Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Awful

What an awful speech. Among the problems, one was the president’s claim that there are “nearly seven million American Muslims in our country today.” The true number is probably less than half that, as this page details.

Even when Obama was trying to be nice to Israel, he was tone deaf: “America’s strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied,” he said. The missing words were those usually present in such passages about shared democratic values and strategic interests.

The sections about the Palestinian Arabs were even weaker. He said of the Palestinians: “For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation.” This buys into the claim that it was 1948, not 1967, that was the original tragedy for the Palestinian Arabs, and feeds the idea that the Palestinian Arabs have a claim to all of Israel, not just the West Bank and Gaza.

Then he said, “Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America’s founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It’s a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end.”

This places the Palestinian Arabs as the victims, equating their plight to that of enslaved American blacks, Poles subjected to Communist tyranny, or blacks under apartheid. In these analogies, the assumption, just barely left unsaid, is that Israeli Jews are the oppressors. Never mind that that doesn’t accurately portray the moral or historical situation. It isn’t even accurate. Violence is not a dead end. American slavery was ended by the Civil War. “America’s founding” was accomplished not by a peaceful insistence on ideals but by a war of independence. And, sadly, were it not for ongoing terrorist attacks against American and Israeli targets, President Obama would not be in Egypt comparing the Palestinian Arab cause to that of the captive nations of Eastern Europe or American blacks.

During the campaign I had actually defended Obama against those who felt he would be a disaster for Israel. This speech makes me think that may have been a mistake. The only chance now is that this speech will be mere rhetoric, like so much in the Middle East, intended only for public consumption. But if Obama really means it, it is bad news for the Jews in Israel and America, not to mention for American national security.