11th November 2009
وَمَكَرُوا مَكْرًا كُبَّارًا
"And they have devised a tremendous plot..." (Quran, 71:22)
:الحمد لله والصلاة والسلام على رسوله وآله وصحبه أجمعين
The Obama Pro-Muslim Smoke Screen
Owing to the fog of multiple and conflicting pictures painted to depict Barack Obama, confusion remains in the minds of many as to what the new President of America really represents and where exactly his loyalties lie. As the weeks and months of his presidency pass by, inconsistent messages and contradictory positions on major issues have become a standard feature of the regime. An executive order is signed to close Guantanamo Bay and end the military trials of its inmates, but then the military trials are revived and Guantanamo remains open. Renditions are ruled out in public, but then ruled in by stealth. The war in Iraq was to be ended in 2009, but instead of any substantial withdrawal of troops, we have the construction of the "small-city-larger-than-the-Vatican" sized US Embassy in Baghdad. Indeed, war continues, as in the previous administration, to feature at the top of the White House agenda, with thousands more troops committed to war in Afghanistan - but then Obama receives the Nobel Peace Prize. An insightful young Muslim sent me her reaction to the prize in these words:
"The Nobel Peace Prize has always seemed in danger of being more ridiculous than sublime. Who can forget such former laureates as that bastion of realpolitik Henry Kissinger or Yitzak 'Break their bones' Rabin? Despite this, I listened with a mixture of astonishment and disbelief when I heard the news that Barack Hussein Obama was this year's recipient. It seems strange indeed that aside from his desk job in the White House this year's recipient is also the Commander in Chief of the world's largest army, which is currently fighting wars in two separate countries, and presides over the largest defense budget in the world, which is estimated to total somewhere between $925 billion and $1.14 trillion in 2009. This is not to mention the 40,000 extra US troops he has pledged to send into Afghanistan or the tacit support he has given the despicable practice of secret rendition. This award seems all the more astonishing when one takes into account the type of individual that Alfred Nobel had in mind for the recipient of the award, namely it should be awarded to 'the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.' It seems that in 2009 we are closer than ever to 1984: 'Then the face of Big Brother faded away again and instead the three slogans of the Party stood out in bold capitals: WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.'"
The sense of confusion is widespread among large swathes of people from diverse backgrounds, including even some from his own black community (e.g. Rev. Jesse Jackson who had to apologise publicly after being caught on camera saying that he wanted to castrate Obama). However, the Obama confusion is most profound among Muslims. While some Muslims insist, against all the evidence to the contrary, that he is a Muslim, others see him as a saviour of sorts and a messiah of peace. This, of course, is a picture Obama himself has sought to project to the Muslim world through a variety of means. He ensured that, as president, the first phone call he made was to Mahmoud Abbas, his first television interview was on the Dubai-based channel Al-Arabiyya (extending a "hand of friendship" to the Muslim world), and he also made sure that his first major overseas speech was to a Muslim audience in a Muslim country.
These gestures of friendly intent towards Muslims are further reinforced when Muslims remember the highly-publicised anecdotes of antagonism towards Obama from the American Right and its media outlets during the early stages of the presidential campaign. Most notably among these was the "madrasa graduate" accusation from Fox News and, of course, the famous emails warning the Jewish electorate that he was a closet Muslim.
Seeing that the pro-Israel Fox News and members of the US Jewish community were antagonistic towards Obama reinforced the idea among many Muslims that "the man is probably on their side".
The frequent bouts of petty conflict between Fox News and Obama did not damage either party. In fact, these conflicts serve, as we can see in the latest round, to boost audience figures while simultaneously increasing the president's credibility, depicting him as someone who can stand up to the right wing media.
What most people do not realise is that the Fox Network played a larger role in creating acceptability for a black president in the minds of the US electorate that any other network in the US. The high profile Fox TV drama series 24 did not only serve to soften the public attitude towards torture by portraying it as a necessary evil, but it also played a major role in promoting something (i.e. a black US president) that was until then considered, even among blacks, as absurd. This phenomenon was dubbed "The Palmer Effect" by commentators such as Lucia Bozzala. In her article of early 2007 "The Palmer Effect: Has '24' Made the US Safe for President Obama?" she wrote:
"In 24, the Palmers are elected. Fancy that. In those off years and months between terrorist crises, David Palmer wins elections, and Wayne Palmer wins because he has the right last name.... The point, though, is that they win because they got enough votes. They don't enter the office on a technicality. They are president because people like them. They really really like them. In other words, the minds behind 24 (right wing or not) were able to conceive of the idea of a black man being elected by the general public, and not toss it out as patently absurd i.e. if Jack Bauer has no fear of a black president, then maybe we won't either." (The Palmer Effect: Has "24" Made the U.S. Safe for President Obama? Lucia Bozzola, 30 Jan 2007.)
The Fox Network controversy is not the only example of one story in public and another in private. There is a pattern of projecting public conflict while maintaining private friendship. In the public arena, the Right and the Neocons were criticising Obama but then it was revealed that a week before his swearing in, he was attending secret dinners with George Will and William Kristol. The news shocked his many supporters. A Washington Times reporter, describing the reaction when the news of the secret dinner emerged, wrote "The lefties are mystified. So are a few of the righties."
The same pattern is visible in Obama's choice of individuals to hold key positions in his administration. Some commentators have gone as far as labelling those Right and Neocon activists who suddenly switched their support to Obama's candidacy as "Obamacons". Here is a brief list of them:
Andrew Sullivan in his Goodbye to All That: Why Obama Matters - The Atlantic.Douglas Kmiec, Endorsing Obama - Slate.The Endorsement Follows the Covenant—Why I Endorse Sen. Obama - Slate.David Friedman (son of Milton) prefers Obama to McCain.Scott Flanders (CEO of Freedom Communications - the company that owns The Orange County Register) should be pro-Senator McCain, but favours Senator Obama.Megan McArdle endorsing Obama on Super Tuesday.Francis Fukuyama backs Obama.Andrew J. Bacevich, The Right Choice? The conservative case for Obama - The American Conservative.Jeffrey Hart and Wick Allison of The National Review both like Obama. Hart sees him as a redeemer with practical solutions.Susan Eisenhower, grand-daughter of the Republican President, Why I'm Backing Obama - WP.Lawrence A. Hunter - of the "Contract with America".
Even the National Review, the intellectual anchor of the conservative movement, including Jeffrey Hart and Wick Allison, the latter of whom has been a senior editor at the magazine since 1968 and even wrote a history of the magazine called The Making of the American Conservative Mind, put their support behind Obama. Allison praised Obama in The Dallas Morning News saying, "His life story embodies the conservative values that go to the core of my beliefs."
Then, once in power, there were several more shockers. All his talk about fairness and respect for peoples of the world went out of the window on the occasion of the United Nations' World Conference on Racism. Instead of supporting it, Obama told Jewish leaders that Durban II crossed a red line and the message from his administration was: "We are not in a position to attend... barring those red lines being met."
So what sort of person does one have to be to behave with such duplicity? When an average politician behaves in this manner, people resign themselves to the fact that they all do it. However, when someone comes along with an entirely new magnitude of promise and change, the subsequent "reality check" can prove to be quite unsettling, especially for those Muslims who have placed all their hopes in the Obama dream. According to some reports, 90 per cent of Muslims who voted in the US elections did so for Obama. Many of them voted in the hope that he would bring peace to the world and as one of them put it: "Obama represents a magic spear in the heart of the clash-of-civilization theory". The General Secretary of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, in a message to Obama, wrote, "Dear President Obama, With great respect, the OIC would like to congratulate you on behalf of the Muslim world on your ground breaking election as President of the United States. The Muslim world has cheered your election and holds high hopes for your historic presidency... Muslims hunger for a new era of peace, we firmly believe that America, with your guidance, can help foster that peace." (The New York Times International, 20.01.2009.) [Also see Appendix A3 for OIC Communique of 1st November 2009 on Israeli aggression against Al-Quds Al-Sharif and the Blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque.]
The Fairytale Versus Self-interest
Some Muslims refer to Obama's history as proof of his kind-heartedness and concern for the well-being of the oppressed and less fortunate. At the Democratic Party Convention, there were a string of warm-up acts before his speech to inform the crowd of who he was. The audience were given a fairytale story about Obama: once having graduated from college and not wanting to go after big money, he forsook the big bucks and a wealthy life in order to work with poor black people in Chicago's south side - as a community organiser. This story, repeated by several speakers, made quite an impact. Even the man who had hired him all those years ago, Jerry Kellman, regurgitated the same fairytale and in so doing caused many black people to burst into tears, especially when he said: "In 1985, I needed to hire a community organiser. I found myself in New York City, across from a 25-year-old recent college graduate. I wanted to convince him to give up a comfortable life and a bright future to come to Chicago to take up the toughest of challenges for a salary of just $10,000 a year. It was not difficult to convince Barack to take the job. All I had to do was describe what had happened to people on the south side of Chicago." Obama himself often cites his time as a community organiser in Chicago as one of the experiences that qualifies him to be president: "I can bring this country together, I have a track record, starting from the days I moved to Chicago as a community organiser."
However, if one reads Obama's own biography (Dreams from My Father), the story is quite different and somewhat revealing of the kind of person Obama is. It also provides an insight into the mentality of the man who took him under his wing and trained him to capitalise on his mixed heritage, i.e. to manipulate people who are desperate while serving one's self-interest. This is what Obama himself wrote about Marty Kaufman (the pseudonym for Jerry Kellman) and about the job in Chicago. In the interests of brevity, I have selected relevant paragraphs from the book to provide insight into the mission in Chicago and the thinking behind it:
Kellman needed a black man to front his organisation in a predominantly black community and Obama agreed to act on Kellman's behalf. Here is the story in Obama's own words: "I received a call from Marty Kaufman... he was looking to hire a trainee... he was in New York for a week." (p.149.) "I was broke, unemployed, eating soup from a can." (p.139.) "He was Jewish, in his late thirties, had been reared in New York. He had started organising in the sixties with student protests, and ended up staying with it for fifteen years. Farmers in Nebraska. Blacks in Philadelphia. Mexicans in Chicago. Now he was trying to pull urban blacks and suburban whites together around a plan to save manufacturing jobs in metropolitan Chicago. He needed somebody to work with him, he said. Somebody black." (p.141.)
Kellman had even declared himself Catholic to run his "game" with the churches but he still needed a black man as go-between. The church was the only game in town. The main concern was, of course, money. Kellman had said to Obama that, “Most of our work is with churches. If poor and working-class people want to build real power, they have to have some sort of institutional base. With the unions in the shape they're in, the churches are the only game in town. That's where the people are, and that's where the values are, even if they've been buried under a lot of bullshit. Churches won't work with you, though, just out of the goodness of their hearts. They'll talk a good game - a sermon on Sunday, maybe, or a special offering for the homeless - but if push comes to shove, they won't really move unless you can show them how it'll help them pay their heating bills." (p.141.)
The self-interest formula was Kellman's most precious gift to Obama. "The day of the rally, Marty decided it was time for me to do some real work, and handed me a long list of people to interview. Find out their self-interest, he said. That's why people become involved in organising - because they think they'll get something out of it. Once I found an issue enough people cared about, I could take them into action. With enough actions, I could start to build power. Issues, action, power, self-interest. I liked these concepts. They bespoke a certain hardheadedness, a worldly lack of sentiment; politics not religion." (p.155.) "I tossed my third week report on Marty's desk. 'Yeah, not bad,' he said. 'But it's still too abstract... like you're taking a survey or something. If you want to organise people you need to steer away from the peripheral stuff and go towards people's centres. The stuff that makes them tick.' I asked if he (Marty) ever worried about becoming too calculating, if the idea of probing people's psyches and gaining their trust just to build an organisation ever felt manipulative. He sighed. 'I am not a poet, Barack. I'm an organiser'. What did that mean? I left the office in a foul mood. Later, I had to admit that Marty was right."
The black people in Chicago warned Obama about being used. "Reverend Smalls said 'Listen... what's your name again? Obama? Listen, Obama, you may mean well. I'm sure you do. But the last thing we need is to join up with a bunch of white money and Catholic churches and Jewish organisers to solve our problems. They're not interested in us. Shoot, the archdiocese in the city is run by stone-cold racists. Always has been. White folks come in here thinking they know what's best for us, hiring a buncha high-talking college-educated brothers like yourself who don't know better, and all they want to do is take over. It's all a political thing, and that's not what this group here is about.'" (p.161.) "I noticed that none of them left with my flyers… Marty said, 'Most important, I needed to spend more time getting to know the leaders in the community; flyers couldn't pull people out on a rainy night.'" (p.162.)
Did Obama take the advice of the black Reverend? No. Instead he continued to work loyally for Mr Kellman. Nothing changed much for the poor people but something interesting happened in the suburbs and Obama's value-laden and insightful advice to Kellman was to change - not the policy, just the tactics.
Their project received $500,000 from the Illinois Legislature for a job bank. "...turned out to be a bust. As Marty had planned it... two months after it was supposed to have started, no one found work through the program. The computers didn't work; the data entry was plagued with errors; people were sent to interviews for jobs that didn't exist. [Angela, Shirley Mona, complained] All they knew was that $500,000 had gone somewhere, and it wasn't in their neighborhood. For them the job bank had become yet more evidence that Marty had used them to push a secret agenda, that somehow whites in the suburbs were getting the jobs they'd been promised. 'Marty's just looking out for his own,' they grumbled. I had tried my best to mediate the conflict, defending Marty against charges of racism, suggesting to him that he cultivate more tact." (p.167-8.)
Apart from some hollow "hoo-has" about asbestos, not much changed on Chicago's south side while Obama was fronting the Kellman game. The lesson, however, from this story for Muslims is that Obama has a track record of being completely loyal to the people behind him. He was tried and tested in the Kellman project. If he was agreeable to fronting the Kellman organisation simply because the colour of his skin made him acceptable, then he would most certainly be willing to front a Zionist project if his tenuous links with Muslims gave him the credibility of being an honest broker.
Circumventing the Obstacles
If an American president wanted to hand over all of Al-Quds Al-Sharif (Jerusalem) - including Masjid al-Aqsa - to the Israelis so that they could turn it into Israel's undivided capital, there are several major obstacles that he would need to circumvent. Brute force and military might, although available in good measure, would not suffice on their own. There is a long list of further issues that would need to be considered such as international law, Muslim religious sentiment, potential disruption to world trade, Arab-American relations, world crude oil prices, Muslim anger and so on. Thus far, regardless of how staunch any American president may have been in his support for this idea, American self interest has always remained a sobering force whenever it came to following through with such a plan. This explains why even though in 1995 Congress voted to move the US embassy to Al-Quds Al-Sharif (Jerusalem), the American embassy in Israel remains in Tel Aviv to this day. In June 2009, Obama postponed the moving of the embassy to Al-Quds Al-Sharif for a further six months.
There is no lack of intent with regard to a planned handing over of Al-Quds Al-Sharif to Israel. It is only the aforementioned obstacles that are preventing it from being implemented. If the plan were to become executable in a way that would circumvent these obstacles, preserving American integrity and interests on the one hand and causing minimal/manageable reaction from Muslims worldwide on the other, then there would be no need to postpone the US embassy move to Jerusalem, the handing over of full control of Al-Aqsa Mosque to the Israelis and allowing them to demolish and build whatever they wish on the site. Let us not forget that the international community has presided over precisely this sort of land grab across 70-80% of Palestinian lands for the past 60 years. However, when the matter relates to Al-Quds Al-Sharif in particular, the biggest deterrent is worldwide Muslim sentiment and the attachment of Muslims to Masjid Al-Aqsa through the explicit words of the Quran (Al-Israa 17:1).
If America were to send out a signal that it wanted to support the Israeli claim to Masjid Al-Aqsa, then that would make it very difficult for Muslim and Arab leaders to maintain any links with the US. Pressure from the masses would be so strong and widespread that it would sink any government into turmoil. However, if Al-Quds Al-Sharif - including Masjid Al-Aqsa - were handed over to the Israelis in exchange for a Palestinian state, with America being seen as an honest broker who left Jerusalem to the Palestinians to defend on their own in negotiations with Israel, then the blame for failing to secure Jerusalem could be placed firmly on Palestinian shoulders. The Palestinians would be at fault while America would be credited with creating a Palestinian state.For this plan to work, large numbers of Muslims would need to be convinced in advance that there is divergence of policy between America and Israel and that the new president has no bias whatsoever in favour of Israel. To achieve these two feats, a number of smoke screens are needed.
The Policy Conflict Smoke Screen
It is no secret that Israel's dependence on the United States of America for financial and military aid gives any sitting president in the White House an enormous amount of influence on Israel. According to some conservative estimates, Israel has so far benefited from US aid to the tune of $114 billion in direct aid and numerous other measures (e.g. refined fuel for its military). This pipeline of benefits for Israeli politicians is a major consideration in policy formulation. Although there are many occasions when Israel appears to have deviated from its compact with the US, subsequent analysis and leaked information has invariably revealed that White House approval, explicit or implicit, is always obtained in advance (e.g. the 2008 invasion of Gaza). The bottom line is that if Israel ever genuinely breaks rank with the White House on policy, it would jeopardise the very existence of Israel. As long as the aid pipeline continues to flow, the synergy of policies will continue. But why the need to emphasise this well-known fact here? The reason is because over recent months, a concerted PR campaign has been under way to give the impression that a policy gap is opening up between Israel and the White House. Both Israel and the US are sending out signals that they are moving apart, when in reality they are closer than ever. To see through this smoke screen, we must keep our eyes firmly "on the money", i.e. the flow of US financial and military aid to Israel. Obama has committed himself to fund Israel more than previous presidents. In his speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) he said, "As president I will implement a memorandum of understanding that will provide $30 billion of assistance to Israel."
As for policy on Al-Quds Al-Sharif in particular, another large bundle of smoke and mirrors is being projected to keep Muslims guessing. In the AIPAC speech Obama told the audience in clear and bold diction: "Let me be clear, Israel's security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable. The Palestinians need a state that is contiguous and cohesive and that allows them to prosper. But any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel's identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognised and defensible borders. Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided." When this statement caused uproar in the Muslim world, the following day Obama's campaign advisers came up with the ultimate smoke and mirrors explanation. Suddenly Jerusalem , as they put it, "is a final status issue, which means it has to be negotiated between the two parties." These are the same two parties who have been in a stalemate for the past 60 years over illegal settlements in hundreds of Palestinian villages and towns. Now we must expect them to miraculously come up with an agreement "on their own" about the most sensitive plot of land in the entire dispute. If a Palestinian state cannot be achieved except through international arbitration and pressure from the United States, then it is ludicrous to suggest that Al-Quds Al-Sharif can be left to the two parties alone, especially when one side is armed to the teeth with American-funded weapons and the other side is represented by the likes of Mahmoud "the capitulator" Abbas. For those Muslims with their heads in the sand, the Goldstone report fiasco proves that the Obama bias towards Israel as outlined in his AIPAC speech was not merely "electioneering" but genuine words from the heart. In fact, the Israelis are so drunk with the fortune of having Obama, that they have become careless of all consequences. This is how one Israeli commentator described what they did about the Goldstone Report:
"To force the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority, of all people, to withdraw his demand for a discussion of the report - that is an Israeli-American dictate tantamount to pressuring him to commit hara-kiri (suicide)." (Yossi Sarid, Haaretz, 16.4.09.)
If a Palestinian leader is unable to defend his right to speak and discuss the killing of 1400 Palestinians in Gaza including women and children, how on earth would he be able to secure one inch of Masjid al-Aqsa in Obama's "final status negotiations"?
In fact, Al-Quds Al-Sharif is the only plot of land in the whole area that has genuine international status in legal terms and deserves first status international attention, not "final status" Obama deception. In his Cairo speech to the Muslim world, Obama almost acknowledged the international status of Al-Quds Al-Sharif when he tried to put back together the egg which he had smashed in his AIPAC speech by saying that he wanted us all to work for a day when "Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together." What good is there in saying this to a bunch of Muslims who are acutely aware of his exact words to the AIPAC crowd? One cannot be telling the truth on both occasions. One of these has to be a lie and to find out which one it is likely to be, we need to take a closer look at Mr Obama and the people behind him in his meteoric journey to the White House.
If it Looks Like a Duck...
Unless the funding stops, no one should ever be fooled into thinking that Israel is acting independently of the wishes of the United States. The US has the ultimate veto on policy in Israel - it's called "aid". Israelis cannot disobey Obama if he really wants them to do something. As for why they would have placed themselves in such a bind by supporting his candidacy, the answer is probably that because when it comes to Israel, Obama is the safest pair of hands to be in the White House. He has the finesse to make people feel that he is genuinely concerned to such an extent that even when he does the complete opposite they remain reluctant to question his sincerity.
Since Obama's election to the presidency, Israelis have gained a new air of confidence and arrogance. Their positions have hardened in an unprecedented manner and their hostility towards the Palestinians has gained an entirely new momentum of cruelty and pigheadedness - as if to say to the world that "we have absolutely nothing to fear in Washington". They invaded Gaza in a merciless killing spree while Obama remained suspiciously silent, then made lame excuses for his silence, and now he has attempted to suppress discussion on the Goldstone report on Gaza. In Al-Quds Al-Sharif, Palestinians were evicted from homes they had owned for generations to allow settlers to move in, while the archaeological project in Al-Quds Al-Sharif has been taken away from genuine academics and handed over to a bunch of fanatical religious zealots called Ateret Cohanim ("the crown of priests") who are now ferociously digging towards the foundations of Masjid al-Aqsa, Al-Haram Al-Sharif.
The Israelis would not be so audacious unless they were reassured by a new and extraordinary level of US support. I believe that support is Mr Obama himself. Don't take my word for it. Jeffery Goldberg has been described by Michael Massing as "the most influential journalist/blogger on matters related to Israel". Here is what Goldberg had to say about Obama's commitment to the land of Israel: "Mr. Obama is actually more pro-Israel than either Ehud Olmert or Ehud Barak." (J. Goldberg, New York Times, 18 May 2009.) Mr Goldberg was not being flippant; this is a serious statement made by someone who cares about Israel.
Obama's acquaintances in his adopted hometown of Chicago are well aware of his long-standing avid support for Israel. Even some rabbis look pale in front of him when it comes to Israel. According to Eli Lake,"The rabbi of a synagogue across the street from the Obama family residence in Hyde Park, Chicago, Arnold Jacob Wolf, said that the senator was in fact too hawkish on Israel. 'In my opinion he has been too strong. I belong to the Peace Now group and he doesn't. He is defensive of Israel in ways I wouldn't be, mostly the occupation,' the rabbi, who says he has known Mr. Obama for 10 years, said."
Forget the Emails, Think Rabbis
As for those Muslims who persist in keeping their heads in the sand while pinning hopes on, and drawing conclusions from, the anti-Obama emails that were circulated among American Jewry during the election campaign, I say to them take a closer look at the relationship. Obama's Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, is not the only Zionist standing closely behind the President.
What those Muslims need to realise is that while on one hand the news reports about emails projected a sense of genuine suspicion among the Jewish electorate, Obama on the other hand had been receiving unprecedented support - more than any other candidate ever - from the most important people in the American Jewish community: the rabbis. Rabbis from all over the United States flocked to support Obama in their droves - a first in US politics. A website was launched and hundreds of rabbis declared their loyalty. Why? Because I believe they knew exactly where he stood in terms of Israel and Al-Quds Al-Sharif. He is their man.
"I have been a rabbi in Chicago for twenty-eight years. In all that time I have never publicly endorsed a candidate for office. As a congregational rabbi, I have always avoided taking such a public position. This year is very different... As a Chicago area rabbi I have been fortunate to know Senator Barack Obama. I have met him on many occasions, and I witnessed his swearing in for his Senate seat in January of 2005.
Here is a message - and a list of rabbi supporters - from the website Rabbis for Obama (please see Appendix A1 below for a full list of hundreds of rabbis who supported Obama's election to the White House. There may be more but these are the ones whose names were published on the RabbisforObama website):
As rabbis who believe that Barack Obama is the best candidate to be President of the United States, we have formed 'Rabbis for Obama' as a grassroots organization of rabbis from all movements and backgrounds. We join together to support Senator Obama for President, and we do so in the belief that he will best support the issues important to us in the Jewish community.
Some of us know Senator Obama personally, and we recognize that he has been inspired by Jewish values such as Tikkun Olam and the pursuit of justice, and he is deeply committed as well to a civil discourse between opposing arguments. We also know that Senator Obama will inspire young people, both in the Jewish community and the wider American community, to become more involved in improving this country and repairing the world."
Chair:Rabbi Sam Gordon, Wilmette, IL
Co-chair:Rabbi Steven Bob, Glen Ellyn, IL
Vice- Chairs:Rabbi Rachel Cowan, New York, NYRabbi Elliot Dorff, Los Angeles, CARabbi Ellen Weinberg Dreyfus, Homewood, ILRabbi Steve Foster, Denver, CORabbi Dayle Friedman, Philadelphia, PARabbi Laura Geller, Los Angeles, CARabbi Don Gluckman, Pikesville, MDRabbi Nancy Fuchs Kreimer, Wyncote, PARabbi Charles Kroloff, Westfield, NJRabbi Richard N. Levy, Encino, CARabbi Brian Lurie, San Francisco, CARabbi Rachel Mikva, Rye Brook, NYRabbi Jack Moline, Alexandria, VARabbi Charles Simon, New York, NYRabbi David Teutsch, Philadelphia, PARabbi Ethan Tucker, New York, NYRabbi Burt Visotzky, New York, NY
Source: Rabbis For Obama website http://www.rabbisforobama.com/
We know that Obama also had a rabbi in his family (see the Jerusalem Post article "The Obama Family Rabbi"), but that does not explain why senior ex-congressmen like Abner Mikva would declare in the Jerusalem Post that Barack has a "yiddishe nishama" and that "Barack will be the first Jewish president in the US." These are not statements from stupid or deluded individuals. They are the pillars of the community. Obama had to have given them a sufficiently compelling reason before they would have gone out so far on a limb to endorse him.
Al-Quds Al-Sharif and Masjid al-Aqsa is the Prize
I believe that Obama has promised the Jewish community in America and the Israelis in all sincerity that he will facilitate for them the taking over of all of Jerusalem including Masjid Al-Aqsa. All the indications are that preparations are being made to work towards the execution of such a plan. Here again to avoid the accusation of "conspiracy theorist" I quote the Israeli commentator Uri Aveney on the recent events in Al-Quds Al-Sharif. He wrote:
"THE SUBJECT dominating this week's news was Jerusalem. Everything happened 'suddenly'. Suddenly the flames broke out on the Temple Mount, after the month of Ramadan had passed relatively quietly. Suddenly the Islamic Movement in Israel called upon the Arab citizens to rush and save the al-Aqsa mosque. Suddenly, senior Islamic preachers all over the Muslim world urged the one and a half billion Muslims to rise to the defense of the holy shrines. (Nothing happened.) The police chief in Jerusalem has a ready explanation: the Muslims are 'ungrateful'. We have 'allowed them' to pray safely all through Ramadan, and that is how they repay us. This colonial arrogance infuriated the Arabs even more. According to the Israeli authorities, nothing has happened that could justify this 'sudden' upheaval. Meaning: it is an Arab provocation, a vile effort to create a conflict out of nothing. But in Arab - and not only Arab - eyes it looks very different. For years now, the Arab community in Jerusalem has been under siege. Since Binyamin Netanyahu became Prime Minister, and since Nir Barkat became mayor of Jerusalem, the sense of siege increased many fold. Both men belong to the radical Right, and both are leading towards ethnic cleansing.
"This finds its foremost expression in the systematic building of Jewish neighborhoods in the heart of the Arab quarters in the annexed Eastern part of the city, which is supposed to become the capital of the Palestinian state and whose final status is still to be decided by negotiation. The execution is entrusted to a group of extreme Rightists called Ateret Cohanim ('the crown of priests'), financed by the American Bingo king Irwin Moskowitz. After winning a resounding victory in shaving Jebel Abu-Ghneim ('Har Homa') and building a fortress-like settlement there, they are now establishing Jewish neighborhoods in the heart of Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan, Ras al-Amud and Abu Dis, not to mention the Muslim Quarter of the Old City itself. At the same time, they are trying to fill up the E1 area between Jerusalem and the giant settlement Ma'aleh Adumim.
"Seemingly, these are all sporadic actions, initiated by respect-hungry billionaires and power-drunk settlers. But that is an illusion: behind all this feverish activity there lurks a government plan with a well defined strategic goal. It is enough to look at a map in order to understand its purpose: to encircle the Arab quarters and cut them off from the West Bank. And beyond: to enlarge Jerusalem to the East up to the approaches of Jericho, thus cutting the West Bank into two, with the Northern part (Ramallah, Nablus, Jenin, Tulkarm) cut off from the Southern part (Hebron, Bethlehem).
"And, of course: to make the life of the Arab inhabitants of Jerusalem impossible, until they 'voluntarily' leave the 'United City, Israel's Capital in all Eternity'. IN THIS strategy, a central role is played by the thing called 'archaeology'. For a hundred years, Jewish archaeology has sought, in vain, to prove the existence of David's kingdom... For this desperate search, archaeological diggings took off the strata pertaining to the last 2000 years in the country's life - the periods of the Byzantine empire, the Islamic conquest, the Mamelukes and the Ottomans. The search has a manifest political purpose, and most Israeli archaeologists consider themselves soldiers in the service of the national struggle.
"The scandal that is taking place now at the foot of al-Aqsa is a part of this story. Something unprecedented is happening there: the digging in 'David's Town' (clearly a propaganda appellation) has been turned over to the same ultra-nationalist religious association, Ateret Cohanim, that is building the provocative Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem and around it. The Israeli government, quite officially, has entrusted this scientific task to a political group. Not just any political group, but an ultra-radical one. The digging itself is being conducted by archaeologists who accept their authority.
"Israeli archaeologists who care for the integrity of their profession (there still are some) protested this week that the digging is proceeding in a thoroughly unprofessional way: the work is done in an unscientific hurry, artifacts found are not examined properly and systematically, the sole aim is to uncover evidence as quickly as possible to support the Jewish claim to the Temple Mount.
"Many Arabs believe that the aim is even more sinister: to dig under the al-Aqsa mosque in order to bring about its collapse. These fears were reinforced by the disclosure in Haaretz this week, that the digging is undermining Arab houses and threatens to bring them down.
"Israeli spokesmen are upset. What vile slanders! Who can even imagine such things?! But it is no secret that in the eyes of many nationalist-religious fanatics, the very existence of the two mosques there - al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock - is an abomination. Years ago, members of a Jewish underground organization planned to blow up the Dome of the Rock, but were caught in time and sent to prison. Recently, a religious website wrote: 'Today there stands there an evil thing, a great witch that must be taken off. The Temple will stand in place of this pustule topped with yellow pus, and everybody knows what to do about a pustule, one has to empty it of the pus. That is our aim, and with God's help we shall do it.' Already, sheep are being raised for sacrificial purposes in the Temple.
"One can ridicule these outpourings and assert, as always, that they come from the lunatic fringe. That is what they said about the murder of Yitzhak Rabin. But for Arabs, who see with their own eyes the daily effort to 'Judaize' the Eastern city and to push them out, this is no joke. Their fear is genuine.
"Since the millions of inhabitants of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have no access to the Temple Mount - contrary to all the talk about 'religious freedom' – the Islamic Movement in Israel proper has assumed the role of guardian of the two shrines. This week, the call went up to outlaw the movement and to put its leader, Sheikh Ra'ed Salah, in prison.
"Sheikh Ra'ed is a charismatic leader. I met him 16 years ago, when we both lived for 45 days and nights in a protest tent opposite the prime minister's office, after Rabin had deported 415 Islamic activists to the Lebanese border. The sheikh was, at the time, a friendly person, pleasant to be with, full of humor, who treated Rachel, too, with utmost friendliness (but without taking her hand, much like our own Orthodox rabbis). I learned from him a lot about Islam, and answered as well as I could his questions about Judaism. Nowadays he is much more tough and uncompromising. THERE IS something symbolic about the proximity in time of the awarding of the Nobel Prize and the Temple Mount happenings..." (Uri Aveney, The Other Israel. 10/10/09.)
The events unfolding in Al-Quds Al-Sharif in the last two weeks seems to confirm my fear that the plan to take the mosque now is building up unprecedented momentum. On Sunday (25.10.09), a conference of leading rabbis was held in Jerusalem. This is how the conference was described by a correspondent of Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz:
"Top religious Zionist leaders came together Sunday at a rightist conference advocating Jewish ascent to the Temple Mount. It's hard to remember when was the last time Israel saw such a unity between its religious Zionist leaders. Political rivals such as MKs Uri Orbach and Michael Ben Ari sat side by side on the center stage; Moderate rabbis 'respectful of the government' like Rabbi Yuval Sherlo and Rabbi Yaakov Medan came together with 'rebellious Haredi nationalists' such as Rabbi Elyakim Levanon and Rabbi Dov Lior. They all joined together to call upon the Jewish public to ascend the Temple Mount, despite the harsh criticism directed at them from the Haredi sector as well as from some national-religious rabbis. Rabbi Medan, one of the heads of the moderate Yeshivat Har Etzion, told the conference participants that he recently met with a 'top defense official' and discussed the sparse presence of Jews in the Temple Mount."
These constant provocations have led Palestinian youths to riot which then leads Israeli soldiers to enter the site and arrest worshipers. The Jordanians issued statements saying: "Any new provocative attempts by Israeli troops and Jewish extremists such as what happened today in the shrine's compound represent a flagrant violation of international law and conventions and set the stage for more tension and acts of violence," Minister of State for Media Affairs and Communication Nabil Sharif said in a statement. But no one seemed to be listening, while an Israeli army judge declared that all of the West Bank belongs to the Jews.
The following Tuesday, 27.10.09, in Al-Quds Al-Sharif five more Palestinian homes were demolished and according to The Jerusalem Center for Social and Economic Rights another 275 Palestinian homes are scheduled for demolition within the next two months. The strategy employed is one of gradual ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem - a few houses at a time, day by day and week by week, the Muslim houses are slowly being wiped off the map. In addition, there are on-going systematic provocations to spark trouble on a regular basis. For example, on Friday 30.10.09, a group of Israelis drove into a Muslim neighbourhood in Al-Quds Al-Sharif and tried to take over a Palestinian house. When the occupants resisted they were beaten up and sent to hospital.
On Tuesday 3.11.09 Israeli settlers seized another Arab house in Al-Quds Al-Sharif. Jerusalem police spokesman Shmulik Ben Rubi said, "A group of Jews arrived at the house with a court order, saying that it was their house."
Since the arrival of Obama in the White House, there is also a new air of Israeli optimism on the diplomatic front. Dismissing the Goldstone report and securing Obama's vote against it are not the only reasons for them to celebrate. Right wing Israelis are expecting a lot more from Obama in their drive to take Al-Quds Al-Sharif. The Mayor of Jerusalem, in a recent visit to the US, was welcomed in Congress by a group of members who are now proposing legislation to enable the move of the US embassy in Israel to Al-Quds Al-Sharif. Mayor Nir Barkat, told reporters that, “I believe moving the American embassy to Jerusalem will be the first step towards other embassies moving to the capital, as in every other country in the world,” and "Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel; and the United States Embassy in Israel should be established in Jerusalem."
On Monday 7.11.09, the Israeli Prime Minister had yet another private meeting with Obama in the White House - a news report explains the two "will hold talks Monday evening, but they will not appear together before the White House press corps". This of course is a convenient way of avoiding having to face questions about what they have been taking about - Jerusalem? Obama will also soon be meeting "top leaders from The Jewish Federations of North America at the White House". We may never know what exactly will be on the agenda but given the recent momentum of "ethnic cleansing" in Jerusalem, it is highly likely that the City of Al-Quds Al-Sharif will feature in the discussions.
For a glimpse of the ongoing assault on Al-Quds Al-Sharif and the ethnic cleansing taking place see the videos below.
The Al-Aqsa Mosque's indelible links with the words of the Quran and with the early history of Islam place it among the most cherished and revered sites in the hearts of Muslims around the world, as in the hadith: Abu Huraira [ra] is quoted as saying that Allah's Messenger [Sallallaahu Alayhi wasallam] said, "Set out deliberately on a journey only to three mosques: this mosque of mine (in Medina), the Sacred Mosque (in Makkah) and Masjid al Aqsa (in Jerusalem)." (Bukhari & Muslim). The dangers that lurk in the shadows as a result of any plan to take Masjid Al-Aqsa away from the control of Muslims are immense not only for Muslims but for the entire world. This had been the received wisdom in the international arena since the Allied forces took the city of Al-Quds Al-Sharif in 1917. They recognised the importance of the Mosque and the potential repercussions of violating its sanctity. Even as the French General Henri Gouraud stood on the grave of Salahuddin and kicked it saying, "The Crusades have ended now! Awake Saladin, we have returned!
What Should Muslims Do?
First, avoid being fooled by the fairytale of a "peace messiah" and focus on the real person of Obama as he was when he was the Kellman front man. For Muslims he is likely to be more damaging than his predecessors in the White House.Second, declare that if the US continues to fund and arm Israel, then we will not accept any pretences of a "failure to convince the Israelis" or "policy gaps between Washington and Tel Aviv" because we know when countries disobey the wishes of the United States sanctions come into place fast and strong. At the moment the US Treasury has sanctions in place for a large number of countries: Balkans-related Sanctions, Belarus Sanctions, Burma Sanctions, Ivory Coast-related Sanctions, Counter Narcotics Trafficking Sanctions, Counter Terrorism Sanctions, Cuba Sanctions, Democratic Republic of the Congo-related Sanctions, Iran Sanctions, Diamond Trading Sanctions, Iraq-related Sanctions, Former Liberian Regime of Charles Taylor Sanctions, Lebanon-related Sanctions, Non-proliferation Sanctions, North Korea Sanctions, Sudan Sanctions, Syria Sanctions, Zimbabwe Sanctions. When sanctions come into place for Israeli crimes against the Palestinians then we will consider the claims of a "failure to convince Tel Aviv" and a "policy gap between the US and Israel".
At the moment all we can see is that the US administration and Israel are fully coordinated. The Goldstone-Abbas fiasco is sufficient proof for those who still need it. Obama did not only force Abbas to delay the UN debate on the report but his administration has voted against it in the UN on the side of Israel. The latest example is the sleight-of-hand attempt by Obama to do a U-turn on the "full freezing of settlements". These are just two examples in a long list of deceptions and betrayals orchestrated on the Muslim world through double-speak and bully-tactics "diplomacy" on behalf of Israel. Of course, they need the Arab governments to forget about "settlement freezing" and to establish instead economic and telecommunications trade with Israel as soon as possible. The logic is simple - when the masses feel that their livelihood is at stake they will tolerate anything - even 700 billion dollar bailouts for fat-cat bankers. If the Arab world becomes dependent on Israel both economically and technologically then they will have incentives to be tolerant when Masjid al-Aqsa is eventually taken over by the Israelis.
Third, if the assault on the Islamic nature of Al-Quds al-Sharif does not cease and the settlement freeze does not happen, the Muslim masses should demand that their governments freeze bilateral cooperation with the Obama regime. Instead of hollow statements about "playing with fire", Muslim governments need to set real deadlines and stick to them. Put simply, we must declare that either Israel freezes settlements and aggression against Al-Haram al-Sharif or we the Muslims will do the freezing – we will freeze security cooperation, freeze business contracts, freeze G2o commitments, freeze IMF contributions, freeze emissions commitments and so on. Soon, the world will be cold enough to allow the overheated hotheads to think clearly and reasonably.
The bracketed sentence in Aveney's piece above where he remarked that the Ulama from "all over the Muslim world urged the one and a half billion Muslims to rise to the defence of the holy shrines. (Nothing happened.)" should put us all to shame.Here I would like us all to repeat those calls of the Ulama to defend the holy shrines until every Muslim who believes in the words of the Quran responds with one voice declaring that Masjid Al-Aqsa has a special place in the heart of every Muslim. To attack Masjid Al-Aqsa is to attack the heart of every Muslim.سُبْحَانَ الَّذِي أَسْرَى بِعَبْدِهِ لَيْلًا مِنَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ إِلَى الْمَسْجِدِ الْأَقْصَى الَّذِي بَارَكْنَا حَوْلَهُ لِنُرِيَهُ مِنْ آَيَاتِنَا إِنَّه هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْبَصِيرُ"Glory be to (Allah) Who did take His Servant for Journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Furthest Mosque [al Masjid al Aqsa] whose precincts We did Bless in order that We might show him some of Our Signs: for He is the one Who heareth and seeth all things." (Quran 17:1)
ومكرو ومكرَ الله ُوالله خير الماكرين(آل عمران 3:54)"They plotted and planned and Allah is the best of planners."(Qur'an 3:54)
Sh Riyad Nadwi, PhD