Jesse Jackson is back, and that may not be good news for Barack Obama.
The Chicago-based civil rights leader made the front pages of Israeli newspapers today after he told an interviewer that Obama’s presidency will remove the clout of “Zionists who have controlled American policy for decades.”
The comments, contained in a New York Post column Tuesday, drew immediate rebuke from some Jewish groups and the Obama campaign. Appearing at an event hosted by the World Policy Forum in Evian, France, Jackson said that an Obama administration will shake things up in the Middle East.
“Decades of putting Israel's interests first” would end, said Jackson, who stressed he was only speaking as a supporter of Obama, not the campaign. “Obama is about change. And the change that Obama promises is not limited to what we do in America itself. It is a change of the way America looks at the world and its place in it.”
That apparently didn’t sit well with the candidate, who right now is worried a bit more about his place in the upcoming election. Obama’s supporters are mobilizing to reassure elderly Jews, who are concerned about his Muslim ties and his previous statements supporting Palestinian rights, that the Democrat will remain a strong supporter of Israel. American Jews, an overwhelmingly Democratic constituency, are a key demographic in Florida, a battleground state.
“Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. is not an adviser to the Obama campaign and is therefore in no position to interpret or share Barack Obama's views on Israel and foreign policy,” Obama national security spokeswoman Wendy Morigi said in a statement dismissing Jackson’s “false charges.”
“As he has made clear throughout his career and throughout this campaign, Barack Obama has a fundamental commitment to a strong U.S.-Israel relationship,’’ the statement said. “As president, he will ensure that Israel can defend itself from every threat it faces, stand with Israel in its quest for a secure peace with its neighbors and use all elements of American power to end Iran's illicit nuclear program."
Regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Jackson said that President George W. Bush “was so afraid of a snafu and of upsetting Israel that he gave the whole thing a miss. Barack will change that," because, as long as the Palestinians haven't seen justice, the Middle East will “remain a source of danger to us all.”
The American Jewish Committee (AJC) immediately condemned Jackson's remarks.
“Rev. Jackson's remarks, which appeared in an interview with the journalist Amir Taheri in today's New York Post, echo classic anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about Jewish power,” AJC Executive Director David A. Harris told The Jerusalem Post. “This statement, regrettably, is not the first troubling comment by Rev. Jackson regarding Israel, Zionism and the Jewish people.”
“As poll after poll has revealed, over a span of decades, the United States is deeply committed to Israel because the vast majority of Americans, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, identify with Israel as a proven friend and ally,” said Harris. “It is this commonality of shared values and shared interests, and not Jackson's conspiratorial notions of power, that unite Israel and America,” Harris said.
This isn’t the first time Jackson has embarrassed Obama. Last summer he made news when he criticized the candidate for talking down to his black supporters in front of a live mike as he awaited a television interview. The minister said that he was so mad that he wanted to castrate Obama.
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