Are Jewish voters in Miami and New York the obstacle to peace in the Middle East? Of course not. But Gen. Merrill "Tony" McPeak, Sen. Barack Obama's national campaign co-chairman and top military adviser, thinks so.
In a March 27, 2003, interview with The Oregonian, Gen. McPeak was asked to name the problem preventing peace in the Middle East. His answer: "New York City. Miami. We have a large vote - vote, here in favor of Israel. And no politician wants to run against it."
Yet despite the intense public criticism of these anti-Semitic remarks, and calls for Gen. McPeak's removal from the campaign, Sen. Obama has not asked him to step down. In fact, on June 12, Time magazine even listed Gen. McPeak as a potential vice presidential candidate for Sen. Obama.
Additional Obama advisers and campaign officials like Samantha Power and Robert Malley have also been a discouraging wake-up call to the Jewish community. Ms. Power has advocated for ending all U.S. military aid to Israel, yet was forced to resign from Sen. Obama's campaign only after calling Hillary Clinton a "monster." Mr. Malley had to leave when it was revealed that he'd been conducting meetings with Hamas. They were removed only after they proved to be political liabilities.
Sen. Obama's refusal to demonstrate principled leadership and remove Gen. McPeak has been a powerful example of his problems with the Jewish community. In temples, community centers, coffee shops and delis across Florida and the nation, Democratic, Republican and Independent Jewish voters have wondered if they can trust Sen. Obama to protect America and Israel.
Why are they skeptical? Having served barely three years in the U.S. Senate - two of which he has spent running for president - Sen. Obama's record is thin. Jewish voters need to evaluate his candidacy by asking additional questions: What role does he see for America in the Middle East? Will he be a friend to Israel? What are the influences that have shaped him? To whom does he turn for advice and guidance? And whom might he ask to serve in his administration?
According to an April 10, 2008, Los Angeles Times article, before Sen. Obama was propelled onto the national political stage, he was a well-known figure in the Palestinian community in Chicago. He often frequented Palestinian events and fund-raisers. The article notes that activist and former Palestine Liberation Organization spokesman Rashid Khalidi raised money for Sen. Obama's failed 2000 congressional campaign. And at a 2003 farewell party for Mr. Khalidi, Sen. Obama sat in attendance as a young Palestinian-American recited a poem accusing the Israeli government of terrorism in its treatment of Palestinians and sharply criticizing U.S. support of Israel.
Sen. Obama has credited Mr. Khalidi with uncovering "my own blind spots and my own biases" regarding the plight of the Palestinians. As a paid director of the not-for-profit Woods Fund, Sen. Obama funneled $75,000 in grants to the Arab American Action Network (run by Mr. Khalidi's wife, Mona), a group that calls Israel's independence Al-Nakba (the catastrophe). While stumping in Iowa, in March 2007, Sen. Obama said, "no one is suffering more than the Palestinian people."
Perhaps the most alarming example of Sen. Obama's naive and dangerous grasp of foreign-policy issues was his willingness to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without any preconditions. Ahmadinejad consistently predicts the destruction of Israel, claims that the Holocaust is a myth and says the "satanic power of the United States" will be "annihilated."
More recently, Sen. Obama proved that he would say anything to gain support in the Jewish community. Speaking to the America Israel Public Affairs Committee Policy Conference on June 4, Sen. Obama said, "Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided." Twenty-four hours later, after the applause had died down and Palestinian Authority and Hamas officials had applied pressure, Sen. Obama flip-flopped and retracted that statement on CNN, saying, "Jerusalem will be a part of these negotiations" between the Palestinians and Israel.
Sen. Obama's problems with the Jewish community are simple. Our community understands too well that our world is too dangerous and the stakes too high. Sen. Obama's naive grasp of foreign-policy issues and lack of experience render him the wrong choice for these challenging times.