by Hugh Fitzgerald
Before, during, and after his presidency Barack Obama has been distinctly unfriendly to Israel. He portrays the Jewish state as an unyielding aggressor, the powerful overlord of generally inoffensive Palestinians who are kept down by violence. He piles error upon error, in discussing how Israel somehow “fell into war” with the Palestinians. He scarcely refers to Palestinian terror groups and their thousands of victims. “For Obama, Israel was ‘No Promised Land,’” by Mitchell Bard, JNS, February 2, 2021:
He says that Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza. True, but he should also know that it would be meaningless if Egypt did not impose its own blockade.
Why did Obama make no mention of Egypt’s blockade, which was less justified than that by Israel? For Hamas in Gaza was a direct threat to Israel’s security, while the terror group was only tangentially a threat, through its connection to the Muslim Brotherhood, to the state and citizens of Egypt.
Nor did Obama mention that food and medicines were not part of the blockade but allowed in by Israel, and that hundreds of trucks full of such goods enter the Gaza Strip from Israel every day. The blockade is aimed not at making life miserable for Palestinians in Gaza, but only at preventing Hamas from obtaining weapons and “dual-use” materials that can have both civilian and military uses. Cement, for example, can be used to build houses, but can also be used for terror tunnels and artillery emplacements. Thus, beyond a certain amount that Israel calculates the Gazans will of necessity put to civilian use, it is banned.
In another example of his minimizing the terror threat, Obama writes, “Every so often, rocket fire from Gaza still endangered those living in Israeli border towns.” Let’s see, in 2006, there were 974 rockets, 783 in 2007, 2,084 in 2008, 158 in 2009 and 103 in 2010. His first year in office there were 375 and, the following year, 1,632. In 2014, more than 4,000 rockets were launched into Israel. How would he have reacted if the United States was bombarded by thousands of rockets?
“Every so often” there is rocket fire? Once or twice or five or ten times each day is not “every so often.” What Obama should have written is “Rocket fire from Gaza directed at towns in southern Israel continue to rain down on Israel, anywhere from twice a week to ten times a day, depending on the year.” That conveys a much more accurate idea of the scope of the terror problem.
Advisers have the most influence when they reinforce the preconceived notions of the president. Not surprisingly, the Arabists succeeded in leading him astray because he already held similar beliefs about Israel’s supposed negative impact on U.S. interests. “The Israeli occupation continued to inflame the Arab community,” he wrote, for example, “and feed anti-American sentiment across the Muslim world. In other words, the absence of peace between Israel and the Palestinians made America less safe.”
What makes “America less safe” is the failure of its governing class, including Barack Obama, to study the texts and teachings of Islam, which should be a sine qua non for policymakers trying to understand the hostility of Muslim Arabs toward the American – and other — Infidels.
Mitchell Bard again notes:
This overlooks the hostility towards America that would [still] exist if Israel disappeared and, as he did throughout his presidency, ignores radical Islam’s war on the West. He even contradicts what he wrote earlier about the Arabs losing interest in the Palestinian issue because they were more concerned with Iran.
Like other supporters of the Palestinians, he also couldn’t care less about Palestinian human rights outside of how they were impacted by the Israeli “occupation.” He mentions Palestinians lacking “the basic rights that even citizens of non-democratic nations enjoyed.” Well, yes, because the Palestinian Authority is not a democracy and denies Palestinians their civil and human rights.
Obama makes no further comment in his memoir on the twin despotisms of Hamas in Gaza and the PA in the West Bank. He doesn’t mention that corrupt leaders have managed to divert to their own pockets so much of the aid intended by foreign donors to help a largely impoverished population. Not a word about the hallucinatory sums they have stolen: two Hamas leaders, Khaled Meshaal and Mousa Abu Marzouk, have each acquired the scarcely-believable fortunes of $2.5 billion dollars; the PA President-For-Life Mahmoud Abbas has a nest egg of $400 million. Nor does he explain that Hamas has a habit of murdering its political rivals – members of Fatan — in the Strip. And as for the PA ,Mahmoud Abbas is now in the fifteenth year of his four-year term. Such information would vividly convey the political nightmare ordinary Palestinians are enduring. Obama prefers to go easy on the Palestinian leaders; he saves his savage indignation for Israel.
He also dehumanizes Israelis, referring to Palestinians being subject to “the suspicions of every blank-faced, rifle-carrying soldier demanding to see their papers at each checkpoint they passed.”
This description of Israeli soldiers – young people, in their late teens, fulfilling their national service, trying only to protect Israelis against terrorist attacks – as “blank-faced, rifle-carrying” soldiers, makes them into unsympathetic robotic enforcers for an unfeeling regime. Note that the soldiers do not “ask” but “demand” to see the Palestinians’ papers, and not just once but “at each checkpoint they passed.” Here is how Obama might have described their task: “in order to provide security to Israel’s civilian population, youthful conscripts stationed at checkpoints ask to see the papers of Palestinians. It’s an unpleasant but also, alas, a necessary task.”
I’m pretty sure Obama never visited a checkpoint. If he did, he would find soldiers alert and armed to defend the country against a terrorist trying to infiltrate with a bomb. Whatever suspicions they have are based on the history of Palestinian suicide bombings and other attacks.
Jimmy Carter left office resentful over the Jews’ abandonment of him in 1980, which he partially blamed for his re-election loss. Obama apparently has similar bitterness. He complains about AIPAC and a “whisper campaign” by Jews who didn’t think he was pro-Israel enough. Even after acknowledging he got more than 70 percent of the Jewish vote (his share dropped from 78 percent to 69 percent in 2012 in large measure because of his hostile policies towards Israel), he said many AIPAC board members still suspected him of “divided loyalties” and didn’t believe he had a strong feeling for Israel “in his kishkes.”
What is Obama complaining about? Despite his anti-Israel attitudes, that were apparent before he became President — let’s not forget his chosen pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whose Sunday rants he dutifully attended — he still received 78 per cent of the Jewish vote in his first time out, and 69%, despite those same hostile attitudes and now with a track record of anti-Israel policies to go with them, in his second election. And when he complains about those who thought he didn’t have strong feelings – i.e., sympathy – for Israel, he accuses them of suspecting him of having “divided loyalties” (to both Palestinians and Israelis), a phrase that constitutes a deliberate and nasty reference to the charge made that Jews have “divided loyalties.”
Another hint of the failure of his Middle East policy is his belief that P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas unequivocally recognized Israel and renounced violence, all evidence to the contrary. Obama said he needed a way to get Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abbas to negotiate, and he relied on “a talented group of diplomats” who proved to be anything but, as evident by his decision to call for a settlement freeze, a concession the Palestinians never demanded. Abbas said later, “If America says it and Europe says it and the whole world says it, you want me not to say it?”
Abbas never renounced violence as an instrument of policy. He promoted – and still does — terrorist violence through the PA’s “Pay-For-Slay” program, that provided the families of dead or imprisoned terrorists with monthly stipends that were two to three times the average salary of a Palestinian wage-earner. He also named streets and plazas after terrorist murderers, making them into heroes worthy of being emulated. He had their images plastered on the side of buildings. Abbas did nothing to revise the Palestinian schoolbooks that contain antisemitic passages that would not have been out of place in the Third Reich. About any of this, Obama has not a word. It was Israel’s settlement policy that truly exercised him. He didn’t need to know anything about the express provisions of the Mandate for Palestine, that declare the need to “facilitate Jewish immigration” and “encourage close settlement by Jews on the land.” He already knew, because so many of his “talented group of diplomats” had told him, that the Israeli settlements were “in violation of international law.” How unfortunate it is that Obama never bothered to find out for himself, perhaps by reading such studies as the exhaustive study by that celebrated scholar of international law, Professor Julius Stone, whose magisterial Israel and Palestine: An Assault On the Law of Nations, dissects, one by one, the flimsy arguments presented to deny Israel its rights of settlement in Judea and Samaria.
Obama only asked Abbas to end incitement and violence, but a few paragraphs before he had claimed that Abbas had renounced violence. The Palestinians promised this in 1993, but never did and never would. Showing again what was in his kishkes, Obama said: “It was reasonable to ask the stronger party to take a bigger first step in the direction of peace.”
Obama mentions his Cairo speech in passing. [That speech was written by Ben Rhodes, but this does not let Obama off the hook. He chose to deliver it. He hasn’t disavowed a bit of it.] What he doesn’t acknowledge is how that set his policy off on the wrong foot from his very first foreign trip. First, it set the tone for his unwillingness to acknowledge the threat of radical Islam. Second, his refusal to visit Israel reinforced the skepticism about his kishkes. Third, he doesn’t mention the stop in Saudi Arabia on the way, where the king told him he wouldn’t cooperate with his peace initiative helping to doom it from the outset.
The Cairo speech was full of praise for Islam, for Muslims, and for the supposedly important part both have played in America’s history. His comments, each more absurd than the next, should be remembered:
I’ve come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles — principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.
And then for his Muslim guests he segued into a flattering lesson in History. First he described Western Civ., which, he said, owed so much of its development to Islam:
As a student of history, I also know civilization’s debt to Islam. It was Islam — at places like Al-Azhar — that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities — (applause) — it was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed. Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality. (Applause.)
And Islam played — according to Obama — a significant role in American history, too:
I also know that Islam has always been a part of America’s story. The first nation to recognize my country was Morocco. In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second President, John Adams, wrote, “The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims.” And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, they have served in our government, they have stood for civil rights, they have started businesses, they have taught at our universities, they’ve excelled in our sports arenas, they’ve won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic Torch. And when the first Muslim American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution using the same Holy Koran that one of our Founding Fathers — Thomas Jefferson — kept in his personal library. (Applause.)
There is scarcely a single clause in this paean of praise to Islam and Muslims that is true. See “Obama, Islam, and History” here.
Obama says that Abbas was upset because Netanyahu didn’t freeze settlement construction in eastern Jerusalem, but this was a result of Obama’s blunder. By calling for the freeze, Obama alienated the Israelis and, by failing to force Israel to include Jerusalem, convinced the Palestinians that he didn’t have the will to do what they expected after he had given them the impression he would force Israel to capitulate to their demands.
There is one statement worth mentioning unrelated to Israel. Obama writes: “What if a government starts massacring not hundreds of its citizens but thousands and the United States has the power to stop it. Then what?”
He provided the answer by doing nothing for most of his four years because, as he explained, he was afraid there was no telling where the obligation would end….
That turned out not to be a hypothetical. The government of Syria massacred not “thousands,” but hundreds of thousands of its citizens; the United States had “the power to stop it,” but during the presidency of Barack Obama did practically nothing.
Carter was the most anti-Israel president in history. His enmity—some would even say anti-Semitism—became even more evident when he was out of office. Obama’s hostility towards Israel rivals Carter’s, and his memoir helps us understand why. What is more disturbing, however, is that many of the advisers who contributed to Obama’s disastrous policies have been appointed by U.S President Joe Biden to key positions. We can only hope they learned from their mistakes. The early returns are not encouraging.
Biden has named Robert Malley – pro-Iran and cold-hearted toward Israel — his Special Envoy on Iran. Samantha Power, whose defense of Israel as our ambassador at the UN was singularly lukewarm – especially when one compares her with Nikki Haley — will be the head of USAID, John Kerry will be in charge of dealing with global warming, which at least keeps him from doing more damage negotiating about nuclear matters with his friend Javid Zarif. Tony Blinken, for good and ill, will be Secretary of State, and Jake Sullivan, betwixt and between the same two possibilities, will be National Security Advisor. And Biden, of course, will be Biden. If you care about the wellbeing of Israel, and the security of the West, hold onto your seats. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.
First published in Jihad Watch.
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