The Blog

Obama's Israel Problems Continue

10:53 PM, Apr 10, 2008 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Obama was asked again yesterday about his church's relationship with Louis Farrakhan and he responded, rather presumptuously, that "nobody has spoken out more fiercely on the issue of anti-Semitism than I have."

It's an absurd claim given Obama's long relationship with Jeremiah Wright, but it also came just hours before the Los Angeles Times published this report about a 2003 dinner attended by Obama in honor of Rashid Khalidi. Khalidi, a "friend and frequent dinner companion" of the Obamas, is also described as a "critic of Israel and advocate for Palestinian rights." The event featured plenty of criticism of Israel:

At Khalidi's 2003 farewell party, for example, a young Palestinian American recited a poem accusing the Israeli government of terrorism in its treatment of Palestinians and sharply criticizing U.S. support of Israel. If Palestinians cannot secure their own land, she said, "then you will never see a day of peace."

One speaker likened "Zionist settlers on the West Bank" to Osama bin Laden, saying both had been "blinded by ideology."

Obama also spoke at the event, and while his speech "adopted a different tone," it was not a fierce condemnation of the preceding anti-Semitism--or the threat to violence. In fact, it's pretty clear that for much of his career Obama understood anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism as an unalterable feature of the political landscape in Chicago's South Side. Perhaps Obama found such remarks abhorrent. Perhaps he tolerated them only in order to serve a larger good--in this case his work as a community organizer. But it does appear as though Obama viewed tolerance of anti-Semitism as an occasional cost of doing business.

What's troubling is that the international community is not all that different from Trinity United in its views on Israel. Over the course of this campaign, Obama has emphasized the need to rebuild weakened international institutions and repair frayed alliances. But at what cost? If he thought it was in service to this larger good, would he sit silently in the pews of the General Assembly as Zionism was equated with racism? Supporters of Israel are bound to worry.