Today, a brief break from the "Perils of UJC" to the "perils of American Jewry."
The election of Barack Obama has inspired, in so many quarters, a virulent screed that evidences the multiple commentators'/authors' refusal to accept the Obama Presidency. Some in the American Jewish community have been as unrestrained as the Limbaughs and Hannitys in the virulence of their attacks. After the President and Secretary of State refused to accept the "thickening of existing settlements" even within the current borders of West Bank settlements, the cacophony grew only louder and more strident. I received the forwarded e-mail "commentary" that follows (reprinted here, typos and all) from one of my closest friends
"Does Barack Obama believe Israel is a sovereign state? Yesterday, his mouthpiece Hillary Clinton said Israel must stop all settlement activity- outposts, new settlements and natural growth of existing settlements. What exactly is natural growth of existing settlements- it means adding a new room to a home within the boundaries of a settlement if a family gets larger, say though a new baby, or building a new home in this settlement, if a couple gets married. In essence, Obama is now telling Israelis not to have children, and not to marry. Such a friend. Does anyone really believe that adding on that new room or that new home is what has stopped the Arabs and Palestinians from making peace with Israel the last 40 years? There really are only two conclusions to draw from this new American chokehold on Israel. One is that Obama and his people are stupid ( that's right- fools, despite all the fancy degrees), or they really mean to put the screws to Israel, and are looking for an opening to create conflict between the nations (excuse me, between the US and its vassal).
But hey, 78% of Jews voted for this guy. You know who you are. Why would Obama want to screw with Israel? Two possibilities here as well- one is that he was never a friend, despite all that money and support that came into his campaign from the adoring liberal Jewish masses. Some of us (think Ed Lasky) kept warning last year, that all those years with Bill Ayers, and Reverend Wright, and Samantha Power, and Rashid Khalidi, and Ali Abunimah, maybe, just maybe shaped Obama a bit on the Israeli Palestinian issue. And after all all, our most empathetic President tends to see the world in terms of winners and losers, the haves and have nots, and on that power equation he has to love the Palestinians. The other explanation gets back to stupidity. Could Obama actually believe that our enemies in the Muslim world will start playing nice if only we distance ourselves from Israel? Could he be that naive? What is particularly distressing is how Democrats in Congress , ostensibly such great friends of Israel when they send out campaign fundraising letters, are now lining up with Obama on the settlements issue. Why would they do this? I thin it is because Israel is not really a top concern, just as it is not for many American Jews. For liberal politicians, and liberal Jews, global warming, and single payor government health care matter, not the survival of Israel. The clock is ticking on Iran's nuclear program. Any of you have faith Obama will lift a finger to stop the mullah's march to the bomb? Will the US allow Israeli jets to over fly iraq if it decides to attack Iran? Count me as a skeptic. But hey, why worry? We may soon have cap and trade, and the planet will heal, and new national healthcare that will spend the country into oblivion. Who cares abut Jewish babies , or for that matter Jewish lives of any age?" (Richard Baehr)
Certainly the Obama and Netanyahu Governments are not today on the same page. And while more sane commentary has noted that the Obama "position" is in synch with the opinions of the Israeli center and, certainly, its left, others are entitled to speak out on their opposition to policies of our Government toward Israel that we oppose. But, do we do Israel's cause any good at all when we piggyback arguments, as above, against the Obama Administration on global warming, health care, cap and trade onto arguments against the Obama Administration's policies on Israel's settlements? Of course not. And does it serve Israel's cause to accuse our President of being "uncaring...about (sic) Jewish babies" or to revive the vile campaign attacks about Obama and Wright, Obama and Bill Ayers, etc? Of course not. Israel's cause is served by rational argument on the issues impacting Israel at hand, pure and simple.
To its credit, AIPAC has been spurred to action. But, because of the void created by the silence of the Conference of Presidents, the ADL and, of course and as always, UJC, those like Richard Baehr, whose opposition to Obama is on all issues and every issue attempt to replay the 2008 election in the guise of "protecting Israel." Those who don't speak for us have stepped into this void as if they do. If these kinds of unreasoned attacks continue, the soft but focused arguments of J-Street and the IPF will gain greater resonance with the American polity. Israel and the Jewish People will be the losers.