Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Obama’s Unintended Compliment for Israel

March 25, 2013 3:27 am 2 comments

U.S. President Barack Obama waves before addressing Israeli students at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem on March 21, 2013. Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

This article by Shohana Bryen was originally published by the Gatestone Institute.

President Obama’s visit to Israel, and particularly his speech to 500 university students, was a winner at many levels including one he probably had not even considered. In how many countries can the President of the United States call forth the passions of the local people and have confidence that he is calling forth the “better angels”? He did it in Israel.

The President touched on deeply felt emotions for Israelis, worked hard at erasing the faux pas of relating Israel’s national origins to the Holocaust, twice declined to call Israeli settlements “illegal” while standing next to PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, and he praised Israeli technology, ingenuity, democracy and culture. Remarking on the upheaval in the Arab world he said, “So much of what people in the region are seeking is happening here (Israel).”

Yes, that is something he should have said in Cairo or Ramallah. And yes, he called for a “two state solution” that has little chance of success. And yes, yes, he made false analogies between Palestinians and Israelis. And yes, yes, yes, he called Abbas, whose single elected term expired in 2009 and who has been increasingly repressive and willing to incite against Israel and the U.S., a “partner.” And no, Israel cannot “reverse an undertow of isolation,” that is generated by other people in other lands who do not accept that, at the end of any “peace process,” Israel will still exist.

But okay. Those are things that should have been and were expected from President Obama. It was also expected that he would encourage his youthful, carefully selected, leftish college student audience to push the rightish government of Israel to do what he could not convince Prime Minister Netanyahu to do. He directly asked the audience to pressure its government.

In full campaign mode, Mr. Obama told them, “Speaking as a politician, I can promise you this: political leaders will not take risks if the people do not demand that they do. You must create the change that you want to see. (People can) overcome a legacy of mistrust that they inherited from their parents… Your voices must be louder than the extremists who would drown them out. Your hopes must light the way forward.”

That is a call to protest, to political insurrection. The interesting part is that he assumed igniting a political firestorm in Israel would have a positive effect.

Unspoken — maybe because the President had not expressly thought it — was that if young Israelis “do it,” if they “create the change they want to see,” what they create will be a force for good. He assumed without saying it that the voices they would raise would be voices for peace. He assumed without saying it that Israeli hopes are hopes for peace. And he is right, although it should be said that hopes for peace reside all along the Israeli political spectrum. Those of the right want peace no less than those of the left; they just have different levels of skepticism.

But what if it is not peace in the hearts of the people, but something malign?

Mr. Obama referenced his Cairo speech to the Israelis. “Four years ago, I stood in Cairo in front of an audience of young people. Politically, religiously, they must seem a world away. But the things they want — they’re not so different from you. The ability to make their own decisions; to get an education and a good job; to worship God in their own way; to get married and have a family. The same is true of the young Palestinians that I met in Ramallah this morning, and of young Palestinians who yearn for a better life in Gaza. That is where peace begins — not just in the plans of leaders, but in the hearts of people.”

Certainly the beginning of the Arab uprising in Tunis and in Tahrir Square was focused on jobs and justice (although not on “peace” with Israel or anyone else). But the result was not the flowering of education, work and peaceful relations. It was the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, violence and the collapse of the Egyptian economy. And clearly many of the Brotherhood’s supporters are young Egyptians. Intolerance for Egypt’s Coptic citizens and the increasing violence in several cities attest to the dangers of calling for changes in or of government. Without wanting a return to the repression of the old government, it is safe to say that the revolution did not bring forth a better one.

Calling for an uprising in Pakistan does not seem like a great idea.

If the President told young Palestinians in Ramallah to demand that the PA “take risks” in “voices louder than” the opposition, it is likely that the Fatah government of Mahmoud Abbas would fall to the more radical and more popular Hamas. After years of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic indoctrination in the schools and the general media, it is not realistic to believe that Palestinians desire what the President told Israelis to desire: “A future in which Jews, Muslims and Christians can all live in peace and greater prosperity in this Holy Land.” And maybe that is why the President did not say it to the Palestinians.

President Obama, perhaps inadvertently, made the case for U.S.-Israel relations grounded in the most fundamental shared values. Israel — like the United States — is that rare country in which the government does not fear the protest of the people, and the people do not fear protesting.

This article by Shohana Bryen was originally published by the Gatestone Institute.

2 Comments

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Features World Graves of Jewish Pirates in Jamaica Give Caribbean Tourists Taste of Little-Known History

    Graves of Jewish Pirates in Jamaica Give Caribbean Tourists Taste of Little-Known History

    Tour operators are calling attention to Jamaica’s little-known Jewish heritage by arranging visits to historic Jewish sites on the Caribbean island, including a cemetery where Jewish pirates are buried. A report in Travel and Leisure magazine describes the Hunts Bay Cemetery in Kingston, where there are seven tombstones engraved with Hebrew benedictions and skull and crossbones insignia. According to the report, centuries ago, Jewish pirates sailed the waters of Jamaica and settled in Port Royal. The town, once known as “the wickedest city in the […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Filmmaker Eyal Resh Embraces the Challenge of Telling Israel’s Story (VIDEO)

    Filmmaker Eyal Resh Embraces the Challenge of Telling Israel’s Story (VIDEO)

    JNS.org – Telling Israel’s story. It’s the specific title of a short film that Eyal Resh created last year. It’s also the theme behind the 27-year-old Israeli filmmaker’s broader body of work. The widely viewed “Telling Israel’s Story” film—directed by Resh for a gala event hosted by the Times of Israel online news outlet—seemingly begins as a promotional tourism video, but quickly evolves to offer a multilayered perspective. “I want to tell you a story about a special place for me,” a young woman whispers […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Israel Geeks Out: Science, Art and Tech Event Embodies Jewish State’s ‘DNA’

    Israel Geeks Out: Science, Art and Tech Event Embodies Jewish State’s ‘DNA’

    JNS.org – The entrance to Jerusalem’s Sacher Park was transformed from April 25-27 by a fire-breathing robotic dragon, which flailed its arms and attempted to take flight. The robot, a signature feature at Jerusalem’s first-ever “Geek Picnic,” was one of more than 150 scientific amusements available for the public to experience. This particular dragon was designed by students from Moscow’s Art Industrial Institute in conjunction with the Flacon design factory, said Anatasia Shaminer, a student who helped facilitate the display. Children […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Opinion The Syrian Virgin (REVIEW)

    The Syrian Virgin (REVIEW)

    The Syrian Virgin, by Zack Love. CreateSpace, 2015. The Syrian Virgin, by Zack Love, is a very interesting novel. Equally a political and romantic thriller, at times a real page-turner, it gets you intimately involved in the dire situation in today’s Syria, as well as in the romantic entanglements of its mostly New York-based characters — whose entanglements just might determine the fate of that dire situation in Syria. Along the way it introduces a really important idea that somehow […]

    Read more →
  • Features Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    JNS.org – Aside from Israel itself, those with a vested interest in the Jewish state are accustomed to tracking developments related to Middle East players such as Iran, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. But much global attention has recently focused on the Caucasus region at the Europe-Asia border, specifically on the suddenly intensified violence between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh area of western Azerbaijan. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, while not taking place in Israel’s immediate neighborhood, does have what one scholar called […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    JNS.org – On Friday, April 22, 196 nations across the world mark Earth Day, the annual day dedicated to environmental protection that was enacted in 1970. Not to be forgotten on this day is Israel, which is known as the “start-up nation” for its disproportionate amount of technological innovation, including in the area of protecting the environment. For Earth Day 2016, JNS.org presents a sampling of the Jewish state’s internal achievements and global contributions in the environmental realm. Water conservation Israeli […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture World New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    Holocaust humor and the role that laughter played in the lives of Jews during World War II are the focus of a documentary that made its world premiere on Monday at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. In The Last Laugh, first- and second-generation survivors, as well as famous Jewish and non-Jewish comedians, discuss their thoughts on when joking about the death camps is appropriate or taboo. “Nazi humor, that’s OK. Holocaust humor, no,” Jewish comedic giant, actor and filmmaker Mel Brooks says in the film. “Anything I […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    JNS.org – Sherri Mandell’s life was devastated on May 8, 2001, when her 13-year-old son Koby was murdered by terrorists on the outskirts of the Israeli Jewish community of Tekoa. Yet Mandell not only shares the story of her loss, but also celebrates the lessons she has learned from tragedy. Indeed, “celebrate” is this Israeli-American author’s word choice. Her second book, The Road to Resilience: From Chaos to Celebration (Toby Press), came out earlier this year. The lesson: in every celebration, there is […]

    Read more →