To mark IDC Herzliya’s 20th anniversary, we spent a day following Prof. Uriel Reichman, IDC’s founder and president, and Jonathan Davis, VP for External Relations, around its delightful campus.
I am an equal opportunity critic. Critique is one of the tools I use to ferret out the truth. I monitor the actions and pay close attention to the words, the deeds and the decrees of world leaders and when I find fault with them, I point it out to the public.
Today I find fault with Barack Obama. I do not have an ax to grind with the president of the United States. But I must point out that his Middle East policy and his point of view on Israel are, simply and purely, wrong.
Obama’s stance on Israel does not have its roots in hatred, nor is it predicated on mistrust. It comes from a false sense of reality and from an almost pathological case of optimism.
Obama is not an anti-Semite. He does not hate Israel. Calling the president and his administration anti-Semitic is both counterproductive and insulting.
Calling Obama an anti-Semite, as so many voices have been doing of late, is to misuse the term and to diminish real anti-Semites and true anti-Semitism.
That said, it is certainly possible that current White House policy has hurt Israel and if it does not change it will continue to injure. But the policy is neither perpetrated out of anger nor fueled by hatred.
Is the damage lessened because it’s unintentional? No, but in this case, context is important.
Obama and his advisers come to their understanding of the Middle East through a false assumption. They believe that if you raise the playing field, everyone will be equal. If everyone is equal, there is more potential for resolving issues. It all comes from an overly aggressive sense of social justice.
However, when you apply this thesis to U.S. foreign policy vis-à-vis Israel and the Palestinians or toward the religious extremist dictatorial country of Iran, an enormous chasm is created between your old friends and your new friends.
What this administration still does not realize is that raising the playing field may be a very admirable act but the end game causes serious insult. The parties most hurt by raising the playing field are your old friends, the friends with whom you have a longstanding and special relationship.
By definition, the special relationship is now in question.
That does not mean the United States is no longer friendly with that country. It means the United States now wants a special friendship with someone else as well. That is what stings so much. Israel and Saudi Arabia are getting hurt because the United States is inviting the Palestinians and the Iranians to join their circle.
The U.S. made a gross miscalculation, a colossal mistake – in judgment, in planning, in foreign policy. The calculus made by the administration is wrong and until the president and his policy makers and advisers recognize the importance and significance and dependability of America’s special friend Israel the tension will be there and Israel will suffer.
That said, an ad hominem attack against the Obama administration is downright childish and counterproductive. The administration has a vision, albeit a flawed, rose-colored-glasses vision. It is the vision of a diplomatically immature president and an administration unschooled in history.
But it is not anti Semitic.
There are enough true anti-Semites scattered through history and walking our streets. Every person or organization in disagreement with Israel does not deserve the label of anti-Semite. Not being an especially close friend does not make you the enemy.
Today, any agreement between Israel and the Palestinians will fail for many of the same reasons they’ve always failed. The administration in Washington must be coaxed into understanding and then accepting that reality.
In the U.S., part of the romance of politics is dreaming. Politicians want to make history; they dream of revolutionary change. Americans as a group are romantic. That romance and the optimism that comes along with it are both a strength and a weakness.
The White House will not change its point of view nor will it abandon its optimism. It falls on Israeli leaders and Jewish American leadership to change their message and their method of approach. Serious critique will be heard in the Oval Office – name-calling will not.
Micah D. Halpern is a columnist and a social and political commentator. His latest book, “Thugs: How History’s Most Notorious Despots Transformed the World,” is available at Amazon.com. He maintains The Micah Report at www.micahhalpern.com.
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Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/obama-deserves-criticism-not-personal-attacks/2010/08/25/
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