How should we feel about Obama?

The recently released Verso book, A Time to Speak Out, in which I contribute a chapter about progressive Jewish thought, has just launched a blog. My first post is the following:

As one of the contributors to this important new book, currently in Sydney, Australia, the issue of Jewish identity in the 21st century is a key concern. Down here, like in many other Western societies, the dominant Zionist narrative is being challenged like never before. The reasons for this are varied, but not least because the policies that have continued for decades are simply failing to solve the conflict. For example, how do Zionists feel about the fact that their homeland uses and abuses torture against Palestinians?

The incoming Obama administration is a perfect opportunity to assess the state of play. Personally speaking, I’m not very optimistic. I wrote the following last week on New Matilda, Australia’s online magazine:

Obama has major challenges to even address any of these issues yet seems determined, at this early stage, to ignore the more uncomfortable facts in front of him. With the appointment by of a hawkish national security team, including hardline Zionist Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, it’s become clear that no strong anti-war voices will have the ear of the new leader. Neo-conservatism is not dead as a movement; it has merely changed its political stripes. A military strike against Iran, as just one example, remains firmly on the table. Wishful thinking will not change this brutal reality.

Can a Democrat truly bring peace to the Middle East? With Afghanistan in flames and Iraq still suffering terribly, how important will Israel/Palestine be to the new President? More ominously, the stars of Dennis Ross and Colin Powell, the failed Clinton and Bush-era negotiators respectively, are seemingly rising.

As progressive Jews, I believe the most we can do is articulate alternative ways of seeing the conflict and generate support from the wider community. Moderate Jews must find their voice and challenge the neo-conservative worldview. In many countries, especially the US, this is a long struggle that is only beginning.

Otherwise, we are facing years of continued bloodshed.