Do American Jews really love Israel, or just Democrats? Last week, 7,000 members of the storied AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) rose to their feet to honor Barack Obama a total of 13 times. The first standing O, lasting more than a minute, greeted the senator as he took the stage -- before he had even begun to count all the ways he plans to become a "true friend of Israel." They gushed. They cooed. They were carried away.
Someone needs a cold shower. It is difficult to think of any recent major figure on the American scene who should invite disquiet among supporters of Israel more than Barack Obama. (And certainly among Israel's many Christian supporters, he doubtless does.) Yet 61 percent of American Jews, according to a recent Gallup poll, prefer Obama to McCain. True, this is a drop from the 78 percent who voted for John Kerry in 2004, but it still qualifies as slightly deranged, under the circumstances.
Displaying the skill for framing (and distorting) matters for which he should be renowned by now, Obama began by suggesting to the mostly Jewish crowd that they had been hoodwinked by political dirty tricks -- by anonymous e-mails alleging that Obama was a Muslim Manchurian candidate. "Let me know if you see this guy named Barack Obama, because he sounds pretty scary," he reassured them.
But the members of AIPAC are very sophisticated types, not the sort to be deceived by such e-mails, and not so simplistic as to assume that Obama was a secret Muslim. They have quite substantial reasons to worry about Obama's views.
Worry begins with Obama's membership in the Trinity United Church of Christ. As everyone now knows, Rev. Wright issued vitriolic denunciations of Israel from the pulpit ("unjust" and "racist"), praised Louis Farrakhan, and provided space in the church bulletin to Hamas. The "true friend of Israel" did not protest.