Saturday, May 31, 2008

Barack Obama, a True Friend of Israel, Gidon D. Remba -- The Jerusalem Report, Viewpoint, 6/4/08

What should we say of an American president who tells the Knesset that negotiating with “terrorists and radicals” is like appeasing Nazis, but who bargains with states like Libya and North Korea over nuclear disarmament and with Iran over stabilizing Iraq? And suppose a Republican presidential candidate endorses the implied appeasement charge against his opponent, suggesting that while the Democrat is surely Hamas’ best friend, he himself will never truck with terrorists. Next imagine that just before the election spotlight shines upon him, this same Republican announces that sooner or later we’re going to have to talk to Hamas.

George Orwell, author of the dystopian novel 1984, called all this Newspeak. In Newspeak, explained Orwell, one displays “a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this…The enemy of the moment always represented absolute evil, and it followed that any past or future agreement with him was impossible.” In Oldspeak, diplomacy meant bargaining, directly or indirectly when needed, with one’s foes, as well as with friends. In Newspeak, we never talk of such things, even when our leaders do them because they must. In Oldspeak, we do as we say and say as we do. In Newspeak, we say what we want the people to think, and then do as we wish.

Barack Obama represents a revival of Oldspeak to a people grown weary of the gaping chasm between rhetoric and results, happy-talk and truth, from an administration that promised Americans security and global triumph, and its Jewish citizens undying friendship to Israel. While a stubborn minority clings to fantasies of “moral clarity” on absolute good and evil and vanquishing Israel’s enemies, many now see that the swashbuckling moralists have boosted the “evil-doers” while whispering sweet hosannas to Israel in Jewish ears.

These dragon-slayers have broken the Arab state which was Iran’s chief rival, installing Shiite-led Iran-friendly rule in Iraq. In the name of “freedom” and “democracy,” they foisted new elections on the Palestinians, against both Israel’s and Fatah’s better judgment, letting Hamas win power. Then they armed Fatah against Hamas in Gaza hoping to depose the Hamas-led authority, until Hamas preempted, wresting control of Gaza from Fatah.

They fiddled with toothless sanctions while Persian centrifuges spun. They neglected the most potent U.S. economic and political inducements, while Iran leapt forward towards nuclear weapons' breakthrough. They refused to lure Syria away from Iran in a pax Americana, as we once did Egypt from the Soviet orbit, allowing the Syrians to keep funneling more lethal arms to Hezbollah and Hamas, magnifying the threats to Israel.

Obama has blasted the Bush crew for pressuring Israel to duck peace parley with Syria, despite the conviction of both its prime minister and defense minister, and much of its security establishment, that engaging Damascus would be to Israel’s advantage. Only two governments on earth are in shock over the newly revealed Israeli-Syrian dialogue: the Iranian regime of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the Bush administration, which reportedly called Israel’s overture towards Syria “a slap in the face.” Such language is not unlike that doubtlessly heard in government halls in Tehran and Hezbollah’s Beirut these days about their Syrian ally.

But don’t expect Syria’s President Bashar Asad to publicly surrender his chief asset and strongest bargaining chip—his marriage of convenience with Iran—in the opening act. Engineering this break will take a bountiful dowry from the wealthy American and Western families of the Israeli would-be bride. The prospects for success will depend, in part, on whether a new U.S. president seizes the opening, persuading Syria of the benefits we will offer in exchange for spurning Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah.

Barack Obama and John McCain bring to this pregnant Mideast moment two sharply divergent conceptions of America’s place in the world. Reflecting his grasp of the supporting role the United States must play as a true friend of Israel, Obama responded that he has “consistently said that the United States must stand ready to help Israel achieve peace with its neighbors, and should not block Israel from the negotiating table, nor force it to negotiate.” McCain’s spokesperson offered the laissez-faire bromide “that the sovereign government of Israel should be free to make its own decisions on how best to defend Israel and whether to engage in negotiations.” (Read: Knock yourself out, Israel. But don’t come to us for help.)

Facing down Iran, Obama will marshal all elements of American power on behalf of security and peace in the region, wielding both carrots and sticks. McCain’s long-time cheerleading for the hawkish "talk and walk" of the Bush league leaves little doubt that a McCain administration will be hostage to the same martial doublethink: an over-reliance on arms and isolation as magic potions for all that ails America and Israel, Orwell’s perpetual war clothed in earnest devotion to Newspeak “diplomacy.”

“It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words,” remarked Orwell’s character Syme, reveling in the way the cleansing of language constricts thought, stamping out the very idea of imagining alternative courses of action. But then he was fictional, of course.

Gidon D. Remba, a veteran American Jewish Israel activist, is President of KAHAL America (, a new Jewish nonprofit issues advocacy organization and sponsor of "Jews for Obama" (

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Let's Have Straight Talk on Jewish Issues, Senator McCain, by Gidon D. Remba

If you thought that the world’s most ignoble occupation was prostitution, think again: it’s politics. That’s right. Only a politician could solemnly pledge integrity, honesty and decency as nothing more than a ploy to get our votes, then twist the truth beyond recognition all the way to the polling booth.

Sure, all politicians lie. But not all politicians lie all of the time. Watching the 2008 election season closely, I’ve discovered a trusty rule of thumb: the more a politician’s positions suffer from moral and intellectual bankruptcy, the more they lie. How else did you think we got stuck with George W. Bush? Because he waged and won a superior battle of ideas?

A former top Republican strategist has said of Bush’s former senior campaign advisor Karl Rove that his “goal is never just to win, it is to destroy your opponent, [use] character assassination, whatever it takes. There is almost nothing Karl would not do. For example, religion was not part of Karl’s life but he viewed it as a political tool to be manipulated.” Only now the term “Rovian politics” has, for many, become redundant.

Though I have not supported McCain for President, I, like many others, admired the man for his willingness to stick to principle and sometimes buck the neoconservative mania of his party. Arianna Huffington notes that “his nobility and his true reformer years have given way to pandering in the service of ambition.” She has compiled a frighteningly long roster of recent McCain lies and deceptions, most of which the media have ignored. But when McCain hired as a campaign advisor Karl Rove, what did we expect? An honest, thoughtful issue-oriented contest? A Talmudic debate?

But McCain’s fall from grace began well before the campaign. Huffington sums up just a few of the most egregious charges in the case against him: He now wants to make permanent Bush’s good-for-the rich tax cuts that “he twice voted against, saying he could not ‘in good conscience support’ them; the campaign finance reformer [has been] replaced with a candidate whose campaign is run by lobbyists and fueled by loophole rides on his wife's jet; the hard-line stance against torture replaced by a vote allowing water boarding…and the embracing of the disastrous policies of a man he so abhorred he would not vote for him.” But we’re just getting warmed up. McCain has repeatedly misled the public with false charges that the Democrats favor “nationalized government-run healthcare,” evoking the specter of socialized medicine. Respected media outlets like CNN not only fail to correct such gross distortions; they even parrot them.

On issues vital to Israel’s security which will determine the future stability—or instability—of the Middle East like the war in Iraq and threatening war with Iran, McCain promises to out-cowboy George W. Bush. The New Yorker’s Hendrik Hertzberg notes that “McCain wants to stay in Iraq until no more Americans are getting killed, no matter how long it takes and how many Americans get killed achieving that goal—that is, the goal of not getting any more Americans killed. And once that goal is achieved, we'll stay.”

McCain promised the American people to pursue a presidential campaign that is more like a respectful argument among friends than a bitter clash of enemies. He suggested that his conduct during this contest will demonstrate why he is the candidate best able to build a bipartisan consensus to address our nation’s challenges: “I intend to wage this campaign and to govern this country in a way that [Americans] would be proud of me.” And “I’m going to raise the level of political dialog in America, and I’m going to treat my opponents with respect and demand that they treat me with respect.” He promised straight talk.

Despite these vows, he has joined those attempting to tar and feather Senator Obama with the outrageous remarks of Rev. Wright, which Obama has roundly rejected as “divisive,” “destructive,” and “appalling.” Even after being falsely attacked himself for miscegenation by Karl Rove in 2000, McCain has done little to stop a race-baiting TV commercial being run against Obama by the Republican party in North Carolina replete with Wright video clips. Why call for a frank discussion on the merits of his own and Obama’s plans for the war in Iraq or our ailing economy, when it’s so much more fun and effective to encourage us to dwell on the revolting Reverend or AWOL lapel pins?

Now his campaign has tried to paint Obama as the favorite candidate of the Israel-hating terrorists of Hamas. Yet McCain knows full well that Obama’s clearly stated position is the same as his, that the US and Israel must refuse to talk with Hamas until it recognizes Israel, renounces violence and accepts past agreements. What’s more, the Hamas official who referred to Obama did so while praising President Carter for negotiating peace between Egypt and Israel, and expressing hope that the former president could broker peace between Israel and Hamas. But these little facts would get in the way of destroying his opponent and winning at any price. But enough about Hillary Clinton…

McCain’s willingness to pander for votes without regard for moral scruples led him to seek out, and to continue to welcome the endorsement of Rev. John Hagee, a bigot whose views are no less offensive than those of Rev. Wright. Hagee writes in his recent book “Jerusalem Countdown” that the Jews are responsible for their own persecution: “It was the disobedience and rebellion of the Jews, God’s chosen people, to their covenantal responsibility to serve only the one true God, Jehovah, that gave rise to the opposition and persecution that they experienced beginning in Canaan and continuing to this very day….How utterly repulsive, insulting, and heartbreaking to God for His chosen people to credit idols with bringing blessings He had showered upon the chosen people. Their own rebellion had birthed the seed of anti-Semitism that would arise and bring destruction to them for centuries to come…” Of course, the rebellion of the Jews, and the anti-Semitism it breeds, will end only when the Jews accept Jesus as their savior.

Adding insult to injury, the McCain campaign has now appointed as national finance co-chair none other than Fred Malek, whose dubious background includes counting and demoting Jews at the Bureau of Labor Statistics during the Nixon Administration. And did I mention that McCain has declared America to be a Christian nation? How many fundamentalist evangelical voters did you say there were Karl?

If like me, you mourn the corruption of American politics, and long to see a presidential contest that is respectful, civil, and truthful, free of lies and smears, a campaign revolving around a forthright debate on policies and ideas and how they affect us and our children, then I invite you to join me and many others in endorsing an open letter to Senator McCain at Demand that the Senator renounce the endorsement of extremists like Pastor Hagee, repudiate his hateful anti-Jewish remarks, and dismiss anti-Semites like Fred Malek from his campaign. Take a stand for straight talk on Jewish issues—and on all that is at stake in this fateful election.

Gidon D. Remba, a veteran Israel activist and commentator, is editor and publisher of the e-newsletter. He blogs at

Sunday, May 4, 2008

More Than a Gas Tax Holiday, Jews for Obama Editorial

There are several crises brewing simultaneously which demand real leadership from the US. Global warming is a growing threat to our environmental security. Riots have recently broken out around the world because the escalating price of food -- flour is up 32%, bread 12%, milk 18.5%, eggs 30% since March 2007 -- leads to rising malnutrition and starvation. We take our food supply for granted, the fact that we can walk into a supermarket, 7-11, or restaurant, but around the world “food security” is increasingly in jeopardy. Finally, the price of gasoline, which has risen to $4 per gallon, combined with skyrocketing food prices, is placing a mounting economic burden on lower and middle income Americans. Those of us who have fought hunger through food pantries and Jewish organizations like Mazon, which works throughout the United States, and around the globe, to bring critical relief to millions of hungry families, have witnessed the impact of these problems first hand.

The Congressional Joint Economic Committee (JEC) just held its first hearing on rising food prices, and found that they are linked to ballooning gas and transportation costs.

The alarming and explosive threats to food, environment, energy, and health security--not preacher sound bites--should be center stage for all people of faith this election season.

Instead we have economic policies like a check to every family, an incumbent’s attempt at buying love and re-election. We have the other two candidates promising a holiday in the Gasoline Tax. What’s next? Will McCain declare “Free Beer” in October to be donated by his wife’s company to “help the working class”?

Instead of panderers, we need a leader who will bring forward serious policy recommendations, not give away the treasury for re-election or to buy votes. Senator Obama recently explained in Indiana why he believes that the gas-tax holiday is not the solution, but a serious error leading only to more pollution, higher profits for Exxon, and less investment in efficiency, and all economists agree. Unable to name a single economist in support of the policy, Hillary Clinton declares that she is not going to put her "lot in with economists". In response, Robert Reich warns against continuing to elect politicians "who reject facts in favor of short-term poll-driven politics".

The global dimensions of the impending food disaster are illustrated in the following projection made by the Worldwatch Institute. "The United States still consumes three times as much grain per person as China and five times as much as India, notes the report. U.S. per-capita carbon dioxide emissions are six times the Chinese level and 20 times the Indian level. If China and India were to consume resources and produce pollution at the current U.S. per-capita level, it would require two planet Earths just to sustain their two economies." Globalization has increased wealth in China and India, increasing demand for both energy and food. In our own country, we need more than a new food pyramid from the FDA and the dairy industry to change our consumption habits.

We need leadership that, instead of catering to industrial profits in the short term, can see the long-term effects of policies and their impact on our lives and our children’s lives. We need leadership that does not buy love with cheap gimmicks and pronouncements, but works with other countries and international organizations to coordinate programs for global consumption.

Solving these large problems facing our society and world demands a leader with Obama's extraordinary capacity to build consensus. Obama’s ability to devise and stand strongly behind thoughtful policies has won him the support of knowledgeable and experienced policy makers like former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich and creative thinkers like University of Chicago economist Austan Goolsbee, who was praised by conservative pundit George Will as "the sort of person you would want at the elbow of a Democratic president.”

There are many talented and brilliant people in America who are concerned about these impending disasters, which Bush has either ignored or exacerbated for the last eight years. Obama will bring together and motivate the best people to begin to solve these looming problems before the 21st century is remembered as a second dark age known for famine, flooding and foreclosure.