JERUSALEM – Sen. Barack Obama has spoken at fundraisers for Palestinians living in what the United Nations terms refugee camps, WND has learned.
Palestinians have long demanded the "right of return" for millions of "refugees," a formula Israeli officials across the political spectrum warn is code for Israel's destruction by flooding the Jewish state with millions of Muslim Arabs, thereby changing its demographics.
In a conference call last month with Jewish and Israeli media aimed primarily at dispelling Internet reports he is anti-Israel, Obama stated "Palestinian refugees" belong in their own state and do not have a "literal" right of return to Israel.
"We cannot move forward until there is some confidence that the Palestinians are able to provide the security apparatus that would prevent constant attacks against Israel from taking place," continued Obama during the conference with Jewish journalists.
But in the 1990s Obama was a speaker at events in Chicago's large Palestinian immigrant community to raise funds for U.N. camps for the so-called Palestinian refugees.
Ali Abunimah, a Chicago-based Palestinian-American activist and co-founder of Electronic Intifada, a pro-Palestinian online publication, recalls introducing Obama at one such event, a 1999 fundraiser for the Deheisha Palestinian camp in the West Bank.
Abunimah is also a harsh critic of Israel and has protested outside pro-Israel events in the Chicago area.
"I knew Barack Obama for many years as my state senator – when he used to attend events in the Palestinian community in Chicago all the time," stated Abuminah during an interview last month with Democracy Now!, a nationally syndicated radio and television political program.
"I remember personally introducing [Obama] onstage in 1999, when we had a major community fundraiser for the community center in Deheisha refugee camp in the occupied West Bank. And that's just one example of how Barack Obama used to be very comfortable speaking up for and being associated with Palestinian rights and opposing the Israeli occupation," Abunimah said.
Abunimah also was recently quoted saying that until a few years ago, Obama was "quite frank that the U.S. needed to be more evenhanded, that it leaned too much toward Israel."
Abunimah noted Obama's unusual stance toward Israel, commenting "these were the kind of statements I'd never heard from a U.S. politician who seemed like he was going somewhere, rather than at the end of his career."
'Critical of U.S. bias toward Israel'
Abunimah previously described meeting with Obama at a fundraiser at the home of Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi, reportedly a former PLO activist.
"[Obama]came with his wife. That's where I had a chance to really talk to him," Abunimah recalled. "It was an intimate setting. He convinced me he was very aware of the issues [and] critical of U.S. bias toward Israel and lack of sensitivity to Arabs. ... He was very supportive of U.S. pressure on Israel.
According to quotes obtained by Gulf News, Abunimah recalled a 2004 meeting in a Chicago neighborhood while Obama was running for his Senate seat. Abunimah quoted Obama telling him "warmly" he was sorry that "I haven't said more about Palestine right now, but we are in a tough primary race."
"I'm hoping when things calm down, I can be more up front," Abunimah reportedly quoted the senator as saying.
Abunimah said Obama urged him to "keep up the good work" at the Chicago Tribune, where Abunimah contributed guest columns that were highly critical of Israel.
Obama's campaign headquarters did not reply to an e-mail request seeking comment on his fundraising activities for Palestinians.
Abunimah serves on the board of the Arab American Action Network, or AAAN, a controversial Arab group that mourns the establishment of Israel as a "catastrophe" and supports intense immigration reform, including providing driver's licenses and education to illegal aliens.
WND reported yesterday the Woods Fund, a Chicago-based nonprofit on which Obama served as a paid director alongside a confessed domestic terrorist, provided $75,000 in grants to the AAAN.
The co-founder of AAAN is Columbia's Khalidi, who held a 2000 fundraiser for Obama. Khalidi, a harsh critic of Israel, has made statements supportive of Palestinian terror and reportedly has worked on behalf of the PLO while it was involved in anti-Western terrorism and was labeled by the State Department as a terror group.
'Very active' terror apparatus
Obama's 1999 fundraising for the Palestinian Deheisha camp raised the eyebrows of one senior Israeli security official who was contacted yesterday for comment on the issue. The official, who was not aware of Obama's fundraising, noted Deheisha, which is located near the city of Bethlehem, had a "very active" Palestinian terror apparatus in 1999, carrying out scores of deadly shootings against Israeli civilians that year.
Two of the most deadly suicide bombings in 2002 also were planned from Deheisha, where the suicide bombers originated, said the security official. On one such bombing, in March of that year, 11 people were killed and over 50 injured, four critically when a Deheisha bomber detonated his explosives next to a group of Jewish women waiting with their baby carriages for their husbands to leave a nearby synagogue.
The question of so-called Palestinian refugees is a sensitive one for supporters of Israel. All Israeli prime ministers have stated a final peace deal with the Palestinians cannot include the "return" of "refugees."
When Arab countries attacked the Jewish state after its creation in 1948, some 725,000 Arabs living within Israel's borders fled or were flushed out when the Jewish state pushed back attacking Arab armies. Also at that time, about 820,000 Jews were expelled from Arab countries or fled following rampant persecution.
While most Jewish refugees were absorbed by Israel and other countries, the majority of Palestinian Arabs have been maintained in 59 U.N.-run camps that do not seek to settle those Arabs elsewhere.
There are currently about 4 million Arabs who claim Palestinian refugee status with the U.N., including children and grandchildren of the original fleeing Arabs; Arabs living full-time in Jordan; and Arabs who long ago emigrated throughout the Middle East and to the West.
Other cases of worldwide refugees aided by the U.N. are handled through the international body's High Commission for Refugees, which seeks to settle the refugees quickly, usually in countries other than those from which they fled.
The U.N. created a special agency – the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA – specifically to handle registered Palestinian refugees. It's the only refugee case handled by the U.N. in which the declared refugees are housed and maintained in camps for generations instead of facilitating the refugees' resettlement elsewhere.
The U.N. officially restricts the definition of refugee status worldwide for nationalities outside the Palestinian arena to those who fled a country of nationality or habitual residence due to persecution, who are unable to return to their place of residence and who have not yet been resettled. Future generations of original refugees are not included in the U.N.'s definition of refugees.
But the U.N. uses a different set of criteria only when defining a Palestinian refugee – allowing future generations to be considered refugees; terming as refugees those Arabs who have been resettled in other countries, such as hundreds of thousands in Jordan; removing the clause requiring persecution; and removing the clause requiring a refugee to be fleeing his or her "country of nationality or habitual residence."
Palestinian leaders, including Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, routinely refer to the "right of return," claiming the declared right is mandated by the U.N. But the two U.N. resolutions dealing with the refugee issue recommend that Israel "achieve a just settlement" for the "refugee problem." The resolutions, which are not binding, do not speak of any "right of return" and leave open the possibility of monetary compensation or other kinds of settlements.
Obama worked with terrorist
Obama's advocacy on behalf of Palestinians comes after WND reported yesterday the presidential candidate served on the board of the Woods Fund alongside William C. Ayers, a member of the Weathermen terrorist group which sought to overthrow of the U.S. government and took responsibility for bombings against government buildings.
Ayers, who still serves on the Woods Fund board, contributed $200 to Obama's senatorial campaign fund and has served on panels with Obama at numerous public speaking engagements. Ayers admitted to involvement in the bombings of U.S. governmental buildings in the 1970s. He is a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Ayers has boasted of his involvement with the Weathermen terror group's bombings of the New York City Police headquarters in 1970, the Capitol in 1971 and the Pentagon in 1972.
"I don't regret setting bombs. I feel we didn't do enough," Ayers told the New York Times in an interview released Sept. 11, 2001
"Everything was absolutely ideal on the day I bombed the Pentagon," Ayers wrote in his memoirs, titled "Fugitive Days." He continued with a disclaimer that he didn't personally set the bombs, but his group set the explosives and planned the attack.
A $200 campaign contribution is listed April 2, 2001, by the "Friends of Barack Obama" campaign fund. The two appeared as speakers together at several public events, including a 1997 University of Chicago panel entitled, "Should a child ever be called a 'super predator?'" and another panel for the University of Illinois in April 2002, entitled, "Intellectuals: Who Needs Them?"
The charges against Ayers were dropped in 1974 because of prosecutorial misconduct, including illegal surveillance.
Ayers is married to another notorious Weathermen terrorist, Bernadine Dohrn, who also has served on panels with Obama. Dohrn was once on the FBI's Top 10 Most Wanted List and was described by J. Edgar Hoover as the "most dangerous woman in America." Ayers and Dohrn raised the son of Weathermen terrorist Kathy Boudin, who was serving a sentence for participating in a 1981 murder and robbery that left four people dead.
Obama adviser wants talks with terrorists
Last month WND quoted Israeli security officials who expressed "concern" about Robert Malley, an adviser to Obama who has advocated negotiations with Hamas and providing international assistance to the terrorist group.
Malley, a principal Obama foreign policy adviser, has penned numerous opinion articles, many of them co-written with a former adviser to the late Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, petitioning for dialogue with Hamas and blasting Israel for numerous policies he says harm the Palestinian cause.
Malley also previously penned a well-circulated New York Review of Books piece largely blaming Israel for the collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations at Camp David in 2000 when Arafat turned down a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and eastern sections of Jerusalem and instead returned to the Middle East to launch an intifada, or terrorist campaign, against the Jewish state.
Malley's contentions have been strongly refuted by key participants at Camp David, including President Bill Clinton, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and primary U.S. envoy to the Middle East Dennis Ross, all of whom squarely blamed Arafat's refusal to make peace for the talks' failure.
To interview Aaron Klein, contact M. Sliwa Public Relations by e-mail, or call 973-272-2861 or 212-202-4453.