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JewishJournal.com

September 13, 2011

Opinion: Is Obama Israel's enemy or defender?

http://www.jewishjournal.com/opinion/article/is_obama_israels_enemy_or_defender_20110913

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the University of Richmond, Sept. 9. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the University of Richmond, Sept. 9. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Two interesting emails arrived about the same time on Sunday morning.  One was the text of a speech to the nation by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying Israel owes President Obama “a special measure of gratitude” for his help in rescuing Israelis trapped in their Cairo Embassy by a violent mob.

The other was from a frequent emailer telling me once again that the President of the United States is an enemy of Israel and the Jews.

The latter didn’t compose this scurrilous email himself, but the very act of distributing it to all of his friends and acquaintances constitutes an endorsement.

I usually just hit the delete button, but the timing on this one warranted a response.

It informed me Obama was “mentored by…an avowed Communist,” his mother sent him to “a socialist school,” he really is a Muslim who falsely claims to be a Christian, “he sought the endorsement of the Marxist Party,” he attended a church listening to the preacher “spew hatred for America and preach black liberation theology.”  What’s more, Palestinians in Gaza held a campaign ‘fund raising telethon” for him, he was endorsed by “Louis Farrakhan, Muammar Qadaffi and Hugo Chavez,” and during the National Anthem and Pledge of Allegiance “he stood with his hands over his groin area.” He has appointed gays, socialists, communists and other radicals, used American tax dollars to “resettle thousands of Palestinians from Gaza to the United States,” and “Barrack Hussein Obama is determined to turn America into a Marxist-Socialist society.”

There’s more, but you get the idea.  What’s not mentioned openly is what some of these writers may regard as his greatest offense: He’s black.  How on earth could a black man be elected president unless the vote was rigged?

Not all of those who spread the anti-Obama attacks are racists but may simply be exploiting the racism of others to promote the idea that he is anti-Israel.

Along the way they keep raising the bar on what constitutes pro-Israel. An increasingly strident former colleague said my failure to share his pro-Likud, pro-settlement, anti-Arab viewpoint was “yet another indication of Bloomfield’s own lukewarm support for Israel.” 

Anyone who fails to adhere to their strict dogma becomes a target for right wing extremists. Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick has called Obama “the most hostile US president Israel has ever faced” and possibly “a grave threat.”  Morton Klein of the Zionist Organization of America said the President’s actions suggest “a distaste or even hostility towards Jews and Israel.” And African-American religious right activist, Bishop E.W. Jackson, said Obama’s views of Israel and Jews were shaped by anti-Semitism in the black community, “his Muslim roots and experience in Farrakhan’s Chicago.”

Here’s what happened: A mob ransacked the embassy and was closing in on six Israeli security guards stranded inside.  Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak repeatedly tried to call Egypt’s new strongman, Mohammed Tantawi, but were told he could not be located.  So Netanyahu called Obama, and Barak called Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

The Prime Minister reported to the Israeli people about Obama’s actions: “I would say it was a decisive moment—fateful, I would even say. He said, ‘I will do all that I can.’ He did that. He applied all of the means and influence of the United States of America, which are certainly substantial. And I think we owe him special thanks.”

The incident, wrote Israeli journalism Shimon Shiffer, “unequivocally demonstrated Israel’s existential dependence on America” despite two-and-a-half years of “constant deterioration in our ties with the White House” under Netanyahu’s leadership.

Netanyahu’s speech may also have been in response to stinging criticism from former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who served in both the Bush and Obama cabinets, that the US has given Netanyahu so much in terms of security and gotten nothing in return. Gates said the prime minister is not only ungrateful but also endangering Israel by refusing to grapple with Israel’s growing isolation and with the demographic challenges it faces by holding on to the West Bank, according to the Atlantic’s Jeff Goldberg.

If Obama is so anti-Israel, why has his administration provided access to top-tech weapons Bush refused, expanded high-level intelligence sharing, given diplomatic cover at the UN, vetoed an anti-settlements resolution, refused to attend the Durban III conference, and is now standing almost alone against the Palestinian statehood bid?

It’s all a ruse, explained one blogger, to lull Israel into dropping its guard so he can surprise it by imposing a peace plan it doesn’t want.

Or maybe the answer is the one provided by an editorial in the politically conservative Orthodox paper Hamodia.  Politico reported Hamodia praised Obama’s “immediate and effective” response to Netanyahu’s call for help, noting. “Much has been made of the strained relations between Netanyahu and the White House in recent days; but in this test of standing by one’s allies in a matter of life and death, Barack Obama came through. He merited to be Hashem’s instrument of salvation. The Jewish community all over the world offers him our heartfelt thanks.”

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