News & Views » Don't Panic!... Your war questions answered

Did Obama’s Cairo speech throw Israel under the bus?



After President Obama’s Cairo speech, one of the more bizarre memes to emerge from the Magical Dungeon of Nonsensical Anti-Obama Talking Points was the notion that Obama’s words were somehow harshly critical of Israel.

The most popular criticism: Obama’s speech threw Israel “under the bus.” Michael Goldfarb of the Weekly Standard said it. Former Bush One Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Jed Babbin said it. Best-selling professional Muslim-hater Robert Spencer said it, too.

Google — or, if you prefer, Bing — the phrase “Obama threw Israel under the bus” and you’ll find countless examples. By countless, I mean there were a lot, but I didn’t count them.

Rush Limbaugh didn’t use “under the bus.” Instead, he said Obama’s speech “threw Israel over the cliff.”

I’m not sure if getting thrown over a cliff is supposed to be better or worse than getting thrown under a bus. I suppose it depends on what’s at the bottom of the cliff. If there’s a giant trampoline or a nude beach with exceptionally bouncy sand at the bottom, then maybe the cliff ain’t so bad.

If, however, there are dragons at the bottom of the cliff, or a freaky modern art installation consisting of thousands of upward-facing pitchforks, then I’m taking the under-the-bus option.

Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post skipped the bus/cliff metaphors. Instead, the ol’ kabbage krusher called Obama “dishonorable” because, he says, the speech bullied Israel.

Bullied how? Let’s go to the transcript.

“America's strong bonds with Israel are well-known,” Obama said. “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.”

Nothing offensive about that. It’s not like he blurted out “Opposite Day!” right afterward.

In fact, he followed it up by condemning the horror of Nazism and conflating Israel’s modern-day enemies Hamas, and Iran’s theocratic government with Nazis. Again, nothing about that would offend even the most easily offended friend o’ Israel.

Some were offended by this:

“On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people — Muslims and Christians — have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than 60 years they've endured the pain of dislocation,” Obama said. “Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations — large and small — that come with occupation.”

Critics of the speech said the above passage equated Palestinian suffering with the Holocaust. It didn’t. It doesn’t.

It’s a simple acknowledgement of the pain and misery Palestinians have endured since Israel’s creation. The Holocaust is the greatest act of evil ever committed. But the fact of the Holocaust doesn’t cancel, mitigate or soothe the suffering of Palestinians. Ask a Palestinian if you don’t believe me. Acknowledging the suffering of Jews and Arabs during the same speech isn’t anti-Israeli. It’s pro-human.

Obama followed that with bland pronouncements in support of a two-state solution — an Israel and Palestine side-by-side, in peace. You know, like ebony and ivory, except they’re both pretty much the same shade of beige.

There’s nothing anti-Israeli about that. And even though it pissed off the Krauthammers of the world, there was nothing anti-Israeli about Obama’s next statement about Israel, either:

“The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.”

The settlements Obama demands Israel stop growing aren’t in Israel. Is it anti-Israeli to demand Israel stop building or expanding settlements — illegal settlements — on parts of the occupied West Bank? Only if your definition of “pro-Israeli” is “blind support for the maximalist demands of Israel’s right-wing political parties.”

Interestingly, you know who doesn’t think it’s anti-Israeli to halt the growth of settlements in the West Bank? Israelis. A majority polled after Obama’s speech said they agree with a settlement freeze.

Comments (3)

Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

Add a comment