Tag Archives: Obama

Helen Thomas, hypocrisy here and there

It’s impossible to defend Grande Dame of White House journalists Helen Thomas’ recent off the cuff statement that Israeli Jews should go back to Germany…..or Poland. (She said Israel should get out of Palestine, but it wasn’t clear if she meant the Occupied Territories, which Israelis should get out of, or Israel behind the green line.) It was deeply offensive and wrong.

One of this country’s most important and courageous journalists said something terribly wrong, was massively criticized, apologized for it, and was forced into retirement. Exactly the way it should be, right? Wrong.

It’s hard to even chart out the hypocrisy of the whole affair. What happened in 2002 when House Republican Majority Leader Dick Armey called for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians on MSNBC’s Hardball? An outraged response? Nary a peep. That same year Senator James Inhofe also called for Israel to permanently retain all of the Occupied Territories, “Because God said so. “  Did he quit? No. And what to make of the fact that Obama’s White House summoned infinitely more moral outrage for Thomas’ terrible but certainly not lethal remarks, than for the death of 9 people on the Mavi Marmara, including a 19-year-old US citizen shot in the head. (One prompted “deep regret”, the other was “reprehensible”. Guess which was which.)

There’s also the glass house in which Rabbi Nessenoff lives: he’s the one who recorded the Thomas gotcha video and who, it seems, has offered the world his own offensive imitation of a Mexican priest, and believes that Palestinians all belong back home…in Jordan.

Taking a short trip over to Israel we discover that the Israeli military recently created an order that, according to many human rights groups and Ha’aretz, “will enable mass deportation from West Bank.” Who had to retire because of that? Maybe because it wasn’t an off the cuff remark to suggest ethnic cleansing, but an actual military order to allow it, its authors escaped opprobrium. Wacky!

Just this week, Likud party MK, Miri Regev shouted at Hanin Zuabi, an Arab member of the Knesset from Nazareth who went on the Gaza flotilla, “Get back to Gaza, you traitor!” Sounds familiar, as though Thomas herself could have said it. Outrage meter? Zero. Then again, Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai wants Zuabi stripped of her Israeli citizenship, so telling her to go back to a place she is not from actually seems pretty mild by those standards.

Moshe Yaroni, who abhors what Thomas said, compares her treatment to Israel’s response to the Jerusalem Post’s Caroline Glick who is surely responsible for what will go down as one of the most morally heinous pieces of agitprop in modern history:

In Israel, the premier woman journalist in the country went a hell of a lot farther, in a premeditated, rather than an impetuous fashion. And there is hardly a peep in response in her home country.

Caroline Glick is well-known to readers of right-wing e-mail lists, and of course, of the Jerusalem Post, where she is the deputy managing editor and a regular columnist. She is also a fellow at the extremist neoconservative Center for Security Policy in Washington.

Glick herself is an extremist, and even those who agree with her (and who would, of course, not refer to her as an extremist) would have to agree that she situates herself well to the right of the current Israeli government. And that’s all well and good; she’s an op-ed writer, and she is certainly entitled to her opinions.

But at her web site, Latma, Glick has raised her vitriol to a whole new level. In a video overflowing with racism, a group of Israelis satirize the Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla. You can see it for yourself at the link above, if you can make it through the whole thing.

Caroline Glick with fellow travelers, Morton Klein and John Bolton

In a most contemptible fashion, almost every trope of bigotry is on display in the video, which features the contention that the massive suffering in Gaza is all an elaborate fabrication. For a quick rundown of this “fabricated” suffering, check out B’Tselem’s summary of conditions in Gaza.

This level of cruelty is truly astonishing. Even if one contends that the Gaza blockade is a necessary security measure (see my earlier article for why it has the opposite effect), it is appalling to see fellow Jews laughing about it. And don’t we know all too well the offense in denying such things?
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Only Tina Fey and SNL call out the pandering? You’ll never believe the one place McCain is leading.

This presidential campaign seems to be so far beyond any hope for authentic discussion about the peace process and the disastrous 8 years of BushCo, that we are now simply reduced to pointing out cases of bald-faced pandering. While both presidential candidates have assiduously sought to avoid the topic of Israel and Palestine–Obama’s in particular disastrous AIPAC flip flop on sharing Jerusalem aside–the VPs did have a chance last Friday to nearly come to blows over who loves Israel more. (This kind of “love”– unconditional support for settlement expansion and militarism, the ultimate barriers to peace, is the original love that dare not speak its name. It’s the kind of love to nowhere that Israeli friends would respond to with a “thanks, but no thanks.”)

There is no small irony that the discourse here becomes increasingly jingoistic, kind of like a Palin rally, just as Israel’s outgoing prime minister Olmert “declared that Israel must give up control of East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and virtually the entire West Bank if it hopes to achieve peace with its neighbors.”

Amen.

As many commentators have pointed out, leave it to the comedy shows to say what no one else will. In case you’re one of the 3 people who haven’t yet seen Tina Fey’s most recent Oct 4 Sarah Palin imitation, SNL did call out Palin, though not Biden, for superficial pandering.

Forward to 2:48 on embedded video:
Latifah/Ifill: Governor Pailin? What is your position on health care regulation?
Fey/Palin: I’m going to ignore that question and instead talk about Israel.
I love Israel so much, bless its heart.
There’s a special place for Israel in heaven.
And I know some people are going to say that I’m only saying that to pander to Florida voters, but from a very young age, my two greatest loves were always Jews and Cuban food. (blows a kiss)

Bernard Avishai on Obama’s Jews: why tolerate old-guard leadership?

October’s Harpers has an excellent piece by The Hebrew Republic author Bernard Avishai who reminds us of the complex, varied and yes, enlightened Jewish world that is rendered invisible by major institutional Jewry. The ascendancy of a post-race Obama marks a massive generational and cultural power shift in the US. Avishai suggests it might also mark a similar ousting of the old guard among Jews.

Obama’s Jews
By Bernard Avishai

Last May, as he claimed the Democratic nomination, Barack Obama was ahead among Jewish voters 2 to 1. Yet, according to cable-and-blog wisdom, that was a serious problem for him. Jews—you know, “the demographic”—had voted 3 or more to 1 for Clinton, Gore, and Kerry. Jews are only about 2 percent of the population, but they make up almost 4 percent of actual voters. There are, famously, almost half a million Jewish voters in southern Florida alone. If, say, 100,000 defected to McCain, Obama would likely lose the state, even if the chads don’t hang this time. Jews are also nearly 5 percent of the Pennsylvania electorate, which Kerry carried by only 2.5 percent.

After the 1968 election, when Jews voted almost 5 to 1 for Humphrey over Nixon, the late Milton Himmelfarb groused in Commentary that Jews earned like Episcopalians and voted like Puerto Ricans. Are Jews finally growing aloof from the Democratic nominee—come to think of it, like Puerto Ricans—because he is African American? Will his fate hinge, as CNN’s Jack Cafferty suggested, on “a few old Jews in Century Village”? As Obama himself joked at a February meeting with Jews in Cleveland (Ohio is another shaky “battleground”), doesn’t every Jewish family have an uncle skeptical of the schwartzer?

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Dershowitz boasts about getting Jimmy Carter shunned by Democrats

You gotta love Alan Dershowitz, a man who says about fave-ex-president Jimmy Carter there’s “a special place in hell reserved for somebody [who] has literally become such an anti-Israel bigot,” but who  publicly promises to give anyone a reward who can identify any “prominent Jewish leader who has ever equated legitimate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism.” (SEE YOUTUBE VIDEO BELOW)  And the definition of is is?

Having handily dispatched Norman Finkelstein through his campaign to deny him tenure at DePaul, Dershowitz has a new, and much more profitable nemesis: Jimmy Carter. Dersh is already hawking his upcoming book, The Case Against Israel’s Enemies—Exposing Jimmy Carter and Others Who
Stand In the Way of Peace,
with a title so crassly Orwellian that it might even make the McCain campaign blush these days (Remember that little peace agreement with Egypt Carter made happen? What a peace-hater! See also MJ Rosenberg’s new piece on why Israel seems to merely “yawn” at the idea of full, warm relations with its Arab neighbors.)

Dershowitz, an undeniably tremendous debater but a man with no academic background in Middle East affairs, is now claiming the Democrats deliberately shunned Jimmy Carter at the recent convention because of his criticism of Israel policy. Carter says his absence at the convention was his own decision.

In fact, Dershowitz boasts his lobbying of the DNC was partially responsible for the decision to break tradition and distance themselves from a living Democratic president.

In this case, Dershowitz may be telling the truth. Has anyone seen favorite-target-of-the-pro-settler-right Obama linked in any way with Carter? It’s fairly obvious Dersh and friends have made Nobel prize winner Carter kryptonite to the Obama campaign. Not that it takes much in this environment. And they’re not done yet.

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Jon Stewart on ability to talk openly about Israeli policies

[CONSPIRACY THEORY UPDATE- SEE BELOW}

Watch The Daily Show’s Indecision 5768 on Clinton, McCain and Obama speaking at AIPAC.

Stewart says:

One part of being a good friend to Israel is constructive criticism of any of its polices that may not be in the best interest of the world, so lets hear the candidates critiques of current Israeli policy… [silent video of candidates.)

Oh I forgot! You can’t say anything remotely citical of Israel and still gete elected president. Which is funny, because you know where you can criticize Israel? Uh Israel.

June 11 UPDATE: DID THE DAILY SHOW SELF CENSOR?

We’ve been getting emails from people who said the links to the infamous Indecision 5678 segment are now dead. The direct link we have above still works fine. But it’s also true that if you don’t happen to have the direct link, it’s now impossible to find using various search mechanisms on The Daily Show website. In fact, all video segments going back to May 28 are no longer searchable on the timeline. The segment doesn’t show up in direct search, or using tags either. The entire June 5 episode is available, however, on the front page. But you’d have to know it was there to find it. It’s the Adam Sandler episode.

Accidental or deliberate? You decide.

One thing is certain, with 251,884 viewers, Indecision 5678 has proved to be one of The Daily Show’s most popular segments ever.

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NYT op-ed: American Jewish organizations are the obstacle to peace

I don’t exactly see the world the way Jeffrey Goldberg does, but on these points I couldn’t agree with him more. His Sunday NYT op-ed, in a special issue looking at 60 years of Israeli independence, insisted that hope for an independent Palestinian state requires not just the ending of but the “reversal of the West Bank settlement project.” On this, pretty much the entire world, including many Israelis, agree. But why hasn’t it happened? Why isn’t the United States demanding the removal of settlements, instead of issuing half-hearted useless warnings while Israel continues to build more and more settlements each day on land that does not belong to it?

(One can only imagine the groans of contempt in the audience this week as President Bush excoriated Arab leaders for their closed systems and violations of human rights, only days after the love-fest at the Knesset where he conveniently overlooked Israel’s role in degrading human rights in the region. )

Goldberg says the problem is American Jewish organizations, who through some fantasized world of their own making, insist on taking positions to the right of even Olmert. The relationship between most American Jews and Israel has always been mediated through fundraisers for the state. Jews have been sold a heady mix of heroic myth-making and vicarious pride. And until now, it has worked, if you don’t actually pick up a newspaper or go to Israel and step out of the carefully scripted tours to see the complex reality. (Yes, just like the US is a much more complex reality than the one-dimensional “patriotic” pablum we are often asked to ingest.)

But Israelis don’t need “friends” who promote a fantasy-based idea of who they are and what they need. They need friends who know how to say, enough is enough. You are destroying yourselves and taking everyone with you. As Goldberg observed,

…by the standards of rhetorical correctness maintained by such groups as the Conference of Presidents and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or Aipac, Mr. Obama is actually more pro-Israel than either Ehud Olmert or Ehud Barak. (To say nothing of John McCain and President George W. Bush, who spoke to the Knesset last week about external threats to Israel’s safety but made no mention of the country’s missteps.)

Goldberg knows the settlements are the main obstacle to peace, and that the US, and anyone who wants to be president of the US, refuses to hold the Israeli government accountable.

So why won’t American leaders push Israel publicly? Or, more to the point, why do presidential candidates dance so delicately around this question? The answer is obvious: The leadership of the organized American Jewish community has allowed the partisans of settlement to conflate support for the colonization of the West Bank with support for Israel itself.

Goldberg argues that “unthinking American support does hurt Israel.” And it does. But why can’t our presidential candidates actually say what they think, and have an honest conversation about blind US support for terrible Israeli policies?

They should be able to talk, in blunt terms, about the full range of dangers faced by Israel, including the danger Israel has brought upon itself.

But this won’t happen until Aipac and the leadership of the American Jewish community allow it to happen.

It’s time for this older generation of leaders to step out of the way and allow a different generation to take the reins.

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