During the 2008 presidential election candidate Barack Obama publicly positioned himself as a "stalwart friend of Israel" and assured the American Jewish community that the bonds between Israel and the United States were "unbreakable" and that Israel's "security is sacrosanct." Partly due to these public assurances, Jewish Americans responded with an overwhelming 78% of their vote.
Many glossed over the fact that President Obama sat in Rev. Jeremiah Wright's pews for over 20 years listening to anti-Semitic hate speech, maintained personal relationships with well known Israel haters like Rashid Khalidi, called for a policy of engagement with state sponsors of terrorism including Iran and Hamas, and had no track record whatsoever prior to the presidential campaign of support for Israel. It wasn't that they weren't informed of these things, it's just that Jewish Americans, a traditional liberal voting bloc, simply took him at his word that he would continue uninterrupted the tradition of American support for Israel.
However, it is starting to become clear to many of his Jewish supporters that he is no friend of Israel. Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said that he and other Jewish leaders were becoming "deeply troubled by [President Obama's] recent Middle East initiatives" and that "some are questioning what he really believes."
Mr. Hoenlein and every other Jewish American have to wonder if President Obama is truly someone they can count on. In only the first five months of his administration there have been numerous troubling signs coming out of Washington:
- Rahm Emanuel, White House Chief of Staff, suggested a linkage between negotiations with Iran over their nuclear weapons development and progress in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The fact that these are two completely separate conflicts between two very different peoples taking place over a thousand miles apart from one another doesn't appear to matter to this administration.
- The Center for American Progress, the most influential Democratic think tank in Washington and a major player in President Obama's race for the White House, recently called for Israel to relinquish their sovereignty over the Old City of Jerusalem to a "third-party administrator". So far no word from the White House on their response to this particularly inflammatory and unrealistic policy suggestion.
- For the first time the U.S. became a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC), an organization boycotted by the Bush administration for good reason. HRC gained notoriety for hosting the Durban I and II conferences which accused Israel of committing heinous crimes against the Palestinians including "holocausts", "crimes against humanity", "ethnic cleansing", and "acts of genocide". This is the same council that ignores human rights abuses around the world including in Sudan where thousands upon thousands of black villagers have been murdered by Islamic tribal warriors, Saudi Arabia where one false accusation of adultery by a husband gives him the right to literally cut off his wife's head, Iran which is busy killing and imprisoning its own people for having the audacity to think their vote should count, Egypt which is a police state and well known torturer of political dissidents, and pretty much everywhere else in the world where there aren't any Jews.
- Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller in a UN meeting called for Israel to become a signatory of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). To do so would require Israel to declare and give up their nuclear umbrella, in return for nothing, not even the promise that Iran, a country that has called for the destruction of Israel many times, would be prevented from developing their own nuclear weapons.
- President Obama attempted to name Charles Freeman as Chair of the National Intelligence Council, the main strategic thinking body for the U.S. intelligence community. Mr. Freeman is a well known critic of Israel who has been quoted as saying that the U.S. "abandoned the role of Middle East peacemaker to back Israel's efforts to pacify its captive and increasingly ghettoized Arab populations." Mr. Freeman's hateful outlook towards Israel has been well documented over the years and his appointment would have been detrimental to Israel's interests.
- In President Obama's well publicized Cairo speech he inferred a moral equivalence between the Holocaust and Israel's treatment of Palestinians. To compare the horrors of the concentration camps, poison gas showers, and ovens used to turn 6 million Jews and 6 million other people including Russians, Poles, gay men, political prisoners, people with disabilities, and other victims of Hitler's Germany to ash with the Palestinian situation was an immensely dangerous thing to do. It will almost certainly encourage acts of violence against Jews the world over.
President Obama is not providing the backing for Israel that his Jewish American supporters had expected. Instead Israel is being bullied to accept concessions it cannot make while history is once again being rewritten to its detriment.Whether or not this situation will grow to a major rift between the Obama administration and the Jewish community remains to be seen however, if the first five months of Obama's presidency are any indication, things are not looking good for Israel.