Another Tack: Bewitched, bothered and bewildered

Too many Israelis who should have known lots better were reduced to the infatuation of a bewitched, bothered and bewildered teenager.

March 28, 2013 21:39
FRANK SINATRA as Pal Joey in 1957: Joey starts out by insulting Vera.

sinatra. (photo credit: Courtesy)

How American President Barack Obama stroked our ego with all those smiles, all the photos he obligingly posed for, all the seemingly folksy chitchats, all that backslapping, all those effusive flatteries, all the facile historic allusions, all the Hebrew words he was painstakingly taught to enunciate by his Jewish aides – most of them left-wingers with well-known Peace Now sympathies.

It worked, at least for the short haul – like it did for Pal Joey in his very calculated and cynical pursuit of older-woman Vera Simpson. In the Rodgers and Hart1940 musical adaptation of John O’Hara’s joyless book, Joey is a manipulative but charming heel. He starts out by insulting Vera but then plots with sly sentimentality to wow her. Vera, no ingénue, knows that Joey’s sweet nothings are insincere but she nevertheless surrenders to them because she loves to be loved.

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 Owning up to her own frailties, she belts out:
“I’m wild again,
Beguiled again,
A simpering, whimpering child again,
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered am I!
…Seen a lot.
I mean I lot,
But now I'm like sweet seventeen a lot.
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered am I!”

 Too many Israelis who should have known lots better were likewise reduced to the infatuation of a bewitched, bothered and bewildered teenager.

Nothing exemplified this better than the rousing applause which followed each mention of the name “Palestine” in Obama’s hour-long showpiece speech at the Jerusalem International Convention Center.

True, his audience of mostly students was scrupulously sifted a priori and was anything but a representative sample of the Israeli aggregate. Ariel University students were shamefully barred – an affront which should have spurred fellow students into a boycott as a minimal show of solidarity. However, all the others were screened out as well, assuring Obama of a friendly if bogus forum. Beside the affectation of straight-talking to the commoners, it’s obvious why the Knesset was a far less desirable option for his purposes. At least some of our parliamentarians weren’t likely to obsequiously acquiesce to the sham.

Obama was seeking out a quasi-Vera who’d be thrilled out of her mind by his attentions. It’s evident that his Israeli listeners were indeed suitably enthralled and hence the rapturous ovations at the mention of the synthetic Palestine, with which the enemies we prefer to call peace-partners want to replace the Jewish state.

It’s hard to imagine that any Arab or Muslim audience anywhere would so enthusiastically acclaim the mention of Israel. But that’s only one anomaly that the supposedly critical thinkers from the halls of academe failed to consider.

There was plenty else in Obama’s efforts to make friends and influence people that shouldn’t have gone down well with Israeli students, regardless of their political orientation. It boggles the mind that any Israeli who occasionally listens to the news or glances at a newspaper didn’t feel badly stung by descriptions of how we supposedly oppress the downtrodden Palestinian masses wallowing in the misery of our occupation.

Simplistically deceptive Obama appeared to tug at the heartstrings of his captivated Israeli Vera: “the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and justice must also be recognized. Put yourself in their shoes – look at the world through their eyes. It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of her own, and lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements of her parents every single day. It is not just when settler violence against Palestinians goes unpunished.  It is not right to prevent Palestinians from farming their lands; to restrict a student’s ability to move around the West Bank; or to displace Palestinian families from their home. Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer. Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land.”

Obama’s crude one-dimensional assertions might indeed suffice to sway a just-landed Martian. But Israeli students should have at least experienced acute nausea.

Did Israel prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state? Did the so-called Palestinians not violently reject the UN Partition plan of 1947 geared to set up both Jewish and Arab states in this land? Did the Arab world not launch a bloody war to destroy the day-old Jewish state? Was their purpose to found a Palestinian state or to obliterate the Jewish state?  Why did Obama’s long ramble include no reference to the repeated Arab onslaughts on Israel?

And why on earth was that purportedly coveted Palestinian state not created between 1948 and 1967 when Arabs held all the territory now piteously yearned for? Who impeded Palestinian self-determination for 19 whole years?

But then we get to the cloying emotional exploitation about the child, her parents, their curtailed movement, the foreign army, the frustrated farmers, the alleged displacement of families and settler violence. All this is presented detached from any context, as if it’s all factually accurate and, to boot, the product of arbitrary Israeli hardheartedness.

The absence of any causality leads to outright distortion. That’s a given always. Deep suspicions should be aroused whenever historical background is opportunely deleted. Obama may be the Israeli Vera’s darling Pal Joey but, endearing as he strove to be, he twisted and warped the truth. By dramatically reiterating Palestinian accusations, divorced conveniently from any perspective, Obama misrepresented our reality.

His Israeli listeners, though, should not be gullible saps. All of them, radical left-wingers included, know full well that until terror was unleashed in our streets, Arabs from the so-called occupied territories entered Israel utterly unhindered every day. No roadblocks or checkpoints interfered with anyone’s routine.

Things only changed when buses started exploding here, when going to the supermarket or school became perilous, when a family outing could mean gruesome carnage. But did Obama appraise Palestinian inconvenience versus Israeli lives? He knows why things are the way they are. By pretending not to be aware, he proved himself disingenuous in the extreme.

His rhetoric about settler violence is just as dishonest. Has Obama weighed the marginal misdemeanors of a minority of settlers against the officially-sponsored terror worship of Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority? Schools, the media and the mosques all glorify mass-murderers and incite to hate under Abbas’s auspices.

And, for Obama’s edification, there are no ruthless expulsions of Arab families, but there are ruthless expulsions of Jewish families. Moreover, were Obama’s wishes to come true, hundreds of thousands of Jews would be rendered homeless because they reside beyond the Green Line. This includes entire densely inhabited Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem.

There was more artful feigning of innocence. In apparent deadpan earnest, Obama argued: “Of course, Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with anyone who is dedicated to its destruction. But while I know you have had differences with the Palestinian Authority, I believe that you do have a true partner in President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad.”

Really? The adamant refusal to at all recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state betrays the perception of Israel as a temporary de facto entity to be Arabized in future via the influx of millions of hostile “repatriated refugees.” This doesn’t betoken peace but another route to our destruction.

And who does Abbas speak for? He has lost Gaza. His term of office in Ramallah has expired years ago. He still postures only because Israel props him up. He is as much a peace partner as an effigy of our making would be.

 But that’s hardly the worst of Obama’s propaganda offensive.  Imagine if Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had appeared before a gathering of hand-picked American students and appealed to them to oppose what their elected leaders consider to be the most vital existential interests of the United States?

What if Netanyahu addressed specific controversies uppermost on the US agenda? What if he dissected each issue and told the students that their leaders are wrong, that they should prod these leaders to reverse the very positions which won electoral support, that they should overrule their leaders and in effect sabotage their government’s policy?

The outcry in every corner of each of the 50 states would be thunderous. In Israel too Netanyahu would be mercilessly pilloried. When a visiting foreign dignitary exhorts to dissent against the host country’s democratically elected government, he is rightly seen as having crossed every line of both protocol and principle.

Yet this is precisely what Obama felt free to do here when, with ostensible high-mindedness, he pontificated: “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.” Needless to stress, the risks are to the people’s very continued survival.

Obama’s message could not be more transparent. Without much ado he urged the students to go up against Israel’s current leadership. Obama appeared to have forgotten that Israel’s citizenry had just reelected Netanyahu. He likewise forgot that Meretz, whose platform appears to be what Obama ardently recommends, was once again relegated to the opposition as a fringe Knesset faction. By going over the head of Israel’s new government, Obama disrespected if not disparaged our democracy.

Remarkably, there was no earsplitting outcry. Obama laid it on so thick and was so syrupy, that the Israel’s proverbial Vera wasn’t going to make a fuss about her dishonor.

The only hope is that even those spellbound and mesmerized by the American president’s undisguised cajolery, will eventually come to their senses. The original Vera did. After lots of sordid twists and turns of the storyline, she ditched her delusions and changed her tune.

When it was all over she exclaimed:
“Wise at last,
My eyes at last,
Are cutting you down to your size at last.
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered no more!”

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