Barack Obama Still Can’t Normalize His Ties to Israel

by Hugh Fitzgerald

The first volume of Barack Obama’s presidential memoir is out, and A Promised Land confirms what we all knew: Obama was, and remains, hostile to Israel, for which he displays a palpable want of sympathy. A report by on his attitude toward and treatment of Israel, as revealed in this book, can be found here: “For Obama, Israel was ‘No Promised Land,’” by Mitchell Bard, JNS, February 2, 2021:

Barack Obama was one of the least qualified presidents when it came to knowledge of foreign policy, and that ignorance was reflected in his policymaking. This was especially true in the Middle East, where his policies towards Israel, Syria, Iran, Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia were disastrous. In the case of Israel, his lack of knowledge was compounded by receiving terrible advice from most of his advisers….

Among those advisers was the pro-Iran, anti-Israel Robert Malley, who under Obama headed the Middle East desk of the National Security Council and became, in November 2015, Obama’s new special ISIS advisor. Malley has just been appointed by Biden to be the Special Envoy to Iran. A second adviser on foreign policy was John Kerry, who as Obama’s Secretary of State conducted negotiations with his friend Iranian Foreign Minister Javid Zarif, and proudly signed the disastrous 2015 Iran nuclear deal. A third was Ben Rhodes, the Deputy National Security Adviser (for which his M.A. in Creative Writing apparently prepared him), who expressed his fury at Israel for having, he claimed, “tens of thousands of settlements under construction” in the West Bank (the total number of Israeli settlements in the West Bank is 230). These were the people from whom Obama took tuition on the Middle East.

He starts out by dating the Arab-Jewish conflict to the Balfour Declaration when, in fact, it preceded that by centuries. It began with Muslims treating Jews as dhimmis and escalated from the time Jews began to return to their homeland at the end of the 19th century.

That conflict did not precede the Balfour Declaration merely by centuries, but by 1,300 years. The Arab-Jewish conflict is as old as Islam itself. Jews were denied equality of rights in Muslim polities, including in Palestine, which was ruled by Muslim Arabs and then, for hundreds of years, when it was part of the Ottoman Empire, by Muslim Turks.

He [Obama] says this was followed by “a surge of Jewish migration to Palestine and organized highly trained armed forces to defend their settlements.” Jewish immigration was actually severely limited by the British while it was the Arabs whose immigration to Palestine grew exponentially. “Trained armed forces” makes the small number of mostly ill-trained, poorly armed underground fighters sound like a mighty army. Most telling is the lack of any mention of how Arabs terrorized the Jews throughout the British Mandate period.

There was no “surge of Jewish migration,” but a small though steady growth before World War I; during that war the Jewish population actually fell but resumed in the post-war period. Meanwhile there was a “surge of Arab migration” to Palestine; Arabs from neighboring areas –Lebanon, Syria, the Emirate of Transjordan — were attracted by the increase in economic activity provided by the Jewish pioneers. Obama appears ignorant of this development.

Parroting the far-left version of history he intimates Arab opposition to partition was a result of their “just emerging from colonial rule,” rather than anti-Semitism and a desire among neighboring leaders to carve up Palestine for themselves. The real whopper follows: “As Britain withdrew, the two sides quickly fell into war.”

The Arabs were not “just emerging from colonial rule” but – thanks to the military efforts of Great Britain – were freed of the Ottoman yoke, that is rule by fellow Muslims.

When Obama writes that “as Britain withdrew, the two sides quickly fell into war” he ignores the fact that from the 1920s on, the Arabs were already engaged in “war” against the Jewish pioneers, constantly attacking their outposts, villages, and cities. In 1920 they attacked the Jews in the Old City. In 1929, Arabs massacred every Jewish inhabitant who did not manage to flee, from infants to the very old, in Hebron, the second holiest city of Judaism. During the “Arab Revolt” of 1936-1939, Arabs attacked both the British soldiers and Jewish civilians. That warfare carried on by Palestinian Arabs against Jews in Mandatory Palestine became full-scale war in 1948, when the armies of five Arab states invaded the nascent state of Israel.

In fact, the Arabs had threatened to massacre the Jews before the vote on partition; they began to attack immediately after the vote, and four [sic] Arab nations invaded when the British left. People fall in love; they don’t fall into war.

Continuing his recitation of the Palestinian narrative masquerading as history, Obama writes that roughly 700,000 Palestinians “found themselves stateless and driven from their lands.”

Once again, he portrays the Arabs as passive when most of the Palestinians—nowhere near 700,000—left their homes because they expected the Arab armies to drive the Jews into the sea and wanted to avoid being caught in the crossfire. Wealthy Palestinians left before the war even began. Obama even uses the Palestinian description of the event, referring to it as the nakba—the “disaster” or “catastrophe.”…

Obama’s figure of “700,000” Palestinian Arabs who “were driven from their lands” is absurd. The estimates vary; the CIA reported that “330,000” Palestinian Arabs had become refugees; a U.N. report in the immediate aftermath of the fighting claimed there were “360,000.” Others say that “as many as 500,000-600,000” may have left. What Obama doesn’t realize is that very quickly other, non-Palestinian Arabs, from Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon (and even from Arab countries further afield) claimed to be “Palestinian Arabs” in order to obtain the many benefits – housing, food, family allowances – that were being provided by UNRWA, thus swelling the number of those counted as “Palestinian Arabs.” UNRWA staffers – themselves mostly Palestinian Arabs – knew of the fraud but did nothing to stop it.

The other vulgar error Obama makes is his description of the Palestinian refugees as having “been driven from their lands.” Almost none were “driven” out. They chose to leave Mandatory Palestine/Israel” because they were instructed to do so by Arab broadcasts from abroad. The Arab Higher Committee urged the Palestinian Arabs to leave in order to get out of the way of the fighting; they were assured that the Arab victory would be swift and they could then return home safely. And with the Jews either killed or expelled, the returning Arabs could also help themselves to the property of those Jews had left behind. Meanwhile, some Israeli officials, including the Mayor of Haifa, pleaded with the Arabs to stay. But that part of the story of “Palestinian refugees who fled’ has apparently not penetrated the skull of Barack Obama.

Obama does not explain the preparations for war made by the Arab states beginning in late 1947, for what would be, according to the Secretary General of the Arab League Azzam Pasha – if Jews went ahead with their proposed establishment of a Jewish state — “a war of extermination and momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacre and the Crusades.” It’s a famous quotation, but Obama is clearly unaware of it. He thinks that somehow the parties “just fell into war,” when the Arabs had been arming, training, and planning for such a war if the Jews insisted on declaring their little state.

Nor, in A Promised Land, does Obama mention the thousands of terrorist attacks from 1949 to 19576, carried out against Israeli civilians, mostly by Egyptian fedayeen attacking, from their outposts in the Sinai, Jewish farmers in southern Israel.. Putting paid to such attacks was the main reason Israel went to war in the Sinai Campaign.

Obama ignores all mention of the 1973 war, because after a surprise attack by Egypt and Syria, Israel was in danger of losing that war. He wants to avoid any hint of Israeli vulnerability; Israel is for him the “stronger power” from which concessions must be wrung. He discusses only the Six-Day War, as if to suggest that Israel’s spectacular victory in 1967 undermined Israel’s claim that it needed to hold onto certain territories it won in that war were not justified by history; Israel was far more secure, in Obama’s view, than it wanted the Americans to believe.He never mentions, for example, the insistence not only of Israel’s top brass, but also of a team of American military experts who went to Israel after the Six-Day War and prepared a report for President Johnson on Israel’s minimum territorial needs, that continued control of the Jordan Valley was critical to securing Israel against an invader from the east.

Obama says the Palestinians in the “occupied territories, mostly in refugee camps, found themselves governed by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), with their movements and economic activity severely restricted, prompting calls for armed resistance and resulting in the rise of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).”

Chronology is not Obama’s strong suit (for that matter, what is?). He says that the IDF’s control of Judea and Samaria (a/k/a the “West Bank)” after the Six-Day War in 1967 led to the rise of the PLO. In fact, the PLO terror group was founded three years before the Six-Day War, and the so-called “occupation.” It had already carried out hundreds of terror attacks on Israeli civilians when there was not a single Israeli either in Gaza or the West Bank.

Obama’s belief in spontaneous combustion is repeated in his description of the Second Intifada, which takes place while Ariel Sharon is Israeli prime minister. No mention that the violence was instigated by PLO chief Yasser Arafat after he rejected Ehud Barak’s offer of a Palestinian state. He does mention Palestinian suicide bombers and Hamas rockets, but his main focus is on Israel’s response—“tear gas and rubber bullets,” “IDF retaliatory raids and the indiscriminate arrest of thousands of Palestinians,” and “U.S.-supplied Israeli Apache helicopters leveling entire neighborhoods.”

The Second Intifada was meant to take international attention away from Arafat’s refusal of Ehud Barak’s generous offer of nearly 100% of the West Bank, and to focus on the supposed oppression of Palestinians by Israelis, beginning with the “offense” of Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount, a visit during which Sharon did nothing more than what hundreds of Israelis did each day when they visited the Temple Mount. He did not violate the rule against Jews praying on the Temple Mount; he did not approach the Al-Aqsa Mosque; he only came to exercise his right to visit the Temple Mount. Jibril Rajoub, the PLO’s second in command, had been forewarned and declared he had no objection to the visit. Arafat, however, saw an opportunity, and decided to make the visit into a casus belli, a reason for the Second Intifada to explode, and it did. Obama doesn’t explain why the Palestinians started the Second Intifada; his focus is on Israel’s response to Palestinian acts of violence – that “tear gas and rubber bullets” (which he fails to note, were used to halt rioters throwing stones and Molotov cocktails, the “IDF retaliatory raids” (but he fails to explain what kinds of terror attacks the Israelis were retaliating against), the “indiscriminate arrest of thousands of Palestinians” (no such “indiscriminate arrest of thousands”” ever happened), and as for those U.S. helicopters which Israel supposedly used in “”leveling entire neighborhoods” – that is venomous fantasy.

First published in Jihad Watch.


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