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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Israel/Palestine: Barack Obama the Salesman

In sales, one of the most powerful, and unscrupulous, devices is telling the client what they want to hear. At the beginning of the year, my janitor had fallen behind on his mortgage. He met with a realtor about selling his property prior to having it fall into foreclosure. (I was there to janitor was also from the Soviet Union and spoke broken English) The realtor ran the numbers and gave him the cold hard truth. There was little if any equity and the best my janitor would be able to do is a short sale. My janitor had bought the property in the middle of a hot market. He had watched the property take off in value. He had used the equity multiple times to make improvements, and he took on several major projects himself. By the time he was done, the place had been totally redone into an immaculate looking condo. The problem was that by the time he was done the market had tanked. The price he wanted was simply not available. Had the realtor been like most realtors, he would have simply told my janitor that he could definitely sell it for what he wanted. He could have told him what he wanted to hear. He didn't and thus didn't get the business. Instead, my janitor went with a realtor that made the sort of promise that he wanted to hear. My janitor wound up being foreclosed on and in fact eventually sold the property as a short sale.

Unfortunately, this unscrupulous technique works. People rarely want to hear the truth. They would much rather hear what makes them feel good. This, apparently, seems to be the technique that Barack Obama employs toward Palestine and Israel. He sizes up the audience and tells each exactly what they want to hear.

Let's look at some examples. According to the Republican Jewish Coalition, here is what Barack Obama said while in the Muslim country of Jordan.

Senator Obama in Jordan today said that terrorism makes 'Israelis want to dig in and simply think about their own security regardless of what's going on beyond their borders.' What Senator Obama fails to recognize is that the safety and security of its citizenry is the primary obligation of a country's leadership.

So, in a largely Muslim country, Obama proposes the idea of balance and restraint. Yet, just yesterday in Israel, here is what he said.

He stressed that "Israelis, and Israelis alone, have to make decisions about their own security."

But wait a minute, didn't he just say that Israel should take a world view to their own security? Of course, the second statement was made to the Jerusalem Post, the main newspaper in Israel. In fact, despite his statement in Jordan, Barack Obama would have us believe that he is a life long supporter of Israel.

With an eye to Jewish voters back in the United States and to public opinion here, Obama defended himself Wednesday as a staunch and longtime friend of Israel and said he has a voting record that proves it. "The way you know where somebody's going is where have they been," he said. "And I've been with Israel for many, many years now."

This is the sort of duplicity that you will find throughout Obama's statements towards Israel and Palestine. As you will see later, this "lifetime supporter" of Israel took on a totally different tone while rising through Chicago politics. (but I digress) Now, his support was never as strong as when he said this to AIPAC, the most powerful lobbying group for Israel.

Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.

This statemen made in front of AIPAC, caused quite a stir. It was extremely well received by members of the conference. Of course, those that support Palestine weren't altogether happy.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is currently negotiating the establishment of a Palestinian state with Israel, lambasted Obama's remarks later on Wednesday, saying there would be no peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict without a resolution of the status of Jerusalem, which both sides claim as their capital. Advertisement

"This statement is totally rejected," Abbas told reporters. "The whole world knows that holy Jerusalem was occupied in 1967 and we will not accept a Palestinian state without having Jerusalem as the capital."

So, what happened, he immediately retracted the statement.

US Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barak Obama is now working to backtrack regarding his expressed support for an Israeli undivided Jerusalem.

Addressing an AIPAC (The American Israel Public Affairs Committee) event, Obama stated he will not permit Iran to go nuclear, adding that Jerusalem will remain the undivided capital of Israel, a remark that angered PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and others seeking to establish Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian Authority.

Speaking on CNN, the presidential hopeful stated the address contained “poor phrasing” elaborating by explaining “we don’t want barbed wire running through Jerusalem similar to the way it was prior to the ’67 war, that it is possible for us to create a Jerusalem that is cohesive and coherent.”

Of course, this so called "poor phrasing" is really poor phrasing to any audience that supports Palestine in this conflict. The phrasing didn't sound altogether poor when he said in front of supporters of Israel.

While facing a tough primary, Barack Obama voted against designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization.

Monday's revelation that the Iranian nuke threat was hugely overblown gave Clinton's rivals new zeal to criticize her vote to brand Iran's Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization.

Obama likened it to her 2002 vote authorizing the Iraq war. "This saber-rattling was a repetition of Iraq," he said.

That's because Democratic primary voters are largely the Daily Kos/ types. Those are folks that want to see a balanced view toward Israel and Palestine, and see any tough move against Iran as unnecessary steps towards war.

Of course, the sort of saber rattling he railed against during the primary he touted yesterday in Israel. Yesterday in Israel though, he touted a bill passed out of the Senate banking committee that would back divestment from Iran.

Just this past week, we passed out of the U.S. Senate Banking Committee, which is my committee, a bill to call for divestment from Iran, as a way of ratcheting up the pressure to ensure that they don't obtain a nuclear weapon," he said.

Ironically enough, Barack Obama is not even on the banking committee and had little to do with the passage of the bill. It was, however, exactly the sort of thing his Israeli audience wanted to hear.

Of course, Barack Obama hasn't always been such a firm supporter of Israel. While rising through the ranks of Chicago and Illinois politics he became closely associated with several pro Palestinian power players like Edward Said. Here is how Said characterized Obama's position in 2004 (while he was running for the U.S. Senate)

As he came in from the cold and took off his coat, I went up to greet him. He responded warmly, and volunteered, "Hey, I'm sorry 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." He referred to my activism, including columns I was contributing to the The Chicago Tribune critical of Israeli and US policy, "Keep up the good work!"

Here is how Chicago area pro Palestinian activist Ali Abuniyeh describes Obama's position on the situation throughout the nineties and early two thousands...

a pro-Arafat holocaust denier who says: “Over the years since I first saw Obama speak, I met him about half a dozen times, often at Palestinian and Arab-American community events in Chicago including a May 1998 community fundraiser at which Edward Said was the keynote speaker. In 2000, when Obama unsuccessfully ran for
Congress I heard him speak at a campaign fundraiser hosted by a University of Chicago professor [Khalidi].” “[Obama] came [to that fundraiser] with his wife,”
Abunimah recounts. “That’s where I had a chance to really talk to him. 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.” “On that occasion and others,” Abunimah has written, “Obama was forthright in his criticism of U.S. policy and his call for an even-handed approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”

The nature of Chicago area politics is such that all sorts of radicals hold political weight. When rising through the ranks of Chicago politics, one can gain a lot of allies by taking pro Palestinian positions, and that's exactly what Obama did. Of course, once you ran for a national office, you find the country to be decidedly pro Israel. That's exactly what Obama did since announcing his bid for the Presidency. This is a textbook example of telling an audience what they want to hear. It is excellent salesmanship but it is also a textbook example of someone with nefarious intentions. When a politician constantly tailors their message only to fit the view of the audience, that is a politician with an agenda that is unknown. What is Barack Obama's real view toward Israel? That depends on who he is speaking to.

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