Star Parker
Barack Obama's obvious comfort level with leaders of un-free countries shouldn't surprise anyone. He is not only our first black president. He is also our first president who doesn't like the free country he was elected to lead and feels his job is to change it.

Obama's cordial encounter with Venezuelan thug Hugo Chavez, his bow of deference in London to the Saudi Arabian king, are extensions of behavior we have always seen on the black left. Jesse Jackson openly embraced Chavez, as well as having maintained relations with the likes of Libyian dictator Muammar Qaddafi and Yasir Arafat.

This should be kept in mind as our president now makes his own effort to bring peace to the Middle East.

It should be clear to anyone conscious and watching that central to Obama's Middle East strategy is to disabuse the long held notion that there exists a "special relationship" between the United States and Israel. The sense of unique kinship between our country and the Jewish state has existed since Israel's founding just 60 years ago.

The Arab world has always resented the US-Israel connection and has felt that because of this, Americans would never be an honest broker in Arab-Israeli negotiations.

Obama is out to change this. His first hundred days, from his very first television interview -- given to an Arab television network -- have focused on warming up our relations with Islamic nations and cooling down our Israeli ones.

We should appreciate that this shift is more than a technical change in diplomatic strategy. It reflects a change in values.

The "special" American-Israeli relationship has always reflected the shared values and traditions of the two countries. A commitment to freedom sustained by traditional Judeo-Christian core values.

Freedom House is a widely respected non-partisan organization that publishes annual reports on the state of freedom around the world.

They rate the state of freedom on a scale of 1-7, with 1 being most free.

According to the latest Freedom House data, released this past January, in the area of "political rights", Israel rates a 1. On "civil liberties", Israel gets a 2.

And Israel's Arab neighbors? On "political rights", Egypt ranks 6, Jordan 5, Syria 7, and Lebanon 5. On "civil liberties", Egypt ranks 5, Jordan 5, Syria 6, and Lebanon 4.

Oil rich Saudi Arabia, to whose king the President of the United States bowed deeply at the waist, ranks 7 in "political rights" and 6 in "civil liberties."

Freedom House also reports on freedom of the press. Of 18 countries in the Middle Eastern/North African area, they report only one country with a free press. Israel. Eleven of these countries have no free press, including Jordan, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. Egypt and Lebanon are rated partly free.

Despite being the youngest country in the region, Israel's per capita gross domestic product is five times higher than the average of all its neighbors. Also, despite having no great endowment of natural resources, its GDP per capita, at $24,097, is higher than Saudi Arabia's, $22, 296, which has, by far, the world's largest oil production and reserves.

The great American writer Mark Twain visited the Holy Land in 1867 before Jews made their miraculous return to their ancient homeland. He reported that there was nothing there. "Palestine is desolate and unlovely."

You have to be either blind or have a political agenda to refuse to see the incredible miracle that has occurred in the re-birth of the Jewish nation.

Of course, there is a special relationship between the United States and Israel. The same values and traditions have produced in both places freedom and prosperity from nothing.

Should we denigrate Arabs and Muslims? Certainly not. But anyone who thinks that peace and prosperity will come from abandoning those very values that got us to where we are, and along with this our friends who share those values, is deeply misguided.

Unfortunately, today we have an American president who is set on doing just that. Principled Americans and Israelis should tighten seatbelts and prepare to defend the truths we hold dear.


Star Parker

Star Parker is founder and president of CURE, the Center for Urban Renewal and Education, a 501c3 think tank which explores and promotes market based public policy to fight poverty, as well as author of the newly revised Uncle Sam's Plantation: How Big Government Enslaves America's Poor and What We Can do About It.