The Jewish Problem
The document, titled "Obama and the Jews — Truth Checklist," contains what Palm Beach County Republican Party Chairman Sid Dinerstein believes is the key that will unlock the doors of the White House for John McCain.
Dinerstein says he didn't write the document and can't remember who sent it to him, but it's something he swears by. After it lists the talking points regarding Barack Obama's supposed anti-Israel bias, "Obama and the Jews" ends this way:
"How any Jew could vote for Obama defies logic. Obama is wildly insensitive to Jews as is evidenced by his church and his associations and he's rabidly Pro Arab when it comes to Middle East policy. Please spread the word because Obama knows he has a Jewish problem and his handlers and enablers are trying to rewrite and fudge his record. They are lying and deceiving people in the process."
Dinerstein, a longtime GOP leader who is Jewish, has been busy spreading the word in Palm Beach County, which along with the rest of South Florida figures to be ground zero again in the 2008 election. He routinely sends out mass emails about why Obama is against Jews and must be stopped.
"This time it's real easy," he tells me of his strategy, "because Obama scares Jewish voters."
Whether it's the Democratic nominee or the GOP that is actually doing the scaring, the fear campaign has only just begun. By the time November rolls around, it will make Swift Boat look like a dinghy. By election time, the sharp and charismatic Dinerstein says he's certain that large percentages of Jewish Democrats who had backed Hillary Clinton will defect all the way to the McCain camp.
"There is no question about it in my mind," he says.
So we should all be prepared for a steady diet of reports and innuendo regarding Obama's relationships with people like Ali Abunimah, especially those of us in South Florida where the Jewish vote is paramount.
Never heard of Abunimah? Well, you will. According to "Obama and the Jews," he is a "Chicago Palestinian activist who is violently anti-Israel." The document relates that Obama has "met with" Abunimah six times and once told him during a Congressional campaign: "I am sorry I haven't said more about Palestine right now, but we are in a tough primary race. I'm hoping when things calm down I can be more up front."
Let's break this down. First of all, you have to like the use of the phrase "violently anti-Israel," which at first blush might make you think Abunimah is a terrorist. He's not. He's a writer who has had his op-eds published in newspapers across the country, including the New York Times.
The supposedly damning quote from Obama, in fact, comes from an article by Abunimah published last year. That article makes it clear that Obama never formally met with Abunimah — he simply bumped into him at various events in Chicago.
Abunimah is now upset that Obama is taking a fairly standard pro-Israel line, which would hardly seem the stuff of scandal among pro-Israel voters; more a reassurance.
Another name Dinerstein bandies about is that of Rashid Khalidi, a well-known Palestinian scholar and bête noir of the Republican smear machine, who met and befriended Obama in Chicago several years ago.
Khalidi is a terrorist in Dinerstein's eyes — but the truth is that he decries suicide bombings as war crimes. At the same time, he is critical of Israel and once had ties to the Palestinian Liberation Organization.
Then there is the Million Man March. Though that 1995 event was a positive gathering meant to strengthen black families, Dinerstein and his GOP friends see it as stark evil.
Why? Because it was organized by Louis Farrakhan. The fact that Obama attended the peaceful event only means he's an anti-Semite like Farrakhan, who has been associated with Obama's famous former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, another man who has criticized the treatment of Palestinians and whose name is the first listed by the unknown author of "Obama and the Jews."
Forget that the march was celebrated by mainstream America as a positive event or that Obama rebuked Farrakhan's black nationalist ideas in his first book, Dreams of My Father. That wouldn't do at all when you're trying to smear a candidate via acquaintances and associations.
Even something as seemingly innocent as a group of Palestinians coming together in Gaza to support Obama because they say he is the best hope for peace takes on an ominous undertone. Or so thought state Sen. Adam Hasner, a Republican from Boca Raton, who disseminated an Al Jazeera report about the group, saying it should "concern" Jewish voters.
The record shows that Obama, who is undeniably a very smart and learned fellow, has listened to both sides of the conflict in the Middle East — something that hardliners like Dinerstein are using to paint Obama as a sympathizer with the enemy.
The simple fact that Obama has said he will meet with leaders from nations that are considered enemies — including Iran — is also a major plank in the Swift Boat being constructed by GOP activists. And they're playing it for all it's worth. Here's another line from Dinerstein's mysterious document: "Obama wants to sit down unconditionally and have bagels and lox with [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad."
Again, forget that Obama has condemned Ahmadinejad and said he will defend Israel from "tiny Iran" at all costs.
When I pointed out that the Bush Administration's lack of diplomacy seems to have led to one disaster after another, Dinerstein scoffed.
"If you want to buy into Neville Chamberlain's policy," he said, "knock yourself out."
Yes, you'll hear that comparison, put forth by Bush (or FDR, under that equation) during his recent visit to Israel, ad infinitum on the Fox News Channel.
It was time for the big question: How would Dinerstein make peace in the world were he president.
"Sadly, you don't want to hear what I have to say," said Dinerstein, who is an able and knowledgeable debater, no matter how wrong I may think he is. "People who are belligerent ultimately have to get beaten so bad that the war part has no hope for them. Sadly, the Israelis have had to fight with their own hand behind their back. And it's very, very sad."
I asked him if he was saying that the Palestinians needed to be beaten into the ground.
"Yes, unfortunately," he answered.
Getting the picture? Dinerstein has his reasons for feeling the way he does, and, as much as I disagree with his opinion, I respect it. The problem is that he and his political allies are now trying to suck the U.S. presidential election into the vortex of Middle East madness. If they can scare enough voters — let's not pretend that the only target here is Jewish Democrats— into running to McCain, they'll retain the White House.
The next big question: Is it going to work?
Dinerstein says he has no doubt that McCain will win Florida, due to a massive Jewish conversion to the GOP. While that is speculation, it's true that Obama isn't exactly the cat's meow among South Florida's condo set. At least not yet.
There was no better example of Obama's "Jewish problem" than last week, when U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, perhaps Obama's most crucial Jewish supporter in Congress, was booed by a crowd of Democrats at Wynmoor Village in Coconut Creek.
"If he wasn't Jewish, people would consider Wexler anti-Israel," says Dinerstein.
Wexler is, in fact, one of the best friends to Israel in Congress and one of the Democratic Party's early supporters of the Iraq invasion. But the crowd wasn't booing Wexler so much for the fact that he backs Obama, but because he failed to support Hillary Clinton.
"I've always been a Hillary girl," says Gertrude Weinberg, an incredibly energetic and sharp 91-year-old.
Weinberg, the head of Wynmoor's Democratic club, is fairly typical among the condo residents: She's a politically active Jewish Democrat who stood squarely behind Hillary.
But she says she's come around to Obama, especially after Wexler's post-boo speech about the candidate. "I'm at peace right now," says Weinberg, a dance instructor who retired from Jersey City 31 years ago. "I was very much a Hillary person, but at this point, as long as it's a Democrat, I'm happy. It has to be a Democrat. If it was McCain, it would be another Bush — and this man is not a very intelligent man."
She says the idea of opening talks with those who disagree with U.S. policy sounds like a good idea, breaking it down this way: "If you're angry with someone, you can't get un-angry with them — if that's a word — if you don't talk."
But she acknowledges there are still holdouts at Wynmoor.
"When they say they are going to vote for McCain, it makes me sick," she says. "And I try to talk to them out of it. They'll come around. They are too intelligent not to."
Not if Sid Dinerstein has anything to do with it.
"I've been wanting to run against Obama since January," he says. "He's gone from being Godlike to being very human... and here in Florida, he is very threatening to the Jewish community. McCain is going to get a lot of Hillary votes. No doubt about it."
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Broward / Palm Beach, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.