Middle East studies in the News
Re-evaluating Reverend Wright [incl. Rashid Khalidi]
by Eric Fingerhut
Rev. Jeremiah Wright now says he misspoke when he said "them Jews" -- he now says he meant to say "them Zionists." Apparently, he thought that would help.
In case your attention was elsewhere -- such as the shooting at the Holocaust museum -- over the last two days, a quick review. Wright, President Obama's former pastor who became famous for his controversial remarks about 9/11 and his criticism of Israel during the 2008 campaign, gave an interview to the Daily Press in Hampton Roads, Va., in which he was asked about his relationship with the president:
After criticism poured in, Wright went on a Sirius Radio talk show and tried to clarify his comments. From the Chicago Sun-Times, via the Associated Press (You can listen to an excerpt here):
So I guess what Wright is saying is if Jews write something that he agrees with regarding Israel and the Palestinians, then they're telling the truth and the true Jews -- and everyone else who may not agree are just evil "Zionists." At least I think that's what he's saying, but it is kind of confusing -- just like some of those sermons that he kept claiming were taken out of context.
This whole episode reminded me of a strange incident near the end of last year's presidential campaign. John McCain spokesman Michael Goldfarb, who has since returned to his previous job at The Weekly Standard, came on CNN to talk about Palestinian professor Rashid Khalidi and his relationship with Barack Obama. When CNN host Rick Sanchez kept bringing up the fact that McCain chaired an organization that had given close to half a million dollars to an group Khalidi co-founded, Goldfarb retorted, "You are missing the point again, Rick. The point is that Barack Obama has a long track record of being around anti-Semitic and anti-Israel and anti-American rhetoric."
When Sanchez challenged him to name another person who Obama hangs around with who is anti-Semitic, Goldfarb responded, "Rick, we both know who number two is."
Sanchez claimed that he had no idea who Goldfarb was referring to, and 24 hours later did a whole segment on his show puzzling over who Goldfarb was talking about. But it was obvious the McCain aide was referring to Wright -- but wanted Sanchez to bring up the name first because the Republican candidate had said he wasn't going to make Wright an issue in the campaign.
At the time, though, I wrote that "the question of whether Wright should be called an anti-Semite is, at the least, arguable," noting that he had been a critic of Israel and had hung out with Louis Farrakhan but that the ADL had no record of anything he said that would be considered anti-Semitic. After his comments this week, the question is much less arguable.
As Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, wrote in a press release Wednesday:
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