Obama needs to be more balanced on Israel
by Amir Jimmy Jones
ALMOST two years later, I am still stunned by the July 2006 Lebanese war. To this day, I cannot fathom why the U.S. government, with more than 25,000 of its citizens in harm’s way, did not insist that its close ally, Israel, protect American citizens.
At the time, my wife, Matiniah, and I were leading a group of about 30 Americans on a study trip to Al-Azhar University in nearby Cairo, Egypt.
I am confounded by the logic that brought us this war. Stated simplistically, it’s justification was: “If Jack attacks me from Bill’s property; in the name of self-defense, I have the right to destroy Bill’s infrastructure and some of Bill’s family even though the vast majority of Bill’s relatives had no part in the aggression against me.”
As a person of faith who has spoken out publicly at home and abroad against suicide bombings and the slaughter of innocents, I do not understand how Americans can so easily dismiss the deaths of over a 1,000 innocent Lebanese civilians in the name of self-defense. It saddens me to see presidential candidate Barack Obama assertively support such an unjust war while touting himself as the candidate who will bring sanity and diplomacy back to American foreign policy.
In a position paper, “On Faith,” at his campaign Web site, Obama argues that “faith is a source of action for justice.” I wholeheartedly agree with this. The Quran is crystal clear on this issue. It says: “O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both.” Given this principle, I cannot see how a person of any faith could defend the 2006 Lebanese war, as Obama does on his Web site statement “On Israel,” in the name of justice. Perhaps, American presidential politics have devolved to the point that you have to at least sound like an Israeli flag-waving Zionist to get elected. This is no excuse for people who profess such high sounding ideals as Obama.
As a justice-oriented person of faith, he cannot defend Israel’s actions in July 2006 while ignoring the deaths of innocent Lebanese civilians, the safety American citizens and the devastation of a struggling country’s infrastructure. If faith really matters for Obama, then we should be hearing a much more balanced approach from him on such sensitive issues as the Middle East.
Jimmy E. Jones is chairman of the Department of World Religions and co-coordinator of the Center for Middle East Understanding at Manhattanville College in Purchase, N.Y. He is chairman of the board of Masjid al-Islam in New Haven. Write to him at P.O. Box 8484, New Haven 06531. E-mail: