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Jewish Journal

A reaction to Obama’s speech in Jerusalem

by Julie Kraim Zeisler

March 22, 2013 | 2:27 pm

President Barack Obama at the Jerusalem Convention Center on March 21. Photo by Jason Reed/Reuters

President Barack Obama at the Jerusalem Convention Center on March 21. Photo by Jason Reed/Reuters

This morning, as I listened to President Obama’s speech to students in Jerusalem, I was filled with frustration and mortification. I was watching the speech at the gym and read the words as they crossed the TV screen. Words like if Israeli parents could just talk to Palestinian children, they would see that they are the same as their children. Words like, Israel is responsible for making peace with the Palestinians, and that no Iron Dome is strong enough. Threatening words, in my opinion. Words that made it sound, to me, someone who knows a little bit about the history in the region, like he was intent on putting all of the blame and pressure on Israel and asking Israel to assume responsibility for the state of affairs. For the President of the United States to say these words really disappointed me. Perhaps he doesn’t realize the roots and the heaviness of the Zionist dream. Perhaps he hasn’t heard the stories that my grandparents, both Holocaust survivors, have told. Perhaps he hasn’t read the personal stories of people who were there, who survived. Perhaps he doesn’t realize what it took for Israel to come to exist as a safe haven from terror, from persecution for people all over the world, not just European and Middle Eastern Jews.

My grandparents are 90 years old. They live in Santa Monica, and are amazingly self sufficient. They live alone in a 3 story townhouse. They go to the gym. They travel. They sometimes drive (much to my chagrin). They met right after the war in Romania, when my grandfather was in the Russian army and my grandmother was working in a pharmacy and had been on the run, far from her family, for four years. They settled uncomfortably in Lvov, Ukraine for a time before they were able to get out and go to Israel in 1956. The dream of Israel was huge for them, and many like them. People who had lost their entire families to the Nazi hate machine. People who had survived concentration camps. People, who even after the war, were experiencing strong anti-Semitism and pogroms in the cities that they managed to return to. They all believed in the promise of Israel.

The part that really gets me going is that Obama really believes that the Palestinians want peace. That they are willing to sit down with the Israelis and start fresh. When you look at Arab governments in the Middle East, what do you see? Do you see functioning democracies? Do you see people living in freedom, with voting rights, where women are not persecuted? Do you see tolerance for other cultures? What in the world makes Obama think that if the Israelis gave the Palestinians every single thing they asked for (minus the complete destruction of Israel itself), that they would be different from every other Arab government in the region? First, we have Syria. Let’s just turn our heads away from the horrendous civil war going on there and the threat of them using chemical weapons against their own people, let alone their neighbors. Next, we have Egypt, who overthrew their autocratic government and replaced it with the Muslim Brotherhood, and now have a leader who may as well be another autocrat. Lebanon? They have their very own state sponsored terrorist organization. Iran? Do I need to say anything more?

Over the years, I’ve become a little more conservative in my support of Israel. Ten years ago I was much more sympathetic to the Palestinian plight. Today, not as much. Maybe I’m blinded too, but what I see is so much good, so much promise, and so much spirit in Israel, and it is the opposite of what I see coming out of the Arab world. I wish Obama saw the same thing, and wasn’t like every other leader in this mad world who jumps first to blame the Jews. Because I for one believe in the phrase “Never Again.”

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