Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Is Israel's real enemy "the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam"?

I am sure that everyone who heard or read Senator Obama's speech on race has keyed in on a particular passage that resonates with him or her, whether as a sign of the Senator's greatness or as evidence of his pettiness. For me, it is this:

"a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam"


To my mind, this is a prime example of how the Senator uses carefully-chosen words to score points simultaneously with various constituencies that might otherwise be at odds. He calls Israel a "stalwart ally" in order to curry favor with American Jews, and it will probably fool a number of them -- but what I want a candidate to say to make me feel more secure as an American Jew is recognition of Israel's status as the Jewish homeland, not just a geopolitical asset. If the USA has a moral obligation to Kosovar Albanians and Sudanese in Darfur because of their inherent rights as humans, certainly the USA should support the right of the Jewish people to claim one corner of the world as its own secure homeland.

But even more clever -- too clever by half -- is his contrasting Israel with "radical Islam." In doing so, he scores points for "recognizing the Islamofascist threat," but at the same time he covers up the real source of the conflict: good old-fashioned Jew-hatred on the part of Arab and Muslim countries and peoples. The Arab countries didn't attempt to kill the State of Israel aborning because of radical Islam; Nasser's calls for Israel's destruction were driven by secular pan-Arabism, not the Muslim Brotherhood; and the PLO needed no imams or muftis to urge them to murder Israelis and other Jews.

But to call out the Arab nations for Jew-hatred would draw attention to the fact that Reverend Wright is at home with Jew-haters in the Black community. Certainly he's cozy with Louis Farrakhan, and if he doesn't share Farrakhan's view of modern Jews as adherents of a "gutter religion" and identical to the "white Devils," he's certainly tolerant of that view. Indeed, the notion he expresses in his Christmas 2007 sermon, that Jesus was a poor Black man, indicates that his theology is based on the idea that the Judeans, the direct descendants of the Hebrews, were Black Africans -- which necessarily means that he believes that Jews from the European diaspora must be impostors, hijackers of the Jewish faith. Does he blame Askenazic Jews for the genocide of the original Black Jews? And what of the Jews of the Maghreb or of the eastern Arab lands -- are they legitimate Black Jews or just another brand of illegitimate interlopers?

This takes us back to the first half of the statement. I can imagine the Senator or his supporters telling radical Black constituent groups that he supports Israel only inasmuch as it is a useful tool and not out of any love for, or recognition of the rights of, Israel's Jews. I can further imagine him assuring those groups that he is diligently working to make Israel more secure by helping to rid it of its racist Zionist practices and principles and evolving past its outmoded fixation on being a homeland for the Jewish people.

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