Thursday, June 25, 2009

Why So Many Israelis Can’t Stand Obama

Months ago I tried to explain why Israelis don't get Barack Obama. Read about it here. In the meantime, it has gone from bad to worse. I feel the hate, or at least contempt, every day. Read the talkbacks in the online editions of the press, and you will see what I mean.

For one thing, Israelis are traditionally cynical about politics and politicians. Just yesterday two former government ministers were sent to jail with multiple-year sentences for bribery and corruption; the current foreign minister is under investigation for corruption, the last prime minister may stand trial for corruption, and there were corruption allegations against the trhee prime ministers before him. And did I mention that the former President of Israel will soon stand trial for rape and sexual assault?) Obama's belief in hope, change, and government ethics reform, holds up a mirror to the ugliness of the political culture in Israel. And nobody wants to look ugly.

But most of all, Obama is the Other that many Israelis fear – black, educated, with the middle name Hussein and with a preacher like Jeremiah Wright. Before the election many Israelis projected their own ethnic tribalism on America by claiming that Obama could never get elected. And then when he did get elected, and showed that there is a democracy where politics and nationalism can, on rare occasion, transcend race and ethnicity, their shame and discomfort turned to racism and hate.

And this was before Obama's speech in Cairo, and his tough talk on the settlements. Now, the mood is pretty grim. I mean, what Israeli wants a black American telling them what to do? Maybe that last line is too much. After all, they hate Jimmy Carter even worse.

I won't even link to the latest diatribe against Obama in today's Haaretz by Ari Shavit, the Krauthammer wannabe, who writes that Obama's only political idea is to be anti-Bush.

But the reason I am blogging about it is that one "talkback" to the Shavit screed that originated from America caught my eye:

The author is "largey" from Palo Alto.

I find it amazing how deeply Ari Shavit misunderstands the Obama phenomenon.
Do you really think that a leader that is simply "anti-Bush" or "Bush-negative" would have been so popular as Shavit points out?

Ari, you simply do not have the tools, the cultural background to explain Obama.
This is a revolutionary leader, proposing reforms in so many fields of American life that you simply do not understand, because you do not understand America.

That about sums up my feeling about Shavit, and the many other anti-Obama Israelis. According to a recent poll, only 6% of Jewish Israelis think that Obama is pro-Israel. Of course, that is not the same as saying that only 6% of Jewish Israelis support Obama, of course, and I have met a few who are supporters

But we have all felt the hate against Obama in Jerusalem in Max Blumenthal and Joseph Dana's video. (Youtube keeps taking it down, and folks keep uploading it, so just google it.) That video is representative of the sort of bums America sends to Israel (you want real hate; look at some of the videos of settlers.) But many more Israelis don't like Obama. That crummy video made at Bar Ilan of the Other Israelis that the Hasbarah folks have been hawking is SOO unrepresentative. I was on the Bar Ilan faculty for 13 years, and I know whereof I speak.

Should the reactions of Israeli society to Obama, the snide and condescending comments in the media, surprise us?

Maimonides wrote in his law code that people who are ill taste bitter things as sweet, and sweet things as bitter. He was a physician and he knew. I may add that the same applies to societies.

Israelis' attitudes toward Obama speak volumes about the fundamental maladie of Israeli society.

Blessed be the exceptions. Whether at Bar Ilan U or not.


Anonymous said...

I must have been naive to think on the third anniversary of Gilad Shalit's captivity you would have found time to comment.

Anonymous said...

They hate Obama because despite the fact he isn't wearing a silly mustache this time, and this time he has quite a tan, they still recognize him.

Please to meet you, we have guessed your name. What is bothering us is the nature of your game!

Anonymous said...

Why done you "Get" Obama?

Can't you see he is evil?

He really is evil.

Anonymous said...

Did you look into the history of Raila Odinga and how he used racial violence to stay in power?

Jerry, you are a hypocrite of the worst kind.

And you have no sense of evil. You can't see evil when it is staring you in the face.

Most Israelis though aren't like you. They know evil when they see it.

I say people who can't recognize evil or in your case I think it is more that you won't recognize evil even though deep down you probably can sense it, are evil themselves.

Yes, Jerry that makes you evil. In a banal kind of way but evil nonetheless.

Anonymous said...

And did I mention that the former President of Israel will soon stand trial for rape and sexual assault?

So, that's to Israel's credit. There was a former US President who committed sexual assault when he was the Arkansas governor and he never went on trial for it. He got away with it.

So, again you prove yourself an hypocrite and an ugly excuse of an human being. You have no ethics. You just have an agenda.

James G. Leventhal said...

your thoughts and overall position are welcome and necessary, and your words belie a deep spirit of inquiry and spiritual calm. thanks for writing what you do.

Eric Mendelsohn said...

When one invokes , the Holocaust, moral equivalency, or Gilad Shavit, it is an admission you have lost the argument and all you can do is howl and name-call.

Printe said...

Dear Anonymous - what's your point? Want more objectivity? If so, what's your comment on Shalit?

Jerry Haber said...

Note to Readers: I did not invent the Anonymous comments to demonstrate my point.

So thanks to the guy(s) out there who did it for me.

By the way, I didn't say that Katzav raped anybody, only that he was being tried for rape. So why wasn't Clinton tried for rape or sexual assault? There was no prima facie evidence that he did it. So don't forget to put "alleged" sexual assault in your comment.

Having said that, Clinton's sex life was a blight on the presidency, which I personally thought he disgraced with the Lewinsky affair.

And I should also like to say a good word for the Israeli State's Attorney Office that (usually) takes corruption charges seriously, and for the Supreme Court that put the crooks away -- and at the same time to criticize the Police for their flood of leaks to the press.

By the way, that is the same State's Attorney Office and Supreme Court that the last Minister of Justice, Daniel Friedmann, tried to castrate.

Avram said...

Anonymous (if you're the same person) - Next time you want to have a go at Jerry, why don't you formulate one articulate response so he can at least respond to you and the discussion can be civil? Just a thought.

Eric - I think when Jews mention the 'Holocaust', it shows we're scared. Many Jews are (rightly or wrongly) scared of Obama and what they THINK he's going to do (or force Israel to do). I just wish they'd realize there's nothing similar about Nazi Germany & the US, bar the increasingly growing assimilation rate of Jews that is. I don't think Gilad ShaLit is relevant to your post.

Jerry -

"Note to Readers: I did not invent the Anonymous comments to demonstrate my point. "

Did anyone even insinuate you did?

Eric Mendelsohn said...

"I think when Jews mention the 'Holocaust', it shows we're scared." Avrum said.

The whole point to the Zionist exercise was to create in the Jew a place where, and a sensibility so they would not be trapped in the 2000 year cycle of fear and victimhood.

What the invoking of the Holocaust in political arguments does, is prove that, for now, Zionism is a failure, despite Israel's existence.

Avram said...

"What the invoking of the Holocaust in political arguments does, is prove that, for now, Zionism is a failure, despite Israel's existence."

If you say so Eruc. Zionism, as an ideology, has many things to still work out - be it to find a way to wrong past wrongs, or to develop a 'future strategy' - but to say it's a failure is ridiculous. But alas, to each his own.

Y. Ben-David said...

Put me down on the list of those Israelis who despise Obama. Please don't put words in my mouth in saying that I feel this way because he is black.

He is a master post-Modern dissembler and an idiot, at least when it comes to foreign policy. He hid Samantha Powers, Jimmy Carter, Bill Ayres, and other disreputable types during the campaign, then he trots them (or at least some of them) out when he gets elected.
His speech in Cairo was full of obvious symbols to a Muslim audience saying "yes, I am one of you" (referring to the "holy" Quran, referring to its "revelation", and IIRC adding "peace be upon him" to Muhammed's name). YES, I KNOW HE SAID HE IS A CHRISTIAN. Add to this the photo released of him talking to Netanyahu on the phone with his feet on the desk, facing the camera. This is clearly meant as an insult to Netanyahu and Israel , and is meant for the Muslim audience to see it that way. Then there is the bowing to the King of Saudi Arabia. Then there is the clear implication in the speech that Israel was created "because of the Holocaust" and that the US must support Israel, but this support is due to artificial, internal American political pressures. Then there are the loud public demands for unilateral concessions from us, whereas I don't see him making any such parallel demands from any other country in the world.

In spite of this, I am glad he is President. The last two Presidents both had the title "the best friend we ever had in the White House", which is bunk. During that period we had Oslo foisted on us, we saw the biggest wave of terror ever launched against us while our "friends in the White House" were hectoring us not to respond to the violence and to continue making concessions to Arafat and the PA . Then we lost Gush Katif in return for vague promises that Obama now says never existed. Sharon kept justifying his lack of action against Palestinian terror by saying "I promised our friend in the White Houste that we wouldn't respond". We now have someone who will break this sick depedency our leaders have developed on the US and we will stand on our own feet. No President can force us to do what we know is detremental to our national interests, so by cutting us loose, Obama will be proclaiming Israeli's renewed indepedence.

Jerry Haber said...

Y. Ben David,

Zionism was not created because of the Holocaust. Israel was. See my post on that.

Bottom line: you and I will be both happy when the US cuts its financial aid to Israel. Will you also be happy when the the world imposes sanctions on Israel? I can't imagine of a better way for Israel to show its independence. With nobody in the world supporting Israel, we don't need to trust goyishe princes, only Hashem

Y. Ben-David said...

I am not worried about massive international sanctions. Most of the world understands the true situation here, i.e. it is the Arabs who refuse to make peace with Israel. Israel is an attractive trading partner for many countries, particularly in the states of the former USSR, the former Communist Bloc and the Far East. None of these people care about settlements or the "Palestinians lack of self-determination" (which is self-inflicted). Look how hostile Russia used to be and how much they claimed to care about the Palestnians. We get along fine with them now. Same with China. Same with India...and those three are big, powerful countries. They don't care about the Palestinians at all.

From what I understand most people in Europe are indifferent about the whole thing as well. Yes, there is considerable anti-Israel influence due to Muslim immigrants and radical anarchists, Communists and others who are allied with traditionalist antisemitic groups that are making a lot of noise. It still remains to be seen whether these groups will succeed in making boycotts against Israel, because as I said most people (and I mean a large majority) in Europe don't care, but since there isn't a large pro-Israel group to counter them in these countries, there could be real political pressure to downgrade relations. We'll just have to wait and see.

Taiwan is a country that is pretty much "illegitimate" in the international arena, far more than Israel is, and they are doing fine. They make products people want to buy, so if we can do the same thing, even in the worst case scenario, we will also survive and prosper, and the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world will continue to fall further and further behind us.
As Ben-Gurion said..."anyone in Israel who doesn't believe in miracles isn't being realistic".

Y. Ben-David said...

I feel I must clarify what I said about Obama signaling the Arab world that he is indeed a Muslim...The United States has no religious test for candidates for office, a Muslim has every right to run for office (a Muslim was elected to Congress) and the American people have every right to elect a Muslim as President. The problem is that he did not tell anyone he was a Muslim, he vehemently denied it and kept Muslims away from appearing with him. In Cairo, he suddenly tells them that he is indeed a Muslim, showing he was deceiving everyone. Now, since he says he is a Christian, what does he mean? That is hard to tell...perhaps he is a Muslim the way Benjamin Disraeli was a identity obtained at birth and with continuing fraternal feelings with his fellow Jews, even though he nominally is practicing another religion for political reasons, or perhaps he is working "underground". Time will tell.

Avram said...

"Zionism was not created because of the Holocaust."

What created Zionism in your eyes sir? (and I'm assuming you mean Alkalai's, but Herzl's)

"you and I will be both happy when the US cuts its financial aid to Israel ... we don't need to trust goyishe princes, only Hashem"

The sad thing about this statement is that you're assuming all that you want for both people to come true when this happens actually comes true. What, may I ask, happens if it all goes wrong (If the '1 state' or '2 state' vision you hope will come if the above happens goes horribly wrong)?

Jerry Haber said...

Y. Ben David,

You may be right on the realpolitik issue, at least in the short term.

You are aware that the Quartet (including Russia, of course) has backed Obama's call for a settlement freeze.

Cut off American aid to Israel; even cut of loan guarantees, and you will find that some of Israel's biggest trading partners will follow suit.

Read Bernard Avishai's book, the chapter on the business of integration, and you will see how fragile Israel's economy will be if even moderate pressure is applied. He may be wrong, but he is an economist, and he has a strong blurb from the CEO of Intel on the back.

I was unaware that Obama said in Cairo that he was a Muslim. So he said, "Holy Qur'an" and "Peace Be Upon Him" Ever heard a Reform Jew speak to Muslims? He was a liberal, being polite.

He is "worse" than a Musim, YBD; he is a Christian who likes Muslims.

But again, I am skeptical that much will change

Anonymous said...

Obama supported the Dictator in Hondurans.

He is indeed evil!

Jews should recognize the fact that Hitler has been reincarnated!

Anonymous said...

Obama is not a Christian.

Have you heard his pastor?

That church doesn't preach Christianity.

That church preaches hate.

Avram said...

"In Cairo, he suddenly tells them that he is indeed a Muslim"

Y. - I don't think he said that at all.

Y. Ben-David said...

Do you believe Muhammed was the final prophet? No you don't. Do you believe that the Qur'an was "revealed" to him? No you don't. If you were giving a lecture to people about the Muslims you would refer to Muhammed as a personage important to history as a religious innovator, but you would not refer to him yourself as a prophet. You would say that the the Muslims refer to him as a prophet. Similarly, you would not say the Qur'an was "revealed" (implying divine origin), you would say the Qur'an "appeared", or that "the Muslims say was 'revealed'".
Verbal and symbolic codes are very important in Middle Eastern cultures (the real effect of curses and blessings, or the shoe throwing incident in Iraq, for example) and he sent direct, clear messsages to his Muslim audience that he, indeed, identifies as a Muslim. As I said, that is fine, a President of the US can be a Muslim, but he clearly denied it before the election, so what does this all mean?
Personally, I believe he is as religious as a stone, he is an opportunist and he lets every audience believe what it wants about him (this is what I was alluding to with Disraeli) although his distaste for Israel is no doubt sincere and legitimate, (although negative from my point of view) but this was also hidden before the election), but such a person is quite problematic for such a powerful position.

Regarding the Russian support for a settlement freeze, this is a natural response to Arab political pressure, not deeply felt. The Arabs go around demanding everyone in the world parrot their positions and because of their immense wealth due to oil, many dance to their tune, at least outwardly. Do you seriously believe that the average Russian, who supported crushing Chechnya really cares about settlements?

Avram said...

Anonymous - you're being an idiot, seriously. Can you please stop?

Eric Mendelsohn said...

When I said Zionism was a failure I meant up to now--it could succeed if those who wish to spread lies about Obama and spread Hitler victim fears in the Jewish community were so marginalized that they were regarded flat-earthers or Sabbateans. It may succeed but not until the generation of the desert (Those Holocaust,Shavit, Moral equivalence, Obama is Hitler) voices are only heard together with Korakh murmuring in some cave in the desert where Hashem (whom I call God) has condemned them.

Peter said...

Yeah, and Clinton revealed himself as a hidden Jew and a Communist to boot with his "Shalom, khaver"...

C'mon, YBD, what's up with the loony comments? Been reading too much Pam Geller or not getting enough sleep? (I am not, but I have got a newborn...)
I mean, yeah, sure, there is a chance that Obama is a secret Muslim, but if this is your evidence, then it is ridiculous. You just keep seeing things in the only perspective that fits with your preconceived ideas, even when it requires drawing such far-fetched conclusions..
Frankly, it seems to me Obama is an agnostic.

Avram said...

Congrats on your 2nd kid Peter - Mazal Tov.

I don't think Obama is agnostic btw - he's either Christian or Muslim but I don't think whichever he is dictates how he's acting, or defines him much as a person.

JES said...

Jerry, I think that you are drawing a lot of unwarranted conclusions here about Israelis and their views toward Obama - particularly by inserting racism into the mix. (And if you have to rely on the "talkbacks" for a sampling of opinion... well I think that's pretty pitiful.)

You see, I think that your problem is that you need to fashion an irrational hate out of a legitimate disagreement to justify your own position (which also, come to think of it, borders on the pathetic). From where I sit - and that isn't in the American/Liberal enclaves Bakaa or Emek Refaim - I don't see what you see at all. So, I guess that makes it my word against yours.

Just one last note while we're generalizing about Obama. Could you tell me why it is that his supporters feel they need to constantly drum it into everyone's head that He is the "Second Coming"? (Remember, about 47% of Americans did not vote for Obama!)

Peter said...

Thanks, Avram.
We, of course, cannot know for sure about Obama. It is all hunches and projections...