Zionism and President Obama

It’s President Obama (well, after January 20, anyway).

Ami Isseroff commented,

Every historical event presents opportunities as well as dangers. A healthy political movement needs to utilize the opportunities and act constructively to minimize the dangers, not fret about them. Barack Obama, unlike George Bush, will have the confidence of the nations of the “south” or “third world” and if he so chooses, he can be a much more effective advocate for Israel and the things that really matter to us than any previous US president. He and only he among all US presidents can possibly put an end to persecution of Israel at the UN. He can stop the second Durban conference from being another anti-Israel exhibition. If Barack Obama says anti-Zionism is racism, people will probably listen. If President Barack Obama will insist on Israel’s right to exist in security, then Zionism and Israel will gain a new respectability that Mr. Bush and Mr. McCain, for all their many virtues, could not give them.

Of course none of this will matter if President Obama also insists upon a full withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders while Hamas lives, supports Palestinian demands for ‘right of return’, prevents Israel from defending herself against Hamas and Hezbollah, or allows Iran to obtain nuclear weapons. And he may well do these things if he allows people like Rob Malley or Samantha Power to become influential — and God forbid that he should listen to the like of Ali Abunimah or Rashid Khalidi.

Some of my fellow Zionists think that this is a forgone conclusion and the appropriate response is to dig in and fight to the death. For example, “Emet m’Tsiyon” [Truth from Zion] writes,

It is likely that he will soon make lying propaganda against Israel. He might declare that Israel is an apartheid state, that it oppresses “poor palestinians”, that it took Arab land away from “poor palestinians”, that it has no right to exist [this might be insinuated rather than explicitly stated], that Jews have no human or civil right to live on “Arab land,” that Israel is to blame for the wars, etc. Since this is what is likely to happen, especially if no opposition emerges, then Obama should not get any days of grace at all. Strong criticism of Obama must continue. His critics must continue to demand release of what Obama said at the Khalidi farewell party in Chicago. Public demos and rallies would be helpful if some participation is assured. Even a small demonstration can be helpful. Interviews on talk radio, letters and articles for Jewish newspapers, lectures by and interviews with competent experts should be considered.

This is a poor approach, which will cause us to be lumped with the attack-dog Right (you know who you are) and be ignored. One thing that impressed me about Obama is his apparent ability to learn quickly.  And I don’t agree with many of his political opponents that he is a doctrinaire leftist — rather, he seems to be highly pragmatic, no less so than Bill Clinton, who did finally learn something about the Mideast (although it took some years and and a few thousand deaths to teach him).

Therefore the goal should be to educate and inform him rather than to beat him over the head. Engage in “tough diplomacy”, to take a page from his own book — at least at first. Let’s treat him as innocent until proven guilty.

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One Response to “Zionism and President Obama”

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    I deeply appreciate the wisdom embodied in this article. I only wish that every person on the so- called ‘right’ of the political spectrum in Israel would read it. I also see Obama as a great learner, and someone open to the realities as they develop. Therefore I believe we make our case to him in the most pragmatic and sensible way. One reason I hope Benjamin Netanyahu will be our next Prime Minister is that I believe he will be able to do this. We don’t need slogans and formulas, and propaganda which convinces no one. We need a leader who can deal with the realities as they are- and understand where our security truly lies.
    At this moment Peace between us and the Arabs and the Islamic world is clearly impossible. They have to change. Just as this article presented the hope that Obama will be able to change the general view of the nations of the world towards Israel, so there is the hope that he will be able to change the view of the Palestinian Arabs towards Israel. I do not know if that is possible.
    But Peace and a world of mutual respect and well- being is truly in everyone’s interest. If Obama could bring the Arabs and the Islamic world to understand that he truly would be a great man.