Monday, September 26, 2011

SEND OBAMA A MESSAGE by Rabbi Avi Shafran

I kill Avi Shafran when he's wrong, but I'll be the first to congratulate him when he's right.

SEND OBAMA A MESSAGE  by Rabbi Avi Shafran

The Obama administration considers Israel a sponsor of terror —at least according to Dick Morris, the disgraced ex-advisor to Bill Clinton, and a host of self-styled “conservative” media. The news was shocking—well, maybe not to the clever folks who knew all along that the president is a secret Muslim, but certainly to the rest of us.

What turned out to be the case is that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency maintains a list of 36 “specially designated countries” whose immigrating citizens get extra scrutiny because their nations “promote, produce or protect terrorist organizations or their members.” Note the word “or.”

“Produce,” in this context, means that terrorists reside in the country. Thus, countries like the Philippines and Morocco, along with Israel, are on the list. Approximately a million and a half Israeli citizens are Arabs—many of whom have ties to Arab residents of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. So no, with apologies to Mr. Morris et al, the U.S. does not consider Israel a terror sponsor.

What makes some people all too ready to misrepresent such things is that many Americans, especially in the Jewish community, have deep concerns about President Obama’s Middle East policies. My personal view is that these concerns are overblown. While I realize there are other opinions, as far as I can tell Mr. Obama’s positions on building in the settlements and on the terms of Israel-Palestinian negotiations have been American policy since long before his presidency.

Even doubters of Mr. Obama’s good will, though, should recognize the import of the administration’s declared readiness to veto any U.N. Security Council resolution recognizing Palestinian statehood. That stance risks the U.S.’s international political capital and may even, G-d forbid, come to threaten Americans’ safety. Might it speak more loudly about the president than his opposition to new settlements?

Speaking equally loudly is what happened on September 9, when Mr. Obama acted swiftly to warn Egyptian authorities that they had better protect Israeli embassy guards in Cairo besieged by a mob. When Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minster Barak were unable to reach the apparently indisposed Egyptian military leader Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta spent hours hounding the Egyptian, finally reaching him at 1 AM to let him know that if anything happened to the Israelis, there would be “very severe consequences.” Egyptian soldiers protected the hostages until an Israeli Air Force plane safely evacuated them.

Mr. Netanyahu later recounted that he had asked for Mr. Obama’s help and that the president had replied that he would do everything he could. “And so he did,” testified the Prime Minister.

It may not be meaningful for many, but I was struck two days later on the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks when the president, betraying his Islamic beliefs (joke!), chose for his reading at the New York ceremony the 46th chapter of Tehillim. The one including the words (in the White House’s translation):

“Though its waters roar and be troubled… there’s a river whose streams shall make glad the City of G-d, the holy place of the Tabernacle of the Most High.”

And: “The God of Jacob is our refuge.”

Whatever our takes on this or that statement or position, hard facts are not up for debate.

Let’s not forget some such facts: The Obama administration has provided more security assistance to Israel than any American administration; he has repeatedly declared (first in 2009 in Cairo during his speech to the Arab world) that the bond between the U.S. and Israel is “unbreakable”; his Secretary of State lectured Al-Jazeera that “when the Israelis pulled out of Lebanon they got Hezbollah and 40,000 rockets and when they pulled out of Gaza they got Hamas and 20,000 rockets”; his State Department has condemned the Palestinian Authority’s “factually incorrect” denial of the Western Wall’s connection to the Jewish people; and much more.

Last week, in the lead-up to a Congressional election in Brooklyn in which Jews had ample other reason to vote against the Democratic candidate, some ads presented the contest as an opportunity to “Send Obama a Message”—which some Jews took to mean an angry message about Israel.

Many thoughtful Jews, though, have a different message for Mr. Obama: Thank you.


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