(This column originally appeared in the June 5 Meretz USA electronic newsletter.)
I arose early last Thursday to watch Barack Obama’s much-awaited speech in Cairo. Unsurprisingly, I was impressed by the dexterity of the writing and the superb quality of the oratory. And, by and large, I found myself in agreement with everything the President had to say.
And yet, I came away feeling a vague sense of discomfort as well, a slight queasiness that at first defied explanation. After all, wasn’t Barack Obama’s clear enunciation of the illegitimacy of West Bank settlements and the non-negotiability of the two-state principle the best news since penicillin?
So, rather than duplicate the efforts of many others in the Jewish world, who were quick out of the blocks to recap, summarize, dissect and contextualize the President’s address (none better, by the way, than the New America Foundation’s Daniel Levy), I decided to pause, breathe slowly and focus inward on why a speech that made so much sense nevertheless left me feeling less than 100% celebratory.
And then I realized: Israel, a country that I care about deeply, had just been chastised – subtly but definitively – before the entire world. Like the father of a schoolchild who is loudly reprimanded by the teacher on parents’ visiting day, I shifted uneasily in my seat as everyone in the audience seemed to turn their attention to my loved-one’s transgression.
In reality, of course, Obama’s speech was anything but anti-Israel.
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