Cross Posted at The Progressive Zionist
As the election season heats up, there is an attempt by the Republican Party to peel off Jewish voters from the Democratic Party and crack the Presidents second most loyal voting group. Jewish Americans voted for President Obama in droves in 2008 with 78% of our vote going to help the President's election.
Since then, Republicans have used all manner of slander as well as outright lies to make the President seem like an enemy of the Jewish people and an enemy of Israel. They rely on outright racism, pretty catch phrases and worn out cliches to try to scare American Jews into voting against the best interests of our community.
However, these distortions still can't hide a record of President Obama that speaks volumes indicating his friendship and support for the American Jewish community.
Let's take a quick look at some of things:
First of all there is the tired Republican cliche that President Obama has "radical friends" and associations with those who would be anti-Jewish or anti-Israeli. One of these is that President Obama is friends with and takes advice from noted anti-Zionist Rashid Khalidi. Relying on "some professor that knew President Obama at the University of Chicago" they state that he was friends with the President on a personal level, implying that Khalidi was an advisor to Obama. Of course the President denied this saying (warning link to a Conservative Site - I am not using this as evidence to prove a right wing talking point - I am using it as an illustration to prove my point):
"You mentioned Rashid Khalidi, who's a professor at Columbia," Obama said. "I do know him because I taught at the University of Chicago. And he is Palestinian. And I do know him and I have had conversations. He is not one of my advisors; he's not one of my foreign policy people. His kids went to the Lab school where my kids go as well. He is a respected scholar, although he vehemently disagrees with a lot of Israel's policy."
Now whether Senator Obama liked/likes Mr. Khalidi on personal level or not is one thing. But clearly, Mr. Khalidi was not an advisor nor to the President. Indeed, here is what Mr. Khalidi had to say regarding President Obama's record on Israel in an interview with the Israeli news paper Haaretz:
Q. Finally, on the issue of your relations with President Obama
A. I don’t talk about that.
Q. Are you disappointed with him?
A. I had low expectations and my low expectations were more than fulfilled. He’s done considerably worse than I would have expected. But I never assumed that this would be someone who would be able to break the whole mold of American politics. And he didn’t. Quite the contrary. This has been an Administration that on certain key issues has been almost as bad as and sometimes even worse than the Bush Administration.
Oh well, so much for those worried that President Obama was carrying water for the "radical" Rashid Khalidi.
Now, it would be very simple for me to pick apart Republican lies piece, by piece, by piece. BUT, instead I would like to focus on the positives and not give their lies the print they certainly don't deserve.
For instance, for the first time a U.S. President has declared month of the year Jewish History Month. That right, President Obama declared May, 2011 to be Jewish History Month. Here is the Presidential proclamation:
......This same spirit is found in the countless Jewish Americans who, through their every day actions, work to provide a better life for future generations by joining hands with all who seek equality and progress. This month, we remember that the history and unique identity of Jewish Americans is part of the grand narrative of our country, forged in the friendships and shared wisdom between people of different faiths.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 2011 as Jewish American Heritage Month. I call upon all Americans to visit www.JewishHeritageMonth.gov to learn more about the heritage and contributions of Jewish Americans and to observe this month with appropriate programs, activities, and ceremonies.
(See the whole proclamation at the link listed above)
What more, can our community ask. We have a President that actively promotes Jewish culture in America. Want more... the President started and still hosts Presidential Seders. YEP that's right. For the First time as a candidate in 2008 and forward the President brought Passover to the White House.
Top aides like David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett will attend, but so will assistants like 24-year-old Herbie Ziskend. White House chefs will prepare Jewish participants’ family recipes, even rendering chicken fat — better known as schmaltz — for just the right matzo ball flavor.
If last year is any guide, Malia and Sasha Obama will take on the duties of Jewish children, asking four questions about the night’s purpose — along with a few of their own — and scrambling to find matzo hidden in the gleaming antique furniture.
That event was the first presidential Seder, and also probably “the first time in history that gefilte fish had been placed on White House dishware,” said Eric Lesser, the former baggage handler, who organizes each year’s ritual.
Ok... so let's see.... so far, the President declares a month of the year Jewish Heritage Month, and hosts seders as well as beginning it as a White House tradition. That hardly sounds like an enemy of the Jewish people. In fact that sounds like a good friend.
Of course we also have the Chairman of the American Jewish Congress Jack Rosen saying this:
American Jewish Congress chairman Jack Rosen, who hosted Obama fundraiser at his private home, acknowledged the concerns generally in his introduction of the president. But Rosen praised the president’s record.
“America’s never been as supportive to the state of Israel” than since Obama took office, he said.
Now, let's look at the Presidents record with regards to Israel. Earlier in the article we saw that a leading anti-Zionist considers the Obama administration worse than the Bush administration with regards to their goals. That hardly fits with Republican lies regarding the President. But lets look at what the Israelis say regarding the President.
First we have noted anti-Zionist and Israel hater (/snark) Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on the current administration.
Fareed Zakaria: You know that there are people in the United States who’ve criticized President Obama for not supporting Israel strongly enough. Do you believe that President Obama is a very strong supporter of Israel?
Ehud Barak: He is extremely strong supporter of Israel in regard to its security. Traditionally, the president will support Israel in keeping its collective military edge and taking care of its security needs. But this administration is excelling in this. And it could not have happened without the immediate direct support of the president. So I don’t think that anyone can raise any question mark about the devotion of this president to the security of Israel.
What is that not enough for one? Well let's see what Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu had to say about the President after he supported Israel in it's quest to stop the Palestinians from unilaterally declaring Statehood at the U.N.:
"I would like to express my gratitude to the president of the United States, Barack Obama," Netanyahu said. "I asked for his help. This was a decisive and fateful moment. He said, 'I will do everything I can.' And so he did. He used every considerable means and influence of the United States to help us. We owe him a special measure of gratitude."
or this from the Prime Ministers office on April 16, 2011:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his deep appreciation to US President Barack Obama and the American Congress, and said: "Approving the transfer of $205 million for the Iron Dome will help protect Israeli citizens against rocket attacks from Gaza.".
"The US' enduring commitment to Israel in decisive times is a testimony of our shared values and the longstanding ties between the two nations," said Netanyahu in a statement published by the Prime Minister's Office
Still not good enough... how about the Israeli people themselves:
While in 2010, fewer than half of Israeli Jews polled expressed favorable views of Obama, 54 percent of Israelis expressed a favorable view of the American president. Thirty- nine percent expressed negative views, the same percentage that say that they are discouraged by the administration’s policy in the Middle East.
Finally, we have The Presidents actual record on Israel.
First of all in terms of sheer aid to Israel the President has pushed through legislation assuring Israel of American levels of aid through 2018. This does not include his extra funding of $ 205 million for Iron Dome. A system that is working to protect Israelis now from rockets from Gaza. This is up and above pledged aid in the regular U.S. arms package. Would someone who is NOT a true friend of Israel do that?
Further, the President has worked tirelessly to bring real peace to the Israeli people. He has stuck to and reiterated the American position for the last 44 years that there be Two-States and that Israel has a permanent home in the Middle East. He has backed up his words with deeds (see the above paragraphs). When his critics lie about his insistence on 1967 borders they are doing just that... lying. President Obama did not say that. He spoke of secure borders based on the 1967 but WITH MUTUALLY AGREED LAND SWAPS. He realizes that Israel has security and historical rights to some of the land gained in the Six Day War. He has repeated that. That has been an American (and Israeli position - witness UN Res. 242, Taba, Oslo, Annapolis, the Olmert Negotiations) for years. Our President merely stands by that.
He also realizes that the real greatest threat to Israel is the that of the Occupation and that to have a lasting peace and to be able to maintain the nature of Israel as a Jewish State and Democracy, that it is important that there be a fair Two State Solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
In the end, there can only be one conclusion. That President Obama is good for the Jewish People and good for Israel. To say anything else simply is to not speak the truth.