Tuesday, May 26, 2015

  • Tuesday, May 26, 2015
  • Elder of Ziyon

In September of 2011 New York Magazine published a cover showing the back of what we are to assume is the kippa-wearing head of Barack Obama with the headline:  "The First Jewish President": The Truth?  Barack Obama is the best friend Israel has right now, written by John Heilemann.

I do not know about you, but when I first saw this cover I just rolled my eyes and shook my head.

In March of 2012 White House loyalist, Jeffrey Goldberg, published a piece in The Atlantic entitled, Barack Obama Is Such a Traditional Jew Sometimes in which we read this mind-boggling bit of nonsense:

"I'll grapple with the meaning of Obama's Jewishness later, but the dispute between the Jewish right and the Jewish left over Obama is actually not about whether he is anti-Jewish or pro-Jewish, but over what sort of Jew he actually is."

What kind of a Jew Obama actually is?

What insipid hogwash.  Why is it that when right-wingers call Obama a Muslim they are branded as racist, but when left-wingers call him a Jew we're supposed to get that warm cozy feeling in our cockles, like hot chocolate on a cold winter night with just a little bit of peppermint schnapps before a roaring fire.

Today in a piece for the Times of Israel by Ilan Ben Zion and Rebecca Shimon Stoil, we read:

President Barack Obama on Friday called for the establishment of a free Palestinian state alongside Israel, saying it was necessary for the preservation of Israeli democracy and security, and integral to Jewish values.

Wearing a white kippah, Obama spoke to a crowd of about 1,000 at Washington DC’s Adas Israel Congregation, one of the largest in the capital, marking Jewish American Heritage Month.

He touted his pro-Israel policies and close ties with Jewish advisors, wishing the audience a “slightly early Shabbat Shalom” and peppering his speech with Hebrew terms such as “tikkun olam” — repairing the world. 
I find this to be the worst sort of disingenuous pandering and he does it while lecturing Israel about "Jewish values."  Who the heck is Barack Obama to hold forth on Jewish values to anyone, much less the Jewish people of the State of Israel?

Barack Obama has shown himself to be the least friendly President of the United States to the State of Israel since its inception.  Even Jimmy Carter, who is widely regarded as a president unfriendly to Israel, never had the temerity to tell American Jewish leadership that they should inform their Israeli-Jewish counterparts to search their souls to see if they really wanted peace.

Of course, no American president ever openly embraced a genocidally anti-Semitic organization at a time when they were calling for the conquest of Jerusalem during campaign rallies, either.

But mainly what I want to address is this notion of tikkun olam, "repairing the world."  It is no coincidence that Obama would breathe that bit of Hebrew to an American Jewish audience.  In recent decades the idea of tikkun olam has moved from the fringe of Jewish national consciousness, at least in the diaspora, toward the center and is associated with ideals of universal human rights.  For many people to be a good Jew one must practice tikkun olam, which means promoting ideals of social justice, which means supporting the Democratic Party.

We can, of course, take it one step further and suggest that in order to be a good Jew one must support tikkun olam, which means promoting ideals of social justice, which means supporting the Democratic Party, which means promoting Obama's policies on the Arab-Israel conflict, which means Israel must make "painful concessions" in order to induce the Palestinian-Arabs to finally accept a state for themselves on historically Jewish land.

Depending upon one's point of view, the ideal of tikkun olam can be interpreted as wholly noble and selfless.  It can be seen as representing what is best in the religious traditions of the world.  It can also be seen, of course, as a diamond from deep within the Jewish tradition, dredged up, washed-off, shinied up, and stripped of all deeper meanings in the service of left-leaning domestic American politics.

Whatever one's view of tikkun olam, however, we must not allow the generosity of spirit which animates the concept from preventing us from standing up for what is in the best interest of the Jewish people.  For example, we should be generous in allowing people of all faiths access to Judaism's holiest site, the Temple Mount, but we should be not so generous that we allow one religious group privileged access while denying every other the right to even pray there.

We should be generous enough in spirit to avoid war when we can, but not so generous in spirit that we allow our enemies to gain in strength at the encouragement of alleged friends.

And, of course, the very last thing that we should do is to allow ourselves to get suckered by false friends who take on the trappings of Judaism and lecture us about Jewish values in order to extract counterproductive concessions.

Let Barack Obama worry about his own values.

The Jews will take care of themselves.

Michael Lumish is a blogger at the Israel Thrives blog as well as a regular contributor/blogger at Times of Israel and Jews Down Under.


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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 14 years and 30,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.


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