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July 22, 2008

Obama’s Trip to Israel, McCain Supporters Seek Mystical Sign

Listed in: Israel, Other Foreign Policy, Stop the Smears, NJDC News, Opinions

Originally published in The Huffington Post

By Marc R. Stanley, Board Chair of the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC)

Senator Barack Obama's trip to Israel today marks a good time for American Jews to sit back and perform a thorough and objective analysis of how a President Obama would treat the U.S.-Israel relationship. Unfortunately, what we are seeing from the right-wing is not objective analysis, but rather a frantic search for some mystical sign that proves the right's wish that Obama secretly hates Israel and the Jews. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

For fifty years, the pro-Israel community has worked to make Israel a bipartisan issue. Long ago, our community leadership concluded that strong bipartisan consensus for the U.S.-Israel relationship must exist whether Republicans or Democrats are in power.

Voting records and public statements have always been the objective measure for the pro-Israel community to use to accurately judge a candidate on Middle East issues. By these parameters Obama proves to be an outstanding pro-Israel candidate. Obama is a strong believer in foreign aid, has a perfect pro-Israel voting record, and makes only the most supportive public statements. Never has Obama cast a vote against Israel, and he remains an outspoken critic of Iran. In fact, Obama wrote legislation to make it easier for states to divest from Iranian holdings. The legislation is currently being blocked by a Republican Senator.

Despite Obama's sterling pro-Israel record, McCain's supporters are undermining this fifty year tradition by carrying out a fear and smear campaign. For example, the Republicans have falsely claimed that Obama is against designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) as a terrorist organization because he came out against the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment. This simply does not hold water. Obama did not support the amendment because he, like foreign policy experts such as Senator Joe Biden and Republican Senator Richard Lugar, could not support giving President Bush so much discretion in attacking Iran. Obama showed his support for the proper labeling of IRGC when he co-sponsored the Iran Counter-Proliferation Act which named IRGC a terrorist organization. This kind of tactic is emblematic of the attacks Republicans regularly wage against Obama.

This fear campaign often relies on the tactic of "guilt by association." Since literally thousands of people associate themselves with each campaign, to choose an individual and attribute him or her to a candidate is tremendously simplistic and subjective. Furthermore, this standard is unreliable, and its reckless implementation does not give us an accurate assessment of how a candidate would behave once in office.

However, if Republicans insist on using "guilt by association" as their pro-Israel measure, they must answer for McCain's potential future appointments and key campaign advisers. McCain has declared he would appoint the former secretary of state James Baker as his Middle East envoy and would use Zbigniew Brzezinski as one of his foreign policy advisers. McCain's national finance co-chair, Fred Malek, is the operative Nixon tasked with seeking out the Jews in the Bureau of Labor Statistics so they could be fired. In addition to these individuals, there are "guilt by association" implications of the numerous McCain campaign personalities who have Iranian business and lobbying connections, including some of McCain's top advisers.

The mudslinging campaign from conservative hit men has included many misleading and false attacks. This appeal to fear consists of lies about Obama's religion, lies about Obama swearing in on a Koran, and lies about Obama not declaring IRGC as a terrorist organization. What is next? Obama's trip to Israel certainly will bring other lies and a continuation of the smear campaign being perpetrated by the Republicans. The right's strained efforts to imply that Obama is evil incarnate when it comes to Israel and the Jews is ridiculous. We should all take this opportunity to regain our composure and make a sober judgment of what kind of leader we want. Take another listen to what Obama says during his time in Israel -- you might like what you hear.