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By Micah Halpern

October 6, 2008


When Ephraim Halevy has something to say, most people listen. And Halevy, former chief of the Israeli Mossad, does not believe that Israelis should be involved in American politics. The Obama camp, apparently, thinks otherwise.

In a new Obama ad, an ad that will begin running on You Tube, on television and on radio this week, prominent Israeli heroes are seen and heard endorsing Obama Barack for president. According to the ad, the suggestion is that Obama is best for Israel and for the region and a vote for McCain is a vote for the continuation of George Bush's "failed" Middle East doctrine. Only problem with the ad, say some of the Israelis, is that when they were interviewed, they were never told that it was for a campaign ad and certainly not for an Obama ad campaign.

The stretch-the-truth ritual has been celebrated by candidates ever since the advent of political advertisements. This year, however, the candidates aren't just stretching or bending the truth, they are twisting and turning the truth, sometimes even going so far as to make up or fabricate what they then call truths.

The former head of the Mossad actually likes Obama. "I think that Obama is a breath of fresh air," he said during the interview. But he is not about to let the Barack Obama campaign twist either his words or his implication. Halevy is livid, to quote him directly: I told them I thought it was inappropriate for an Israeli to express an opinion on who should be president of the U.S. ... it angers me. I think it was an improper use of the interview with me and I will demand that they correct it ..."

The back story about this ad is becoming big news in Israel. In a piece that ran in the largest Hebrew daily newspaper, Yediot Ahronot and on YNET, the papers popular web site, Halevy denied ever having expressly supported Obama. He said: "I said he's a fresh, interesting personality and so forth, but I also said positive things about McCain."

The group responsible for - and under fire for - putting this ad together is called The Jewish Council for Education and Research. This same group is responsible for two other Jewish voting initiatives for Obama, they are the sponsors of and The Great Schlep. Jews Vote is a program that tries to register as many democratic voters as possible. The Great Schlep has gained fame and notoriety for developing the Sarah Silverman ad, a campaign directed at younger, Jewish voters urging them to schlep to Florida in order to convince their bubbes, and I presume their zaydees as well, their grandparents, to vote Barack Obama for president. Silverman is so impassioned in her plea that she says: "if Obama loses this election I'm going to blame the Jews."

General Uzi Dayan, a nephew of Moshe Dayan arguably one of Israel's most famous war heroes turned politician, is another of the heroes featured in the ad campaign. In the ad Dayan says: "I would say that an American president, in my personal opinion, needs actually to be engaged with Iran ... you can't not talk to the Iranians and then one day attack them ... I'm not saying give in to them, because ultimately, you need to stop Iran from reaching nuclear capability."

After discovering that he was featured in the ad Dayan said: "I never said I support Obama or his opinions ... they interviewed me in early July and said the interview would be devoted to questions of Middle East policy that would be on the new president's desk ... I don't know what I'm doing in a campaign video." Like Halevy, Dayan has asked for a correction and asked the Obama people at The Council for Jewish Education and Research to remove him from the ad.

Other voices, like those of Reserve Brigadier General Shaul Arieli and ex-Mossad agent Yossi Alpher, are heard on this ad criticizing the Bush administration for Middle East failures and asserting that McCain seems close to the Bush doctrine so with McCain there will be more of the same.

The issue here is not as simple as a manipulation of quotes and out of context interviews. The issue is intention and the intention of this ad, and other ads like it on both sides of the aisle, is to change reality. The intention of this ad specifically is to exploit American viewers by having first exploited Israeli war heroes. That is wrong. That is immoral.

Are there no ex-generals or intelligence people who actually do subscribe to the Obama thesis? Are there no military types who would willingly and knowingly praise Barack Obama? If there were, why would the Obama campaign have resorted to trickery and chicanery and why go all the way to Israel? It makes me wonder.

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4 June 2017 12:14 PM in Columns

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