Last Thursday, President Obama, wearing a white kippa (yarmulke), addressed an audience in the Adas Yisrael Synagogue in Washington, D.C.
The speech was clearly meant to reassure American Jews and Israel over the emerging nuclear deal with Iran and the damaged relationship with the Jewish State.
During his speech, the president made several troubling comments about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that clearly showed he applies a double standard to the parties in the conflict.
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In essence, he claimed Israel has a responsibility to apply Jewish values in order for the Palestinians to be a free people and obtain their sovereign state. He also suggested Israel was a failed state because of the absence of peace with the Palestinians and the failure to bridge the divide with the Arab world.
At the same time, the only thing he said about the Palestinians was that “they are not the easiest of partners.”
Here are some of the president’s comments:
Before I came out here, the Rabbi showed me the room that’s been built to promote scholarship and dialogue, and to be able to find how we make our shared values live. And the reason you have that room is because applying those values to our lives is often hard, and it involves difficult choices. That’s why we study. That’s why it’s not just a formula. And that’s what we have to do as nations as well as individuals. We have to grapple and struggle with how do we apply the values that we care about to this very challenging and dangerous world.
And it is precisely because I care so deeply about the state of Israel — it’s precisely because, yes, I have high expectations for Israel the same way I have high expectations for the United States of America — that I feel a responsibility to speak out honestly about what I think will lead to long-term security and to the preservation of a true democracy in the Jewish homeland. And I believe that’s two states for two peoples, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people on their land, as well.
Now, I want to emphasize — that’s not easy. The Palestinians are not the easiest of partners. The neighborhood is dangerous. And we cannot expect Israel to take existential risks with their security so that any deal that takes place has to take into account the genuine dangers of terrorism and hostility.
But it is worthwhile for us to keep up the prospect, the possibility of bridging divides and being just, and looking squarely at what’s possible but also necessary in order for Israel to be the type of nation that it was intended to be in its earliest founding.
By holding Israel to a higher standard than the Palestinians, Obama effectively applied a double standard to the Jewish state.
In his book, The Case for Democracy, former Israeli minister and Russian dissident Natan Sharansky introduced a standard test for defining anti-Semitism, which he called the “3D test.” According to this definition, criticism that consists of demonization (“when Israel’s actions are blown out of proportion”), double standards (“when criticism of Israel is applied selectively”), and delegitimization (“when Israel’s fundamental right to exist is denied”) is anti-Semitism.
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So, while delivering a speech that marked both Jewish American Heritage Month and the Lantos Foundation’s annual Solidarity Sabbath commemorating former senator and Holocaust survivor Tom Lantos’s commitment to combating anti-Semitism and intolerance worldwide, Obama made a comment that could be labeled anti-Semitic according to Sharansky’s definition of anti-Semitism in relation to Israel.
It should be noted that Sharansky’s definition has become part of the official U.S. State Department definition of anti-Semitism.
But there’s more.
The president also coupled increasing anti-Semitism to the fate of Palestinian children in Ramallah and suggested Israel is to blame for the lack of opportunities for Palestinian children and their feelings of being trapped:
And that same sense of shared values also compel me to speak out — compel all of us to speak out — against the scourge of anti-Semitism wherever it exists. I want to be clear that, to me, all these things are connected. The rights I insist upon and now fight for, for all people here in the United States compels me then to stand up for Israel and look out for the rights of the Jewish people. And the rights of the Jewish people then compel me to think about a Palestinian child in Ramallah that feels trapped without opportunity. That’s what Jewish values teach me. That’s what the Judeo-Christian tradition teaches me. These things are connected.
Obama’s comments infuriated commentators in Israel and the U.S. One of them was Morton Klein, the president of the Zionist Organization for America (ZOA), who launched a blistering attack on the president.
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Klein wrote in a statement for the press:
Obama complained about Jewish “settlements” – which are in reality Jewish communities in historic Jewish land comprising less than 2% of Judea and Samaria, and promoted a Palestinian state – while ignoring the facts that the Palestinian Authority (PA) continues to promote anti-Jewish hatred in their schools, media and speeches, and that the PA is part and parcel of a unity government with the terrorist group Hamas, and that both the Hamas and PA President Abbas’ Fatah party’s charters call for Israel’s destruction.
President Obama also ignored the fact that the PA is attempting to use the UN to establish a unilateral state that does not recognize Israel, refuses to negotiate with Israel, and is determined to wipe Israel off the face of the map. President Obama also said nothing about the PA paying pensions to terrorists who have killed Jews. The President also referred to Judea and Samaria as Arab land in his speech – when the Jewish people have the greatest historical, political, religious and legal right to these areas. After all, we are called Jews because we are from Judea. The President also made the nonsensical statement: “The rights of the Jewish people then compel me to think about a Palestinian child in Ramallah that feels trapped without opportunity.”
This is absurd in light of the fact that Israel has given away all of Gaza and almost half of Judea and Samaria, where the Palestinian Arabs run their own lives other than sharing security: the Arabs have their own Parliament, schools, textbooks, newspapers, radio and TV stations, businesses and police force.
Aaron Goldstein, writing for The American Spectator, had this to say about the comment about Palestinian children in Ramallah:
I was struck by this sentence, “And the rights of the Jewish people then compel me to think about a Palestinian child in Ramallah that feels trapped without opportunity.”
Well, there’s a good chance that Palestinian child in Ramallah has been taught to hate Jews from the day he or she was born. This child from Ramallah looks upon those who have committed suicide bombings against Israeli Jews as martyrs and has very likely received candies during the parades that are held glorifying these heinous killings such as when five members of the Fogel family were stabbed to death in their home in February 2011 including an infant girl. The only opportunity many Palestinians want is the opportunity to kill Jews and become martyrs.
President Obama’s speech to the Adas Israel Congregation must be seen for what it is. A cynical means by which to make nice with the American Jewish community which although still solidly Democratic has become increasingly alienated from the Obama Administration due to its anti-Israel posture. Obama is recycling old rhetoric to make false claims about Iran, anti-Semitism, draw false equivalencies and, above all else, is unwilling to recognize the genocidal aims and objectives of the Palestinian body politic against Israel and Jews around the world.
Joel Pollack of Breitbart noted that Obama also invented a pro-Israel past during his speech.
Here’s what the president said about his supposed past fascination with, and support for, the State of Israel:
But there are also going to be some disagreements rooted in shared history that go beyond tactics, that are rooted in how we might remain true to our shared values. I came to know Israel as a young man through these incredible images of kibbutzim, and Moshe Dayan, and Golda Meir, and Israel overcoming incredible odds in the ’67 war. The notion of pioneers who set out not only to safeguard a nation, but to remake the world. Not only to make the desert bloom, but to allow their values to flourish; to ensure that the best of Judaism would thrive. And those values in many ways came to be my own values. They believed the story of their people gave them a unique perspective among the nations of the world, a unique moral authority and responsibility that comes from having once been a stranger yourself.
And to a young man like me, grappling with his own identity, recognizing the scars of race here in this nation, inspired by the civil rights struggle, the idea that you could be grounded in your history, as Israel was, but not be trapped by it, to be able to repair the world — that idea was liberating. The example of Israel and its values was inspiring.
Obama said something more specific about his pro-Israel past in an interview with journalist Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic last week. During that interview, Obama claimed that for him, “being pro-Israel and pro-Jewish is part and parcel with the values that I’ve been fighting for since I was politically conscious and started getting involved in politics.“
Pollack, however, delivered evidence that Obama never showed any interest in Israel and concluded that the president’s supposed fascination with Israel is a fabrication:
Obama’s many biographies–both his own memoirs, and the voluminous writings of others–mention no such early interest in Israel. In fact, those who knew Obama in his early years in Chicago describe a man who understood little about Israel. He had extensive contact with left-wing Jewish activists, and his home is across the street from a synagogue. But to the extent that he took an interest in the Middle East, it was in the Palestinian cause, and the larger Arab and Muslim world.
As Peter Wallsten wrote in April 2008, in the infamous Los Angeles Times article that revealed the existence of the still-secret “Khalidi tape,” Obama’s former Chicago allies and associates described a man whose personal sympathies lay more with the Palestinians, and who promised to pursue a more “evenhanded” policy. One of those who met him in those days, the radical anti-Israel activist Ali Abunimah, complained that a pro-Palestinian Obama had since “learned to love Israel.”
In Obama’s first memoir, Dreams from my Father, there is no recollection whatsoever of any kind of fascination with Israel–not even the left-wing, socialist icons Obama name-checked in his Adas Jeshurun speech. The word “Israel” only appears once, in the words of “Rafiq,” a somewhat adversarial character who admonishes the young community organizer that liberal American Jews really care more “’bout they relatives in Israel” than black children on the South Side of Chicago.
Pollack then concluded that “Obama’s supposed fascination with Israel is a fabrication – like the “composite” characters in his autobiographies, or the inaccurate stories he told about his mother’s death during the Obamacare debate, or the many other fibs he has told in the past for political purposes.”
The kibbutznik Obama is a bit of kitsch tailored to pander to the audience at Adas Jeshurun – many of whom, like journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, are die-hard members of the Obama fan club.
Obama has gone further than any president in symbolic gestures of support for Israel – as well as “childish” gestures of disdain. He supports Iron Dome–but wants a terrible deal with Iran.
At the core, his ideas about Israel are secondary to his obsession with “fairness,” which often means helping Israel’s enemies, even while mollifying Israel’s liberal supporters.
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