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Clinton Panders to AIPAC, Obama Tells It Like It Is

Posted By Richard Silverstein

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The NY Times began its story on Clinton and Obama’s appearances at the AIPAC national policy conference with this paragraph:

As Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama compete for Jewish donors and voters, Mrs. Clinton is following a tried-and-true rule of hers from New York — support Israel to the last — while Mr. Obama is trying a more delicate strategy that hit some bumps this week.

Hillary clearly is shooting for the Jewish fat cat donors, the typical AIPAC national leader. She really has no interest in what American Jews believe. Nor does she care that the fat cats represent no one but themselves and a thin slice of the right wing of this community. It’s the money she cares about and the power they represent within the confines of the national party.

Obama, however, is following a much more nuanced path which makes him a far more interesting and provocative candidate. Can you imagine a presidential candidate uttering the word “Palestinian” before the most red meat pro-Israel crowd in the entire U.S.? As I’ve written here, it takes guts. I think guts is what we need in a president at this juncture in our existence. Hillary Clinton may have guts but she’s sure not showing any in this campaign so far. I guess you could say it takes a kind of guts to say: “I’m not apologizing for supporting the Iraq war and if you don’t like it go elsewhere.” But that’s not exactly the kind of guts I had in mind. I’m talking about the guts to tell an audience something it needs to hear but doesn’t want to. Bill Clinton could do that and get away with it. I guess Hillary either doesn’t trust herself or her audience enough to do that. And that says something about her and what type of candidate she is and what type of president she would be:

Mr. Obama, meanwhile, is making a personal overture to Jewish voters that threads together history from slavery to the Holocaust to Jim Crow. Yet he is also talking about the needs of the Palestinians. Less experienced than Mrs. Clinton in the thicket of Jewish and Middle Eastern politics, he became a bit tangled in the eyes of some voters during his appearance Monday at the same conference that Mrs. Clinton attended, a forum sponsored by the America Israel Public Affairs Committee, known as Aipac.

Several Jewish conferencegoers said they were concerned by Mr. Obama’s remark Sunday in Iowa where, in a reference to the Middle East, he said, “Nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people.”

Mr. Obama has said in the past that both Israelis and Palestinians had “suffered” because of the lack of a peace agreement, and a spokesman said on Tuesday that Mr. Obama believed “the security of Israel should be America’s starting point in the Middle East.” Yet by singling out Palestinian suffering on Sunday, Mr. Obama could be tempting fate with some Jewish voters.

“Awarding first place in the suffering matrix is odious and infelicitous,” said Rabbi Steven Silver of Redondo Beach, Calif., after listening to Mrs. Clinton speak at a reception at the Aipac conference. “I think a lot of Americans would find that comment offensive, too.”

Mr. Silver’s son, Jesse, a college student who supports Mrs. Clinton, said he was spreading the word at the conference about Mr. Obama’s remark.

“It’s just clumsy of him to say that on the eve of the Aipac conference,” Jesse Silver said. “His inexperience is showing.”

Can someone please explain to me how a single rabbi from Redondo Beach and a single college student constitute a serious representation of Jewish opinion or even AIPAC opinion concerning Obama?? I have no doubt that there may be some concern among some AIPAC leaders about Obama’s pro-Israel “bona fides,” but these two vignettes are not very convincing even as “bumps” as the reporter calls them.

There is one theme that I wish every reporter who ever writes about AIPAC would remember. It represents nothing but itself and the thin slice of hardline pro-Israel Jewish opinion that exists in this community. The majority of American Jews do not agree with many AIPAC positions. For example, the latest Gallup poll says 77% of American Jews oppose the war, the second highest percentage of any religious group in this country. Yet, unbelievably Nancy Pelosi was BOOED (you heard me) when she told an AIPAC audience that the Democratic Party opposed the war. That says it all in a nutshell. When will reporters start reporting that?

At any rate, there was more of Obama’s preaching which I liked:

…While Mr. Obama flatly said at one point, “I am pro-Israel,” he also pointedly mentioned the Palestinians.

Toward the end of his speech, after heaping praise on Israel, he said, “All of us are committed to two states living side by side in peace.” And as soon as there were Palestinian partners who “renounced violence,” he added, peace negotiations with Israel should unfold. These remarks drew scattered applause.

Mr. Obama also set off some murmurs at his reception by talking about cynicism, which he alternately called the “biggest enemy” and “one of the enemies” of peace in the Middle East.

“One of the enemies we have to fight — it’s not just terrorists, it’s not just Hezbollah, it’s not just Hamas — it’s also cynicism,” Mr. Obama said.

You see, you can’t denounce cynicism at an AIPAC conference because delegates know its another word for peace and AIPACers prefer the existing situation to peace. They’re scared as hell of peace because they know peace means compromise; peace means giving up settlements; peace means giving up Greater Israel; peace means a Palestinian state. The fact that it also means Arab recognition of Israel and an end to Palestinian terror apparently means little or nothing to them; or else they simply do not believe that Arabs are capable of ending their deadly campaign against Israel. There’s only one word for that: cynicism. And AIPAC apparently believes in cynicism as far as the Israeli-Arab conflict is concerned.

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