Barack Obama must be wondering what hit himreally gets into Obama's kishkes.
In Foreign Policy, Oren took Obama to task for not joining the solidarity march in France after the attack on Charlie Hebdo or the kosher supermarket earlier this year, nor for sending two senior officials who were in Paris at the time to the march. He also took the president to task for not admitting that the attack on the kosher market was directed a Jews, but rather an act perpetrated by “vicious zealots who... randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli.”Oren has been blasted by opposition MK's Tzipi Livni (goes without saying), Avigdor Liberman and Yair Lapid (the latter also goes without saying). But Lee Smith wrote some similar things in Tablet Magazine last week, but from a slightly different angle.
“Obama’s boycotting of the memorial in Paris, like his refusal to acknowledge the identity of the perpetrators, the victims, or even the location of the market massacre, provides a broad window into his thinking on Islam and the Middle East. Simply put: The president could not participate in a protest against Muslim radicals whose motivations he sees as a distortion, rather than a radical interpretation, of Islam,” he wrote. “And if there are no terrorists spurred by Islam, there can be no purposely selected Jewish shop or intended Jewish victims, only a deli and randomly present folks."
During his first year in office, Obama, Oren argued, offered in essence “a new deal in which the United States would respect popularly chosen Muslim leaders who were authentically rooted in their traditions and willing to engage with the West.”
Oren attributed this orientation to the intellectual milieu in which Obama grew up, as well as his personal history. “I could imagine how a child raised by a Christian mother might see himself as a natural bridge between her two Muslim husbands. I could also speculate how that child’s abandonment by those men could lead him, many years later, to seek acceptance by their co-religionists.”
The tragedy, he said, was that Obama’s outreach to the Muslim world was rejected.
“Historians will likely look back at Obama’s policy toward Islam with a combination of curiosity and incredulousness,” he wrote. “While some may credit the president for his good intentions, others might fault him for being naïve and detached from a complex and increasingly lethal reality.”
In the LA Times piece, headlined “Why Obama is wrong about Iran being 'rational' on nukes,” Oren quoted Obama’s comment in a recent interview that being anti-Semitic, or racist, doesn't preclude one from from being interested in survival, and that just because Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei is anti-Semitic “doesn't mean that this overrides all of his other considerations.”
Oren wrote that the dispute whether Iran was a rational or irrational actor was “ever-present” in the discussions between the US and Israel when he was ambassador. While the American view the Iranians as logical actors, Israel could not rule out the idea that “the Iranians would be willing to sacrifice half of their people as martyrs in a war intended to ‘wipe Israel off the map.’”
“Obama would never say that anti-black racists are rational,” Oren argued. “And he would certainly not trust them with the means – however monitored – to reach their racist goals. That was the message Israeli officials and I conveyed in our discreet talks with the administration. The response was not, to our mind, reasonable."
Oren, while he served in Washington, was considered very cautious and diplomatic, and rarely caught flack for comments deemed “undiplomatic.”
Whether Obama is an honorary Jew or not, the evidence suggests that he keenly understands certain peculiarities of the Jewish communal psyche—survival strategies that distinguish the Jews from other American minority groups. The president’s use of Jewish aides and organizations to advance his policies with the Jewish community shows that Obama is correct in believing that Jewish politics are often motivated by fear, which can range from the existential fear of mass extermination to the more prosaic fear of looking shabby in front of the goyim. And Obama isn’t using his energy and inspiring leadership skills to help these people rise above their fear; he is instead capitalizing on it—masterfully, ruthlessly—by manipulating American Jews in ways that other minority groups would find unbelievably insulting.
Consider recent statements from Jewish aides to the president. Netanyahu is the kind of politician, said David Axelrod, “who run[s] for public office because they want to be somebody.” Israel doesn’t know what’s best for it, Obama’s former envoy to the Palestinian-Israeli peace process Martin Indyk told Israeli media last week. “You are an emotional nation, not a rational nation,” he sniffed. “You work from your gut and not your mind.”
It’s very hard to imagine Catholic policymakers helping a U.S. president undermine and insult the Vatican and then defending the president when he says that he understands what the church stands for better than the pope does. During the darkest moments of the AIDS crisis, there were no gay organizations that encouraged U.S. policymakers to cut funding for a cure. There are no transgender activists who argue that the real threat to the community comes not from people who fear and hate transgendered people, but from within the transgender community itself. Eric Holder doesn’t scold people of color that they’re an emotional, not a rational, people, or imply that black officeholders get into politics because they “want to be somebody.”
The issue in America today is clearly not that pro-Obama people or organizations are leading the American Jewish community to destruction. Yet at the same time, it is also clear that two millennia of diasporic dependence and insecurity have left a deep and probably permanent imprint on the Jewish communal psyche. Even in America, a free country in which Jews have never been subject to European-style mass oppression or persecutions, the role performed by “court Jews’ still makes structural and emotional sense to people who like to think of themselves as independent thinkers. Otherwise, it would be hard to explain why Obama still has the support of the majority of the Jewish community for policies that from any rational perspective—the perspective of any other minority group—cannot be seen as anything other than detrimental to the Jewish state.In other words, Oren is right about Obama's bad treatment of Jews as compared with any other ethnic group. Obama isn't playing any other ethnic group - only Jews. And according to Smith, Obama is playing the Jews like a master.
But what about the Jews who speak for the administration? None of several former high-ranking Jewish officials was willing to speak on the record on this subject, but every single one of them agreed that this moment was an extraordinary one. “No administration will always do what the Jewish community wants or what Jews think best for Israel, just as none will ever always do what Catholics want or Greek Americans or farmers,” said a former Jewish American policymaker who served in high-level positions in several administrations. “When you are in an administration you know this is coming. If the variance is in the particular area you cover, it can be painful. If it gets repeated, you need to change jobs or leave the government. That’s normal.”
But: “The Obama situation is not normal,” he continued, “due to the length and depth of the confrontation with Israel and the harm that’s being done. It should give rise to soul searching by Jewish appointees. In my view they’ve become enablers, in the worst sense of that word. That not one single Jew has left in protest is remarkable considering that relations have not been worse in a long, long time.”
By not resigning in protest, Obama’s Jewish aides have arguably not only harmed their community; they weakened their own position—which was, in a sense, ultimately far more detrimental. In a town where the appearance of power is power, Obama’s Jewish defenders had no idea which way the president was actually going. They got played, and now everyone knows it. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew wasn’t in the room when Obama was making Iran policy with Ben Rhodes and Valerie Jarrett. Martin Indyk didn’t know that a central part of Obama’s Middle East policy—without which the Iran deal would be impossible—was to weaken AIPAC, the cornerstone of the pro-Israel community. AIPAC, in turn, didn’t see itself as a target of the Obama Administration. Instead, it kept telling itself that bipartisan support for Israel was the very premise of its power. Had these actors actually participated in helping the president pull a fast one on the Jewish community, at least they’d have showed they had connections to power. The biggest problem with the Jews around Obama is not that they spoke up on behalf of policies that may very well turn out to be harmful to the Jewish state; it’s that they were so clearly out of the loop—a status quo they will now bequeath to future administrations.
In this regard, even AIPAC’s ostensible rival J Street got played. As one senior official in the pro-Israel community told me, he believes that “their standing has diminished a lot. The administration used J Street and included them, and went to their conferences, because they believed they would be a useful tool.” But J Street is weakened not, as the pro-Israel official believes, because it plowed its own field recklessly. If you describe yourself as a pro-Israel organization then your power is directly proportional to how important a role Israel plays in American foreign policy. If your actions, like J Street’s, contribute to making Israel about as important to American foreign policy as Malaysia is, then you aren’t very important either.Read the whole thing.
What Smith is describing is what I have called the Poritz Syndrome.
Oren is an historian and he has an historian's perspective. I'm sure he sees everything that Smith sees and has many more facts and data points to prove what Smith is saying. Unfortunately, Oren is getting no support here in Israel, other than Netanyahu's refusal to disown him.... Yet Oren disowned Netanyahu by running for the Knesset with Kahlon's party. Perhaps there's a lesson there for the historian too.
In the meantime, my copy of Oren's book is on order. Can't wait to read this one.