J. Zel Lurie is a newspaper man who has been writing about Jewish affairs for close to 80 years. He currently writes for the Jewish Journal in Florida, USA
Column for Jewish Journal 7/14/2010.
The religion of Barack Hussein Obama
By J. Zel Lurie
President Obama’s religious affiliation is in the news again. The Moslem fingerprints on his early life were prominently displayed during the 2008 primary campaign against Hillary Rodham Clinton and in the election against John McCain. The voters paid no attention but some Jewish bloggers made a big stink about Obama being a closet Moslem. The reply of Jewish voters was to give Obama a greater majority than any previous president. Now that the relations between Obama’s Administration and the right-wing government of Israel are a bit strained the Jewish bloggers are at it again. This time they have the evidence of the Foreign Minister of Egypt Ahmed Aboul Gheit. Mr. Gheit is alleged to have said on Egyptian TV that in a conversation with Obama, the President said that he was really a Moslem and that he had half-brothers in Kenya who were Moslems. Hosni Mubarak’s foreign minister would have to be an idiot to say anything derogatory about Barack Obama on public TV. But assuming the story is true, what are the facts about Obama’s religion? President Obama was born in 1961 in Honolulu to Ann Dunham of Wichita, Kansas and Barack Hussein Obama Sr., a black Moslem student from Kenya. His parents were divorced when Obama was two years old. His father left for Connecticut and then returned to Kenya where he married again and had five sons and a daughter. There is no evidence that Obama Sr. played any role in the life of Obama Jr. Barack Hussein Obama Jr. spent his early formative years in Hawaii with his mother and stepfather, a Moslem from Indonesia named Soetro. When Barack was six years old, Mr. Soetro lost his residence permit and the family, which included a younger half-sister, moved to Jakarta in Indonesia. From age 6 to 10 Barack Obama attended public schools in Jakarta. A school registration has been unearthed for Barry Soetro, a Moslem. Obviously dissatisfied with the Jakarta schooling, at age 10, his mother shipped the boy to her mother in Kansas. The President has credited his grandmother with playing the key role in his upbringing. From Kansas schools to Harvard to Chicago to the United States Senate and finally the White House, he was a black American of the Christian faith. He has always belonged to a church. He was married in a church and his children were baptized. So how come the President and the Egyptian Foreign Minister were discussing Moslem affiliations? The Egyptian might have brought up the Moslem dictum: Born to a Moslem father you remain a Moslem all your life. This contrasts with the Jewish religion. Born to a Jewish mother you remain a Jew in your life. The rabbis have found an escape clause. If you convert to another religion, you cease to be a Jew. Hitler did not recognize conversions. He looked upon the Jews as a race and not a religion. I’m unaware that the Moslems have a similar clause. Nor was Obama ever converted. His mother and his grandmother considered him to be a Christian from birth. Does his Moslem biological father have any effect on his actions on the Israel Palestinian dispute? Not in the slightest. I wouldn’t care if Obama used the Lincoln room to touch his forehead to the floor in Moslem prayer five times a day. To paraphrase Ben Gurion what counts is what he does, not to whom he prays. Here is what he does. His first step into the Mideast cauldron was to appoint George Mitchell, who brought peace to Ireland, as his special envoy to the Palestine-Israel conflict. Next he appointed Rahm Emanuel, whose father fought the British to achieve a Jewish state, as his chief of staff. His chief strategist, David Axelrod, is also Jewish. Last month Rahm Emanuel took his daughter to Israel for her Bat Mitzvah. While there he invited Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House. The state visit was scheduled for July 6. Obama’s Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had powerful Jewish backers in her fight for the presidency. She has been instrumental in securing a ten month freeze on construction of settlements. Although every President has opposed the settlements, this is the first time that Israel was pressured into agreeing to a freeze since Jimmy Carter got Menachem Begin to agree to a freeze during the Camp David negotiations. That freeze lasted three months. The proximity talks now going on under George Mitchell are the crowning achievement of the Obama Administration. Mitchell has held several meetings devoted to solving Israel’s security needs. Israel says that its security will depend on its continued control of the West Bank’s Eastern border. To me, a Zionist, who is familiar with Israel’s problems, this is an understandable request. Secretary of State Clinton must look at the question differently. How can a sovereign state allow a former enemy to control its frontier? This is the type of question that the talks under George Mitchell must solve. Next is defining the permanent frontiers of the two states, Israel and Palestine, including the division of East Jerusalem. Then there is the question of Tel Aviv’s water which comes mostly from West Bank aquifers. Then there is the perennial question of the 1948 refugees and many other minor questions. George Bush ignored these complex questions, allowing Israel to continue the evil occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Barack Obama will do his best to achieve two states living side by side in peace and security. Tthe question of his Moslem father is a red herring that is beginning to stink.