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Re: Obama Demotes the Jews

Edward, I share your concerns regarding President Obama’s recent visit to Turkey. Rather than mimicking former President George W. Bush’s redundant banalities regarding our “respect” for Islam, I would have preferred that the President speak more frankly about the issues that currently divide the U.S. from many within the Muslim world – including our divergent views on terrorism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Iran, theocracy, and the treatment of women.  After all, this is the essence of public diplomacy: reaching out to foreign publics on contentious issues (such as terrorism), as opposed to repeating agreeable things (such as that we respect the predominant faith of a given foreign public) exclusively.

However, I strongly disagree with your main point: namely, that Obama’s failure to speak frankly to the Muslim world – on his first trip to a Muslim country as President, no less – constitutes the White House’s “demotion” of American Jews.  For starters, it is not clear to me how Obama’s performance in Europe and Turkey – pathetic, though it was (h/t Abe) – has anything to do with Jews specifically, as your post implies.  Indeed, Obama’s apology for “our past arrogance” in Europe and his bow before Saudi King Abdullah should leave all Americans concerned regarding our international standing, not just those observing Passover at the moment.

Nor do I see how the President’s seven utterances of his “respect” for Islam during his January interview with al-Arabiya – which I otherwise thought was a missed opportunity – are even remotely similar to the blatant vitriol of pro-Hamas British MP George Galloway, as you wrote.  (How does one interpret statements expressing respect for another faith as “emulating” those of an infamous bigot?)  Nor was I offended that Jews came in third place – behind Christians and Muslims, respectively – in Obama’s tokenistic list of American religious communities during his inaugural address.  (If anything, shouldn’t Buddhists – who weren’t mentioned at all despite outnumbering Hindus, who earned a mention – be more offended?)

Finally, even if the administration’s personnel choices raise questions regarding its commitment to Israel, American Jews are hardly one-issue voters facing “demotion” any time an administration approaches Jerusalem coolly.  Moreover, if the U.S.-Israel relationship is in our national interest, as I believe it is, then Obama’s failure to defend this alliance is something that affects all Americans – “Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers” and others, in whatever order you wish to place them.



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