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  • Reaction to Obama’s speech, from good to the insane


    by Sunny
    5th June, 2009 at 8:57 am    

    The headline in The Times states: Obama delivers strong attack on Israeli settlements in speech to Muslim world. Oh dear, Melanie Phillips is not going to be happy.

    But Obama’s speech was widely expected. Some even thought he wouldn’t mention Israel / Palestine, but then Obama has always been one to grab the bull by the horns.

    But, why Egypt and not Indonesia?

    “I like to go to the sources of the problem not around it,” he said, adding that giving the speech in Indonesia would be “almost like cheating” because Indonesia and the US have generally very strong ties and that because of his background having lived in Indonesia and having a sister who is half Indonesian, he would have “home ground” advantage and he did not want that.

    Here are some reactions positive, negative and insane (video included)…

    POSITIVE
    Stephen Walt at Foreign Policy blog:

    I thought his handling of the Israel-Palestinian issue was clear and straightforward, He reaffirmed both the bedrock U.S. commitment to Israel’s existence and security and the necessity of an independent Palestinian state. He understands — even if others do not — that “this is in Israel’s interest, Palestine’s interest, America’s interest and the world’s interest.” He also rejected the poison of Holocaust denial and “vile stereotypes about Jews” in clear and direct language, and told his listeners that such beliefs helped prevent “the peace that the people of this region deserve.” I wish he had offered a few more specifics, but overall he handled this issue well.

    M.J. Rosenberg writes:

    Mission accomplished. For the first time in memory, an American President spoke to Muslims and Arabs not as antagonists who need to take certain actions before achieving US acceptance but as equals.

    Jeffrey Goldberg in the Atlantic:

    An African-American President with Muslim roots stands before the Muslim world and defends the right of Jews to a nation of their own in their ancestral homeland, and then denounces in vociferous terms the evil of Holocaust denial, and right-wing Israelis go forth and complain that the President is unsympathetic to the housing needs of settlers. Incredible, just incredible.

    He also managed to unite everyone! (from here)

    Kadima, MK Ze’ev Boim:

    Obama’s speech is further proof that Netanyahu did not properly gauge the policies of the Untied States. The policies of the president on the Palestinian issue are identical to those of Kadima, and it is unfortunate that Netanyahu is unable to accept the idea of two states for two peoples for narrow political reasons.

    Labor, MK Eitan Cabel:

    The president’s words made it very clear that in Washington they are unwilling to turn a blind eye. Time is working against us, and the Israelis interest of not being a serial rejector means accepting two states for two peoples and stopping construction of settlements.

    Nabil Rudeineh, Spokesman for President Abbas:

    His call for stopping settlement and for the establishment of a Palestinian state, and his reference to the suffering of Palestinians. . .is a clear message to Israel that a just peace is built on the foundations of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. President Obama’s speech is a good start and an important step towards a new American policy.

    Hamas leader Mahmoud Ramahi:

    I have followed the speech closely. There are many positive points. There is a difference between his policy and Bush’s policy. I see a change in the U.S. foreign policy discourse. But the problem is still on the ground. Would they achieve a Palestinian independent state? If he does that, that would be a relief and good for all parties.

    NEGATIVE
    Ira Stoll on the conservative Commentary Magazine:

    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.

    This video, shot in Israel, has some downright racism against Obama

    via Max Blumenthal

    FULL SPEECH

    Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy


                  Post to del.icio.us


    Filed in: Current affairs,Middle East,United States






    36 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs
    1. pickles

      New blog post: Reaction to Obama’s speech, from good to the insane http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/4725




    1. Tze Ming — on 5th June, 2009 at 9:46 am  

      I hope there will be some non-mad parsing of this speech for its implications for America’s ‘Democracy promotion’ policy. The speech appeared to contain a specific repudiation of any encouragement of elections in the region as a way to moderate extremism by channeling it into political participation. Rather, it fell back to a generic statement on how ‘human rights and civil liberties are awesome and tasty and good, eventually, for electoral democracy, not that you need electoral democracy. Why don’t you try some? They are delicious - deliciously vague!’ I expect Reza Aslan should have something to say on this tonight at the City Circle, since he’s been talking about the potential likely failings of this speech all week. Which I know, because I’ve been stalking him, poor man.

    2. chairwoman — on 5th June, 2009 at 10:06 am  

      He gave a cracking speech.

      What a pity the selective reporting by all the major British television news providers didn’t show how even-handed the speech was by virtually editing out the requirements he made of other ME countries for the ‘road map’, and made it look as though only Israel had to make concessions.

      Best reporting of the speech? I’m astonished to find myself saying The Guardian.

    3. chairwoman — on 5th June, 2009 at 10:14 am  

      “The headline in The Times states: Obama delivers strong attack on Israeli settlements in speech to Muslim world. Oh dear, Melanie Phillips is not going to be happy”

      Nobody who’s read the speech should be happy, Sunny. It does the man a severe injustice to make him look so one-sided when he was absolutely fair to both sides.

      And as for your rabble-rousing posting of that disgusting video, there are many more on the internet where Muslims, of all shades, make similarly disgusting racist remarks about Jews in general, and Israeli Jews in particular.

      I’m starting to think that you’re starting to think that ME peace wouldn’t be good for PP business.

    4. bananabrain — on 5th June, 2009 at 10:50 am  

      i thought the speech - i read the whole of it - was spot on, very well balanced, criticised fairly and evenly. no criticism from me. if anything, the fact that he managed to tick off al-qaeda, the iranians and the hardline israeli settlers simultaneously speaks very well for him.

      given obama’s position, i wonder how long netanyahu can remain as intransigent as he is being?

      now we’ll see if he can deliver.

      b’shalom

      bananabrain

    5. Refresh — on 5th June, 2009 at 11:06 am  

      Excellent speech. Makes me think he’s been cribbing from my comments as well as reading my mind.

      The most interesting thing about it was the recognition of how the US has brought us to this, which was first flagged by Hilary Clinton in April, and now the president himself:

      ‘He showed understanding, if not always acceptance, of what one might call the Arab and Muslim narrative. So he spoke of past “colonialism”, a word shocking to hear from a US president. He admitted the cold-war use of Muslim nations as “proxies”, and confessed to US involvement in the toppling of Iran’s elected prime minister in 1953. One analyst noted references to “dignity” and “justice” and against “humiliation”, words that resonate in Muslim discourse. Obama’s aim was to break through the suspicion and cynicism that have accreted over decades and show that America is under truly new management. So he did not defend the invasion of Iraq, but called it a “war of choice”.’

      From Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian,

      ‘Barack Obama in Cairo: the speech no other president could make’

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jun/04/barack-obama-speech-islam-west

      In that context I would not view the US aid to the region as ‘aid’ but as a part of a reparation package.

    6. Refresh — on 5th June, 2009 at 11:14 am  

      The reference to Iran and alleged ambition for a nuclear weapons was put in its proper context: that there should not be a nuclear arms race in the middle east. It follows that there will come a time when Israel’s nuclear arsenal will be on the table. Campaign for a nuclear free middle east started with this speech.

    7. munir — on 5th June, 2009 at 11:28 am  

      chairwoman

      “And as for your rabble-rousing posting of that disgusting video, there are many more on the internet where Muslims, of all shades, make similarly disgusting racist remarks about Jews in general, and Israeli Jews in particular.”

      The difference being, as vile as they are, these are osbcure websites most Muslims dont even know about it- while Melanie Phillips and Richard Desmond (and many other Jews) make racist comments about Arabs and Muslims in national newspapers and television

    8. Jai — on 5th June, 2009 at 11:39 am  

      A phenomenal speech from Obama — He covered all the bases and, in terms of content, manner of delivery and inspirational nature, people who were already familiar with previous even-handed, comprehensive and uplifting speeches from Obama and were hoping for something similar got exactly what they wanted.

      I also think that his Cairo audience (and many others in “the Muslim world”) got a taste of the full-on “Obama effect” ;)

      Repeated reactions I’ve noticed have been “I’ve never seen anything like this from an American President before” and “only Obama could have given this speech”.

      In relation to the latter in particular, I think we’re seeing another reason why Obama was the right man for the job in all aspects in terms of winning the Presidency — it’s because of a combination of his ideas, his character, the positive effect he has on so many people, and the very nature of his identity.

      If the Obama Administration turns these words into concrete action and genuinely starts to achieve tangible resolutions to the various conflicts it chooses to address, while simultaneously undermining the efforts and claims of Al-Qaeda and its allies, then Obama really could turn out to be the great man that so many people hope (or believe) he is, and consequently one of the greatest Presidents in American history. If he really manages to pull all this off.

      Let’s hope this is the case. Exciting times.

      Oh, I also thought his comments about Thomas Jefferson owning a copy of the Quran (apparently he learned to speak Arabic too) were fascinating. I didn’t know about that.

    9. imran khan — on 5th June, 2009 at 11:51 am  

      Chairwoman - “And as for your rabble-rousing posting of that disgusting video, there are many more on the internet where Muslims, of all shades, make similarly disgusting racist remarks about Jews in general, and Israeli Jews in particular.

      I’m starting to think that you’re starting to think that ME peace wouldn’t be good for PP business.”

      I’d say your reaction is poor. Every time there is a negative about Jews or Israel you react in knee jerk fashion and then hide behind the fact Muslims do it.

      When Sunny highlights similar Muslim statements then you are not equal and say that similar problems exist in your community.

      The fact is that Judaism itself is in grave danger of being hijacked by extremists as well and denial isn’t a good cure.

      We’ve had a Rabbi expose the fact that mainstream Orthodox Jews in the USA sing songs calling for Death to Arabs and people are not saying much.

      Sunny also had a piece about the hypocrisy of Bunglawala and you didn’t complain about that so why complain when he highlights other religious extremism???

      If you can’t bring yourself to accept this is a growing problem in Judaism then that is truly sad and I’d say your rabble rousing and denial is a worry.

    10. bananabrain — on 5th June, 2009 at 12:10 pm  

      The fact is that Judaism itself is in grave danger of being hijacked by extremists as well and denial isn’t a good cure.

      it is not actually judaism as a whole that is being hijacked here, it is, more specifically, religious judaism as it relates to zionism. that is an important distinction. please try and understand that. judaism is not a monolithic block, as you keep reminding us that islam isn’t, as if we didn’t know.

      We’ve had a Rabbi expose the fact that mainstream Orthodox Jews in the USA sing songs calling for Death to Arabs and people are not saying much.

      not that that is relevant to this thread, but where’s your source? it’s news to me and if it’s true i’d be very, very angry.

      b’shalom

      bananabrain

    11. imran khan — on 5th June, 2009 at 1:07 pm  

      Bananabrain - “not that that is relevant to this thread, but where’s your source? it’s news to me and if it’s true i’d be very, very angry.”

      Suprised you didn’t pick this up as it was in The JC as well.

      http://www.thejewishweek.com/viewArticle/c55_a15922/Editorial__Opinion/Opinion.html

      “This Is Zionism?

      by Rabbi Sidney Schwarz
      …
      Then one speaker launched into a tirade about how every American president since Jimmy Carter had betrayed Israel by courting the favor of Arab nations. Applause. Another speaker announced that Hillary Clinton cared more about Palestinian national aspirations than about Israel’s survival. Applause. Candidate for Congress, Elizabeth Berney, slammed Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), chairman of the House Sub-committee on the Middle East for his characterization of Israeli settlement activity in the territories as part of a “destructive dynamic” in the region. More applause.

      Then a band launched into a rousing rendition of Am Yisrael Chai. I spent more than 25 years as an activist for Soviet Jewry. This was our theme song signaling solidarity both with the history of our people and with all those oppressed Jews in the world whose cause we championed. A group of young men in their 20’s with kippot and tziztzit were right in front of me dancing in a frenzy. But they alternated the verse that meant “the people of Israel lives” with “all the Arabs must die.” It rhymed with the Hebrew. Given the way all joined in, it was clear that this was not the first time it was sung.

      I leaned over to a young man who was next to me, also wearing a kippah and tzitzit. I nodded at the dancers and asked: “Does this song bother you?” He looked at me with a suspicious look and replied: “This is Zionism.”

      There were a dozen or so sponsors of the rally including the Zionist Organization of America, Americans for a Safe Israel and the National Council of Young Israel. Rally sponsors cannot control every statement of every speaker and they certainly can not control the actions of those in the audience. Yet the messages from the stage were all in ideological alignment and the MC was generously doling out yasher koachs after each presentation.
      …
      Jewish leaders are quick to demand that Muslim clergy condemn the extremism that has hijacked Islam into a religion of terrorism and death. We need to make the same demands of the rabbis of institutions whose students make a chillul hashem (a desecration of God’s name) by singing “all the Arabs must die”.

      Finally, Jews who love Israel and who want peace need to ask themselves how we can reclaim the public discourse about the future of the Jewish state. Islam is not the only religion that is in danger of being hijacked.”

      The last sentence is indeed one that most people are in denial about and the apologists for Memri here well now lets see if they speak out.

      Will Melanie Phillips or Memri discuss this? Will Hazel Blears demand clarification that such things do not go on here - well she can’t anymore cause she’s resigned but you get the point!

      We’ve had denial after denial here that only an extreme minority of Jews say such things.

      Yet here it is in song at a major Jewish event and no one says a thing.

      These are not some minor organisations this is what is said about the Zionist Organisation of America:
      “”The ZOA is the most credible advocate for Israel on the American Jewish scene today.”
      The Wall Street Journal

      “The ZOA is one of the most important and influential Jewish groups in the U.S. today.”
      The Jerusalem Post”
      http://www.zoa.org/content/about_us.asp

    12. imran khan — on 5th June, 2009 at 1:11 pm  

      Here is the JC Link:

      http://www.thejc.com/blogpost/this-not-zionism#comment-1150

    13. imran khan — on 5th June, 2009 at 1:17 pm  

      Bananabrain - “it is not actually judaism as a whole that is being hijacked here, it is, more specifically, religious judaism as it relates to zionism. that is an important distinction. please try and understand that. judaism is not a monolithic block, as you keep reminding us that islam isn’t, as if we didn’t know.”

      I know and I specifically said to you that the two need to be kept separate some time back. The fact they are being fused together brings Judaism unfairly into disrepute much as Islam is brought into disrepute by extremists.

    14. chairwoman — on 5th June, 2009 at 2:29 pm  

      Imran @ 9

      This is a particular gripe with Sunny, Imran. It actually isn’t about the vile remarks that groups of our respective peoples seem to delight in making about each other. It was specifically about what appears to be Sunny’s agenda of posting something something critical to Jews/Israelis every time there appears to be lull in the comments box.

      Here we had a ground breaking speech, made, in the ME by a young, charismatic, mixed race American president, that went a long way to addressing the myriad problems that the region has to cope with.

      And Sunny muddied the waters. I wouldn’t have commented had he showed a video of Muslims behaving in a similarly disgusting manner, I would have left it for you to ctiticise, and then I would have supported you.

      Sunny knows what ‘sells’ so to speak.

    15. chairwoman — on 5th June, 2009 at 2:31 pm  

      Imran - You haven’t a clue what motivates me, what makes me tick. There’s no reason why you should, but you never fail to ascribe motives to my comments that are so far from what’s in my mind that I read them open mouthed.

    16. bananabrain — on 5th June, 2009 at 2:51 pm  

      have now read the story, couldn’t find it in the JC first time, thanks for that. this is truly disgusting.

      We need to make the same demands of the rabbis of institutions whose students make a chillul hashem (a desecration of God’s name) by singing “all the Arabs must die”.

      i agree. do we know which religious institutions they are? if i can find out, i will see what i can do about raising this issue, although clearly simon rocker (who i do know reasonably well) is interested in doing so as well.

      you must admit, however, that the fact that it was raised in the jewish press, rather than the muslim press or the secular MSM, ought to be viewed as encouraging.

      “The ZOA is one of the most important and influential Jewish groups in the U.S. today.”

      yet, apparently, 78% of jews voted for obama. so either the jerusalem post is indulging in wishful thinking (it is a very right-wing paper) or clearly, the times are a-changing, hopefully for the better.

      b’shalom

      bananabrain

    17. bananabrain — on 5th June, 2009 at 2:55 pm  

      Will Hazel Blears demand clarification that such things do not go on here

      i would have thought that the fact that it was thought worthy of comment would indicate that such a situation would be unusual at a UK event.

      b’shalom

      bananabrain

    18. Refresh — on 5th June, 2009 at 3:12 pm  

      I think Sunny was right to highlight that video. we are not going to progress with Obama’s agenda if we don’t see the level of racism that is endemic in Israel. Those guys in the video are far more dangerous to life and limb than most racists, at night they chant racist slogans and during the day they may well be out in the military apparel abusing palestinians.

    19. Jai — on 5th June, 2009 at 3:36 pm  

      Refresh,

      I just wanted to thank you for the Guardian article you linked to in #5. It really is excellent.

      The subsequent comments thread is also very good and worth ploughing through — some nutters, obviously, but enough informed contributors with a few more brain cells in their heads to be able to set the record straight (especially about history, both 20th century and medieval) and also educate a few people with their own though-provoking contributions.

      Great stuff, mate. Thanks again.

    20. imran khan — on 5th June, 2009 at 3:59 pm  

      Bananabrain - “you must admit, however, that the fact that it was raised in the jewish press, rather than the muslim press or the secular MSM, ought to be viewed as encouraging.”

      Yes that is encouraging.

      “yet, apparently, 78% of jews voted for obama. so either the jerusalem post is indulging in wishful thinking (it is a very right-wing paper) or clearly, the times are a-changing, hopefully for the better.”

      Well I don’t think this song is representative of the Jewish Community and I have met lots of them so from a personal point of view I’d say times are changing.

      I remember reading somewhere that even in Capitol Hill Bibi got a frosty reception and some plain talking.

      “i would have thought that the fact that it was thought worthy of comment would indicate that such a situation would be unusual at a UK event.”

      The Blears comment was more about her approach!

      I think Simon Rocker was issuing a warning to watch out for this and I don’t think he seriously thinks it is going on here.

      Actually I think the Jewish community here is better than in the USA and given the people in the community if this did happen here I’d expect many would speak out.

      I know I criticise them on issues but being fair I can’t think of any major organisation that would allow this type of song at their event - I seriously can’t.

    21. Refresh — on 5th June, 2009 at 4:00 pm  

      Jai,

      You are welcome.

      Might I add that I have been meaning to congratulate you for your tremendous work here on PP. You are one of the very (very) few who recognised the issues at stake right from your very first comment on Pickled Politics.

      If we can achieve what Obama has promised, then perhaps you should write your book. You should call it ‘End of History - No Really!’ LOL

    22. imran khan — on 5th June, 2009 at 4:06 pm  

      Chairwoman - “Imran - You haven’t a clue what motivates me, what makes me tick. There’s no reason why you should, but you never fail to ascribe motives to my comments that are so far from what’s in my mind that I read them open mouthed.”

      Please explain.

      I was truly shocked at your comment and also the oh go and see what Muslims do. Why was that needed?

      You complain if its done to the Jewish Community but you just did the same so how does that appear.

      I usually like your commentary but I’d say in this case you were wrong.

      He highlighted an issue - whats wrong with that. He does it to the Muslim Community, Sikh Community, Hindu Community. You don’t object to that but whenever he does it to the Jewish Community you paint him as an ogre with an axe to grind.

    23. imran khan — on 5th June, 2009 at 4:18 pm  

      Bananabrain - You know this is worth reading:

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/8085167.stm

      There are very few negative comments about Obama’s speech from the Israeli media.

      Amongst the ones that stand out:

      “Commentary by Eitan Haber in Yediot Aharonot

      The speech was balanced but this is exactly the problem… For light years we were spoilt by the lack of US balance in our favour… The speech yesterday is the beginning of a “new countdown” in the relations between Washington and Jerusalem. It seems there will be no intimacy in the relations, that intimacy that granted Israel and its leaders a unique, special status among the leaders and nations of the world.”

      “Attila Somfalvi in Ynetnews.com

      Obama left no room for doubt: The United States supports Israel, yet the era of trickery, promises, and the gradual annexation in Judea and Samaria is over. The time has come for action; the time has come for moving towards a resolution of the Palestinian problem… Barack Obama’s speech was meant to make it clear to Netanyahu who the master of the house is. ”

      “Commentary by Yo’el Marcus in Ha’aretz

      Today, 5 June, 42 years after the Six-Day War, the time has come to respond to the question posed by President Lyndon Johnson to Prime Minister Levi Eshkol: What kind of Israel do you people want? Yesterday, Obama made it clear what the answer should be, and that we should view his sycophantic speech in Cairo as a true alarm. ”

      “Editorial in Ha’aretz

      It was not only before Islam and the West, but also, perhaps mostly, before Israel, the Palestinians and the Arabs that an opportunity for a new beginning was laid out in Cairo yesterday… The government of Israel, like that of the Palestinians, has no right to ignore this opportunity and place it in the drawer alongside all the other missed opportunities. The price of missing out will not be measured in the quality of relations with Washington, but in human lives. ”

      “Gideon Levy in Ha’aretz

      Only the Israeli analysts tried to diminish the speech’s importance (“not terrible”), to spread fear (“he mentioned the Holocaust and the Nakba in a single breath”), or were insulted on our behalf (“he did not mention our right to the land as promised in the Bible”). All these were redundant and unnecessary. Obama emerged on Thursday as a true friend of Israel. ”

      I’d say Israel’s biggest enemy was Bush and the neocons who set back Israel many decades by allowing it to indulge in something that most people can see is unsustainable. Lets hope both sides grasp the opportunity and bring peace.

      Lets hope here the communities can also unite and bring community harmony.

      On the back of this speech here then I’d say there is an opportunity to encourage the process 3000 miles away and equally build bridges here. I’d quite like to see some joint event in London not for I/P but for Jews and Muslims.

    24. Jai — on 5th June, 2009 at 4:35 pm  

      Refresh,

      Might I add that I have been meaning to congratulate you for your tremendous work here on PP. You are one of the very (very) few who recognised the issues at stake right from your very first comment on Pickled Politics.

      That’s extremely kind of you. Thank you very much.

      Sometimes (okay, usually), objectivity and attempting to understand “the big picture” and (as you said) the real issues at stake is the best approach.

      As I mentioned a couple of times on the BNP thread yesterday, one should always bear in mind how the world actually is, not just how one assumes it to be or one’s own little patch of it.

      If we can achieve what Obama has promised, then perhaps you should write your book. You should call it ‘End of History - No Really!’ LOL

      Now there’s an incentive for Obama to actually deliver the goods, if ever there was one. Get cracking, Mr President !

      ;)

    25. The Dude — on 5th June, 2009 at 4:47 pm  

      You show me a community anywhere which hasn’t got a racist element within it and I’ll show you a fairy tale, so lets stop all this brow beating of Chairwoman and Sunny and get back to the case in point, Obama.

      Obama did indeed made a great speech but he did make one vital omission, that of Israel’s nuclear weapons. To expect Iran to relent of their own nuclear ambitions while surrounded by potential enemies who all possess them is not only naive ( on Obama’s part ) but irresponsible to the people of Iran. The first responsibility of ANY government is to insure the protection and security of it’s people. This includes the Iranian people.

    26. chairwoman — on 5th June, 2009 at 5:24 pm  

      “I was truly shocked at your comment and also the oh go and see what Muslims do. Why was that needed?”

      I’m sorry Imran, I accept that I haven’t made what I meant very clear.

      I have noticed over the past few months, that when the comments are low, Sunny has thrown a criticism of Israel into the ring, and then the comments have come rolling in. This, of course, might be coincidental, but if so, there have been an awful lot of coincidences lately.

      I was not ‘oh go and see what the Muslims do’ing to take issue with Muslims, but to take issue with Sunny. I think that Obama’s speech was the first glimmer of hope for Israel and Palestine in a long time, and I think that we should be looking it as a start from here, and to publish that video or any similar from any group, is a retrograde step at this time, does nothing to help the situation, and is certainly not in the spirit of the moment.

    27. imran khan — on 5th June, 2009 at 5:43 pm  

      Chairwoman - Ok fair enough :-)

    28. Refresh — on 5th June, 2009 at 5:46 pm  

      Dude, I agree with regards to Iran. It is something that I had pondered, and the only solution to it is the removal of nuclear weapons from Israel. I am aware Egypt has been calling for a nuclear free region for quite a while now.

      It may well be that Obama had this in mind when he spoke earlier in the year about getting rid of nuclear weapons. Israel would be an excellent start.

    29. halima — on 6th June, 2009 at 9:30 pm  

      I like Obama .. and it’s because I like Obama I never seem to find fault with what he says…

      But sometimes one of the hardest things to do is pick faults with someone you like and respect.

      I found this link particularly revealing:

      http://www.siawi.org/article791.html

      “Can we imagine for one minute that Obama would address himself to ’ Christianity’ or to ’Buddhism’? No, he would talk to Christians or Buddhists… to real people, keeping in mind all their differences. Obama is essentializing Islam, ignoring the large differences that exist among Muslim believers themselves, in terms of religious schools of thought and interpretations, cultural differences and political opinions. These differences indeed make it totally irrelevant to speak about ’Islam’ in such a totalizing way. Obama would not dare essentialize, for instance, Christianity in such a way, ignoring the huge gap between Opus Dei and liberation theology…”

      Marieme Helie Lucas is an Algerian sociologist, founder and former
      International Coordinator of the ’Women Living Under Muslim Laws’
      international solidarity network.

    30. Shamit — on 6th June, 2009 at 10:59 pm  

      Halima

      As always interesting and thought provoking comment.

      How is Beijing treating you?

    31. halima — on 7th June, 2009 at 12:37 am  

      Hi Shamit

      Yes, it’s quite difficult to pick holes in Obama’s method in these early days …but there you go..

      Beijing is great, different but great, thanks, I’ve found the language side most difficult, never been anywhere in the world where there is less English spoken, but that goes to blow any myth about English being the language of business as the Chinese have managed fine without it… So I am learning survival mandarin to survive. I’ve also been blown over by the scale of growth - canary wharf and manhattan style skylines.. etc etc… I have plans to go to Wudan mountain which is that place in Crouching Tiger at the end where they jump off the mountain. It’s the birthplace of kung fu so i am intrigued to see!

    32. bananabrain — on 8th June, 2009 at 9:18 am  

      Well I don’t think this song is representative of the Jewish Community and I have met lots of them so from a personal point of view I’d say times are changing.

      good, well i don’t think it’s representative either - but i don’t think it’s ever been representative. this sort of thing represents a new low in the polarisation of opinion and a further debasement of the religious zionist ideal.

      I remember reading somewhere that even in Capitol Hill Bibi got a frosty reception and some plain talking.

      i heard he got a thorough kicking from most of the jewish members of congress. it sounds to me like aipac is not having the discourse to itself any more.

      I think Simon Rocker was issuing a warning to watch out for this and I don’t think he seriously thinks it is going on here.

      well, i said i’d look into raising the issue and i have taken the first steps, although how effective they will be remains to be seen. from the conversations i’ve had about it this weekend, much of the feeling seems to be “well, what do you expect after the way they’ve been talking about us all these years?” to which i have been saying “and does that justify it, then? is that how [religious] jews should be behaving, i thought we were supposed to set an example not sink to the level of our persecutors?” which has resulted in a certain amount of agreement, albeit grudging at this stage. people aren’t really angry about it yet because mostly, they don’t know; most of the people i’m speaking to hadn’t seen the JC yet.

      anyway, i spoke to both of the senior rabbis in my community, one was somewhat grudgingly in agreement, one appeared to be genuinely appalled. as it happened, the son of the sephardi chief rabbi of israel was in our community this week - i would have raised it with him, but he doesn’t speak english, or know me at all - but i have asked for this to be mentioned to him so he can raise it with his father, the way i positioned it was that it is not the way religious jews should behave, particularly given that even though it’s not widespread it makes us all look particularly bad. i dare say this is not ideal, but you have to speak their language and understand the way they see things. anyway, that’s one area. i will look into some of the other ones going forward.

      Actually I think the Jewish community here is better than in the USA

      it’s certainly not as right-wing, but i don’t know about better.

      I know I criticise them on issues but being fair I can’t think of any major organisation that would allow this type of song at their event - I seriously can’t.

      er.. the thing is, it wasn’t going on on the stage, of course that wouldn’t be allowed on there. you are talking about a massive thing like the main drag of the notting hill carnival, where people are singing along in the audience - and a particular group within the audience that happened to be singing near rabbi schwartz; it’s not like the whole audience was joining in the chorus, that would be nigh-on unthinkable. i’m not minimising the seriousness here, but this is miles away from mainstream, let alone official sentiment.

      There are very few negative comments about Obama’s speech from the Israeli media.

      ok. and? what point are you making?

      On the back of this speech here then I’d say there is an opportunity to encourage the process 3000 miles away and equally build bridges here. I’d quite like to see some joint event in London not for I/P but for Jews and Muslims.

      so would i but in the present climate i would view it as impossible, certainly as a mass event. it would also be very difficult to exclude I/P from the discourse, not like in smaller groups where it can be deferred until social capital and bonds have been built.

      “Can we imagine for one minute that Obama would address himself to ’ Christianity’ or to ’Buddhism’? No, he would talk to Christians or Buddhists… to real people, keeping in mind all their differences. Obama is essentializing Islam, ignoring the large differences that exist among Muslim believers themselves, in terms of religious schools of thought and interpretations, cultural differences and political opinions. These differences indeed make it totally irrelevant to speak about ’Islam’ in such a totalizing way.

      that is why i always say that “ummah-speak” panders to islamists.

      b’shalom

      bananabrain

    33. imran khan — on 8th June, 2009 at 6:03 pm  

      Bananabrain - “good, well i don’t think it’s representative either - but i don’t think it’s ever been representative. this sort of thing represents a new low in the polarisation of opinion and a further debasement of the religious zionist ideal.”
      True enough but the question is how do we combat this and stop it spreading.

      “i heard he got a thorough kicking from most of the jewish members of congress. it sounds to me like aipac is not having the discourse to itself any more.”
      Yes thats what I read as well and that he was a bit shocked. However its a good sign that people stood up and told him what he needed to hear.

      “well, i said i’d look into raising the issue and i have taken the first steps, although how effective they will be remains to be seen.”
      Thank you and well done for your efforts.

      “from the conversations i’ve had about it this weekend, much of the feeling seems to be “well, what do you expect after the way they’ve been talking about us all these years?” to which i have been saying “and does that justify it, then? is that how [religious] jews should be behaving, i thought we were supposed to set an example not sink to the level of our persecutors?” which has resulted in a certain amount of agreement, albeit grudging at this stage. people aren’t really angry about it yet because mostly, they don’t know; most of the people i’m speaking to hadn’t seen the JC yet.”
      The feelings are due to the lack of interaction between both communities and this needs to change.

      I suspect the other reason is because as far as we know it doesn’t happen here so maybe people feel it isn’t their problem - I don’t know but I suspect when people see this in the JC then they’ll be more vocal. The fact you are pointing them to the sources I suspect will make them think.

      “anyway, i spoke to both of the senior rabbis in my community, one was somewhat grudgingly in agreement, one appeared to be genuinely appalled. as it happened,”
      It is a shame community relations have reached this point but we need to drive forward and get the communities together with a grassroots project. The Chief Rabbi’s Office and the BoD both have people capable of helping and roles in this area so I think it might be wise to bring them in.

      As I said there is bridge building going on and that needs to be encouraged and grow. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many Jewish people and to be honest even with the most ardent Zionists I can have a conversation about all issues including I/P so I think the community relations are important to build and hopefully people will see this now.

      “ok. and? what point are you making?”
      The point I am making is that the media in Israel is pushing for some movement towards Obama’s vision and thats a change from the old Bush days. Bibi is not having the ride he wanted and that can only be good for Israel. The media isn’t talking of the danger to Israel’s security it is talking about the need to grasp the moment which is a wholesale change from days gone by.

      “so would i but in the present climate i would view it as impossible, certainly as a mass event. it would also be very difficult to exclude I/P from the discourse, not like in smaller groups where it can be deferred until social capital and bonds have been built.”
      I don’t think so - I think it is achievable and someone I know is working on this and is excluding I/P. as I said the same person has managed to start a small project in Israel which is growing and is focussed on dialogue.

      If this project can get going here I think it will have the support of both communities but sadly funding such work is difficult.

      To be honest I actually feel quite bad that I can’t do more to help the people launching such projects but they are working away quietly and effectively to build better relations and they are successful.

      Social capital and interaction is so crucial and we all need to aid this.

      “that is why i always say that “ummah-speak” panders to islamists.”
      You miss the point, by talking to Muslims generally, or Jews or Christians there is a connect.

      Its about speaking to people who identify themselves as Muslims and that is who he was connecting with. I’ve had Americans I know asking what I thought of Obama’s speech. Muslims are talking about it.

      Thats the point that by doing what he did he connected with people who identify themselves as Muslims and raised himself above the differences.

      Obama achieved what he wanted and it was clever.

    34. imran khan — on 9th June, 2009 at 5:49 pm  

      Here’s another bad one aired recently:

      Chabad rabbi: Jews should kill Arab men, women and children during war
      http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1091469.html

      “Like the best Chabad-Lubavitch rabbis, Manis Friedman has won the hearts of many unaffiliated Jews with his charismatic talks about love and God; it was Friedman who helped lead Bob Dylan into a relationship with Chabad.

      But Friedman, who today travels the country as a Chabad speaker, showed a less warm and cuddly side when he was asked how he thinks Jews should treat their Arab neighbors.

      “The only way to fight a moral war is the Jewish way: Destroy their holy sites. Kill men, women and children (and cattle),” Friedman wrote in response to the question posed by Moment Magazine for its “Ask the Rabbis” feature.

      Friedman argued that if Israel followed this wisdom, there would be “no civilian casualties, no children in the line of fire, no false sense of righteousness, in fact, no war.”

      “I don’t believe in Western morality,” he wrote. “Living by Torah values will make us a light unto the nations who suffer defeat because of a disastrous morality of human invention.”

      Friedman’s use of phrasing that might seem more familiar coming from an Islamic extremist has generated a swift backlash. The editor of Moment, Nadine Epstein, said that since the piece was printed in the current issue they “have received many letters and e-mails in response to Rabbi Friedman’s comments - and almost none of them have been positive.”

      Friedman quickly went into damage control. He released a statement to the Forward, through a Chabad spokesman, saying that his answer in Moment was “misleading” and that he does believe that “any neighbor of the Jewish people should be treated, as the Torah commands us, with respect and compassion.”

      But Friedman’s words have generated a debate about whether there is a darker side to the cheery face that the Chabad-Lubavitch movement shows to the world in its friendly outreach to unaffiliated Jews. Mordecai Specktor, editor of the Jewish community newspaper in Friedman’s hometown, St. Paul. Minnesota, said: “The public face of Lubavitch is educational programs and promoting Yiddishkeit. But I do often hear this hard line that Friedman expresses here.”

      “He sets things out in pretty stark terms, but I think this is what Lubavitchers believe, more or less,” said Specktor, who is also the publisher of the American Jewish World.

      “They are not about loving the Arabs or a two-state solution or any of that stuff. They are fundamentalists. They are our fundamentalists.”

      Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League and a regular critic of Arab extremists, said that in the Jewish community, “We are not immune to having these views. There are people in our community who have these bigoted, racist views.”

      But, Foxman warned, Friedman’s views are not reflective of the Chabad rabbis he knows. “I am not shocked that there would be a rabbi who would have these views,” Foxman said, “but I am shocked that Moment would give up all editorial discretion and good sense to publish this as representative of Chabad.”

      A few days after anger about the comment surfaced, Chabad headquarters released a statement saying that, “we vehemently disagree with any sentiment suggesting that Judaism allows for the wanton destruction of civilian life, even when at war.”

      The statement added: “In keeping with Jewish law, it is the unequivocal position of Chabad-Lubavitch that all human life is G-d given, precious, and must be treated with respect, dignity and compassion.” ”

      I suspect and I may be wrong but those against peace are now emerging with gloomy warnings and advocating extremism because Obama has galvanized the push for peace. Its good the ADL has spoken out but again this is due to the pressure and sea change in the USA.

    35. Liz Berney, Esq. — on 18th August, 2009 at 7:53 am  

      Response to Item #11 above - the reprint of the false Sid Schwartz Op Ed.

      In fairness to me (since Sid Schwartz attempted to attack me in his above reprinted opinion piece) and in fairness to your readers, who should hear the truth, please print the following response which was written when Schwartz’s op ed appeared. I also suggest to your readers that they read the numerous other letters by Rabbis and others refuting Sid Schwartz’s untrue account of the parade concert events.

      Self-proclaimed “human rights Zionist Rabbi” Sidney Schwartz apparently forgot that the most basic human right which Jews struggled for, for centuries, is to live in their own land. It was entirely appropriate for me to criticize Congressman Ackerman for arrogantly telling the sovereign country of Israel that Jews living in their own homes is a “destructive dynamic.” The impediment to peace is unrelenting Palestinian terrorism. Uprooting Jewish communities is a humanitarian disaster, and will not bring peace.

      Rabbi Schwartz’s distorted portrayal of the Salute to Israel Concert also neglected to mention that the Concert’s focus and featured speaker was Gilad Shalit’s heartbroken father, who movingly described how his son has been held incommunicado and tortured by Hamas terrorists for 1,071 days. He pleaded with us to help his son. I then spoke briefly about how Obama (with Ackerman’s support) pledged $900 million to Gaza — the territory of the same group that holds Gilad hostage. I urged everyone to write letters insisting that if Obama and Ackerman want to send such huge amounts of our tax dollars to Gaza, it must be conditioned on Hamas first freeing Gilad and dismantling and destroying every rocket in Gaza.

      Rabbi Schwartz also failed to mention the Palestinians holding hateful signs at the Israel Day Parade: “Close GITMO, Re-Open Auschwitz.” Instead, he claims that a few Jewish kids in the Concert audience sang an anti-Arab version of “Am Yisrael Chai.” None of the dozens of people in attendance whom I’ve checked with heard such a song. If it was sung at all, which is doubtful, it was an isolated incident which did not reflect the thousands of caring people at the Concert.

      If Rabbi Schwartz really wants to promote human rights, he should join the Salute to Israel Concert efforts to save Gilad Shalit and all Israelis threatened by rocket attacks and expulsion.

      Liz Berney, Esq.

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