I recently watched a YouTube video created by the Committee for Israel, aiming to portray President Obama as an anti-Israel president. It’s basically a 30-minute tirade criticizing Obama’s actions (and sometimes, lack of actions) in regards to Israel and involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Here’s the link:
The video starts by criticizing Obama for visiting various countries in the Middle East yet skipping over Israel during the honeymoon part of his presidency. Was this intentional? Maybe. Does it mean that Obama is inherently anti-Israel? No. The video utilizes clips of Obama bowing his head to the Saudi King, delivering speeches to Muslim audiences, and other examples of his “campaign of outreach to Muslims.” This seems to imply that the creators of this video assume that their pro-Israel target audience would be Islamophobic and use these examples as reasons to be dubious of Obama’s support of Israel. This is wrong, “Committee for Israel”: just because Obama wants to maintain diplomatic relations with Muslim countries such as Egypt and Turkey does NOT mean that he is inherently anti-Israel.
The second major criticism in this video sort of twists Obama’s words. In an unspecified speech, Obama states that ”the aspiration of a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied… On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people, Muslim and Christian, has suffered.” The critics in the video claim that Obama is equating the Jews’ suffering in the Holocaust with the Israeli-induced Palestinian condition. This is NOT what Obama said; he simply stated that both the Jews and the Palestinians have dealt with undeniably difficult plights and are alike in their struggle for statehood.
The criticisms throughout the remainder of the video are more legitimate, although I do disagree with many of them.
The video criticizes Obama for urging Israel to freeze settlement building in the West Bank and for claiming that building in Ramat Shlomo was an insult to the United States. First of all, I think that there is nothing wrong with Obama and Hillary Clinton urging Israel to freeze settlement building in the West Bank. Freezing settlement building would be a peaceful act of negotiation and recognition of the legitimacy of a future Palestinian state. However, I think that these critics are right in saying that Obama could have told the Palestinian Authority to also take a step towards peace, by amending its education system, for example. In the issue of Ramat Shlomo: well, yes, this area is not technically in East Jerusalem or the West Bank, but it is still over the 1967 armistice line, so it was an iffy call by Israel to approve of its being built. I wouldn’t call it an assault or insult to the US, though, but I think it wasn’t a good idea at all. Making peace is like walking on eggshells: you have to be very careful and delicate, and if your moves are too risky, one of the eggs might just crack. Permitting developments in Ramat Shlomo was an unnecessary risk, potentially hindering the peace process.
Critics of Obama have repeatedly said that “this is not how you treat an ally” and that his disapproval of some of Israel’s actions is dangerous for the state of Israel. Yes, the US is Israel’s strongest ally, but does that mean that the Obama administration must blindly approve of each and every one of the Knesset’s actions? I don’t think so. It is fully possible for the US to be a valiant ally of Israel while still upholding the American values of liberty and free speech. When something is unjust, it is in the American spirit to speak out, and let’s be honest here: not all of Israel’s actions are perfectly right and just. That being said, I think that Israel’s actions are considerably more just than those of the Palestinians’, but no nation is perfect, and Obama should feel free to criticize the injustices of governments anywhere in the world, even in our beloved Israel, without being labeled as an anti-Israel president.
I agree with the video that Obama seems to be much more vocal in criticizing the Israeli government than in criticizing the Palestinian Authority and that he seems to be applying much more pressure to the Israeli side. However, just because he advocates for a two-state solution and, thus, Palestinian statehood does not mean that he is anti-Israel. It means that he is pro-Israel AND pro-Palestine, and ultimately, pro-peace.