Thursday, July 31, 2008

Obama has embraced a myth about Israel

I am reluctant to criticize Barack Obama, for whom I will enthusiastically vote in November. He's already taking a beating from the same sleazy Republican attack machine that defeated John Kerry four years ago.

But Obama's recent remarks about the Middle East show that he has foolishly bought into the myth that resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict is the key to solving all the Middle East's problems.

Obama is not alone, of course, in embracing the simplistic idea that if only Israel and the Palestinians would settle their decades-long dispute, the violence and political ferment that characterize the Muslim world would cease.

For generations, both left-wingers and arch-conservatives hostile to Israel's very existence have been perpetuating the myth of the linkage between the Palestine issue and peace in the Middle East. Such luminaries as Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter, and Zbigniew Brzezinski have given the argument some respectability.

Obama's belief in the centrality of the Israel-Palestine dispute was evidently reinforced during his recent Middle East tour when he met Jordan's King Abdullah. Obama said that the king, who he called a "savvy analyst of the region," told him that "we've got to have an overarching strategy recognizing that [all the Middle East issues] are connected."

King Abdullah is the same "savvy analyst" who, when asked in a CNN interview the day after 9/11, whether the attacks would have happened if the Israelis and Palestinians had reached a peace agreement at Camp David two years before, had this to say:

"I don't believe so, because I think that if you had solved the problems of the Middle East, and obviously the core issue is that between the Israelis and Palestinians, I doubt whether [the attacks]would have taken place."

The king conveniently disregarded the factors that probably provoked the 9/11 attacks: Osama bin-Laden's hysteria about the presence of U.S. troops in his native Saudi Arabia, his grievances against the Saudi regime, and his disgust with what he regards as the corruption of Western culture. Israel did not appear on his agenda until two years after 9/11, apparently to gain more widespread support in the Muslim world for his al-Qaeda organization.

The current violence and political turbulence in the Muslim world demonstrate how absurd the linkage myth is.

Sunni and Shiite Muslims are slaughtering each other in Iraq. Arab Muslims are killing black Muslims in Sudan. Anti-Syrian politicians in Lebanon--who are as anti-Israel as the pro-Syrian politicians--are being assassinated by Syria. Muslim Arabs and Muslim Turks are killing Muslim Kurds. Taliban Muslims are battling non-Taliban Muslims in Afghanistan. Somalia, a Muslim country, is in chaos.

How is the Israel-Palestine issue connected to this horrific scene?

It may be impolitic to note, but the root cause of all these conflicts, including the one between Israelis and Palestinians, may reflect a streak in Muslim culture that considers violence and threats of violence as a legitimate means to resolve disputes.

I hope that Barack Obama who, ironically, has been falsely called a Muslim himself, will consider the validity of this theory and that he will recognize that it is a myth that Israel is linked to all the violence and political ferment that besets the Middle East.


Blogger Sylvia K said...

Ah, you've done it again! And you do it so well, but then I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that.
I do agree with what you say and like you I hope Obama sees a bigger picture than he does right now.


Thursday, July 31, 2008 8:19:00 PM  
Blogger Linda Hillin said...

Nice to see another post. Hmmmm, I need to think about this one, but that's what I like about your writing. Always food for thought.

Friday, August 01, 2008 10:22:00 AM  
Blogger Hoots said...

It's great to see clear thinking at work. Thanks for this.

The more I read about Obama the more impressed I become. He's turning out to be even smarter than I had hoped. In the last week or two I have put together a number of posts about him, but the one you may want to read is Manchild in the Promised Land.

A shrewd observer in Israel says, "...we will be exposed to Obama’s rhetorical abilities – few are able to deliver speeches like he does, and nobody does it better. Just like any great speaker, he will not be lying. He will simply spare us the truth..."

The Times linked a string of his course materials when he was on staff at the U. of Chicago law school. Without identifying him as the source I put up one of his test questions and feedback memo to students from 1997. It's long and tedious, but shows the breadth of the man's mind.

There is also a surreal connection between the apprehension of Radovan Karadjic and a prescient statement that appeared at the Obama website weeks before.

Friday, August 01, 2008 4:05:00 PM  
Blogger Darlene said...

I hope you will send this to Ronni so she can draw attention to it on her blog, Time Goes By. It is very good and everyone should read it.

Sometimes we get so entrenched in our own perspective we lose sight of the big picture.

Thanks for an excellent post.

Sunday, August 03, 2008 4:57:00 PM  
Blogger Ginnie said...

I am nowhere near as erudite as your other commentors but I agree that your post is spot on, as usual. I know that Obama doesn't have all the answers but at least he will consider all sides and will listen. Of course, the Rove inspired McCain will call this "Flip-flopping" and our masses will hear that and shudder.
It frightens me that the American public cannot seem to understand that it is a much stronger leader who listens and changes his mind, as opposed to the idiots that we have in office now who stick to their guns no matter how wrong they have been proved to be.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008 3:01:00 PM  
Blogger joared said...

Maintaining the myth about the Israel connection continues to serve a purpose for groups dedicated to the nation's demise. You certainly pinpointed the broader issues well, as usual, which needs to be repeated elsewhere in many forums.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008 3:22:00 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

Terrific post, and right on the mark. Of course the Israeli/Palestinian tragedy is enormously important towards peace in the Middle East, but I have never bought into the myth that it is THE problem. That is an over simplification of the situation.

Senator Obama is having trouble making inroads in the Jewish community, but he is continuing to make progress. There is just so much negative and nasty crap being spread about him via blogs and conservative, right-wing Web sites, that it is difficult for the public to figure out who he is and what he stands for, especially as far as Israel is concerned.

America, and especially the Jewish community has got to study and reference the misinformation the McCain campaign is spreading. Yes, McCain wants to convince everyone that he has the best judgment in all matters of foreign affairs because he supported the surge and Barack did not. Well, let's give him the surge if he wants it so bad. After all, he has nothing else to run on. But his judgment in every other aspect of the Iraq war, including going to war in the first place, has been continuously wrong. He approved taking our eyes of Afghanistan and focusing on Iraq, and now we can all see where that has led us.

Do not let you friends, neighbours and coworkers forget what McCain really stands for. Supporting the rich, continuous war, and making sure the insurance and oil companies make ever increasing profits, while almost 50 million people go without health insurance.

Wake-up America and American Jews.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008 6:49:00 PM  
Blogger Dorothy said...

Hope all is well..

Dorothy from grammology

Thursday, August 07, 2008 8:02:00 PM  
Blogger mike said...

Let's say you are right and there is no direct link, even though injustice usually spreads as surrounding peoples see it dimensions.

But let's say no one is acting on their anger, or are just making a show of anger.

What then? Does it make sense for Israel to keep on containing 3.5 million West Bank Palestinians as prisoners in an apartheid situation.

Jimmy Carter is absolutely right in his assessment of the situation.

And, as other visiting South Africans who lived though apartheid have said, he's actually understated the case out of respect for the feelings of Israelis for whom he's had a long affection.

As have many of us, I'd add, an affection ever more put to the test as Israel tries ever trick in the Neo con play book to start a war with Iran

So, what should Israel do re the Palestinians if it makes no difference to the level of ferment in the Muslim world?

Well, nothing beats putting oneself in the shoes of others to find the fair way forward.

How would we like to live in a regime of check points, our movements ever more constrained,

How would we face arrogant settlers, armed with religious zealotry, driving us from our olive groves and farms as if we were vermin.

How would we like to be unable to build shelter for our family, our every application knocked back, and when in desperation, we do build a house "illegally", bulldozers come to knock it down.

Linkage or not, this humiliation cannot go on.

If Israel really can't stop a West Bank dynamic which now has so much momentum, then it must forget the race based state dream, and declare equal citizenship for all.

Where Obama has failed, is in not speaking truth to friends. He's taken the easy way, telling AIPAC and Israel what they want to hear.

And yet it's not the easy way, not the winning way, because the Jewish community knows it's not what he feels. The progressives are disheartened and the hawks are not appeased.

70% of the US electorate, in a recent poll, wants the US Govt. to be even handed on the Israel/Palestine question, meaning stop the slavish support of Israel.

Obama should work to that mandate. It's his best chance with Jews and Gentiles alike in my view

Sunday, August 10, 2008 8:33:00 AM  
Blogger Mortart said...

I refer Mike to an earlier post on this blog, dated May 7, 2008, which is entitled "The Palestinians' self-inflicted wounds."

The latest Israeli experience in conciliation has not been very rewarding. Two years ago, Israel removed its settlers from Gaza and turned over governing control of the territory to the Palestinian Authority. The result: No peace, but a new source for rocket attacks on neighboring Israeli civilian communities.

Sunday, August 10, 2008 12:47:00 PM  
Blogger Cowtown Pattie said...


Interesting perspective, and like some of your readers, this will prod me to do some more in-depth reading...if my nerves can stand it.

I have no idea how to calm the waters of the Middle East.

If the Jewish/Muslim/Christian problem has been ongoing since biblical days, then how the heck can the "Powers That Be" believe theyhave the answer?

My greatest fear is the ultimate solution - total annihilation of us all in a world gone crazy and powerful with weapons of war.

Where does it end?

I don't have the answer, nor does Obama or McCain for that matter. And there is far more at stake given the war machinations we have now at our disposal than just a game of political football.

That "football" is now glowing with radioactivity and teeming with all sorts of pestilence - carrying a death sentence for the world.

Fear itself, of course, (on all sides) is the 200lb Gorilla in the Garden.

And the Gorilla is in a very nasty mood.

Sunday, August 10, 2008 4:48:00 PM  
Blogger Kay Dennison said...

Well said!! Add the fact that the Muslims have been fighting among themselves since time immemorial ensures that there cannot and will not be any easy answers.

Mohammed and Yahweh have to be very displeased with their children. Neither of them would have wanted this according to the course I took in Eastern religions.

Monday, August 11, 2008 11:06:00 PM  

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