An Obama campaign ban on green clothing during the candidate's visits to Israel and Jordan has created wide puzzlement among observers of the Middle East.
In a memo to reporters, described as ”a few guidelines we sent staff before departure to the Middle East,“ Obama advance staffer Peter Newell laid out rules on attire for Jordan and Israel. First among them: ”Do not wear green.“
An Obama aide explained to reporters that green is the color associated with the militant Palestinian group Hamas. But while the color does appear on Hamas banners, there is no particular symbolism to wearing green clothes, experts said.
Moreover, green is more generally seen as a symbol of Islam.
”A ban on wearing green seems bizarre,“ said Richard Bulliet, a professor of Middle Eastern history at Columbia University, who said the color is associated with the family of the Prophet Mohammed. ”I would hazard the guess that the campaign's concern is more with distorted — and religiously inaccurate—reporting by Obama's detractors than with any actual signal that might be conveyed,“ he said, referring to false rumors that Obama is a Muslim. ”I think they're just being overcautious to a ridiculous degree.“
Another Obama spokesman, Bill Burton, didn't explain the admonition against wearing green, but downplayed the memo. ”It was an informal document put together by people on the ground compiling info from a range of sources,“ he said. ”Some reporters on our trip had asked for advice on what to wear and so it was given to traveling press.“
A spokesman for the Council on American Islamic Relations, Ibrahim Hooper, said Muslims might take offense at the campaign's instruction.
”The color green is associated with Islam worldwide,“ he said. ”If he goes to Ireland, are they going to ask them not to wear green or orange?“
Jeff Ballabon, a Republican consultant active in pro-Israel causes, was also baffled by the explanation of the link between green and Hamas. ”Why didn't he also ban the use of yellow, which is Hezbollah's color?“
”I hear they aren't going to order croissants because they're crescent-shaped,“ he quipped.