Fifty years from now Barack Obama will be known to most Americans as, quite simply, the first African-American president of the United States. Aside from this he will have precious little to distinguish himself other than in the notable electoral deterioration of the Democratic Party under his tenure.
While future historians may join Alan Dershowitz in considering him among the worst foreign policy presidents in U.S. history, he will probably hold a very special place in the hearts of Jewish people throughout the world. This is true because he will likely be known as the American president who, whatever his honest intentions, did more than any to divide the Jewish people from one another and from the Jewish state.
The genius in this bit of Jewish slicing-and-dicing is in its multifaceted aspect.
Obama did not merely rub poison into the cleavage between progressive-left Jews and the rest of us. Nor did he merely drive a wedge between American Jews and Israeli Jews. He even managed, much to my astonishment, to divide pro-Democratic Party Jews among themselves and between themselves and, increasingly, the party as a whole.
Now that is quite an accomplishment.
Let's briefly go through it.
Dividing American Jews from One Another
Barack Obama can hardly be blamed for creating Jewish divisions over Israel, as Edward Alexander and Paul Bogdanor would readily agree. Nonetheless, it must be understood that while Obama may appreciate certain Jews as individuals he has never been friendly or sympathetic to the Jewish people as a whole... or so we can reasonably deduce from his posture toward the Jewish state.
On the contrary, along with figures like Mahmoud Abbas, Louis Farrakhan, George Galloway, Rashid Khalidi, Jeremy Corbyn, and Keith Ellison, Obama regards Israel as a rogue state imposing itself upon the "indigenous" Palestinian-Arab population. The Jewish people who live there are considered by their very presence, an impediment to peace.
Among the various ways that Obama's influence, therefore, served to crack Jewish solidarity, the first was in hammering the wedge between progressive-left Jewish Democrats, who generally show greater sympathy toward his views on Israel, and the rest of us who do not.
By insisting that Jews in Israel should be allowed to live in some places, like Tel Aviv, but not in others, like Hebron, the Obama administration animated a confrontation within American Jewry. Those loyal to the Democratic Party, like Peter Beinart and Alan Dershowitz, agreed that the Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria, in and of itself, represented an obstacle toward resolving the conflict. Beinart and Dershowitz may not agree on much, but they definitely agree on that. Others, like Morton Klein of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), believe (along with me) that Jewish people have every right to build housing on the lands of our ancestry. Furthermore, in a recent piece for the Jerusalem Post Isi Liebler acknowledged Klein as the ONLY American Jewish leader of national consequence to be consistently critical of Obama's transparent flaws and who, he says, "has been more than vindicated" in his views.
I couldn't agree more.
Given the existential nature of the long Arab aggression against the Jews in the Middle East, Obama's hostility toward Jews who live in the wrong place set Jew upon Jew in a manner that grew increasingly acrimonious throughout the period of his tenure. By supporting J-Street while devaluing AIPAC, Obama agitated this split. He also put his sincerest American-Jewish friends on the defensive before those of us who believe in Jewish property rights in Judea and Samaria. Obama thereby forced his Jewish devotees into the position of justifying an unjustly racist stance toward the Jews of Israel.
Dividing American Jews from Israeli Jews
If Obama encouraged political divisions within the American Jewish community he also encouraged political divisions between American Jews and Israeli Jews. Because Israeli Jews understood how Obama's policies encouraged Palestinian-Arab violence and intransigence on the so-called "peace process," the vast majority of Israeli Jews quickly learned to distrust the man. Jewish Democrats who wished to maintain their progressive bona fides were thereby leaned into ideological tensions with friends and relatives in Israel.
In order to maintain good-standing with their fellow Democrats, Jews who care about Israel were put into an exceedingly uncomfortable position. They could support Obama or they could support Jewish rights to property on ancestral Jewish land, but they could not do both. And, again, Obama did not create this dilemma, he simply forced the issue. Obama used the two-state solution as a reason for opposing Jews like our friends Joseph and Melody Hartuv who live in Hebron and thereby allegedly stand as an obstacle to peace. He was not even the first president of the United States to do so, but he was certainly the most insistent.
Hebron, of course, is the site of the Cave of the Patriarchs. This is a place that, with a little encouragement from Obama, the United Nations decided belongs to Arabs. Through the unjust, if not racist, insistence that the "settlers" represent an obstacle to peace by their mere presence, Obama encouraged his American Jewish supporters to join him in condemning their fellow Jews. He managed this while still maintaining a pro-Israel face to his Jewish followers. Furthermore, by playing along with the erasure of Jewish history on the ancestral lands of the Jewish people, Obama also encouraged the dilution of American-Jewish support for that country and those people.
Dividing American Jews within the Democratic Party
I have considerable sympathy for Jewish Democrats.
Many in their own party hold them in contempt for defending Israel, while much of the rest of the American Jewish population casts a gimlet eye upon their never-ending pro-Obama apologetics and sycophancy. These are Jews who, from political and ideological standpoints, are getting smacked around by all sides and finding it increasingly difficult to walk the "progressive Zionist" tightrope. Divisions thereby emerged between the true Obama devotees and those going wobbly watching Obama's year-in-and-year-out hostility toward Israel.
In this way, within the Democratic Party, there are good Jews and bad Jews.
Good Jewish Democrats support Barack Obama while bad Jewish Democrats question the wisdom of breathing life into the corpse of Oslo. Good Jewish Democrats believe that if only Netanyahu had pushed Yosef and Melody out of their home in Hebron then peace could be achieved through the offices of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. Bad Jewish Democrats tend to doubt this. They understand that Palestinian-Arabs have no desire to create a state for themselves in peace with Israel. Indeed, why should Palestinian-Arabs hope for a conclusion of hostilities via a negotiated two-state settlement when Obama and the UN want to give them a state on Jewish land in a manner that maintains those hostilities?
Whatever happens going forward, however, the Jewish people and the Jewish State of Israel are, and will continue to be, one.