From the Palestinian Authority Daily: "Twenty-three-year old Ibrahim Abu Jayyab sits by the computer in the Nusairat refugee camp (in the Gaza Strip) trying to call American citizens in order to convince them to vote for the Democratic candidate for president, Barack Obama..."
Like many Palestinians, Abu Jayyab is excited about the prospect of an Obama presidency. (By the way, the Gaza Strip is completely under the control of Hamas. Why then do they persist in speaking of "refugee camps"? But of course, we know why.) If Abu Jayyab and many others in the Palestinian areas are delighted, why are so many American Jewish voters feeling the same way? One side or the other has the wrong man. Which is it?
I've heard from some American Jews that they do not believe Obama is sincere in his leftism. They believe/hope that the anti-Israel sentiments and associations of his past were purely opportunistic; that once in the White House he will shed them like yesterday's fashions. That's quite a leap of faith.
Many politicians have distanced themselves from positions and associations of their youths. But in Obama's case, he is distancing himself from positions staked out as recently as 2003. As National Review Online has reported, the Los Angeles Times is apparently sitting on a videotape showing Obama's remarks at a farewell dinner that year for Rashid Khalidi, the one-time PLO spokesman who now heads the Middle East Studies Department at Columbia. (Columbia University's shame is a subject for another column.) Khalidi is not distancing himself from his past. Consistent with what you'd expect from someone who justified PLO attacks on civilians in Israel and Lebanon from 1976 to 1982, Khalidi routinely refers to Israel as a "racist" and "apartheid" state, and professes to believe in a "one-state" solution to the conflict. Guess which country would have to disappear for that "one" state to come into existence?
The Khalidis and Obamas were good friends. In his capacity as a director of the Woods Fund, Obama in 2001 and 2002 steered $75,000 to the Arab American Action Network, the brainchild of Rashid and Mona Khalidi. According to an L.A. Times account of the dinner, Obama mentioned that he and Michelle had been frequent dinner guests at the Khalidi home (just another guy in the neighborhood?) and that the Khalidis had even baby-sat for the Obama girls. Like William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, the Khalidis held a fundraiser for Obama in their living room when he unsuccessfully sought a House seat. At the farewell dinner, according to the L.A. Times, Obama apparently related fondly his "many talks" with the Khalidis. Perhaps that's where he learned, as he told the Des Moines Register that "Nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people." Obama told the crowd that those talks with the Khalidis had been "consistent reminders to me of my own blind spots . . . It's for that reason that I'm hoping that, for many years to come, we continue that conversation -- a conversation that is necessary not just around Mona and Rashid's dinner table" but around "this entire world."
Even less attention has been paid to the man Obama appointed as his emissary to the Muslim community in the U.S., Mazen Asbahi. Asbahi, it turned out, had ties to the Islamic Society of North America, which in turn was an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation case. The Holy Land Foundation was accused of being a front group for Hamas. When news of these associations became public, Asbahi resigned from the campaign to "avoid distracting from Barack Obama's message of change." And don't forget hope!
Many American Jews preparing to pull the lever for Obama have never heard of Asbahi. But they surely know about Jeremiah Wright. They know that he gave a "lifetime achievement" award to Louis Farrakhan; that he supported efforts to get U.S. businesses to divest from Israel; that he gave space in the Trinity Church bulletin to Hamas; and that he has accused Israel of "genocide" against the Palestinians. They are preparing to vote for a man who tamely tolerated all of that (and more) for 20 years.
Someone is making a big mistake -- and it isn't Abu Jayyab.