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May 23, 2008

Jewish Press: Obama’s ‘not some ogre’

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/jewish_press_obamas_not_some_ogre/

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There has been an obnoxious number of stories lately about Obama’s Jewish problem.

I found Jodi Kantor’s much-discussed NYT piece yesterday to be heavy on anecdotes and light on evidence. Last week, Jeffrey Goldberg published his interview with Obama, in which they discussed Israel, Hamas and the “kishke question,” a conversation that has had more traction than any in recent memory and to which the New York Times followed with this piece on Obama’s Jewish campaign.

Thomas Friedman added to the din this Sunday with “Obama and the Jews,” a good column about the whisper campaign against the Illinois senator, but, frankly, I’m a bit tuckered out:

I don’t want a president who is just going to lean on Israel and not get in the Arabs’ face too, or one who, as the former Mideast negotiator Aaron D. Miller puts it, “loves Israel to death” — by not drawing red lines when Israel does reckless things that are also not in America’s interest, like building settlements all over the West Bank.

It’s a tricky business. But if Israel is your voting priority, then at least ask the right questions about Mr. Obama. Knock off the churlish whispering campaign about what’s in his heart on Israel (what was in Richard Nixon’s heart?) and focus first on what kind of America you think he’d build and second on whether you believe that as president he’d have the smarts, steel and cunning to seize a historic opportunity if it arises.

I’ve argued before that the claim that American Jews need to choose between Obama and Israel is false. The right-wing Jewish Press agreed, and quoting from Goldberg’s interview ran this editorial:

Sen. Obama is very forthcoming about his commitment to the survival of Israel. This is not some ogre with a hidden anti-Semitic agenda. The devil, however, is in the details.

That’s where, of course, they question just what his commitment would look like. And I’d say that’s a fair exercise to do with any presidential candidate on any issues you as a voter care about. (Again, this is why I don’t vote for politicians based on their purported religious beliefs.)

(Hat tip: Bintel Blog)

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