been a supporter of Israel!

    Why is this stuff just coming out now, after I’ve voted!

  2. Josh said

    You really should never post from a source with a single agenda. Stop Obama is not a site offering anything remotely resembling balanced information and your posting of almost entirely their materials is poor journalistic practice. If you look at today’s posting, the site blames Obama for Farrakhan’s comments at a rally only a week after Obama Denounced and Rejected Farrakhan’s endorsement.

    If you look at AIPAC’s “Take Action” website, AIPAC is lauding Obama for being one of the two coauthors for the Senate version of the bill encouraging divestment from Iran. Further, if you look at every vote that Obama has taken on an issue related to Israel, he has been incredibly consistent. It is easy to build an anti-Israel case for anyone trying to rebuilt the black-jewish coalition that has fallen apart since the civil rights movement. Certain elements of the black community are definitively anti-semitic. But the attempt to define Obama by his least supportive supporters is little more accurate than trying to claim that McCain is a Nazi for the sole reason that most neo-Nazis vote Republican — namely absurd.

    The Republican Jewish Coalition has already begun to do everything in their power to make Israel a wedge issue once again in this election. The site you mention as well as an op-ed by the chairman of Republicans Abroad in the Jerusalem Post are meant to do just that. But when you look to objective journalistic sources, Obama has been a consistent supporter of Israel — from the 2006 Lebanon war to his stand on Iran . It is true that he does not have a longstanding a record as others, but this is a function of his short time in the senate, not any semblance of an anti-Israel sentiment.

    With regard to where he stands, his critics are right that he does not plan on heading out to join ZOA. He believes that Israel’s sovereignty is paramount, but that the United States should encourage measured progress toward peace. There is nothing radical about that position, in fact it is shared by the vast majority of both American and Israeli Jews.

  3. allysonrt said

    Obama and Farrakhan, though he tried to distance himself, when Farrakhan backs him as President, I vote for McCain just not to get the Nation of Islam dining in the White House. And his wife, she makes Hillary look good!

  4. ToJosh said

    Josh, you really shouldn’t begin a comment by questioning Oyster’s ability to tell a good source from a bad one, nor by telling Oyster where he should be getting his info. Apart from being patronizing, unless you can provide proof of the source’s inaccuracies, I question your objectivity.

    Far from being biased, because it has an agenda, a site with an agenda can be be an amazing source of expertise on a topic.

    I personally thank Oyster, for bringing the info to us!!

    I checked out the material, and it was all extremely well documented, and very convincing. I don’t think it has anything to do with the Republican convention. Had you taken the time, Josh, to look at the site, you could have noticed that it was Democratic. The profiles tell me that some of the authors are very left wing.

    Josh, before you express opinions about articles and blogs, please take the time to read their content, and if you find inaccuracies, to portray them accurately. If you have a particular liking for Obama, maybe you should be able to substantiate it, and/or repudiate arguments of others.

    You mention Nazi’s and McCain. Please, find more appropriate parallels. Not one of the articles on the StopObama website mentioned Farrakhan’s statement of support for Obama. Rather, if you take the time to do your reading, the material points to incontrovertible evidence of association between Farrakhan and Obama’s pastor. None of this, has anything whatsoever to do with Obama and Israel.

    It is clear from the site’s article son Obama and Israel, that Obama has never been a friend of Israel, until his Senate run in 2004. In fact, he was hostile to Israel, and very pro-Palestinian.

  5. I thought it was interesting that it took some goading by Hillary Clinton to get Obama to denounce Farrakhan’s support. His original response was that he can’t reject the endorsement because he can’t tell someone not to say that he’s a good guy.
    It’s not that I think that Obama supports Farrakhan or his views, it’s that I wonder what his refusal to strongly distance himself from Farrakhan’s views means in the long run. As President, would he stand up to the anti-Semites and the terrorists in this world or is he going to tell us that he has to respect their differing opinions while they attempt to annihilate Israel or deny the Holocaust?
    Also, check out this article in Newsweek about Obama and the Jewish vote: http://www.newsweek.com/id/114723

    Also, check out this article about Obama’s history regarding Israel. This writer talks about his pro-Palestinian past (and there’s a photo of him with Edward Said) and how he’s gotten more pro-Israel so that he can win elections. (Note: This is a pro-Palestinian Web site, to put it lightly, so skip past the Israel-is-the-worst-thing-ever part)

  6. nicolleshanman said

    I am researching to write a post about this very subject. In my mind, if you follow a spiritual leader who associates with the likes of Farrakhan, even borrowing quotes from them for a book, I wonder at your true philosophic principles. Rather, are you principled enough?

  7. Nav said

    I’m glad some politican has finally had the guts to speak out against an Apartheid state. A state that burnt the books by Eyal Weizman – something the Nazis did back in the days.

  8. michaelt74 said

    I didn’t read the article concerning Obama’s alleged anti Israel stance, but if it’s correct he should be praised for doing so. Israel is a rogue state and an international pariah and the cause of suffering for millions of Palestinians. The Israeli regime justifies its persecution of the Palestinian people by claiming it is fighting terror, though what Israeli government doesn’t readily acknowledge is that it is illegally occupying land which does not belong to it and has established modern day concentration camps in the West Bank and Gaza. Palestinians have been denied the right to freedom of movement, access to medical care, education and employment by Israel’s security wall. The Israeli government acts with impunity and disregards international law routinely. Israel has violated countless UN resolutions condemning its actions. Acts of terror must be condemned in whatever form they take, whether it’s a suicide bomber targeting civilians at a bus stop in Israel or the Israeli military bombing and shelling residential areas in Gaza and the West Bank.

  9. nearlynormalized said

    Do you really think that anybody besides Israel gives a crap about their existence? Please, and ex CIA man said and I cannot quote him but the general statement is so what if Israel exists? The only thing holding the Arab world together is the unified hatred for Israel. Israel can take care of itself, the Jews have existed with hate and death all around and they still exist. Do I give a shit what the Church of Christ says? Please, don’t be that ignorant, there are plenty of ungrateful Israelis that do as much harm to themselves as the Church of Christ can.

  10. michaelt74 said

    A recent UN report substantiates my previous post:

  11. Oyster said


    Is this what you’re rambling about? No one burned his catalog. And for making up lies to get an excuse to compare Jews to Nazis, you get the Antisemitism prize. Get lost.


    “Concentration camps”, eh? Show me the train tracks. Show me the crematoria. Show me the decline in Arab population in the West Bank. You and Nav should hold hands while taking a long walk off of a short pier.

  12. Friar Yid said

    Obama and Farrakhan, though he tried to distance himself, when Farrakhan backs him as President, I vote for McCain just not to get the Nation of Islam dining in the White House. And his wife, she makes Hillary look good!

    First, your argument is idiotic. Obama has said multiple times that he thinks Farrakhan’s full of crap. There’s zero reason to assume that a vote for Obama would lead to him extending special respect or privileges to Farrakhan.

    Second, John McCain has-and is- getting support from people just as crazy as Farrakhan: Jerry Falwell and John Hagee. Why would having them at the White House be any better?

  13. Friar Yid said

    (Stupid tags. Sorry.)


    As President, would he stand up to the anti-Semites and the terrorists in this world or is he going to tell us that he has to respect their differing opinions while they attempt to annihilate Israel or deny the Holocaust?

    What, exactly, is the POTUS supposed to do regarding Holocaust deniers? Unless we passed a speech law (like many European countries) without telling me, respecting their opinions is EXACTLY what he has to do (not that he can’t also call them complete morons).

    Oyster- I can’t see either Obama or Hillary, should they get the nomination, of doing too much to upset the Israel status-quo- not if they expect to get elected. The kooky minister thing is interesting, but not terribly decisive for me. I have crazy relatives with crazy ideas; I can repudiate their ideas (neo-conservatism? yuck!) without repudiating them. Nader also doesn’t do much for me. If Obama’s “pro-Palestinian” positions were so well known, why haven’t we heard of them before now? I want to see some more evidence before we start fitting him for his keffiyah. (Not that actual “even-handedness”, as the electronic intifada guy calls it, is necessarily such a bad thing.) Incidentally, I find it hilarious that the Republican Jewish Coalition is suddenly taking Nader’s position on anything as Gospel.

    The only thing I would say I agree with here is that Obama should be pushed harder to answer any questions people might have, regarding Israel or anything else. But right now all I’m seeing is a lot of attempts at guilt by association. None of which I find very convincing.

  14. Oyster said


    I myself was very fond of the “neither candidate will do much to upset the status quo” argument, especially when I was a clueless freshman and voted for neither Nader, Gore, or Bush. Then, we got Bush, and the “won’t rock the boat” argument was laid to waste.

    As has been mentioned by Josh, I’m not 100% sold on the info from Stop Obama, since it obviously has an agenda. With that said, I did find enough citations to primary reporting that leaves me convinced that Obama isn’t really being scrutinized at all by the Jewish community on these issues. I’m not proposing a boycott or anything drastic, but I find the kid’s gloves with which he’s being handled as uncalled for in the face of a charge as grave (to me) as that of divestment. He should have to answer some hard questions about this, and thus allow both the media and the public to then decide for themselves where the truth lay.

  15. Rochelle said

    For people who are truly interested in the issue of Obama and Israel, here are some informative pieces from respected sources — the first one is a transscript of a speech he gave where he goes into the topic in-depth.


  16. Friar Yid said

    Oyster- fair enough. As I said, I don’t think any of the candidates should be getting a pass. I believe that I was far from alone at wincing when Russert asked him the Farrakhan question and Obama- for what appeared to be one of the first times this campaign- was struggling to find the “political” answer. Very exasperating. In some ways, I think I want him to be the nominee just so his media vacation will slow down and people will start holding his feet to the fire. The Republicans won’t pull any punches, why should the rest of us?

  17. Andrew said

    Obama’s speech to AIPAC:


    More commentary on haaretz:



  18. Oyster said

    Thanks for the further info, Andrew.

    What’s your take?

  19. Ed said

    A pretty relevant Op-Ed in yesterday’s LA Times: http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/sunday/commentary/la-op-miller9mar09,0,2762149.story

  20. Rochelle said

    Web Exclusive: My Neighbor, Barack

    by Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf
    Special to the Jewish Week

    Not everyone can claim to be the neighbor of a Presidential candidate – I can, though, because I am.

    Barack Obama’s Chicago home is across the street from KAM Isaiah Israel, the Hyde Park synagogue at which I’ve served for 27 years. He spoke to our congregation as an Illinois state senator; more recently, his Secret Service agents have made use of our, shall we say, facilities.

    But it’s not neighborly instinct that’s led me to support the Obama candidacy: I support Barack Obama because he stands for what I believe, what our tradition demands.

    We sometimes forget, but an integral part of that tradition is dialogue and a willingness to disagree. Certainly many who call me their rabbi have taken political positions far
    from mine – just as Barack Obama’s opinions have differed from those of his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

    On March 18, the candidate gave a speech that made abundantly clear that he and Wright often disagree. Obama condemned Wright’s “incendiary language,” and “views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but… that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation.”

    Of course, race is only one issue on which Wright has stepped beyond the bounds of civil discourse. He’s frequently made statements regarding Israel and the Jewish community that I find troubling. But to limit our understanding of Obama to the ill-conceived comments of the man who once led his church is dishonest and self-defeating.

    Obama’s strong positions on poverty and the climate, his early and consistent opposition to the Iraq War, his commitment to ending the Darfur genocide – all these speak directly to Jewish concerns. If we’re sidetracked by Wright’s words, we’ll be working against these interests. After all, a preacher speaks to a congregation, not for the congregation.

    Many people remain concerned that Obama isn’t committed to Israel. Some want him to fall in line behind the intransigent, conservative thinking that has silenced Jewish debate on Israeli policy and enabled the Bush Administration’s criminal neglect of the diplomatic process.

    Clearly, though, anyone who thinks Obama waffles on Israel hasn’t been paying attention. In 2007, he spoke to AIPAC about “a clear and strong commitment to the security of Israel.” Today, his website states clearly that America’s “first and incontrovertible commitment in the Middle East must be to the security of Israel.”

    For my part, I’ve sometimes found Obama too cautious on Israel. He, like all our politicians, knows he mustn’t stray too far from the conventional line, and that can be disappointing. But unlike anyone else on the stump, Obama has also made it clear that he’ll broaden the dialogue. He knows what peace entails.

    Speaking recently before a Jewish audience in Cleveland, Obama did the unthinkable – he challenged the room. He talked about the need to ask “difficult questions” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: “I sat down with the head of Israeli security forces,” he said “and his view of the Palestinians was incredibly nuanced…. There’s good and there’s bad, and he was willing to say sometimes we make mistakes… and if we’re just pressing down on these folks constantly, without giving them some prospects for hope, that’s not good for our security.”

    Yet, in spite of all of Obama’s strengths, we’ve been loathe to admit a difficult truth: Among some American Jews, race plays a key role in the hesitation to support the Obama candidacy. We’ve forgotten that Black and Jewish America once shared a common vision. In the civil rights era, I and many in our community stood shoulder to shoulder with the giants of our generation, demanding freedom for all Americans.

    Obama himself doesn’t share our amnesia, however. “I would not be sitting here,” he said in Cleveland, “if it were not for a whole host of Jewish Americans.” That was literal truth, but not everyone remembers it.

    I’ve worked with Obama for more than a decade, as has my son, a lawyer who represents children and people with disabilities. He has admired Obama’s dedication and skill as he worked on issues affecting our most vulnerable citizens.

    Obama is no anti-Semite. He is not anti-Israel. He is one of our own, the one figure on the political scene who remembers our past, and has a real vision for repairing our present.

    Barack Obama is brilliant and open-hearted; he is wiser and more thoughtful than his former minister. He offers what America, Israel, and the Jewish community need: a US President willing to ask hard questions, and grapple with difficult answers.

    I am very proud to be his neighbor. I hope someday to visit him in the White House.

    Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf is rabbi emeritus at Chicago’s KAM Isaiah Israel, Illinois’s oldest Jewish congregation.

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