January 30: Selling Obama

Only now, when Obama needs Jewish financial and political support, does he suddenly rediscover his concern about Israel.

Sir, – Hirsh Goodman should not try and sell us on an American president whose policies indicate that he is antithetical to Israel’s best interests and more politically attuned to placating the Arab world at our expense (“Leave me out of the game!,” PostScript, January 27).
Only now, when Obama needs Jewish financial and political support, does he suddenly rediscover his concern about Israel and give grandiose declarations about our security.
If there is hypocrisy in this election it is not in the Gingrich camp, as is implied. It lies at the feet of the current resident of the White House and those like Goodman who peddle his distortions and reinvent history.
Sir, – Hirsh Goodman is obviously a strong Obama supporter. But how can he praise him – the first US president demanding a freeze on construction in Judea and Samaria? In August 2005, Israel withdrew completely from Gaza and parts of northern Samaria. What did it get in return? The bloody thank-you of rockets that continue to this day! Goodman should be writing his columns for Al Jazeera and not The Jerusalem Post – Gingrich will be one of the best US presidents for the United States, Israel and the world.
Sir, – Hirsh Goodman needs to be reminded that Bill Clinton was up for impeachment because he lied under oath before Congress, and not because of extra-marital sex. He was not the first US president to have extra-marital sex, and none were impeached because of it.
If only Goodman were as concerned about George Soros’s heavy contributions to political causes as he is about the Adelsons’!
Unrealistic imperative
Sir, – Caroline B. Glick (“The Zionist imperative,” Column One, January 27) almost angrily demands that American Jews define themselves as Zionists and make their support for Israel their sine qua non, the essential element of their Jewishness. This is an unrealistic demand.
Certainly, most Jews have a special affection for Israel, but after 62 years of Israeli sovereignty it must be abundantly clear that most American Jews have cast their lot with the United States.
Glick also seems to demand that American Jews use their limited influence to coerce President Barack Obama, who has even less of an affinity toward Israel, to take up arms against Iran in defense of the Jewish state.
This stance is misguided and unlikely. The US has just ended a war in Iraq with mixed results and is about to surrender in Afghanistan. After a decade of war, no American president – and certainly not Barack Obama – is about to enter into another conflict in the Middle East.
Glick would be advised to use her fine mind and writing skills to promote non-military ways of dealing with Iran because, plainly, war is not an option.
Sir, – Concentrating on the different interests of the US and Israel with respect to an Iranian bomb is like concentrating on the different interests of the 3 pin and the 7 pin as the bowling ball comes down the lane.
American Jews should be encouraged to think not in terms of Israel versus Washington, but in terms of American security versus American capitulationism.
Although Caroline B. Glick writes that this “may require them to embrace Zionism unconditionally,” it does not require them to embrace Zionism at all. It merely requires them, as Americans, to perceive the obvious military, economic and ideological dangers confronting the land where they reside.
Who said so? Sir, – Concerning your editorial on affordable housing (“The Attias plan,” January 27), the only substantial support cited for Housing Minister Ariel Attias to change the ground rules proposed by the Trajtenberg Commission was that “National Insurance Institute representatives called to leave out employment as a criterion for being eligible for affordable housing....”
Not to appear too paranoid, this statement does beg the question of just who these representatives were. This is a question easily answered by a news reporter and would dispel doubts about the veracity and objectivity of the NII’s advice.
‘Hasbara,’ and how!
Sir, – James Adler (“Who’s at fault?,” Letters, January 26) wrote that “[n]o Western democracy’s policies need hasbara [public diplomacy], and Israel’s didn’t either until settlement expansionism.”
The gun-barrels had barely cooled down after the Six Day War when The Toronto Globe and Mail, in a pre-Christmas editorial concatenating the refugees of the wars of 1948 and 1967, compared their plight to that of the refugees who couldn’t find a place in the inn. This was at a time when Israel still had the illusion that there might exist a partner for negotiating land for peace.
As for “Western democracies,” there really aren’t too many of them, and in general they handle their internal and external colonialism as they see fit and feel no need to apologize or explain. Israel, because of its size, the ongoing war with the Arab nation and the incessant assaults, political and otherwise, from putative friends as well as from enemies, does unfortunately have that need.
Sir, – James Adler’s assertion that the policies of Western democracies don’t require hasbara is dangerously naïve. Even the most moral policy can be of limited value if it is not adequately publicized.
The activities of the US Department of State’s Bureau of Public Affairs are just one example of the importance that Western democracies place on spreading their message around the globe. The bureau spends millions of dollars each year to advance America’s values and policies through a wide range of educational, cultural and traditional press events. Its many International Information programs support embassy efforts worldwide to engage audiences in sustained and meaningful interaction on the full spectrum of US policy objectives.
Israel must recognize that robust proactive public diplomacy is a vital weapon in its battle against those who would deny its very right to exist as a Jewish state. As with any other democracy, Israel must not only do good, it must be seen to be doing good.
EFRAIM A. COHEN Zichron Ya’acov
The writer served as a cultural attaché at the American Embassy in Tel Aviv
What of the others?
Sir, – I’m a Canadian documentary filmmaker developing a film exploring the life of my great-uncle, Sam (Shlomo) Stern.
Sam immigrated to Palestine from Toronto in 1933 at age 21 and helped found Kibbutz Ginossar. When he left Toronto he was accompanied by five friends: David Weis, Saul Borkofsky, Joshua Wohlgelernter, Jay Helfand and Harry Goldstein.
Sam died defending Ginossar during an attack in 1939, but what became of the others? I’d be thrilled to locate any of these men, who would now be in their 90s, or any of their relatives with memories and information that could help me trace their stories in Israel or wherever they may have ended up.
Anyone with information to share can contact me at [email protected]