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Sen. Obama's Ditched, Dodged and Distorted Information Print E-mail

By Jay Bushinsky
August 18, 2008

JERUSALEM -- No responsible Israeli will say it out loud, but privately the word one hears here is that Sen. Barack Obama as the next President of the U.S. "poses a problem," whereas Sen. John McCain does not.

One reason for the pessimistic view of a possible Obama administration is the junior senator from Illinois' campaign slogan, "Change We Can Believe In," is not what the Israelis who deal with Washington officialdom want.  "They want things stay they way they are," a well-informed source said, implying that continuation of President Bush's supportive and sympathetic policy toward Israel is more likely if Sen. McCain is his successor.

If Sen. Obama's recent visit to this country had not been orchestrated from start to finish by the public relations experts and presumptive political 'mavens' who work with him behind the scenes he might have had much more positive impact on rank-and-file Israelis and their leaders.  But there was no such contact.

In fact, the follow-up to his 24-hour visit -- an attempt to reenact President John F. Kennedy's historic "ich bin ein Berliner" speech -- did not warm Israeli hearts.  On the one hand, it heaped excessive and largely-unwarranted praise on the German people for what he described as its heroism during the Cold War and on the other hand, made no reference whatsoever to its having elected Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party in 1932 and its complicity in the Holocaust thereafter.

Sen. Obama's acolytes may not have noticed this, but the Democratic Party‚Äôs aspirant for the Presidential nomination does not readily refer to Jews in his oratory or interviews.  In January, 2006, when he made his first trip to Israel and went to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial he emerged from its grisly museum and agreed to an exclusive one-on-one interview (the only one he had on that trip if only because the Israeli news media were unaware of his importance on the American scene even then) he rightly deplored "the consequences of prejudice and discrimination," but did not specify that the Nazis aimed it mainly at the Jews of Germany and later at Jews everywhere.

London's "Daily Telegraphed" said Sen. Obama "squeezed in" Yad Vashem on his second trip (last month), but again failed to specify the Jews as the Nazi genocide's principal victims and omitted the linkage between the Holocaust and Israel's establishment. 

When he arrived in Berlin, his PR handlers did not direct him to the new Holocaust museum at any phase of his stay there despite its being an architectural landmark and a powerful memorial to the outstanding Jewish community of Germany which was destroyed by the Nazis.

Political PR ruled the roost for him in both countries.  The local firm that called the shots here preferred to organize a press event in the rocket-battered city of Sderot rather than a customary news conference in Jerusalem, Israel's capital -- a city he had declared indivisible a month beforehand in a speech to AIPAC.  His campaign staff retracted this definition a day later, contending that Jerusalem actual was a "final status" open to negotiation.

At Sderot, the firm's Israeli staff kept all accredited journalists out except for those it had invited in advance.  Government Press Office credentials were not deemed adequate to gain entry.  This unprecedented tactic prompted one to conclude that the battery of self-styled Middle East experts including a former ambassador to Israel and a former presidential adviser on Middle Eastern affairs did not want the senator to be challenged by questions they did not want him to answer.

There also were deviations from historical facts during the German phase of the senator's highly-publicized and much-photographed journey.  He spoke of the Berliners' bravery during the 1948 American airlift.  Actually, they just collected the aid packages flown in by U.S. Air Force and he was wrong about the number of planes that had to turn back because of bad weather.  There were very few, not very many.

He praised the Germans for dismantling the Berlin Wall, but in reality it came down because the pro-Soviet German Democratic Republic had collapsed and the USSR was too weak to rebuild it.  In fact, "the East Germans who rushed to West Berlin in the morning rushed back to East Berlin at night," said Israeli author and journalist Tom Segev who was there at the time.

When Segev asked them to explain he was told, "We have too much to lose by leaving the East." Finally, Sen. Obama cited "the bases we (the U.S.) built in Germany as part of the U.S. contribution to NATO.  As an ex-GI who was stationed in the former Third Reich and served as one of NATO's soldiers, I can testify that we did not have to build any military facilities in Germany whatsoever. 

Our barracks were those left behind by Hitler's Wehrmacht and our air force inherited the infrastructure used by his Luftwaffe.  Perhaps if Sen. Obama's unseen handlers had checked his text and cross-referenced the history books he would not have made those mistakes.
   

 

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