Home
In this issue
April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Dec. 19, 2011 / 23 Kislev, 5772

Obama's Jewish Pitch: Liberal, Not Israel

By Jonathan Tobin








http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | On Friday afternoon, President Obama received a hero's welcome when he spoke to the biennial convention of the Union of Reform Judaism. Approximately 5,000 Reform Jews gave Obama almost as many standing ovations as Congress gave Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu this past spring. But though the coverage of the speech has focused primarily on the president's repeat of his boasts that he is the most pro-Israel president in history, it should be understood that the bulk of the address did not touch on the Middle East.

Rather, the main focus of his remarks was a compendium of liberal positions on domestic issues intended to draw cheers from an audience that, while still concerned with Israel's security, was far happier hearing talk about higher taxes, defense of entitlements and the class warfare rhetoric Obama has been rehearsing since the start of the debt-ceiling crisis this past summer.

Those seeking to analyze the possibility of a shift in the Jewish vote as Obama seeks re-election know that the president's often-antagonistic relationship with the State of Israel could cost him next November. Polls and special elections such as the one in New York's 9th Congressional district last September have showed that there are enough swing Jewish voters who will be influenced by this issue to give Democrats something to worry about.

But though the minority of Jews who can be swayed by concerns about Israel is not inconsiderable, it is nonetheless true that Obama is almost certain to win a majority of the Jewish vote in 2012 no matter what happens to Israel on his watch. And the applause Obama garnered on Friday afternoon when speaking to this conclave of the largest Jewish denomination in this country provides the evidence for that conclusion.

That Obama's speech followed a lengthy tribute at the event on the 50th anniversary of Reform's Religious Action Center was not exactly a coincidence. The RAC is the embodiment of the belief by some that the liberal political stands are indistinguishable from Judaism. Much of the RAC's agenda: support for abortion, Obamacare, "economic justice" (so defined as to encompass support for higher taxes and more entitlement spending) and gay marriage are not Jewish issues even if they are ideas that many Jews support.



RECEIVE LIBERTY LOVING COLUMNISTS IN YOUR INBOX … FOR FREE!

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". HUNDREDS of columnists and cartoonists regularly appear. Sign up for the daily update. It's free. Just click here.


And it is to those concerns that Obama spoke with passion on Friday as he bragged that "the change we needed and voted for" had satisfied much of the laundry list of the RAC's political wish list. The old quip that Reform Judaism consists of the Democratic Party platform with holidays thrown in never seemed more true as thousands yelled their approval when Obama let loose with class warfare rhetoric.

By casting the political debate as a "moral issue" of the interests of "working people" against "the powerful," the president played to the desire of liberal Jews to interpret their own partisanship as somehow being part of their religious tradition.

Indeed, so deeply entrenched are such attitudes among liberals that it never occurred to the cheering throng that letting a candidate for public office — even an incumbent president — use a religious gathering for partisan political purposes was inappropriate. Though Obama's pitch certainly appealed to the sensibilities of most Reform Jews, the notion that there was any connection between Judaism and his political agenda is a myth.

Nevertheless, it is a misnomer to think liberal Jews such as those who cheered Obama Friday at the Reform biennial, don't care about the Jewish state.

However, their willingness to accept Obama's claims on the topic says more about their desire not to turn on a Democrat than it says about his virtues. One must ignore much of what has transpired in the last three years in order to believe the president's claims.

The main element of Obama's claim is that he has done more for Israel's security than any of his predecessors. It is true he has done nothing to interfere with the security alliance that has grown since it was initiated during the Reagan administration. Military aid has flowed in large amounts, and for that Obama deserves some credit. But to speak, as he does, as if this relationship was invented by him, is absurd.

On Friday, he alluded, as his defenders often do, to the Iron Dome missile defense system the two nations have created. But that project was initiated and funded by the Bush administration. The most we can say of Obama's involvement is that he chose not to prevent it from being deployed.

Obama also bragged of making a phone call to ask Egypt's military government to prevent Israeli diplomats from being slaughtered and also of providing assistance when forest fires beset Israel. These are praiseworthy acts. But, as with his continuance of existing security cooperation, the failure to act would have been far more noteworthy than a routine willingness to help.

But though the president told his Reform listeners not to "let anybody else tell a different story," his account of his relations with Israel is, to put it mildly, incomplete.

From his first moments in office, Obama set out to distance the United States from Israel. The intention was both to draw a distinction between the closeness of the Bush administration to the Jewish state but also to create a greater bond between the Arab and Islamic world and the United States. President Obama's June 2009 Cairo speech drew a moral equivalence between the Holocaust and the plight of the Palestinians. This attempt to reach out to Muslims failed miserably, but the one thing he accomplished was to convince the Palestinians they could avoid negotiating with Israel because Obama was willing to fight the Israelis for them.

In his speech, the president noted his frustration with the lack of progress toward peace but failed to acknowledge that he has chosen to vent that anger solely at Israel by picking damaging and unnecessary fights with the Netanyahu government. No president has done more to undermine Israel's position on Jerusalem. His stance on the 1967 borders was, like his stance on Jerusalem, a precedent setter that tilted the diplomatic field toward the Palestinians. It is this record that has caused Israelis to regard him with less favor than any other American president in a generation.

Just as troubling is another issue he brought up in order to bolster his questionable pro-Israel bona fides: Iran's nuclear program. Obama told the Reform gathering the following:


We've worked painstakingly from the moment I took office with allies and partners, and we have imposed the most comprehensive, the hardest-hitting sanctions that the Iranian regime has ever faced. We haven't just talked about it, we have done it. And we're going to keep up the pressure. And that's why, rest assured, we will take no options off the table. We have been clear.


The problem with this pledge is that it is utterly disingenuous.

Having wasted three years on a feckless attempt to "engage" Iran and failed efforts to get the international community to adopt the "crippling sanctions" that Secretary of State Clinton said must be imposed, Obama is forced to pretend the weak sanctions voted by the United Nations have any meaning. They don't. Even worse is the fact that these "hard-hitting" sanctions are not being enforced-even by the United States, where the Treasury Department has issued thousands of legal exemptions to allow companies to do business with Iran. And when Congress has sought to impose a meaningful sanction — such as the effort to ban transactions with any entity that works with Iran's Central Bank - the administration has opposed such efforts and fought to include waivers that will allow the president to shelve enforcement of this measure, too.

Though Obama says he will take "no option" off the table — a veiled reference to the use of force — Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has made it clear that the United States opposes the use of force against Iran and will oppose any effort by Israel to use it either.

The "different story" that must be told about Obama is that he has talked incessantly about stopping Iran but has done nothing to achieve that end. He has spoken of his support for Israel's security but has done much to undermine its diplomatic position and, sometimes unwittingly, to strengthen that of its enemies.

While it would be an exaggeration to speak of this administration's record on Israel as that of a determined foe, any objective analysis must acknowledge that he is the least friendly president to Israel since the first President George Bush. The Palestinians and other foes of Israel know this. They are openly hoping he will be even less friendly to the Jewish state during his second term if he gets one. Israelis rightly fear for the alliance in the coming years. The only people who don't seem to get it are liberal American Jews whose devotion to Obama's domestic agenda is sufficient to allow them to overlook his faults on Israel.

Interested in a private Judaic studies instructor — for free? Let us know by clicking here.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Comment by clicking here.

Jonathan Tobin Archives




JWR contributor Jonathan S. Tobin is executive editor of Commentary magazine, in whose blog "Contentions" this first appeared.



© 2011, Jonathan Tobin

Columnists

Toons

Lifestyles