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Israel-Palestine and the 2008 US Election

Questions for Candidate Obama

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is an Editorial Board member of the Black Commentator and a long-time labor and international activist and writer. He is the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum.

Bill Fletcher, Jr.
The Black Comentator
May 10, 2007

Senator Barack Obama has become a major celebrity, a truth that is nowalmost a cliche. His campaign has raised massive amounts of funding. Hedraws large and enthusiastic crowds when he appears. Often described ascharismatic, he is more importantly smart and well spoken.

Yet before I jump into his campaign, I have a few questions that I firstwant to share with you and which I hope he will address in thenot-too-distant future.

There is a way in which I cannot tell who is the real Senator Obama. Forone, he has not carved out - at least as of this writing - any cutting edgeissues where he is taking the lead and defining the terrain. Second, and tosome extent more troubling, he permits people to see and assume in him whatthey want to see and assume. I have said to many of my friends that thissituation reminds me of an episode from the original Star Trek series wherethere was a creature that appears to the viewer the way the viewer wouldlike to see it.

I am, to add to this, very uneasy about some of the Senator's foreign policypronouncements, particularly with regard to the Middle East. To his credit,he opposed the Iraq invasion and had the courage to say so. Yet over thelast year, he has displayed a peculiarly uncritical stance when it comes toIsrael and has all-but-ignored the plight of the Palestinians. This pastsummer, when Israel launched its massive and deadly assault on Lebanon, theSenator was quite vocal in his support. He seemed to miss the Israeli use ofillegal cluster bombs and the lies the Israelis offered for theirunapologetic destruction of entire Lebanese civilian communities.

Further, the Senator seems to ignore the atrocious conditions being faced bythe Palestinians who, after all, are occupied by the Israelis in violationof United Nations' resolutions. This occupation is worsening with thecreation of what some people describe as the "apartheid wall", and what Isimply call the "wall of death," that the Israelis are building as theycarve out the land they wish to control in perpetuity.

Compounding this odd situation, the Senator seems to want to be a "hawk"when it comes to Iran, describing that country as a threat to Israel and theUSA. Here again I remain perplexed. Iran does not have the militarycapability to hit the USA. There is absolutely no proof of Iran advancingmilitary nuclear ambitions. It is a signatory to the NuclearNon-Proliferation Treaty. Everything else is speculation. Israel, on theother hand, has not signed the treaty, possesses nuclear weapons but willnot acknowledge that fact, and has assisted apartheid South Africa indeveloping weapons of mass destruction. India, to use another example, hasnot signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, has nuclear weapons, hasthose weapons pointed at Pakistan (which has its own weapons pointed atIndia), has fought several wars with Pakistan, and yet received nuclearsupport from President Bush and the US Congress. I cannot find any record ofSenator Obama suggesting a tough stand against either of these countries,irrespective of his particular concerns with the Indian nuclear deal.Perhaps I did not Google long enough???

So, I think we need to understand the Senator's thinking. After having whatmany observers described as a friendly relationship with Arab Americans overthe years, the Senator appears to have yelled, "abandon ship" and jumpedinto an anti-Palestinian and anti-Iranian lifeboat.

The uncritical support for Israel displayed by most US administrationssince, at least, the June 1967 Arab/Israeli War has not only cost the USAglobal credibility but undermined most prospects for peace in the MiddleEast. The hope for many of us has been the rise of a Presidential candidatecommitted to seeing the world as it is, and transforming the relationship ofthe USA from being a global bully into being a global partner.

I am not ready to write off the inspiring Senator from the great State ofIllinois, but no matter how hard I try, I keep thinking about that creaturefrom Star Trek.

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Additional Resources

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The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)

Council for the National Interest – Opposition to AIPAC

Anti-Defamation League

U.S. Campaign to End the Occupation

Muslim Public Affairs Council

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