Simulblogged from http://jews4barack.com/react/?p=21…
There are so many things wrong with the attacks leveled against Senator Barack Obama because of his relationship with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright and the Trinity Universal Church of Christ that it is hard to know where to begin a discussion of them.
“The company he keeps”
First and foremost is the fact that even if every offensive, crazy belief attributed to Wright were true, there isn’t an iota of evidence that Obama shares even a single one of them, and ample evidence that he does not. Obama’s attackers have resorted to outright lies in their efforts to make the opposite case; these absurd attacks have been debunked time and time again, on this Web site, on many others, and in the mainstream media.
The attackers are fond of reminding us to “judge the man [Obama] by the company he keeps.” However, they choose to judge Obama only by Wright and a few other supposed Obama associates. This falls apart under close scrutiny for two reasons:
- Many of these supposed associates of Obama aren’t, in fact, associates of his at all. Ayers, Brzezinski, Malley, Soros, and many others who Obama has, at best, met once or twice in his life, are suddenly “close friends,” “key advisers,” “financial backers,” etc. The truth is, they’re not.
- The attackers conveniently fail to mention his many long-time close associates who don’t support their claims. They mention Jeremiah Wright but not Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf or Ira Silverstein; William Ayers but not Robert Wexler; George Soros but not Lester Crown or Alan Solomont.
The attackers say that we must look to Obama’s (supposed) associates to determine his views on Jews and Israel because he has no objective record in these areas for us to evaluate. The absurdity of this claim is obvious to anyone who takes a few minutes to read about Obama’s legislative record and his good relationship with his Jewish constituents and colleagues throughout his career. See, for example, what Obama has to say about Israel on his own Web site, generally and in detail.
“20 years of crazy sermons”
The attackers repeatedly hammer home the point, “How could Obama have sat through these crazy, offensive speeches for 20 years?” There are a number of flaws in this particular angle of attack:
- The sound bites of Wright’s sermons which were circulated around the internet and which precipitated the controversy were intentionally taken out of context to change their meaning and make them seem more offensive. There’s no getting around the fact that some of those comments were pretty radical. However, they were not nearly as radical as the detractors would like you to believe, as you can see for yourself if you watch them in context (see, for example, this video on YouTube).
- Wright served as pastor at Trinity for 36 years. That means he gave over 1,800 sermons during his tenure. To suggest that accurate conclusions about 1,800 sermons can be drawn from two of three minutes of sound bites is patently absurd.
- All of the sound bites were taken from the last few years of Wright’s ministry, years during which, coincidentally enough, Obama was spending most of his time working as a Senator and not attending church often. People change when they get older, and pastors are no exception. It is far more plausible to believe that as Wright neared retirement, the tone and content of his sermons changed, than it is to believe that the Universal Church of Christ, a mainstream, predominantly white denomination, would allow Wright to give offensive sermons on a regular basis for 36 years at the largest church in the denomination. Anyone who has belonged to a church or synagogue whose spiritual leader retired just a few years later than he or she should have knows that this is so.
If you want proof that the Jeremiah Wright demonized by the media is not the Jeremiah Wright who first inspired Barack Obama, all you need do is read the 1990 Wright sermon which inspired the title of Obama’s book, The Audacity of Hope. Both the full text of the sermon and an audio recording (part 2) are available on-line.
“Two degrees of separation”
Now that we’ve shown how absurd it is to claim that Jeremiah Wright’s views have anything to do with Barack Obama’s, let’s move on from the absurd guilt-by-association smear to the even more absurd guilt-by-association-once-removed smear. Yes, that’s right, it’s time to play the Louis Farrakhan game!
Barack Obama has never associated with Louis Farrakhan, never appeared together with Louis Farrakhan, never endorsed a single one of the vile views about Jews and Israel which Louis Farrakhan espouses. This is particularly remarkable given that both Obama and Farrakhan cut their political eyeteeth in Chicago. In fact, Obama would have had to go out of his way to avoid having any association with Farrakhan, and in fact, that is exactly what he did. Not only that, but Obama has repeatedly, over the course of many years, denounced Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism, even though that surely was not helpful to his efforts to win the support of the black community in his home town. And so, in typical smear-monger style, Obama’s attackers take the plain fact that Obama has nothing whatsoever to do with Farrakhan and espouses none of his offensive views, turn it on its head, and claim that Wright’s and Trinity’s praise for Farrakhan somehow taints Obama.
Note, by the way, that Wright’s praise for Farrakhan and the award given to him by the church both occurred in the last couple of years. Please consider that in light of the points made above about the change in the tone and content of Wright’s sermons, and about Obama’s near absence from Trinity, during that time.
Furthermore, you will be hard-pressed to find a black church anywhere in Chicago that hasn’t had good things to say about Louis Farrakhan. Jews tend to revile him, and rightfully so, but we have no more right to tell black community whom to select as their leaders than they have to tell us the same thing.
Finally, although Obama never sought out Farrakhan’s support or endorsement and indeed rejected and denounced it when it was given, John McCain actively courted the endorsements of John Hagee and Rod Parsley, knowing full well their bigoted, offensive views on Judaism, Catholicism, and Islam; invited them to campaign with him during his cynical move to the Right to win the Republican nomination; and then, when he had clinched the nomination and their views became well-known, cut them loose faster than you can say “sprint for the Center.” In light of this, the best thing that can be said for the Farrakhan smear against Obama is, “People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.” And that’s being generous.
Let us next deal with the “Hamas connection”. Obama’s attackers claim that the Trinity church newsletter printed, on its “pastor’s page” reserved for Reverend Wright, a “Hamas manifesto.” There are three important facts to note here:
- There is no denying that Wright has proven himself to be virulently anti-Israel. However, (a) in this he unfortunately is joined by much of the American black community, and (b) as noted above, there isn’t a single iota of evidence that Obama shares Wright’s views, and much evidence that he does not.
- The newsletter in question was published in July 2007; see above, again, for more about the change in tone and content of Wright’s ministry during the last few years, and about Obama’s near absence from the church during this time.
- The “manifesto” in question was reprinted from the Los Angeles Times, whose editors apparently considered it sufficiently newsworthy and relevant to merit publication.
Black liberation theology
Finally, Obama’s attackers claim that the “black liberation theology” preached by Wright at Trinity is inherently anti-Semitic. They tend not to go into much detail about how or why this is so. That’s because, quite frankly, it isn’t. It is, at best, hubris for Jews to claim that black liberation theology has anything to do with them.
At worst, it’s an overt lie about the theology of Barack Obama’s former church, intended to hint that he harbors anti-Semitic tendencies in a scurrilous effort to wear down his support in the Jewish community.
“One degree of separation”
It’s not enough for the smear-mongers to falsely claim that Barack Obama respects Louis Farrakhan and agrees with his anti-Semitic views. They take it one step further, and falsely claim that Jeremiah Wright is also an anti-Semite, and that Obama therefore tolerated an anti-Semitic pastor and church for 20 years. The fact is that is that Wright isn’t, and Obama didn’t.
Here’s the first specious argument that the smears use to “prove” that Wright is an anti-Semite:
- Wright holds views that many Jews consider anti-Israel. (true)
- Espousal of anti-Israel views is frequently used as a facade for anti-Semitism. (true)
- Anyone who espouses anti-Israel views is also anti-Semitic. (false, false, false, 100 times false)
- Therefore, because Jeremiah Wright holds anti-Israel views, he must be an anti-Semite. (Bzzt! Wrong answer, try again.)
In recent years, many within the Jewish community have fallen into the dangerous trap of arguing that because some anti-Israel views are actually a front for anti-Semitism, all anti-Israel views are actually a front for anti-Semitism. This is completely and utterly false. Many people support the existence of Israel as the homeland for the Jewish people while at the same time believing that the Arab-Israeli conflict is primarily Israel’s fault, that Israel is the aggressor, and that Israel must change its behavior to end the conflict. Some of the people who hold these views are Jews, who are unfortunately speciously labeled “self-hating Jews” or “Jewish anti-Semites” by some of their coreligionists).
This unfortunate habit of branding as an anti-Semite anyone with views some consider “anti-Israel” is actually extremely dangerous to the Jewish community. It fosters a “boy who cried wolf” mentality among non-Jews, making it that much more difficult for us to address real anti-Semitism.
Addressing the causes and solutions to the Arab-Israeli conflict is certainly beyond the scope of this article (indeed, it might be beyond the scope of anyone but the Messiah, may he arrive speedily in our days!). The intent here is not to say who is right, but rather merely to point out the absurdity of using Wright’s views about Israel to “prove” that he is an anti-Semite.
The other “proof” the smears cite of Wright’s alleged anti-Semitism is his relationship with and respect for Louis Farrakhan.
Here’s what the Jews who advance this argument don’t seem to understand… It’s not all about us. We are not the center of the world. Sometimes a leader of the Black community is just a leader of the Black community.
You can search all you want for proof that Wright has ever expressed agreement with Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic views; you won’t find it. You can search all you want for proof that Wright has ever repeated any of Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic views; you won’t find it. The fact of the matter is that Wright respects Farrakhan not for his anti-Semitism, but rather for his leadership within the black community, for his long-standing, successful efforts to elevate Black men from a life of drugs and crime and to convince Black fathers to take responsibility for their children.
Here’s what the Jewish mayor of Philadelphia, Ed Rendell, who is now Pennsylvania’s governor, had to say about Louis Farrakhan in 1997:
“I would like to thank the Nation of Islam here in Philadelphia. To thank you for what you stand for and what you stand for all the good it does to so many people in Philadelphia. And if there is anybody out here… who doesn’t know, this is a faith that has as its principles, the family. This is a faith that doesn’t just talk about family values, it lives family values. This is a faith where men respect their women and children and they manifest that faith by staying in the home with them. This is a faith that doesn’t just talk about being against drugs but is out there every single day and night fighting against drugs. This is a faith that just doesn’t talk about the value of education, it imbues in their children and schools that education is the way to opportunity.”
We Jews tend to focus on Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism, because that is what is most important to us. However, as vile as it is, it is not what is most important to Farrakhan, or to Wright. What is most important to them is addressing the crises faced by the American Black community. In that realm, whether we Jews like it or not, Farrakhan is indeed entitled to respect for his accomplishments, and the fact that Wright has given him that respect no more makes him an anti-Semite than it does Ed Rendell.
Accusing Israel of oppressing Palestinians does not make Jeremiah Wright an anti-Semite. Respecting Louis Farrakhan’s efforts to lift Black men out of the gutter does not make Jeremiah Wright an anti-Semite. What would make Jeremiah Wright an anti-Semite is anti-Semitic words or deeds said or done by Jeremiah Wright, and you won’t find those no matter how long and hard you search.
The alternative: finding a better way
If baseless smears and guilt by association are what you think we should rely on when deciding where to cast our ballot in November, if none of what has written above has made you question what Barack Obama’s detractors want you to believe about him, then by all means, cast your vote for John McCain. If, on the other hand, you would like to restore civility and honesty to political debate in our country, then here’s what you can do:
Take the time to do your own research. Learn the real facts about our presidential candidates and the real distinctions between them. Whether you decide to vote for Barack Obama or John McCain, your decision should be based on the truth rather than on the warped delusions of people who fear it.
The smear-mongers represent the worst of American political thought. Spend some time reading, instead, George F. Will, David Brooks, and other conservative commentators who present cogent arguments and understand that people can disagree without being disagreeable. For the liberal point of view, Thomas L. Friedman and Bob Herbert are a good place to start.
Visit www.johnmccain.com and www.barackobama.com and learn about the candidates’ views, stances and policies in their own words. Obama’s stance on Israel is clearly laid out on his site (McCain’s doesn’t seem to be, for some reason).
Jewish, pro-Israel supporters of Barack Obama have spent many hours examining Obama’s background, experience, qualifications, record, and policy proposals. They deeply believe that Obama is the right leader for America. Read what they have to say.
Most importantly, don’t be party to the dumbing down of our political process. Don’t pass on the smears. Tell the people who send them to you that you expect better. Stand up for the Jewish value (even if you’re not Jewish â€” this is a good one!) which regards lashon hara (“evil speech”) as a grave sin, one which harms not only its target but also those who repeat it and those who hear it.
Join with other well-intentioned people as we reclaim our legacy as the world’s oldest democracy and live up to the democratic ideals envisioned by our Founding Fathers over 200 years ago. We are on the cusp of a new era of civility and engagement in American politics. Be a part of it!