Jewish Journal


September 22, 2011

This week in power: Obama and NY-9, Perry, U.N. speech, French app


A roundup of the most talked about political and global stories in the Jewish world this week:

Obama, the “Jewish President”
A New York Magazine article with the headline proclaiming Obama to be “The First Jewish President” got people talking even more about Obama’s stance on Israel. It comes on the heels of the NY-9 election where the Orthodox community rallied behind Republican candidate Bob Turner to take down fellow Orthodox Jewish Democrat David Weprin. Could it be a referendum on Obama? “Up until this election, Jews have always voted in a manner that assumed that a Jewish candidate would best represent the Jewish needs. This election broke that pattern and attitude,” said Rabbi Aryeh Spero at American Thinker. Democrats tried to spin the loss as no big deal. Still, Obama could find himself in a similar position to Weprin come 2012. “The White House is in a bind with Jewish voters. Those who believe Mr. Obama has been bad news for Israel will never be convinced otherwise,” said a Washington Times editorial. But Obama’s problems could run deeper than just inside the Jewish community…

Rick Perry woos the Jews
Seizing on the opportunity, Gov. Rick Perry is getting more vocal about his pro-Israel politics and met with influential Jewish leaders. “t may seem like an odd political coupling,” said Grace Wyler at Business Insider, but it’s smart timing. Nevertheless, it wasn’t all smooth sailing, reported Maggie Haberman at Politico. “He got a bit tripped up on the issue of settlement negotiations, suggesting they should be allowed without really explaining what that meant - which raised an issue that has come up a few times in the last few days about whether he understands the nuances of the Mideast debate.” And, Elias Isquith warned, have some caution before diving in with Perry. “Keep in mind that his support for the ‘Jewish homeland’ is unlikely to stem from a profound feeling for the Israeli cause in and of itself. Rather than to Zion, Perry’s eyes are directed towards DC.”

Obama’s speech at the U.N.
President Obama addressed the General Assembly where he discussed recent transitions to democracy around the world. But the issue of Palestinian statehood still lurks in the background. “If ever there was a moment for strong leadership to protect and advance our national security interests in the Mideast, it is now,” said Edward P. Djerejian in the Houston Chronicle. “What happens at the U.N. can be exploited in a positive way to get the parties engaged in sustained and conclusive peace negotiations.” What can President Obama really accomplish? “This must be said, and clearly: No leader has either the moral authority or the strategic possibility of endangering tens of thousands of citizens before doing everything possible to make Israel beloved of the West,” said Sefi Rachlevsky at Haaretz. Things have definitely changed this year, said Zvi Bar’el in Haaretz. “If the United States fails to recognize the Palestinian state, it will have difficulty sidelining its rivals in the new Middle East, where the public has more power than the rulers.”

“All Jews should be sterilized” debacle
Twenty-two-year-old York University student Sarah Grunfeld misunderstood her professor and thought he was making anti-Semitic remarks when he said that “all Jews should be sterilized” is an example of deplorable speech. Grunfeld reported him to the administration. Some Jewish groups came to her defense anyway. “B’nai Brith earns itself no respect when it insists on be-rating an innocent university professor over a mistake made by an excitable student,” said Kelly McParland at National Post. “Anti-Semitism is an authentic scourge and needs to be treated more seriously than this. Popping off at every halfbaked complaint only reduces the credibility of the organization and its claims.” The fact that Johnston was in the middle of a lecture about what kind of hate speech not to tolerate, said David Bernstein at Volokh, reveals just how ridiculous this is. “Irony, rough justice, or something else?”

France’s anti-Semitic app
Apple was forced to remove an app called “Jew or not Jew” from its App Store in France after Jewish groups protested. It was designed to identify which celebrities were Jewish, which violates French law banning the sharing of a person’s religion without their consent. The app is still available in the U.S. While the French acted correctly on this one, “I just think that laws which prohibit such things mask very serious underlying problems, much more than they actually address them,” said Brad Hirschfield at The Huffington Post. “This seems like a well-intentioned, but totally unsophisticated response to a very real problem.  And in this case the old adage about the road to Hell and good intentions seems pretty apt.”

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