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Barack Obama's visit to Israel and his AIPAC appearance and other remarks about Israel elicited the usual sort of remarks one expects in an election campaign, though these were delivered with Obama's usual flair.

Obama, however, has given Israel and Zionism two great gifts that were really only his to give. Astute Israeli commentator Sever Plocker pointed out, in a radio commentary, something that seems to have been forgotten or taken for granted. Barack Obama has re-legitimized Israel as a progressive cause. Obama, though his policies are actually less progressive than those of the other Democratic party candidates that he has apparently beaten, is a symbol of the progressive "revolt" in the US. Though Obama's support among progressives and liberals and the "left" is no doubt going to be eroded as he inevitably moves toward the center, his pro-Israel rhetoric is going to remain a powerful antidote to the rhetoric of the "Israel Lobby" and "Apartheid Israel" crowd.

Consider this statement, made while Obama was in Israel:

"Terrorism is not theoretical, it's right here a block away from this hotel, and it must be fought with full force and strength."

Sure, John McCain can say the same thing, but it has a different significance when Barack Obama says it. Obama cannot be painted as a neocon imperialist warmonger, right? McCain can't help it that he is a Republican, he was just born that way.

Or consider this statement to Shimon Peres:

"For most of Israel's 60 years, you have been deeply involved in this miracle that has blossomed and we are extremely grateful, not ust as Americans but as world citizens, to your outstanding service to your country and the insight that you have shared with us."

It is almost reminiscent of the all-but-forgotten days when Pete Seeger, Ronnie Gilbert and the Weavers sang "Tzena" - when progressives remembered that the Grand Mufti was a Nazi, and a hero of the "anti-colonialist struggle."

But Barack Obama may also give Israel, Zionism and American Jews a gift that only he, of all presidential candidates in history could give. Even Sever Plocker missed this. Obama told the AIPAC policy meeting:

I first became familiar with the story of Israel when I was eleven years old. I learned of the long journey and steady determination of the Jewish people to preserve their identity through faith, family and culture. Year after year, century after century, Jews carried on their traditions, and their dream of a homeland, in the face of impossible odds.

The story made a powerful impression on me. I had grown up without a sense of roots. My father was black, he was from Kenya, and he left us when I was two. My mother was white, she was from Kansas, and I'd moved with her to Indonesia and then back to Hawaii. In many ways, I didn't know where I came from. So I was drawn to the belief that you could sustain a spiritual, emotional and cultural identity. And I deeply understood the Zionist idea - that there is always a homeland at the center of our story.

I also learned about the horror of the Holocaust, and the terrible urgency it brought to the journey home to Israel...

Only a black leader can renew the historic ties between the American Jewish community and Afro-Americans. Only someone like Barack Obama can stop the Israel hate spread by people like Louis Farakhan, and speak for the millions of African Americans who still feel a deep identification with the Jewish people and the cause of Zionism, and who still remember that once American Jews and American black people fought for equal rights side by side. It's not McCain's fault he can't do this for us. It isn't his fault he was born a "white" man.

Of course, flowery declarations and sentimental speeches are not a substitute for policy, but they have a certain weight beyond policy. When you are looking for "Zionist quotes" - don't forget Barack Obama. Even those American Jews who will not vote for him, should remember his gifts to Israel, to Zionism and to American Jews.

Ami Isseroff

From letter's and comments of many readers, it is obvious that they misunderstood this article. The article was about the effect of Barack Obama's public statements in support of Israel on the image of Israel among progressive Americans. I do not endorse any presidential candidate in this or any other article. I did comment that the sincerity of Obama's declarations would need to be measured by his actions. But it seems to me undeniable that if a figure who exercises so much influence makes such strong statements in support of Israel, those statements are going to change a lot of minds and a lot of attitudes. When Jimmy Carter began his anti-Israel campaign, it undoubtedly hurt the image of Israel, because Carter is well known and was respected by many. In the same way, Barack Obama's statements have to help Israel's image.

Of course, there are still people like reader "Ann" who commented that "Israel controls America." Not long ago Zionist Occupied Government (ZOG) was understood to be the slogan of fascist reactionary racists. That reader's comment shows how far race hatred has permeated American politics, and how far we still have to go to reverse it. Probably nothing will convince people like Ann (Annie get your swastika) but Obama's statements will change many minds about Israel.

Original content is Copyright by the author 2008. Posted at ZioNation-Zionism and Israel Web Log, http://www.zionism-israel.com/log/archives/00000587.html where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Disributed by ZNN list. Subscribe by sending a message to ZNN-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by e-mail with this notice, cite this article and link to it. Other uses by permission only.

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Replies: 4 Comments

Ami when are you going to smarten up? Believe me I empathize with you and many fellow Israelis but when you insist on repeating mistakes, I have to wonder. Yes we've made many mistakes, the point is don't make the same ones again and again, find new mistakes to make.
Obama acknowledging a ďwar on terrorĒ buys you no traction. The fundamental problem remains the Arabs have succeeded in convincing the American government that you are living on stolen Arab land. That everything you own is stolen from Arabs, and because you canít use the most valuable asset you have, your Jewish heritage, your going to be accused (unjustifiably!) of being greedy, thieving, peace mongers who wonít give the Arabs ďjusticeĒ by leaving or dying. Thirty years ago you might have been able to leave and survive as Jews in the Diaspora, but not now, you've done too many fantastic achievements, for the Arab Islamacists to expunge the shame without your death. I'm sorry buddy, I'm only telling you the truth. I don't believe that lie because I care deeply for truth and, I know it can only be had in both the study of nature, and our Holy Scriptures.

Larry Riteman, Tuesday, August 5th

Hey Annie,
See my comments in the update section of the article. I wonder if you'll change your mind when Hillary is not nominated - or if anything will ever make racists like you change their mind.

Ami Isseroff, Tuesday, August 5th

Well Ann's ability to read the minds of so many is interesting. But I am not so sanguine regarding Barack Obama for the opposite reason.

I feel that one can well understand someone's motivation based upon the company he keeps. Now one may well argue that "guilt by association" is unfair, but when it comes to an election, the court of public opinion is the court of record. This is especially true when there is no evident track record.

What would one think of an elementary school teacher who kept company with child abusers? And what would one think of a police officer whose companions were drug dealers.

I submit that putting on a yarmulke and visibly placing a prayer in the old temple wall just isn't enough to dispel reasonable suspicion, nor are pretty speeches.

Keeping the company of those who loathe Jews for so long is absolutely significant.

Howard Wolf, Monday, August 4th

I have read Barack's book, and certain he isn't in agreement when it comes to illegal occupation of Palestinian Land. I don't think he knew he was going to be running for presidency against Israel.Since, Israel controls America. Now that he knows, it is possibly the reason behind his wanting to give full delegate votes to Florida and Michigan, so Hillary will be elected, as she was the "AIPAC" Israel favorite on the left.

They do want McCain, and the Right, and from what I can see, they'll get it. I know as I read their news. Also, they plan to bomb Iran, which will destroy Baracks anti_war campaign anyway.

I don't see any hope left, for the ignorant American people who can so easily be manipulated by the media propaganda.

Ann, Monday, August 4th

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