Friday, June 5, 2009

Obama Speaks to Islam - Part II

The second major issue with Obama’s speech (See the White House was his over-the-top criticism of Israel. As he did with his discussion of the West’s relationship with Islam (See yesterday’s entry, he again pretended to portray the situation as one of two equally culpable sides. Obama used the same format in this discussion. First, he outlined historical grievances, namely the Holocaust, experienced by the Jews. Thankfully, his discussion here was correct and appropriate and took direct aim at Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial.

Obama then proceeded to give the Palestinian side of the coin. He spoke of all the suffering the Palestinians experienced at the hands of the Israelis. He said,

On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people -- Muslims and Christians -- have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than 60 years they've endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations-- large and small -- that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. And America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.
This is the hub of a huge disconnect. The display of ‘two-sides of suffering’ compares supposed Palestinian suffering at the hands of Israelis with Jewish/Israeli suffering at the hands of Germans. Only at one point does he mention the constant attacks Israel suffers at the hands of the Palestinians.

While understanding the historical context of Israel and the Holocaust is essential to comprehending the Jewish and Israeli psyche, it is not appropriate to pass it off as the sole story of Jewish/Israeli suffering. This is the story that the anti-Israeli Arabs want the world to believe; a story that the Iranian despot Ahmadinejad all too often tries to tell. This ‘poor me’ story roughly goes along the lines of “Well, the Germans hurt the Jews, so now the Jews hurt the Palestinians. The Palestinians have done nothing wrong!” By structuring his speech as he did, Obama willingly, or unwittingly, lent credence to this false argument. This way of thinking completely misinterprets the Israeli position. The Holocaust is a background story that may help to explain Israeli fear. However, today’s problems with the Palestinians stem from a long history of Arab desire to destroy Israel along with current antagonism and continued attacks. Regrettably, Obama fails to see this as he ignored Israeli suffering at the hands of the Palestinians and reduced the Israeli position to one of historical fear.

In his desire to be the ultimate moral relativist, Obama failed to accurately portray the Israeli side of the story. Perhaps he was just pandering to his Muslim audience. More frighteningly, he is backtracking on years of American support for one of our most staunch allies- and the only free democracy in the Middle East. Whichever it is, it is unfortunately feeding unnecessary fuel to the incessant fire of hatred directed at Israel.

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