With a newly released poll finding that 60 percent of Israelis “don’t trust … President [Obama] to consider and protect Israel’s interests during his efforts to improve relations between America and the Muslim world,” and that 55 percent of Israelis say Obama leans in favor of the Palestinians and only 5 percent that he favors Israel, there wasn’t much in Obama’s Cairo speech today to allay the concerns.
True, he spoke ringing words about the Holocaust. Addressing the Muslim world as a whole, he even took a swipe at widespread Muslim Holocaust denial, saying, “Six million Jews were killed — more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, ignorant, and hateful.” But he followed with a classic “on the other hand” that led into: “it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people — Muslims and Christians — have suffered in pursuit of a homeland.” The moral equivalency, the implied connection, is clear; both forms of denial are bad, one balances the other.
Except that this is a severe moral distortion, and not only because of the different magnitudes involved. Whereas the Jews of Europe were in no way responsible for their victimization, the Palestinians’ suffering was caused by their own and the Arab world’s rejection of the state granted them by the 1947 UN Partition Plan and was wholly avoidable simply by accepting that state. Indeed, Obama went on to compound the falsification by referring to “the displacement brought by Israel’s founding.” If it was time to be honest, why couldn’t Obama have challenged the widespread Arab and Muslim myth — part of what has caused ongoing bloodshed and suffering for all — of the inherent injustice of Israel’s creation, which need not have entailed the displacement of a single individual?
But with moral equivalency as the keynote, Obama went on to admonish the Palestinians that they “must abandon violence,” since “resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed” — and then censured Israel for alleged sins presented as equivalent to terrorism. No one was surprised that these included settlements, which, to be fair to Obama, have long figured in U.S. diplomacy and pronouncements — both Republican and Democratic — as the equivalent of suicide bombings, rocket barrages, and the like.