Golda Meir rarely passed up an opportunity to warn about the allure of “lies wrapped up in sweet words.” She knew that shallowness offers smug refuge from the intractable and that syrupy slogans are a convenient copout for the intellectually indolent.
US President Barack Obama probably knows the same which is perhaps why he laid the blarney on so thick in his recent interview with The Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg, who himself couldn’t have been more cloying.
It’s undeniably in Obama’s interest to sweet-talk American Jews – whom he must perceive mostly as sycophant dilettantes – into trusting that some of his best friends are Jews.
Nevertheless, here in Israel, Obama’s latest heaping ration of sweet words was weighed up with utmost gravity. Left-leaning opinion-molders were quick to extract the bitter pill – Obama’s caution that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s misbehavior “will have consequences.”
Obviously we may all expect unkind comeuppance for having insubordinately reelected the PM Obama hates. Let’s not forget: Obama did his darndest to defeat Netanyahu, thereby impudently and imperiously interfering in the domestic politics of a fellow democracy.
But all that was liberally sugarcoated in The Atlantic. Reading Goldberg’s full fawning commentary, followed by the treacly transcript of his conversation with Obama became a true test of intestinal fortitude – not recommended for anyone with a queasy disposition.
Goldberg flattered Obama as “America’s first Jewish president.” To Goldberg’s ear Obama “sounds like a rabbi in the progressive Zionist tradition.” He even got his own rabbi, Gil Steinlauf, to considerately sign off on that. After all, as Goldberg ingratiatingly reminded Obama, the Pres was due to visit his synagogue. He then announced shamelessly, in the schmaltziest tradition of Catskill kitsch, that “this is the biggest thing that’s happened there since the last Goldberg bar mitzvah.”
Our upchuck reflexes were further provoked by Goldberg’s toadying input that Obama received the support of 70% of American Jews in the last election. Thereupon Obama chummily chimed in: “70% is pretty good.”
There were more statistics from the objective interviewer, who remarked that Israel is “a 61/59 country right now.” Subtext: Netanyahu isn’t all that convincingly the people’s choice.
The implication wasn’t lost on Obama who complained about “a very concerted effort… to equate being pro-Israel, and hence being supportive of the Jewish people, with a rubber stamp on a particular set of policies coming out of the Israeli government… If you express compassion or empathy towards Palestinian youth, who are dealing with checkpoints or restrictions on their ability to travel, then you are suspect in terms of your support of Israel.”
Our bosom bud in the White House not only loves us but he also knows what’s best for us – way better than we conceivably can. Hence he wishes to get our internal political debate “back on a path where there’s some semblance of hope and not simply fear, because it feels to me as if… all we are talking about is based from fear.” And here we get a major influx of Obamaesque slogans for the thinking-shy masses.
Fear, Obama pontificates, is bad medicine: “Over the short term that may seem wise—cynicism always seems a little wise—but it may lead Israel down a path in which it’s very hard [for Israel] to protect itself [as] a Jewish-majority democracy.”
Inspired by “Israel’s traditions and its values—its founding principles,” Obama waxed nostalgic about his stage-managed visit to our backwoods in 2013.
“When I was in Jerusalem and I spoke,” he recalled, “the biggest applause that I got was when I spoke about those kids I had visited in Ramallah, and I said to a Israeli audience that it is profoundly Jewish, it is profoundly consistent with Israel’s traditions to care about them. And they agreed. So if that’s not translated into policy—if we’re not willing to take risks on behalf of those values—then those principles become empty words, and in fact, in my mind, it makes it more difficult for us to continue to promote those values when it comes to protecting Israel internationally.”
The above threat is near-identical with what Obama declaimed two years ago in Jerusalem. Both he and Goldberg, though, omitted mention of the fact that Obama’s local audience consisted of left-wing students who were scrupulously sifted a priori. It was anything but a representative sample of the Israeli aggregate.
The screening process assured 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.
Simplistically deceptive, Obama’s saccharine sloganeering seemed goodhearted: “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.”
Obama’s crude one-dimensional depiction might have sufficed to sway American know-nothing liberals, but Israelis 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 tendentious 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 squawked about? Who impeded Palestinian self-determination for 19 whole years?
Instead of relevant answers Obama dished up soppy mawkishness about the child, her parents, their curtailed movement, the foreign army, the frustrated farmers and the alleged displacement of families – all damningly the product of arbitrary Israeli callousness. Yet, despite the semblance of factual accuracy, Obama’s demagoguery was detached from any context
The absence of any causality leads to outright distortion. Whenever historical background is opportunely deleted, deep suspicions must arise. Endearing as Obama occasionally strives to be – when political needs so mandate – he twists and warps the truth. By dramatically reiterating Palestinian propaganda, divorced conveniently from any perspective, Obama misrepresents our reality.
We Israelis, at least, mustn’t become gullible saps. All of us 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 family outings could mean gruesome carnage. But did Obama appraise Palestinian inconvenience versus Israeli lives? He knows why things are the way they are. He knows that Mahmoud Abbas’s schools, media and mosques all glorify mass-murderers and incite to hate. By pretending not to be aware, Obama proves himself disingenuous in the extreme.
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.
Feigning innocence right here in Jerusalem, 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.”
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 inundation by 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. He’s now into his eleventh year of a four-year term and postures only because Israel props him up. He is as much a peace partner as an effigy of our making would be.
Yet, with ostensible high-mindedness, Obama felt free to tell his handpicked Israeli audience to override their democracy: “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 continued survival.
Obama’s message couldn’t have been more transparent. Without much ado he urged Israeli students to go up against Israel’s elected leadership. He serially forgets that Meretz, whose platform Obama appears to ardently endorse, was repeatedly relegated to the opposition as a fringe Knesset faction. By going over the head of Israel’s government, Obama disrespected if not disparaged our democracy during his visit.
He now repeated the disrespect despite telling Goldberg: “I care deeply about preserving that Jewish democracy, because when I think about how I came to know Israel, it was based on images of… Kibbutzim, and Moshe Dayan and Golda Meir and the sense that not only are we creating a safe Jewish homeland, but also we are remaking the world. We’re repairing it. We are going to do it the right way. We are going to make sure that the lessons we’ve learned from our hardships and our persecutions are applied to how we govern and how we treat others.”
Here’s where Obama gets lucky – he’s so lucky he never encountered the formidable Golda. She didn’t gladly suffer hypocrites. She’d have sent him and his honeyed blandishments packing and tossed his two-state mantra out the window.
The Golda for whom Obama seemingly yearns famously said: “There is no Palestinian nation. Palestine was a Roman name specifically invented to humiliate defeated Jews. The Arabs only learned the name from the British in 1918 and couldn’t even pronounce it correctly at that, distorting it into Falastin. There’s just as much substance to that degrading Roman name as there is to what the Romans called Jerusalem – Aelia Capitolina.”
‘Debunking the Bull,’ Sarah Honig’s book, was recently published by Gefen.