Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Obama and Hamas

Barack Obama has made it clear that he supports the state of Israel. He recently told Jeffery Goldberg that he “thinks that the idea of a secure Jewish state is a fundamentally just idea, and a necessary idea,” and that his commitment to Israel’s security is “nonnegotiable.” He condemns Hamas as a terrorist organization, and states that the United States should not engage in diplomacy with the group. His declared position on Israel is close to that of McCain or Hillary—but someone needs to tell Hamas and its friends that.

Barack Obama claims to oppose Hamas. And Hamas responds by endorsing him. The group’s political leader, Ahmad Yousef, commented that “We like Mr. Obama, and we hope that he will win the elections…I hope Mr. Obama and the Democrats will change the political discourse... I do believe [Obama] is like John Kennedy, a great man with a great principal. And he has a vision to change America to make it in a position to lead the world community, but not with humiliation and arrogance.” It seems that Hamas is on board the Obama campaign.

Robert Malley, an Obama advisor, was fired after he told a newspaper that he had met with Hamas leaders. It was no secret—Malley felt open enough about his negotiations to proudly mention them to a newspaper—yet Malley remained part of the Obamba campaign. Obama’s campaign manageers must have known of Malley’s Hamas meetings—but nothing was done until the talks were made public. Obama might not want to talk to Hamas—but at least one of his valued Middle East policy advisors does.

And Obama seems to surround himself with people who deny Israel’s right to exist. Rashid Khalidi, an Obama ally and Columbia University professor, has called Israel an “apartheid system in creation.” Jeremiah Wright has said that Israel is a “dirty word” among blacks. And Bill Ayers, of course, firmly opposes Israel as well.

Obama has been able to boast that many of his campaign’s biggest supporters have been young people. Undeniably, they have accounted for many of his primary votes. His campaign has attracted youth from practically everywhere—California, Illinois, South Carolina, Palestine…

That’s right, Palestine. According to an Al-Jazeera news report, 23-year-old Palestinian Ibrahim Abu Jayyab and his friends get together before every primary and phonebank for Barack Obama. Jayyab and company probably won’t make much progress—their poorly thought out gameplan is to call random American numbers and deliver an oddly phrased message in a heavily accented voice. But still, it seems that Obama has at least a few supporters in Hamas controlled Gaza.

Granted, perhaps Jayyab is not typical of most Palestinians. Maybe he doesn’t oppose Israel at all, and when he is not calling American voters he spends his time at Palestinians Supporting Israel rallies. But the Al-Jazeera piece strongly implies that Palestinians almost unanimously oppose Israel’s policies, and that Jayyab is no exception.

Why does Hamas support Obama? Why do influential anti-Israel advocates surround him? Why does he get support from inside Palestine? It cannot be because of his stated position on the Israel-Palestine question—he has often declared his support for Israel, and strong opposition to Hamas.

Hamas and its allies support Obama because they see him as an easy mark. His public statements about Israel show that he supports the country—but doesn’t quite know how to go about doing so. When asked during a debate to name America’s three most important allies, he dodged the question to avoid having to name Israel. When asked about his policy regarding Iran, which controls Hezbollah, he responds that he wants to start negotiations. When asked about Jimmy Carter’s fervent and oft-repeated criticisms of Israel, Obama initially refused to comment before expressing tepid disapproval. There is no reason to assume that he would take any meaningful action against Israel’s enemies—and they know that.

Obama probably means well. But his foreign policy, especially regarding Israel, is ineffectual. And even if Obama means no harm, his policy could have serious consequences. Obama opposes Hamas, but his election would be the best possible thing to happen to that group.


At May 13, 2008 at 7:02 PM , Blogger Beth said...

Hamas' endorsement alone should be enough to make any American worried about Obama.

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