Thursday, June 03, 2010

Soccer Dad

Soccer Dad

National jewish democratic cluelessness

Posted: 03 Jun 2010 04:03 AM PDT

Commentary magazine asked thirty one prominent American Jews their opinions on the relationship between Jews and President Obama. While the results of the symposium are generally not available, behind Commentary's subscription wall, some of the participants have posted their thoughts on line at their own websites.

Specifically Commentary asked:

The open conflict between the Obama administration and the government of Benjamin Netanyahu has created tensions between the United States and Israel of a kind not seen since the days of the administration of the first President Bush. And those tensions are placing unique pressure on American Jews, who voted for Barack Obama by a margin of nearly 4-to-1 in 2008 after being assured by Obama himself and by his supporters in the Jewish community that he was a friend and an ally of the State of Israel despite his long association with, among others, the unabashedly anti-Israel and anti-Semitic Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

We argue that American Jews are facing an unprecedented political challenge, and at a crucial moment, with the need to address the existential threat to Israel--and by extension to the future of the Jewish people as a whole--from a potentially nuclear Iran. How will American Jews handle this challenge? Can Obama's Jewish supporters act in a way that will change the unmistakable direction of current American policy emanating from the White House? Will American Jews accept Barack Obama's view that the state of Israel bears some responsibility for the loss of American "blood and treasure" in the Middle East? Will they continue to extend their support to the Obama administration and to Barack Obama's political party?

Martin Kramer, Daniel Pipes and Jeff Jacoby have all published their responses. Commentary also asked Ira Forman of the National Democratic Jewish Council his opinion.

Given an opportunity to respond in a politically unsympathetic forum, Forman would try to be persuasive. Instead his response both combative, puerile and offputting. I'm sure there are places where people make real efforts to defend President Obama's relationship with Israel. Forman's response is not one of them:

You lost me at "Rev. Jeremiah Wright"...

The Editors at Commentary could have decided to conduct a substantive debate about the merits of the Obama Administration's policy toward Israel. Instead they decided to frame the "discussion" by positing that in Israel's hour of need we have a Rev. Wright-worshiping president who is blaming Israel for the loss of American "blood and treasure" and what are liberal Jews going to do to make up for the error of their ways ... in other words by asking the equivalent of "when did you stop beating your wife."

I understand why the question bothered Forman. However given President Obama's long relationship with Rev. Wright, I find it hard to believe that the congregant didn't (at least at some point) share the same views as his clergyman. This is hardly unfair.

Furthermore as someone who follows the news, I am well aware of how Gen. Petraeus's remarks were spun, not just in the media, but by some in the administration. To deny this so flippantly shows more that Forman doesn't wish to discuss.

After Chas Freeman withdrew his nomination for a high level administration post, he blasted supporters of Israel for the controversy that sunk his appointment. The NJDC properly struck back against Freeman. What was missing though, was an acknowledgement of how frightening it was that the administration thought of appointing Freeman in the first place. Freeman was a known quantity when the nomination was submitted. There's no way to criticize Freeman without criticizing the administration for nominating him, but the NJDC did just that. They only criticized Freeman's vicious remarks after his nomination was scuttled and wrote not a word of concern about the decision to offer him a job in the first place.

But Jeff Jacoby points to a bigger problem:

There is no reason to think so. American Jews have been stalwart Democrats for nearly a century, and their partisan affiliation shows no sign of weakening -- not even as the Democratic Party's support for Israel grows steadily weaker. When Gallup earlier this year surveyed Americans on their sympathies in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, 85 percent of Republicans expressed support for Israel -- but only 48 percent of Democrats did so. Reams of data confirm that solidarity with Israel is now far stronger among Republicans and conservatives than among Democrats and liberals.

Democrats are not supporting Israel in the number they once did. No doubt that played a role in nominating a President whose commitment to Israel is minimal. Instead of using his position to advocate for Israel in his political party, Forman is content to blast those who point out that Democratic support for Israel is down. His tactics may have the effect of keeping Jews loyal to the Democratic party, but they will, in no way, increase support for Israel in his party.

Instead of directing his anger at those who point out the administration's hostility towards Israel, perhaps Forman should be challenging people like Peter Beinart and demonstrate that being pro-Israel is consistent with being liberal and Democratic. Unfortunately, Forman doesn't care enough about Israel to make that effort.

Crossposted on Yourish.

Turkish flight

Posted: 02 Jun 2010 10:59 PM PDT

Yesterday, Thomas Friedman had a silly column asking the United States to mediate between Israel and Turkey.

Today Robert Pollock explains why American mediation will accomplish nothing.

To follow Turkish discourse in recent years has been to follow a national decline into madness. Imagine 80 million or so people sitting at the crossroads between Europe and Asia. They don't speak an Indo-European language and perhaps hundreds of thousands of them have meaningful access to any outside media. What information most of them get is filtered through a secular press that makes Italian communists look right wing by comparison and an increasing number of state (i.e., Islamist) influenced outfits. Topics A and B (or B and A, it doesn't really matter) have been the malign influence on the world of Israel and the United States.

For example, while there was much hand-wringing in our own media about "Who lost Turkey?" when U.S. forces were denied entry to Iraq from the north in 2003, no such introspection was evident in Ankara and Istanbul. Instead, Turks were fed a steady diet of imagined atrocities perpetrated by U.S. forces in Iraq, often with the implication that they were acting as muscle for the Jews. The newspaper Yeni Safak, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's daily read, claimed that Americans were tossing so many Iraqi bodies into the Euphrates that local mullahs had issued a fatwa ordering residents not to eat the fish. The same paper repeatedly claimed that the U.S. used chemical weapons in Fallujah. And it reported that Israeli soldiers had been deployed alongside U.S. forces in Iraq and that U.S. forces were harvesting the innards of dead Iraqis for sale on the U.S. "organ market."

Or take this hyperbole:

"Psychologically, this attack is like 9/11 for Turkey," Davutoglu told reporters over breakfast before his meeting with Clinton, an analogy that reflected the heated nature of the Turkish rhetoric. "We will not be silent about this," he said. "We expect the United States to show solidarity with us. . . . I am not very happy with the statements from the United States yesterday."

Turkey sounds (and acts) like a country that has no interest in behaving rationally towards Israel, and not even have the termperment to listen to the United States on any topic. Given this reality why do media types continually assert that Israel's raid on the Mavi Marmara hurt Israel's relationship with Turkey? The Turkish march to Islamism ruptured the relationship way before any boats set sail last week.

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