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Thursday, June 04, 2009

What Was Good In Cairo

I suspect I'm going to run against the current here when I say that overall, Obama's speech was a good speech. As an Israeli, I have my reservations about where this is going, and like the State Department and Shas, I too have my red lines.

But let's not go there first. "Don't borrow trouble" as the maxim goes. Let's look at what he said instead of what we're afraid he's going to do. Too many of today's writers, both professional and amateur, have waxed hysterical over Obama's supposed betrayal of Israel.

It hasn't happened yet. Calm down.

What are we afraid he's going to do? Simple. We're afraid he's going to throw us under the bus. He still might, but I'm betting that if he does it will be due to his own naivete. That won't be much comfort when we're all radioactive ashes, but let's make sure it doesn't come to that.

Let's look at what Obama said that was positive:

Islam, like its sister faiths, respects human rights and those attributes have been lost in the rhetoric and carnage of Islamic extremism. Terrorists are still fair game, to be hunted down and destroyed because "[W]e reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women and children..."

He went directly to Palestinian jihad: "Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed...It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered."

Thank you. Israelis have been trying to make that point to CNN and Al Beeb for years.

He made the point that the Arab League's Take-It-Or-Go-To-Hell peace initiative is an excellent starting point for negotiations, not a diktat to be shoved down Israel's throat.

He made the point that the Arab world needs to recognize Israel's legitimacy as a Jewish state. He didn't use that exact phrase, but clearly the call for Arab countries to recognize Israel as a member of the family of nations, coupled with the historically incorrect but still evocative Jewish-homeland-from-historic-tragedy narrative made it clear he subscribes to a JEWISH state.

We did not get a Jewish nation as a consolation prize for the Holocaust, which is how the antiSemites, the Arab Street and historically challenged spin it these days. We got a Jewish state because we LIVED here, died redeeming this land from desert and malarial swamp, helped fight the Turks, and were promised our independence. The Holocaust refugees came later. Needless to say, they could have come with their families and lives intact but for the double-dealing of the British, who suddenly discovered that the intersection of Arab oil and British political interests was worth of price of a few million dead Jews.

Obama, in a direct slap at Tehran's president, said flat-out that Holocaust denial is baseless, hateful and ignorant. He put on the record that persecution of Jews, in large part because we were a diaspora minority with no power, was indulged in by the world's nations for centuries.

He spoke to Hamas, Hezbollah and other playing-at-democracy gamesters: elections alone don't make a democracy. I personally am tired of the "But Hamas was democratically elected...." line I hear from the willfully ignorant and apologists-for-terror. No one who stages a coup d'etat after the election, seizes all the guns, assasinates the opposition, and clamps down on all freedoms has any claim to legitimacy.

Obama addressed the presence of U.S. forces in the Middle East. And he laid the cause out plainly: "We did not go by choice. We went because of necessity. I'm aware that there's still some who would question or even justify the offense of 9/11. But let us be clear. Al Qaida killed nearly 3,000 people on that day."

Thank you, and all you conspiracy nuts who keep insisting, regardless of the forensic evidence to the contrary, that the Jews blew up the Twin Towers in some Evil Mossad Plot--please make an appointment with a therapist, because you are seriously delusional.

He also noted, "Although I believe that the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, I also believe that events in Iraq have reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build international consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible." Uh, yes--diplomacy is great but if we have to we'll bomb the shit out of you. Are you listening, Iran?

He reiterated America's unbreakable bond with Israel: "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. "

We'll see how unbreakable this bond is in the near future, methinks.

He told the Arab states to quit using the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a pretext to keep their own people impoverished and disenfranchised.

But what I liked the best was two things.

First, his courtesy. Americans abroad don't have a good reputation for courtesy. They don't know the language, they don't know the customs, and their insecurities make them loud and obnoxious at times. "The Ugly American" was a book about just that, although the title character broke that mold.

Obama had the courtesy to address his audience in Arabic, to quote from the Quran, and to stop first in Saudi Arabia, the fountainhead of Islam, to "consult" with one of the leading figures of Islam today.

He didn't apologize. He didn't bow. But he did go armed with knowledge, respect and courtesy that I think served him well.

I also liked his appeal to our common humanity:

All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time. The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart or whether we commit ourselves to an effort, a sustained effort to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children and to respect the dignity of all human beings.

There is one rule that lies at the heart of every religion, that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

This truth transcends nations and peoples, a belief that isn't new, that isn't black or white or brown, that isn't Christian or Muslim or Jew. It's a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilization and that still beats in the hearts of billions around the world. It's a faith in other people. And it's what brought me here today.

We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been written. The Holy Quran tells us, Mankind, we have created you male and a female. And we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.

The Talmud tells us, The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace.

The Holy Bible tells us, Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God's vision. Now that must be our work here on Earth.

Thank you. And may God's peace be upon you.



Blogger Gila said...

I was also impressed by the speech. I am really curious as to how the Arab world received it.

Optimistic after the speech? Too jaded. But would like to be.

Friday, June 5, 2009 at 6:38:00 AM GMT+3  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting post. I'm glad you mentioned a few lines which were not reported in the French media, such as the condemnation of violence and the recognition of Israel.

Friday, June 5, 2009 at 9:18:00 AM GMT+3  
Blogger aliyah06 said...

Gila: according to what I've read, Arab reaction has been guardedly positive but they want action, not talk. Optimistic? No--burned by Oslo. I'll settle for not-pessimistic-and-maybe-this-could-be-good-after-all-but-wait-and-see. At the first sign of Israel becoming the 21st century's Czechoslovakia, I'm on the barricades.

Ilanadavita: Now why wouldn't the French media mention those items?! I thought it was telling that Obama was willing to say these things in front of an Arab-Moslem audience in the heart of the Islamic world.

Friday, June 5, 2009 at 3:36:00 PM GMT+3  
Anonymous Reb Barry said...

You said: "We did not get a Jewish nation as a consolation prize for the Holocaust, which is how the antiSemites, the Arab Street and historically challenged spin it these days."

However, whenever a foreign dignitary comes to visit, we practically take them from the airport to Yad Vashem. We have the "March of the Living" making an explicit connection between the Holocaust and Israel. Israel over and over sends the world a message about the connection between the Shoah and Israel. We can't really complain when people give us back the stuff we feed them.

Whether or not that's what we should be feeding them is another question entirely...

Friday, June 5, 2009 at 5:07:00 PM GMT+3  
Blogger Mo-ha-med said...

'Run against the current'...

Interesting. I've been curious about what you fellows have been thinking of the speech - not much. Yours is one of the very few comments that bothered to listen to the parts of the speech that were not about Israel!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009 at 4:25:00 AM GMT+3  
Blogger aliyah06 said...

Reb Barry--I agree this is a problem: how to balance our awareness of possible annihilation and the need to preserve Judaism and Jewish culture without necessarily making the link between Israel as a state and the Holocaust. I understand why the government does this but I think the message is distorted because very few people outside the Tribe know our history.

Mohammed, my friend--welcome back.
Well, it behooves me to listen to the entire speech because its not Just About Us. It's about the entire neighborhood we live in, and it's really more about the Moslem world than Us....and since I live smack dab in the middle of the Arab Moslem world, I thought it was crucial to understand not just what Obama said, but what my neighbors think he said, wished he said and/or thought he said.....because all that will play into our collective future.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009 at 10:18:00 PM GMT+3  

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