Middle East studies in the News
Is Obama the Change Israel Can Believe in? [incl. Rashid Khalidi]
Jerusalem--Senator Obama made all the right moves during his whirlwind visit to Israel earlier this week. On Wednesday, he dined with Prime Minister Olmert. He met with opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu and his advisers. He made the obligatory pilgrimages to the Western Wall and the Holocaust Museum. And, following the trail of Republican nominee John McCain earlier this year, he joined Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on a helicopter flight to Sderot—where Hamas aims most of its missiles.
Throughout his visit, Obama talked tough on Iran and pledged to maintain America's special relationship with Israel. Still, for Jews who carefully examine his policies and who know anything about his questionable personal relationships, there are still numerous reasons for skepticism.
The Road to Peace
Michael Oren, a senior fellow at the Shalem Center and author of Power, Faith and Fantasy, has conducted an exhaustive review of the many public statements and positions of both presidential candidates over the past year and a half. At a press briefing in Jerusalem this past week, Oren said there were "deep and profound differences" between the positions of both senators.
John McCain, for example, told the Atlantic in May "that if the Israeli-Palestinian issue were decided tomorrow, we would still face the enormous threat of radical Islamic extremism." Obama, on the other hand, referred to the Israeli-Palestinian divide as a "constant sore" that infects America's foreign policy and gives jihadists an "excuse" for their anti-Americanism.
With Obama, Oren said on Monday, "the road to Baghdad and Tehran runs through Bethlehem and Nablus."
Senator Obama doesn't see Iran as the most serious threat to peace in the Middle East. Making matters worse, he has made no bones about his willingness to extend an olive branch to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad despite his weekly pledges to annihilate Israel.
Policy of Appeasement
Barack Obama sees his enthusiasm for dialogue and negotiation as one of his chief selling points. "Obama is the only major candidate who supports tough, direct presidential diplomacy with Iran without preconditions," his website proudly asserts. In a January interview, he said he wanted to hold a Muslim summit in hopes of bridging the gap between Islam and the West. He told the Daily Telegraph he would "do so with the credibility of someone who has lived in a Muslim country."
Obama is also proud of his opposition to the September 2007 Kyl-Lieberman amendment, which branded Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization and authorized the U.S. to use "all instruments … of national power in Iraq" to combat the destabilizing influence of Iran. Shortly before the amendment was proposed, Gen. David Petraeus testified before Congress that Iran was fighting a proxy war against the United States in Iraq.
The amendment received bipartisan support from over three fourths of the Democrat-controlled Senate, but Obama broke ranks with his colleagues and said the initiative was merely justification for President Bush to extend the Iraq war into Iran.
Then, at a foreign-policy forum last December, Obama held up the National Intelligence Estimate as support for his rejection of Kyl-Lieberman. "Earlier this year, while I was getting attacked for calling for direct diplomacy with Iran's leaders, others were talking tough and voting for an amendment that calls for George Bush to use our troops in Iraq to counter Iran," Obama said, as if our troops are not allowed to respond to Iranian terrorism. "Then we learned in a National Intelligence Estimate that Iran suspended its nuclear weapons program in 2003," Obama continued.
Two months after the nie, we also learned that National Intelligence Director John Michael McConnell regretted the way the nie had been worded. "The only thing that they've halted was nuclear weapons design, which is probably the least significant part of the program," McConnell told the Senate Intelligence Committee. "Declared uranium enrichment efforts, which will enable the production of fissile material, continue."
There have also been numerous positive reports about the success of the American surge in Iraq thanks, in part, to its more aggressive stance against Iran's proxies. "The surge of U.S. troops, combined with ordinary Iraqis' rejection of both al Qaeda and Shiite extremists, has transformed the country," abc reported during Obama's stop in Iraq earlier this week. "Attacks are down by more than 80 percent nationwide. U.S. combat casualties have plummeted—five this month so far, compared with 78 last July. And Baghdad has a pulse again." Reporter Terry Moran then asked the presidential hopeful if he regretted his opposition to the surge. Despite the recent progress, Obama reaffirmed his opposition to the surge.
So even though Obama told Israelis on Wednesday that he would do everything in his power to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, including the use of force as a last resort, these statements are very much at odds with the pacifist Obama that narrowly defeated Hillary Clinton early this year.
The War Against Terror
In a New York Times op-ed piece earlier this month, Obama called the Iraq War the "greatest strategic blunder in the recent history of American foreign policy." Obama made it clear that he would not authorize any permanent bases in Iraq and said that on his first day in office as president, he would give the military a new mission: "ending this war."
His 16-month timetable for withdrawing the troops from Iraq did not sit well with military commanders during his visit to Iraq. abc referred to an "open disagreement" between Obama and General Petraeus. Commanding officers in Iraq would rather see troop reductions made in concert with the "situation on the ground"—not according to a hard and fast timetable.
Besides evacuating Iraq—which Obama sees as a major distraction from the war against terrorism—an Obama presidency can also be expected to roll back one of the central tenets of the Bush Doctrine: preemptive action against terrorists and their state sponsors.
After 9/11, as Douglas Feith explains in War and Decision, the Bush administration quickly learned that "playing defense could not be an adequate strategy against terrorism." In Iraq, Feith paraphrased his boss Donald Rumsfeld as saying, "We could inflict the kind of costly damage that could cause terrorist-supporting regimes around the world to rethink their policies."
Whether one agrees with this aggressive strategy or not, it nevertheless represented a dramatic shift in America's approach to fighting terror. Before 9/11, as Feith points out, the United States treated terrorist attacks as "criminal acts, responding chiefly by sending fbi agents to track down individuals who could be arrested, indicted, and tried for the crimes."
Obama favors more of a law-enforcement strategy to fighting terror. After meeting with his senior working group on national security for the first time on June 18, Obama told a gathering of reporters, "We are less safe because of the way George Bush has handled this issue." His own approach, Obama went on to say, would be based on this simple premise: "I have confidence that our system of justice and that our traditions of rule of law are strong enough to deal with terrorists."
Michael Oren pointed to Obama's support for the Supreme Court's June decision in Boumediene v. Bush to highlight this new approach to fighting terror. The court's decision, Matthew Continetti explained in the Weekly Standard, "ruled that non-citizens captured abroad and held in a military installation overseas … have the same constitutional right as U.S. citizens to challenge their detention in court. … Hence lawyers, judges, and left-wing interest groups will have real influence over the conduct of the war on terror."
As Oren noted, Obama called the ruling "an important step toward reestablishing our credibility as a nation." By way of comparison, John McCain called it "one of the worst decisions in the history of this country."
Obama's recent comments, Oren concluded, "suggest that, rather than embark on preventative military incursions, he prefers to treat terror as a criminal act to be prosecuted post-facto by the courts."
In many ways, Barack Obama's lifelong circle of friends is much more telling than any of his more recent, campaign-driven foreign-policy positions. In the case of his spiritual mentor Jeremiah Wright—finally disowned in March after it became the politically expedient thing to do—the pastor has called upon Americans to wake up "concerning the injustice and the racism under which the Palestinians have lived because of Zionism." Last year, Wright printed an article in his bulletin which made the absurd claim that Israel had "worked on an ethnic bomb that kills blacks and Arabs."
Wright also used his publication to give Louis Farrakhan a lifetime achievement award. Farrakhan has infamously referred to Zionism as a "gutter religion" and to Jews as "bloodsuckers." In 1984, Wright even joined Farrakhan on a trip to Libya to visit Col. Muammar Gadhafi. Long before Jeremiah Wright became a household name in America, the pastor admitted to the New York Times that Jewish support for Obama would "dry up" as soon as the public found out about Wright's trip with Farrakhan.
Not long after the Illinois senator kicked off his presidential run a year and a half ago, Rolling Stone featured "The Radical Roots of Barack Obama" in its Feb. 22, 2007, issue. After labeling Wright a "sprawling, profane bear of a preacher," the piece then made this comment about Obama: "This is as openly radical a background as any significant American political figure has ever emerged from …." The magazine insisted that Jeremiah Wright was not "an incidental figure in Obama's life, or his politics" (emphasis mine).
The article quoted another pastor, who said, "If you want to understand where Barack gets his feeling and rhetoric from, just look at Jeremiah Wright."
Obama joined Trinity United—he picked Jeremiah Wright, Rolling Stone went on to say. "When you read his autobiography, the surprising thing—for such a measured politician—is the depth of radical feeling that seeps through, the amount of Jeremiah Wright that's packed in there." This analysis, keep in mind, was made more than a year before Obama's relationship with Wright became so controversial.
There have been other disturbing associations in Barack Obama's life, like his friendship with Palestinian activist Rashid Khalidi, who worked for the official Palestinian news agency when the Yasser Arafat-led plo was engaged in terrorist activities against Israel. Obama has also surrounded himself with foreign-policy advisers like Zbigniew Brzezinski, who worked for Jimmy Carter and has been a harsh critic of Israel.
Where We Are in Prophecy
Recent opinion polls suggest that Barack Obama's troubling associations and his positions on Iran's nuclear program and the Middle East peace process are hurting him in Israel—one of the few countries in the world that is registering strong support for John McCain.
In America, however, the situation is reversed, with as many as 58 percent of the Jewish vote—a notoriously liberal community—favoring Obama. But compared to John Kerry, Al Gore and Bill Clinton—all winning close to 80 percent of the Jewish bloc—Obama clearly has his work cut out for him between now and November.
The Trumpet, of course, does not take sides in political contests. God's Word informs us that there can be no power in this present world, except as God allows. Thus, we can say—with certainty—that the next president of the United States will be the one God allows in that office.
But the movement behind Barack Obama's improbable rise to power in the Democratic Party, as well as his celebrity-like status internationally—whether he becomes president or not—says a lot about where we are in Bible prophecy.
Regarding the Jewish state in Israel, God says it will sustain an incurably deadly "wound" in this end time, which we have identified as the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. And because the Bible says Israel will turn to Europe for help once it reaches the point of desperation, that indicates that America will be out of the picture by then. So, no matter what men say, cracks in the U.S.-Israeli relationship are sure to widen.
And above all, the movement behind Obama's candidacy reveals just how naive many of our people are when it comes to the greatest threat to peace in the Middle East and, to a certain degree, the whole world—Iranian-backed Islamic extremism. The Bible reveals that neither America nor Israel will confront this prophesied "king of the south" (Daniel 11:40). That task will be left to a Vatican-led European Union. And it will result in a spectacular clash that will then lead to a worldwide war!
To learn more about where we are in Bible prophecy, request our free booklet The King of the South. •Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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