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Obama and Israel


In an attempt to squelch rumors that he is pro-Palestinian, or god forbid Muslim, Barack Obama made it clear in the final Democratic Presidential debate on Tuesday that he is anything but. After being prodded by NBC’s Tim Russert on the issue, Obama said he has long been a “stalwart friend of Israel’s,” believing the country to be one of the United States’ “most important allies in the region,” and even going as far as to call the security of Israel “sacrosanct.”

The hallowed confirmation that he would maintain the US’s lopsided support for Israel came the same day seven Palestinians were killed by Israeli air strikes in Gaza. Since “peace negotiations” resumed in November, Israeli military forces have reportedly killed over 200 Palestinians.

Speaking to a group of 100 pro-Israel supporters in Cleveland this week, Obama assured the crowd that as president he would keep Iran in the crosshairs to protect Israeli interests.

“Now the gravest threat … to Israel today, I believe, is from Iran. There the radical regime continues to pursue its capacity to build a nuclear weapon and continues to support terrorism across the region,” he explained. “Threats of Israel’s destruction can not be dismissed as rhetoric. The threat from Iran is real and my goal as president would be to eliminate that threat.”

After reiterating that he’d end the war in Iraq first, Obama then promised he would turn his attention to the country’s neighbor. “My approach to Iran will be aggressive diplomacy: I will not take any military options off the table.”

In fairness, Obama did mention something few Democrats in Washington dare to utter, “I think there is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt a unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel that you’re anti-Israel and that can’t be the measure of our friendship with Israel.”

After pointing out the obvious, however, Obama praised Israel’s most recent invasion of Lebanon, the pro-Israel tilt on Capital Hill, and his quest for Israel to remain a Jewish State.

“[Any] negotiated peace between Israelis and the Palestinians is going to have to involve the Palestinians relinquishing the right of return as it has been understood in the past,” he averred. “And that doesn’t mean that that there may not be conversations about compensation issues.”

How gracious, but what does Obama plan to do with the over 1.4 million non-Jewish Arabs that live in the country? Continue to treat them like second-class citizens or just boot them out? Obama has called Israel a “democracy,” but as the former editor of the Harvard Law Review you’d think he would know what the term actually means. Sure Israeli Arabs can vote, but they can’t hold office if they are democratic secularists who want civil rights for all of the country’s citizens. They have no constitutional protections (Israel has no formal constitution) and can only own land in certain locales as a consequence of unfair laws that grant special treatment to Jewish residents.

Simply put, as Jimmy Carter took so much heat for rightly observing, Israel is an apartheid-ridden country where the Arab population is not exactly welcomed with open arms.

Barack Obama won’t confront this reality, nor will he end Israel’s violent incursions into the occupied territories or halt the US military threats toward Iran. The Obama campaign may pledge to bring “hope” and “change” to the White House, but when it comes to what the Democratic frontrunner calls our “special relationship” with Israel, that promise an out-and-out lie.

JOSHUA FRANK is the co-editor of, and author of Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush, and along with Jeffrey St. Clair, the editor of the forthcoming Red State Rebels, to be published by AK Press in March 2008. He can be reached through his website,






JOSHUA FRANK is managing editor of CounterPunch. His most recent book is Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, co-edited with Jeffrey St. Clair and published by AK Press. He can be reached at You can follow him on Twitter @joshua__frank

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