This is the text of another “Radio Shalom” commentary by Stephen Scheinberg, an emeritus professor of history at Concordia University in Montreal (Prof. Scheinberg is a US citizen):
I voted for Barack Obama last November, despite receiving countless negative e-mails, many of which originated from the Jewish Republican Committee. I was told that he was a Muslim, that he was anti-Israel and anti-semitic. Now, many of these same e-mailers and others inform us that he plans to introduce death panels, that he would teach socialism to American children, even introduce that Canadian, socialist system of health care to the U.S.
We are also informed by the so-called birthers that he was not really born in the United States and therefore not qualified for the Presidency. Orly Taitz, the leader of the birthers, is a Soviet-born Israeli, with a “degree” from an unaccredited law school who believes that Obama threatens Israel because he sent humanitarian aid to Gaza and also espouses “radical socialist” policies.
We can certainly see that President Obama has changed direction in the Middle East from the Bush-Cheney course and certainly, by some, that alone will be perceived as anti-Israel. So, let us try to cut to the core of what I refer to as the right-wing analysis.
Writing in the leading Israeli newspaper Yediot, Rabbi Levi Brackman tells us that Obama is pro-Israel but only “when it fits in to his view of America’s national interests,” as if it is quite remarkable, for the leader of the United States, to put American interests first. The Obama view of national interest, and here I agree with Brackman, is that America “must win the battle for public opinion in the Islamic world and elsewhere … he thinks that the USA would be much safer if the Muslim street had a positive opinion of the USA.” And here we come to the crux of Brackman’s criticisms, when he states “Clearly, therefore, the demand for Israel to cease all settlement expansion and ease blockades on Gaza is meant to appease the Muslim street rather [than] out of concern for Israel’s security interests.” Thus, somehow, settlement expansion, for Brackman, becomes a security interest.
No one seriously entertains that equation today. Settlements are a strategic liability, which would force the IDF, in case of attack, to divert troops to the defence of scattered settlements and outposts.
Canadian, Allen Z. Herz, formerly a senior advisor in our Privy Council, carries on Brackman’s theme, saying: “As tension now grows over Iran’s race to develop nuclear weapons, President Obama seeks rapprochement with the Muslim world, including Iran. Can we ask if there are similarities between Obama and Chamberlain?” Herz, in his article, revives all the spurious charges about Obama and his pastor Rev. Wright, his “close relationship” to former Weatherman Bill Ayers, childhood practice of Islam, and the like. Herz’s wildly over-the-top charge of appeasement is apparently based on his reading of Obama’s Cairo speech, which suggests, to him, “that Obama may believe that a weaker Israell now suits the interests of the USA.”
That is a strange reading of a speech in which Obama, in front of his Arab audience, told them that: “America’s strong bonds with Israell are well known. This bond is unbreakable.” He was certainly not seeking Arab applause with that line.
As always, my favorite right wing source is Caroline Glick of the Jerusalem Post. She, in her typically vigorous manner, contrasts American Jewish and Israeli views of Obama: “Whereas Israeli Jews recognize that it is morally obscene, strategically suicidal and historically inaccurate to suggest that Israel has no right to Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and that Jews have no right to live there, American Jews do not intuitively understand this to be the case. Consequently, while Israeli Jews recognize Obama’s calls for a total freeze in Jewish construction in these areas as inherently hostile, most American Jews do not.”
One should note how she links Jerusalem to the West Bank without even qualifying that, at issue is only new construction in East Jerusalem but that is typical of those who wish us to confuse the old city with the vast annexations of 1967. It is a means of tapping into widely shared Jewish emotions, on historic Jerusalem, to enlist them in settlement expansion. Glick is most outrageous when she turns the occupation itself into a moral and strategic imperative. The apologists for the great European empires, of another era, could hardly rival Ms. Glick’s imperial chutzpa. Unlike Obama, she shows no concern for Israel’s sometimes harsh rule over 2.5 million Palestinians.
I have presented the words of these three right-wing writers, in some detail, in order to point up the right’s real difficulties with Obama. It is first the settlements, second the settlements, and third the settlements. Some of those hostile to Obama’s Mideast policies may, from time to time, raise other issues, Iran included. However, I am convinced that the advocates of “greater Israel” do have a difficulty with the President which is cloaked in the formula that he is anti-Israel, but they really mean that he stands in the way of realizing their dream, of permanent rule over the West Bank and its Palestinian citizens.