Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Menken has nothing true to say about Obama

If you're lucky enough to be a member of the team, you can publish any stupid thing you like on Cross Currents and, as a general rule, none of the blog's other writers will offer a counterargument. It's one of the perks of belonging to the club.

The exception, for reasons having noting to do with racism, of course, is Barak Obama. Say something favorable about him, and off come the brotherly gloves. Case in point: The other day, Avi Shafrin surprised and perplexed us all by publishing on Cross Currents yet another article complimenting Barak Obama, scourge of the Jews, and before the ink on his article was dry Yaakov Menken was up on his hind legs letting us know he thinks Shafrin is nuts.

To be sure, the manaical word vomit his outrage  produced is so deranged its unlikely to offer encouragment to even the most foremost Obama hater --let alone convince anyone sensible to join their camp. Still, I feel I owe my shrinking but loyal blog audience a fisking. See it after the jump:

In a recent article in HaAretz, reprinted here on Cross-Currents, Rabbi Avi Shafran offered several explanations why there seems to be an Orthodox “animus” against President Obama. He discounts theories like racism and Obama’s social liberalism before arriving at the one he prefers: a lack of hakaras hatov — gratitude.

The lack of hakaros hatov is the symptom, not the disease. Orthodox Jews feel absolved from the obligation to thank the president for all he has done to protect Israel for any combination of the following reasons: 
  • Racism
  • Ignorance
  • The misguided belief that liberalis aren't entitled to ordinary courtesies
  • A general ambivilance toward Israel

I have always greatly respected Rabbi Shafran and his writing, and consider him a personal mentor. And I think it is unquestionably true that some people have made “over the top,” irrational criticisms — not that I feel that these reactions are unique to the Orthodox Jewish community, or unique to our current president. But on balance, I think Rabbi Shafran must revisit not only that social liberalism, but the very areas in which he feels our thanks are due, in order to understand why there is so much negativity about the Obama presidency from Orthodox Jews.

Here’s what I wrote about Obama’s election, in November 2008:

I believe that getting America to the point of electing a black President was one of America’s finest hours. — Rabbi Yitzchak Adlerstein, November 12

He beat me to it, as I was going to make a similar comment.
[DB The election was 11/4. By 11/12 you still hadn't gotten around to posting?? He "beat you to it?" Eight days later, you still hadn't found time to tell us something nice about Obama's elections, but it took you just TWO days to tell us why Shafrin's pro-Obama article was wrong? Wow.] As a strong McCain supporter, I did not expect to have such positive feelings about the statement made by Americans about America today, through this election. Less than 50 years after whites had to be forced to share classrooms and bathrooms with black Americans, they elected one to be President of the United States. If I read the electoral college numbers correctly, then although it is true that over 90% of African-Americans voted for him, Obama would have won without the black vote.

Despite his selection of the very partisan Rahm Emanuel to be his chief of staff, Obama has begun with a number of overtures across the aisle. If he governs the way he campaigned — namely, in the center — then the next four years may be a pleasant surprise, and we should give him the chance to prove himself.
I said it, I believed it, I think we gave him that chance, and I think he disappointed us overwhelmingly.
Here you can almost sense Menken pausing for applause. He wants to be congratulated for his magnanimity. "I gave the Black guy a chance," he says. Why he's almost as liberal as the president! Only, here's Mencken being all fair and lovely to Obama just four weeks before the election
  • Obama offers up the glib generalities we want to hear while simultaneously raking in Arab cash as well 
  • Forget Israel — can anyone imagine Obama giving the United States a green light to defend itself, without the approval of the United Democracies, Dictatorships and Sheikdoms? 
  • Obama not only makes broad generalizations while failing to deliver clear positions. His vague reassurances themselves are a facade, not nearly so reassuring upon closer examination

As you can see Menken's mind isn't one tiny bit made up and is so wide open you can see his cerebellum. 

At around this time, one of Menken's invited guest bloggers ran a lengthy article on Cross Currents comparing Obama to Haman. No disagreement or counterargument was published by Menken, who apparently considers complimenting the president a more despicable thought crime than comparing him with a traditional jewish villian. But given this blatent history of disrespect, are we really expected to to believe Menken when he tells us that mere weeks later, all of this pre-judging was forgotten and he was prepared to give the president a fair chance?

Rabbi Shafran focuses upon foreign policy, and Israel in particular, as the area in which we owe the current administration “special good will.” He points to Obama’s Cairo speech, in which he mentioned the “unbreakable bond” between the US and Israel.

What he does not mention is that Obama visited Cairo immediately, and didn’t visit Jerusalem until his second term.

In other words: I was ready to be completely and totally objective about Obama but when he didn't visit Jerusalem right away just like no American president in history ever did I had no choice but to hate his miserable guts forever.

Nor does Rabbi Shafran mention Obama’s declaration, among other troubling statements, that “the United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements,” which includes new neighborhoods in Beit Shemesh, not just new outposts between Palestinian towns.

Why was this statment troubling? Its precisely the sort of thing George W. Bush said all the time, and he's remembered as some kind of great friend of Israel. Here's Bush telling Mahamoud Abbas the same thing on October 20, 2005: 
"Israel should not undertake any activity that contravenes its road map obligations, or prejudices the final status negotiations with regard to Gaza, the West Bank, and Jerusalem. This means that Israel must remove unauthorized posts and stop settlement expansion.”" 
And here he is in the Rose Garden on April 2, 2002:
“Consistent with the Mitchell plan, Israeli settlement activity in occupied territories must stop, and the occupation must end through withdrawal to secure and recognized boundaries, consistent with United Nations Resolutions 242 and 338.”
If it didn't bother anyone when W spoke about curtailing settlements, why in the world should it concern us when Obama parrots the same lines? 

History shows that Ronald Reagan called new settlement activity legal if “ill-advised.”

Ronald Reagen also sold advanced weapons to the Saudis and instructed his ambassador to condemn Israel in the UN. As many have noted,Obama would have been impeached if he treated Israel as harshly as Reagen did. Also, Reagen never visited Israel, but made two seperate trips to Rome to kiss the Pope's ring.

George H.W. Bush, a Republican widely regarded as unfriendly to Israel, said “we do not believe there should be new settlements in the West Bank or East Jerusalem,” permitting normal growth of existing towns.

He also articulated the official US government policy on March 3, 1990:
“My position is that the foreign policy of the United States says we do not believe there should be new settlements in the West Bank or in East Jerusalem. And I will conduct that policy as if it’s firm, which it is, and I will be shaped in whatever decisions we make to see whether people can comply with that policy. And that’s our strongly held view
Later he made his view of the matter crystal clear:
“Secretary Baker was speaking for this administration, and I strongly support what he said. . .It would make a big contribution to peace if these settlements would stop. That’s what the secretary was trying to say. . .and I’m one hundred percent for him.”
A Clinton-Era Assistant Secretary of State explicitly allowed for that natural growth. And George W. Bush said to Prime Minister Sharon that “it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome… will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.”

His administration also said this:
“Now, our position on settlement activity has not changed. We have said to the Israelis that they have obligations under the roadmap, they have obligations not to increase settlement activity." --Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Interview with LA Times – March 24, 2005  
“I would say that we continue -- our policy continues to be that Israel should freeze settlement construction.”--Daily Press Briefing by Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman – December 31, 2003  
"Settlement activity must stop. And it has not stopped to our satisfaction."--Secretary Colin Powell – September 21, 2003  
"Israel has got responsibilities. Israel must deal with the settlements. Israel must make sure there is a contiguous territory that the Palestinians can call home." --President George W. Bush – June 3, 2003
“Our position on settlements, I think, has been very consistent, very clear. The secretary expressed it not too long ago. He said settlement activity has severely undermined Palestinian trust and hope, preempts and prejudges the outcome of negotiations, and in doing so, cripples chances for real peace and prosperity. The U.S. has long opposed settlement activity and, consistent with the report of the Mitchell Committee, settlement activity must stop.”-- Richard Boucher, U.S. Department of State – Daily Press Briefing – November 25, 2002
And Rabbi Shafran would have us believe that Obama’s position is consistent with “the declared American position over several administrations?”

Yes, that's exactly what he would us believe - presumably because he's aware of the quotes cited above, quotes that make it clear that Obama's position on settlment activity was not new, whereas Menken, who insists otherwise,  is either lazy or a liar or both. 

Or perhaps Avi is aware of the US policy on settlements first stated during the Johnson Administration, on April 8, 1968. Here is the relavant bit:
The GOI is aware of our continuing concern that nothing be done in the occupied areas which might prejudice the search for a peace settlement. By setting up civilian or quasi-civilian outposts in the occupied areas the GOI adds serious complications to the eventual task of drawing up a peace settlement. Further, the transfer of civilians to occupied areas, whether or not in settlements which are under military control, is contrary to Article 49 of the Geneva Convention,3 which states “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” Finally, you should emphasize that no matter what rationale or explanation is put forward by the GOI, the establishment of civilian settlements in the occupied areas creates the strong appearance that Israel, contrary to the principle set forth in the UNSC Resolution and to US policy expressed in the President's speech of June 19, does not intend to reach a settlement involving withdrawal from those areas. 
None of Johnson’s eight successors have reversed this policy, the policy both Bush and Obama followed to the letter.

If he meant the Carter administration, he’d be right. But I don’t think anyone regards Jimmy Carter as a friend of Israel.

Naturally, Menken doesn't believe that Liberals who remember and appreciate what Carter did to facilitate the Sinai Treaty are significant or valuable enough to be regarded as "anyone."

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