And the fallout continues from former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren’s comments about and analysis of U.S. President Barack Obama.
In a furious press release issued during the waning minutes of his reign, national director of the Anti-Defamation League Abe Foxman slammed Oren for expressing his views about U.S. President Barack Obama.
In the ADL press release Foxman singles out Oren’s essay in Foreign Policy Magazine, and does not mention the better known Wall Street Journal op-ed or even his forthcoming book.
You see, in Foreign Policy, Oren explains, in great detail, what he saw as Obama’s dramatic change with his predecessors regarding the players in the Middle East. As Oren plainly states it, one had only to look very carefully – and keep referring back – to President Obama’s speech in Cairo in July, 2009. The Cairo speech was Obama’s first major foreign policy address. And Oren studied it, and referred others to it, often. The White House itself referred to the speech as “President Obama Speaks to the Muslim World,” according to Oren.
The Foreign Policy essay is an important one in many ways, yet Foxman’s criticism is hard to square with what Oren actually wrote.
For Foxman and the ADL claim that Oren “revived the meme of the president’s ‘Muslim Heritage’ to make the case that American foreign policy in the Middle East is primarily being promoted and dictated by the president’s early upbringing in the Muslim faith and in Muslim traditions.”
But Foxman had to sift through an 18 paragraph essay and focus on only one paragraph, close to the end, as the source of his criticism. In that one – the 13th paragraph – Oren mentions Obama’s Muslim father and step-father and his upbringing in largely Islamic Indonesia, and of Obama’s reminiscences of idyllic Kenyan villages. Oren draws on Obama’s own autobiography, Dreams From My Father, as the basis for his speculation.
This is the one paragraph, that drew the ire of Foxman:
In addition to its academic and international affairs origins, Obama’s attitudes toward Islam clearly stem from his personal interactions with Muslims. These were described in depth in his candid memoir, Dreams from My Father, published 13 years before his election as president. Obama wrote passionately of the Kenyan villages where, after many years of dislocation, he felt most at home and of his childhood experiences in Indonesia. 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.
But by the 13th paragraph, Oren had already mentioned Obama’s worldview being developed at the academic institutions he attended, and in particular by the enormous influence Columbia University’s Professor Edward Said’s book Orientalism had on Obama’s generation of university students and professors.
Oren’s article is titled, “How Obama Opened His Heart to the Muslim World,” and the subheadline reads: “And got it stomped on. Israel’s former ambassador to the United States on the president’s naiveté as peacemaker, blinders to terrorism, and alienation of allies.” This is what the essay is about. It is not an effort at armchair psychoanalysis. Nor is it, as Foxman suggests, an effort to explain Obama’s orientation towards the Muslim world as due to his yearning for a Muslim father who dropped out of his life.
After recognizing that it is appropriate to criticize the policies of this administration, Foxman wrote:
Ambassador Oren’s essay, however, veers into the realm of conspiracy theories, and with an element of amateur psychoanalysis he links U.S. policies in the Middle East to the president’s personal history of having a Muslim father. Then, taking it a step further by suggesting this “worldview” of Muslims and Islam has driven the president to embrace the Muslim world at the expense of both Israel and U.S. national security interests. This results in borderline stereotyping and insensitivity.