March 20, 2008
Sen. Obama, answer my questions on your past
I'm a Democrat. I'm a strong supporter of Israel -- I was born and reared there. Yes, as of now, I support Sen. Hillary Clinton. But I simply want more satisfying answers to questions about my party's potential nominee's past.
There are certain facts that can't be denied. Sen. Barack Obama has acknowledged being a member of the Trinity United Church of Christ for the past 20 years. This church is headed by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who was backstage as an honored guest when the senator declared his run for the presidency.
Wright and his congregation have honored Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, who has referred to Jews as "dogs" and "pigs." Farrakhan has called Obama "the hope of the entire world." To which the senator responded, when pushed during "the last debate, that he "denounces" Farrakhan.
My question is: Why did he wait 20 years to admonish members of his church for supporting Farrakhan?
The response from Obama's campaign is that his beliefs are contrary at times to those of his spiritual leader.
But that is only one example of what strikes me as several close associations with people whose support for the things I care about is, to put it mildly, questionable.
By now, the press and Obama's opponents have dug up plenty of names from Obama's past to call his political future into question. There is William Ayers, now a University of Chicago professor, who remains unrepentant for his years in the domestic terrorist group, the Weathermen.
Obama served as a board member with Ayers on the Chicago community service nonprofit, the Woods Fund, from 1999 to Dec. 11, 2002. He served on the board along with his close associate and supporter, Rashid Khalidi, a harsh critic of Israel.
The fund describes itself as a group helping locally disadvantaged youth. It provided a grant of $40,000 to the Arab American Action Network (AAAN), according to the fund's annual reports. Khalidi's wife, Mona, was president of AAAN. The Woods Fund made a second grant in the amount of $35,000 to the AAAN in 2002.
The AAAN, headquartered in the heart of Chicago's Palestinian immigrant community, describes itself as working to empower Chicago-area Arab immigrants and Arab Americans through the combined strategies of community organizing, advocacy, education and social services, leadership development and forging productive relationships with other communities.
Yet in this month alone, according to the AAAN's calendar of events, seven of the five events the organization is promoting concern Israel and the Palestinians, including, "One State Solution: An End to the Occupation of Palestine and a Hope for Peace."
Khalidi himself during documented speeches and public events called Israel a destructive "racist" state. My question to Obama is:
Please once and for all, can you address all these allegations and explain your position on the Palestinians vs. Israel?
I for one need to know the truth. I was born in Israel, and I love my homeland. I want to know that the person in the Oval Office cares about Israel's survival.
Please tell us who you are, Sen. Obama; don't let your enemies, or your friends, define you.
Daphna Ziman is the chair and founder of Children Uniting Nations.