The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Posts tagged jews
On American Jews and Obama

I posted in yesterday's links a long, five-part series on Jews and Obama by Edward Klein and Richard Chesnoff. I had only read the first part when I did so, and, having now read four of the five (the last one still isn't up), I feel it's worth making a few comments on it, especially as it has gotten some considerable attention in some circles.

The first is that it is a quite biased and tendencious piece. As commenter David notes:

The series so far spend inordinate column-inches on Marty Peretz and Abe Foxman. The series doesn't really address the complex reality of American Jewry grappling with the same rightward turn as the rest of the country. Instead, it merely showcases the usual voices who claim to speak for us.

I couldn't agree more. The piece speaks about exclusively to fairly conservative, establishment voices in the US Jewish community and appears to endorse the spin, notably put out by Abraham Foxman of the ADL, that Obama is somehow betraying Israel. I am not necessarily denying that, as the writers claim, a recent poll shows most American Jews would now prefer another president, although I think it has little meaning when the alternative isn't known. But they also appear to want to reinforce the stranglehold that a few Jewish community leaders have in shaping the opinion of Jews and the broader American public, whereas the novelty of recent years has been a surge in critical approaches to this elite community of self-appointed defenders of Israel by many American Jews — whether it's by mainstream organizations like J-Street (and more radical groups) or individual writers and activists such as MJ Rosenberg, Philip Weiss or Max Blumenthal.  

Others have a different take on the article. One is highlighting that the likes of Foxman have a problem in Obama's adoption of linkage — which the hard pro-Israel lobby has opposed for a number of years, with Dennis Ross even writing a book against it shortly before being made part of the Obama team. But to me that is besides the point. Even of Obama and others have adopted the rhetoric of linkage, they haven't pushed through its logical conclusion of harder pressure on Israel — at least unless you buy the idea that Obama would like to be tougher on Israel but can't because of Congress and the lobby.

The other thing about this piece (written, incidentally, by big-name journalists with a reputation for being very pro-Israel — they even wrote, a long time ago, what can only be described as a piece of propaganda justifying the 1967 war). I think they also probably exaggerate the tone of relations between the White House and Israeli officials — or at least, the perception of Israeli officials, who apparently all believe the US White House should always be 100% supportive of Israel's actions. That also seems to be the perspective of the authors, who weave this dramatic tail of betrayal by a president they almost imply is an anti-Semite. Here's one passage that's telling (part 3):

A perception began to spread throughout the Jewish community that the Obama administration was not only outwardly hostile to Israel, but perhaps, without even knowing it, hostile to Jews as well. This thesis was forcefully argued by Jonathan Kellerman, the best-selling suspense novelist and a professor clinical pediatric and psychology at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine:

My personal opinion... is that the bifurcation of Israel and Judaism is structurally fallacious. The Land of Israel is an essential ingredient of Judaism practiced fully. Thus, it is impossible to be anti-Israel and not be anti-Jewish. And in fact, the war being waged against Israel by the Muslim world is, at the core, a religious dispute. Radical Islamists no longer talk about Zionists; they come right out and broadcast their goal of eradicating worldwide Jewry.

When that kind of statement is used in support without commentary, you have to get suspicious. There's an interesting story to write about how American Jews feel about Israel today (a more important question than how they feel about Obama), but that wasn't it. 

The Infidel (trailer)

This film, The Infidel, is about a British muslim fundie who finds out he was adopted and that his biological parents were Jewish. It looks potentially quite funny, although I'm not a fan of director David Baddiel generally speaking. Chris Morris, the genius comedian behind the classic fake news series Brass Eye, is also making a comedy about British Muslim fundamentalists called Four Lions.

Links for 11.25.09 to 11.26.09
Le journal hebdomadaire | Abou Bakr Jamai's imagines a letter from a Sahrawi.
For Jews, roiling Yemen no longer place to call home | On persecution of the less than 350 remaining Yemeni Jews.
MyMemory - Machine translation meets human translation | Uses records of translations to provide best one possible, Arabic possible.
BBC iPlayer - Document: 23/11/2009 | BBC radio show on Britain's role in the Oman coup of 1970.
AFP: Court jails Moroccan rights activist over drug case | Outrageous imprisonment of whistleblower for denouncing official corruption.
Yemeni refugees caught up in Middle East's forgotten war | World news | The Guardian | Is it forgotten if the Guardian and others keeps on talking about this war, though? It's more that most of the world doesn't care.
Q&A: Iraq war inquiry | UK news | | Interesting info - and note, no such inquiry in the US...
Joe Sacco | The Observer | Interview with the cartoonist author of "Palestine" and "Footnotes form Gaza."
Le Figaro: Uri Davis, Juif et dirigeant palestinien | About an Ashkenazi Jewish Israeli who converted to Islam and joined Fatah.
Is Everybody Disappointed In Obama? | TPMCafe | Because he's a coward, that's why.
Who's Paying?: The Case for More Transparent Policy Discourse | Stephen M. Walt | "Not surprisingly, the exposure of Galbraith's dealings has caused some controversy in Iraq, though remarkably little in Washington."
SHE2I2: Egyptian court upholds comic book ban, fines creator & publisher | "Metro" ban upheld.
Marwan Barghouti: Peace talks with Israel have failed - Haaretz | "I do not see that there are fundamental political differences between Fatah and Hamas."
Morocco relishes dual identities - Variety | On Morocco's film industry.
Public Service Announcement | Center for a New American Security | Andrew Exum stops blogging. I understand him...

Op-Ed Contributor - The Exodus Obama Forgot to Mention -
Op-Ed Contributor - The Exodus Obama Forgot to Mention -
André Aciman, from a wealthy Egyptian Jewish family, takes Obama to task for not mentioning the dispossession of Egyptian Jews in the late 1950s and 1960s, when many had their wealth nationalized and were forced into exile. That much is true. Yet strangely Aciman also makes an omission: Israel's false flag terror operations, such as the Lavon Affair, to frighten Arab Jews; the unprovoked 1956 land grab by Israel (and Britain and France) that was the Suez War; or indeed the manner of Israel's creation are not mentioned.