A sheikh in Galilee says he has evidence that he and his family are linked by blood to the new President. (How ’bout you?/ed)
He has a host of relatives in exotic locations from Hawaii to Kenya, and during his run for the American presidency he discovered that he had an aunt living in Boston.
Now Barack Obama is being claimed by not one but as many as 8,000 Beduin tribesmen in northern Israel. (lets hope there’s enough room on the white house lawns…/ed)
Although the spokesman for the lost tribe of Obama has yet to reveal the documentary evidence that he says he possesses to support his claim, people are flocking from across the region to pay their respects to the “Beduin Obama”, whose social standing has gone through the roof.
“We knew about it years ago but we were afraid to talk about it because we didn’t want to influence the election,” Abdul Rahman Sheikh Abdullah, a 53-year-old local council member, toldThe TimesÂ in the small Beduin village of Bir al-Maksour in the Israeli region of Galilee. “We wrote a letter to him explaining the family connection.”
Mr Obama’s team have not responded to the letter so far but that has not dampened Sheikh Abdullah’s festivities.
He has been handing out sweets and huge dishes of baklava traditional honey-sweetened pastries to all and sundry, and plans to hold a large party next week at which he will slaughter a dozen goats to feed the village.
It was his 95-year-old mother who first spotted the connection, he says. Seeing the charismatic senator on television, she noted a striking resemblance to one of the African migrant workers who used to be employed by rich sheikhs in the fertile north of British Mandate Palestine in the 1930s.
The Africans would sometimes marry local Beduin girls and start families, though, like many migrant workers, would just as frequently return home after several years.
One of those men was a relative of Barack Obama’s Kenyan grandmother, Sheikh Abdullah maintains.
He estimates that his tribe extends to as many as 8,000 members, all of them loosely connected to the African-American senator for Illinois.
Sheikh Abdullah swears that he has papers and pictures to back up his claim but has promised his mother not to divulge them until he has presented them to Mr Obama, something he hopes will happen once his “relative” is in the White House.
“We want to send a delegation to congratulate him, and we know we’ll get an answer soon,” he grinned.
Sheikh Abdullah’s renown as the relative of the soon-to-be most powerful man on Earth has spread like wildfire among the Arab community of northern Israel, and especially among Beduins, a formerly semi-nomadic group of pastoralists corralled into townships by the modern state of Israel.
Two baby boys born into the sheikh’s large clan have even been named Obama.
“We knew he’d win,” the sheikh said, constantly interrupted by a barrage of phone calls from wellwishers and those hoping to cash in on his newfoundÂ wasta, an Arabic term denoting influence or clout. “We have always been a lucky family.
“We hope he’ll end all wars and intervene here to solve our problems in Israel. The Beduin are the people who suffer the most here,” he added while greeting a wellwisher from Ghajar, an Arab town divided between Israel and southern Lebanon, the bitter legacy of the Jewish state’s long occupation of southern Lebanon.
“We hope to God that Obama will solve the problem of Ghajar,” said Sheikh Issam al-Khalil, a leading citizen of the divided town, whose residents mostly speak Hebrew and Arabic but many of whom consider themselves as originally Syrian.
“Everyone is talking about [Sheikh Abdullah’s ties to Mr Obama] . . . They believe it. The sheikhs from all the villages are talking about it. There’s a whole delegation of Druze leaders coming from the Golan Heights to congratulate him.”
The history of the Middle East is littered with the stories of false messiahs and their brief followings. For the time being, Sheikh Abdullah is greeting a dozen respectful visitors a day, basking in the reflected glory of what would be not only the first African-American US President but the first one who could claim kinship with an entire clan of Beduins.