Not Even Obama Will Make U.S. Less Supportive of "Zionism"

Michael Slackman forwards loaded language from Muslims in Amman: "The United States, many said, may be a biased supporter of Zionism hostile to Muslims..." And the Times now finds use of Obama's middle name acceptable - as long as it gives the Arab world "a measure of hope."

Michael Slackman and Isabel Kershner report on Tuesday from Amman, Jordan, where Obama is traveling on his world tour. But the Times focuses on how the Arab world thinks that not even he can save them from America's unyielding pro-Israel (or "Zionist") favoritism.

There's a new wrinkle in "Change Mideast Does Not Believe In - More of Same Seen If Obama Is Elected." It's now politically correct to mention Obama's middle name, if it can be used to bring "a measure of hope" to the Arab world. From the text box: "On Arab streets, a measure of hope in a middle name." (Of course, when a McCain supporter brings it up it's a smear to be condemned.)

Slackman's default setting for his coverage of the Arab world seems to be anti-U.S. and in particular anti-Bush:

For what feels like forever, Israelis and their Arab neighbors have been hopelessly deadlocked on how to resolve the Palestinian crisis. But there is one point they may now agree on: If elected president, Senator Barack Obama will not fundamentally recalibrate America's relationship with Israel, or the Arab world.


Mr. Obama, who will be here on Tuesday, has promised change. He has offered to begin dialogue where the current president has refused, in places like Syria and Iran. But when he stepped into the Middle East, he walked into a region where public expectations were long ago set. The Bush years have supercharged those sentiments, especially in the Arab world, where there is little faith that the United States can ever again serve as a fair broker between the sides.


"The Arabs need America to be straight and unbiased, but anyway we feel, that American policy will not be changed too much," said a Palestinian who identified himself by his nickname, Abu Fadi, a salesman in an electrical appliance store in downtown Arab East Jerusalem.

Behind this general agreement, there is a fundamental difference. In the Arab streets, there is a hope, perhaps limited, that this candidate might be different. He is black, his father was Muslim and his middle name is Hussein, so there is hope that he will be more sympathetic, though that hope is not joined to any expectation.


It was not always like this here, but the indifference is a lesson learned.

Eight years ago, many Arabs, leaders and citizens alike, rooted for Gov. George W. Bush over Vice President Al Gore in the race for the presidency. There was an assumption that Mr. Bush would be like his father, who was seen as relatively Arab-friendly.

Nearly four years ago, there was hope among Arabs that Americans would have soured on President Bush and elect Senator John Kerry. President Bush had disappointed. Then American voters did, too.

Will the Arab world ever forgive America for voting for Bush and against Kerry? More to the point, why should America care what outsiders think of our electoral choices?

Slackman and company even parroted words from the paranoid mindset of "Zionism," in which America supports not just Israel, but "Zionism."

There is, however, at least one positive lesson drawn by some in this region over Mr. Obama's success. It has served to restore a bit of their faith in American-style democracy, which has been tarnished in recent years by the invasion of Iraq and by an administration that talked about promoting democracy but then seemed to backtrack on its promises, many people here said.

The United States, many said, may be a biased supporter of Zionism hostile to Muslims, and still be, for its citizens, a place of opportunity unknown here.

"I think it's very impressive that someone can start very poor and reach the top like this," said Hazen Haidar, 23, a gym clerk in Cairo. "It doesn't happen in Egypt."

In a June story from Cairo, Slackman lectured ugly Americans, informing them that not everyone wants "to be liberated by America and live like Americans."