Obama equates Israel’s creation to African-Americans gaining right to vote

US Politics
on 42 Comments

President Obama gave another interview to Jeffrey Goldberg, at the Atlantic. Top billing for the Iran deal. The president says “Jeff” more than he says “Palestinian” (6-4), mentions checkpoints and restrictions on Palestinians travel, exhibits pique toward Goldberg and Israel supporters for suggesting he should keep his differences with Israel private, says he loves Israel because it’s “a genuine democracy” and “a Jewish-majority democracy,” “and I care deeply about preserving that Jewish democracy,” but applauds Mandela for pointing the way to “a multiracial democracy emerging in South Africa.”

And this about anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. If you don’t think Israel has a right to exist as a homeland for the Jewish people, you’re anti-Semitic.

Goldberg: I know that you’ve talked about this with Jewish organizations, with some of your Jewish friends—how you define the differences and the similarities between these two concepts.

Obama: You know, I think a good baseline is: Do you think that Israel has a right to exist as a homeland for the Jewish people, and are you aware of the particular circumstances of Jewish history that might prompt that need and desire? And if your answer is no, if your notion is somehow that that history doesn’t matter, then that’s a problem, in my mind. If, on the other hand, you acknowledge the justness of the Jewish homeland, you acknowledge the active presence of anti-Semitism—that it’s not just something in the past, but it is current—if you acknowledge that there are people and nations that, if convenient, would do the Jewish people harm because of a warped ideology. If you acknowledge those things, then you should be able to align yourself with Israel where its security is at stake, you should be able to align yourself with Israel when it comes to making sure that it is not held to a double standard in international fora, you should align yourself with Israel when it comes to making sure that it is not isolated.

But you should be able to say to Israel, we disagree with you on this particular policy. We disagree with you on settlements. We think that checkpoints are a genuine problem. We disagree with you on a Jewish-nationalist law that would potentially undermine the rights of Arab citizens. And to me, that is entirely consistent with being supportive of the State of Israel and the Jewish people. Now for someone in Israel, including the prime minister, to disagree with those policy positions—that’s OK too. And we can have a debate, and we can have an argument. But you can’t equate people of good will who are concerned about those issues with somebody who is hostile towards Israel. And you know, I actually believe that most American Jews, most Jews around the world, and most Jews in Israel recognize as much. And that’s part of the reason why I do still have broad-based support among American Jews. It’s not because they dislike Israel, it’s not because they aren’t worried about Iran having a nuclear weapon or what Hezbollah is doing in Lebanon. It’s because I think they recognize, having looked at my history and having seen the actions of my administration, that I’ve got Israel’s back, but there are values that I share with them that may be at stake if we’re not able to find a better path forward than what feels like a potential dead-end right now.

The president also equated the foundation of Israel with the civil rights movement in the U.S.

[T]o me, being pro-Israel and pro-Jewish is part and parcel with the values that I’ve been fighting for since I was politically conscious and started getting involved in politics. There’s a direct line between supporting the right of the Jewish people to have a homeland and to feel safe and free of discrimination and persecution, and the right of African Americans to vote and have equal protection under the law. These things are indivisible in my mind. But what is also true, by extension, is that I have to show that same kind of regard to other peoples. And I think it is true to Israel’s traditions and its values—its founding principles—that it has to care about those Palestinian kids.

Says Donald Johnson, who tipped me to this: “I  understand the long history of antisemitism as an argument for having a Jewish state, but why can’t people be honest about the price paid by the Palestinians? I know the answer.”

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Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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42 Responses

  1. pabelmont
    May 21, 2015, 4:46 pm

    A nice on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-hand statement. A little heavy on the dear, sweet, little Israel stuff but Obama is a politician and is probably concerned with getting Hillary or another Democrat elected. No sense enraging Jewish donors or Jewish voters.

    Now, if BDS were to bring enough Americans to demand serious action, Obama could make almost the same speech, but say that international law and human rights, etc., etc., demand action, and that action would not be contrary to Israel’s security — merely to its (ahem) grabbiness. But the time for that speech is not yet.

    • David Doppler
      May 22, 2015, 12:27 am

      Good comment, pabelmont

    • Krauss
      May 22, 2015, 2:19 am

      You’re going way easy on Obama, pabelmont. What he says and does is disgusting.

      Israel is a Jewish-only democracy. The Arabs are not wanted there and are a token. They’ve never been in a single sitting coalition and they won’t get to be in one any time soon(this is something that all major Jewish parties agree on). They’re a fig leaf.

      It’s in this context that Obama says he “cares deeply” about Israel as a Jewish democracy. Basically, he’s could be saying the same thing about caring “deeply” about a White democracy in South Africa.

      Obama does this for a single reason: money. He wants a post-presidential career and he can’t have one without being pro-Zionism, it’s that simple. Just ask Walt/Mearsheimer how many bookings they got after the book; it dried up.

      Obama claims to like multi-racial democracies but has shown himself willing to defend an Apartheid state. That he invokes the civil rights movement to defend this is grotesque and should end any claim that he has any moral authority whatsoever. He’s a political prostitute.

      Just like Samantha Powers, who makes a lot of hay out of her human rights record but keeps defending Israel to the hilt no matter what, keeps sucking up to Rabbi Boteach even if he is best buddies with Adelson and accuses Susan Rice of genocide.

      These people are political prostitutes, that’s what they are. Obama has sunk his legacy with this issue. He goes over the top to please the pro-Apartheid crowd, with Jeff Goldberg in front, and he will be condemned by history for it.

      In a way I am relieved. There is no hope in the political leadership at all, and this will act as a check against any passivity for the BDS movement. Now, more than ever, people must push ahead. Pro-Apartheid politicians, especially Obama who should know better, simply don’t seem to run out of defences so long as the dollars keep flowing.

      • CigarGod
        May 22, 2015, 9:33 am

        Very well stated. I’m called a terminal cynic, but it ain’t cynicism if it is all true.

      • RockyMissouri
        May 22, 2015, 10:47 am

        Truth. sadly.

      • John Salisbury
        May 24, 2015, 3:58 am

        He will have many years to rue his signal failure to fix the mess up. He promised to do it but they ate him up .

  2. German Lefty
    May 21, 2015, 5:08 pm

    OT: Here is this year’s Israeli entry for the Eurovision Song Contest. The 2nd semi-final has just finished and Israel made it to the final.
    http://m.youtube.com/?#/watch?v=5bi1lK91bas

    • RoHa
      May 21, 2015, 8:28 pm

      Another Israeli crime against humanity.

    • Bumblebye
      May 21, 2015, 8:35 pm

      Having just heard the title of Israel’s offering, I’m tittering.

      “I’m a Golden Boy, Let Me Show you Tel Aviv”

    • Froggy
      May 22, 2015, 7:47 am

      I’ve heard worse. :(

  3. just
    May 21, 2015, 5:31 pm

    “There’s a direct line between supporting the right of the Jewish people to have a homeland and to feel safe and free of discrimination and persecution, and the right of African Americans to vote and have equal protection under the law. And I think it is true to Israel’s traditions and its values—its founding principles—that it has to care about those Palestinian kids.”

    Huh??? What about the people living under the criminal Occupation that cannot vote? Not the “Palestinian kids”, but those parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters of voting age~ you know, the ones that survived the massacres and the daily Israeli terrorism! What about the African refugees @ Holot? What about the Ethiopian Jewish ‘others’? What about the Bedouins? What about everyone ‘else’?

    I’m also sickened that President Obama would engage with a former IOF prison guard named Jeff.

    • CigarGod
      May 22, 2015, 9:34 am

      I agree. The stuff he leaves out…is a crime.

    • RockyMissouri
      May 22, 2015, 10:44 am

      Exactly.!! Goldberg is a horror.

    • Shingo
      May 22, 2015, 6:13 pm

      It’s sickening how Obama talks abou the need to consider history in justifying the need for a Jewish state but then ignores the history of Palestinian expulsion and land theft to justify their grievances.

  4. just
    May 21, 2015, 5:56 pm

    “And we can have a debate, and we can have an argument. But you can’t equate people of good will who are concerned about those issues with somebody who is hostile towards Israel.”

    No, WE can’t! Everything that is debated about Israel is cloaked with false charges of antisemitism. And the President walked into the trap.

    Israel does not represent the Jewish people of the world. At least, I hope that it doesn’t.

    • Boo
      May 22, 2015, 4:47 pm

      And, for that matter, neither does Obama represent all African-Americans or all black people.

  5. Boomer
    May 21, 2015, 6:31 pm

    To quote Philip’s comments on another (albeit related) topic, “sheesh.” This is really disappointing. And really nonsensical. Does he believe the things he says? Not that it matters . . . what matters are his actions. So far, no meaningful actions from Mr. Obama to help the Palestinians, or to restrain Israel.

  6. JWalters
    May 21, 2015, 6:41 pm

    Thanks for presenting Obama’s quotes in full. His statements are as carefully crafted as the Balfour letter to James Rothschild. He speaks of understanding historical concerns of the Jewish people for their safety, and the need for equal treatment for other groups. He even uses the carefully ambiguous term “homeland” from that letter.

    The Balfour letter’s key part reads:

    “His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

    The Zionists (funded in part by the Rothschild bank) pretended this was a legal justification for an armed attack by extremist Jewish supremacists from Eastern Europe on non-Jews in Palestine in order to create a religious state.

    It seems to me Obama is trying to calm Jewish American fears (real and manufactured), while nudging the discussion and process in the direction of justice. To me his key statement is:

    “But what is also true, by extension, is that I have to show that same kind of regard to other peoples. And I think it is true to Israel’s traditions and its values — its founding principles — that it has to care about those Palestinian kids.”

    In other words, those Palestinian kids, like African-American kids, deserve full and equal rights. The status quo in Israel cannot continue indefinitely any more than slavery in America could continue indefinitely. And that means Israel’s barbarities cannot be glossed over indefinitely.

    • JWalters
      May 21, 2015, 8:38 pm

      The term “homeland” should have been “national home”. The point is that it did not say “Jewish state” as the militant Zionists wanted. The British envisioned this to mean a Jewish enclave withing a non-sectarian Palestine. A British White Paper in 1922 made this explicit. “Further, it is contemplated that the status of all citizens of Palestine in the eyes of the law shall be Palestinian, and it has never been intended that they, or any section of them, should possess any other juridical status.”

  7. RoHa
    May 21, 2015, 8:35 pm

    “There’s a direct line between supporting the right of the Jewish people to have a homeland and to feel safe and free of discrimination and persecution, and the right of African Americans to vote and have equal protection under the law.”

    I would love to see:

    (a) An argument for the alleged “right of the Jewish people to have a homeland”. This would need to include an argument for the implied claim that “peoples” have rights.

    (b) An argument linking that alleged right to the right of African Americans to vote and have equal protection under the law.

    • can of worms
      May 22, 2015, 2:13 am

      ———————
      RoHa, did you know the denial of Palestinian human and civil rights is directly tied to African Americans having the right to vote!!?

    • JWalters
      May 22, 2015, 5:13 am

      Sensible points. A lot hinges on what “home” and “homeland” reasonably mean in this historical context. It seems to me the operational definition would be “safe and free of discrimination and persecution”. For instance, the Amish have a home territory in Pennsylvania that meets those criteria, similar to the intent of the Balfour letter.

      It seems to me Obama is gently telling the Jewish American community that Israel’s injustices to the Palestinians cannot continue. Justice for the Palestinians is something Netanyahu’s war investors and bigots can’t stand to contemplate.

  8. JLewisDickerson
    May 21, 2015, 10:52 pm

    RE: “I understand the long history of antisemitism as an argument for having a Jewish state, but why can’t people be honest about the price paid by the Palestinians?” – Donald Johnson

    SEE: “Is Israel a ‘Jewish Nation’? Is the US an ‘American Nation’?”, by Ira Chernus, CommonDreams.org, 1/31/14

    [EXCERPT] . . . All countries define themselves, Hind Khoury, a former Palestinian minister and ambassador, told Rudoren. “Why doesn’t Israel call itself at the U.N. whatever they want to call it — the Jewish whatever, Maccabean, whatever they want. Then the whole world will recognize it.” But, Khoury added, “We will never recognize Israel the way they want, I mean genuinely, from our hearts. … Why for them to feel secure do we have to deny our most recent history?”
    “For them to feel secure” — There’s the heart of the matter, as Americans should easily understand. Israeli Jews, like white Americans, have always known that their claim to the land they call their own is dubious.
    Ever since the first Europeans arrived in what would become the United States, they have paraded an endless array of papers, all claiming to be treaties signed by native peoples ceding their lands to the conquerors. “You see, we have a right to this land,” the whites proudly proclaimed. Never mind that most of the treaties were either coerced, signed by native peoples who did not understand them, or outright fraudulent. They gave at least the appearance of legal right.
    Israel has a somewhat stronger case with UN Resolution 181, passed in 1947, providing for “independent Arab and Jewish States” in Palestine. But the right of the Jews to have their own state in Palestine has still remained a matter of contention (pardon the understatement) ever since.
    Why did so many white Americans find it so important to be able to waive those pieces of paper “proving” their “legal right” to the land? Why do a sizeable majority of Israeli Jews favor the demand that Palestinians acknowledge Israel as “the nation-state of the Jewish people”? Obviously, both peoples are insecure about their right to their land. If they can get the former inhabitants to relinquish their rights, it gives the appearance, at least, that the vanquished concede to the victors a moral right to the land they have taken. . .

    ENTIRE COMMENTARY – https://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/01/31-0

  9. eljay
    May 22, 2015, 8:21 am

    Obama: You know, I think a good baseline is: Do you think that Israel has a right to exist as a homeland for the Jewish people, and are you aware of the particular circumstances of Jewish history that might prompt that need and desire?

    It’s a terrible baseline, Barry O. Jewish citizens of countries around the world – like all citizens of countries around the world – are entitled to justice, accountability and equality, universally and consistently applied.

    Jewish people are not entitled to a supremacist “Jewish State”. No group of people is entitled to a supremacist state.

    [T]o me, being pro-Israel and pro-Jewish is part and parcel with the values that I’ve been fighting for since I was politically conscious and started getting involved in politics. There’s a direct line between supporting the right of the Jewish people to have a homeland and to feel safe and free of discrimination and persecution, and the right of African Americans to vote and have equal protection under the law. These things are indivisible in my mind.

    The direct line is between:
    – justice, accountability and equality for blacks; and
    – justice, accountability and equality for Jews (and not a supremacist “Jewish State” for Jews).

    Your inability to correctly draw a direct line indicates that you are either an idiot or a sycophant toward Zio-supremacism, Barry O.

    • can of worms
      May 22, 2015, 2:32 pm

      “Your inability to correctly draw a direct line indicates that you are either an idiot or a sycophant toward Zio-supremacism, Barry O.”

      Both. First he asks you what you think about “Israel having a right to exist as a homeland for the Jewish people” (=the BASELINE) but he knows what you’re going to say, the obvious, that Israel-Palestine has a right to exist as a nation for all its people equally, and the corollary, the equal right of return. So he tries to insult you: you are ignorant and HE has a problem with YOU!

      …And that comment about there being a direct line of continuity between African Americans’ rights to vote in the United States and the Jewish-Israeli military and political rule over Palestinians deserves never, ever, ever, to be forgotten.

  10. Castellio
    May 22, 2015, 8:25 am

    I’m not sure I grasp his analogy.

    Shouldn’t it be: “There’s a direct line between supporting the right of the Jewish people to a homeland and to supporting Blacks in America to have a distinct and separate homeland where they can feel safe and free of discrimination and persecution.”

    • can of worms
      May 22, 2015, 2:51 pm

      “I’m not sure I grasp his analogy.”

      The right of blacks to equal protection under the law should be supported as much as the right of a coercive Jewish majority in Israel-Palestine should be supported. It’s not any analogy, it’s an insult .

      • MHughes976
        May 22, 2015, 4:04 pm

        Quite so, can. The mind boggles at the idea of a Black State in America where the remaining whites had to go to work through checkpoints.
        Some have noted that O is sending a gentle (indeed cloyingly sentimental: ‘care about kids’; O mi God!) message to people who pride themselves on not being gentle with those who question their proudly asserted rights and hard as nails security system.There’s a sort of wilful ineffectuality here. And he’s the most powerful man in the mondo.
        O is of course the heir of the postwar Protestant theology which did enfold Zionism and Civil Rights into one wildly inconsistent but proudly proclaimed package. The main leader was Reinhold Niebuhr, the main practical exponent Martin Luther King – they had pale shadows in the UK who misled me in my youth. I am sure that this is the theology that tells Obama that he is the good servant of Almighty God.

    • RoHa
      May 22, 2015, 10:50 pm

      ‘Shouldn’t it be: “There’s a direct line between supporting the right of the Jewish people to a homeland and to supporting Blacks in America to have a distinct and separate homeland where they can feel safe and free of discrimination and persecution.” ‘

      Yes. That’s what Liberia is for.

  11. RobertHenryEller
    May 22, 2015, 8:27 am

    Jeez, do I have to open a Mondoweiss link and see THAT face?

  12. hophmi
    May 22, 2015, 10:01 am

    “why can’t people be honest about the price paid by the Palestinians? I know the answer.”

    They certainly can say it. They just can’t solve the problem on the backs of the Jewish refugees who established Israel as a refuge from worldwide bigotry, especially when there is a worldwide rise in antisemitism, and life for Jews in Europe is becoming increasingly untenable.

    • CigarGod
      May 22, 2015, 10:56 am

      A police state ain’t much of a refuge, son.

    • Donald
      May 22, 2015, 11:22 am

      I’m no expert on the real level of antisemitism in Europe–my impression is that it is a real threat in Hungary, but in places like France we’re talking about terrorism, which is bad, but it’s not like the society sides with the terrorists. If anything, the society seems more against Muslims.

      But anyway, people in the US could talk openly about what happened in order to establish a Jewish state, but this is usually left for historians and bloggers. Obama completely dodges the issue and pretends that the only possible motive anyone could have for opposing a Jewish state would be antisemitism, which is flatly dishonest. Apparently Palestinians are anti-semitic if they oppose their own ethnic cleansing. Obama can’t come out and say that, so he ends up stating things which are self-contradictory. I actually think JWalters above may have a point–Obama might have chosen his words carefully, so that he can’t be accused of hostility to Zionism, while at the same time criticizing to some degree what Israel does to the Palestinians. He’s a politician above all other things and someone who opposed gay marriage until the polls changed.

      • MHughes976
        May 22, 2015, 3:38 pm

        How we define ‘levels of anti-S’ depends in part on how we understand anti-S itself, something that those who make these complaints hardly ever tell us.
        To me it means ‘prejudice (irrational sentiment) against at least some things characteristically Jewish’.
        We have just had an election where one of the main party leaders was Jewish in background – the loser admittedly, the winner being vaguely Christian and very emphatically Zionist. The re-elected Speaker of the House of Commons is (I think) also of Jewish family. The Father of the House, who presides over the election of the Speaker, is Jewish.
        There was a survey of Jewish voters during the campaign showing that they offer 2:1 support to the Conservative Party, an indication of a reasonably favourable position in the class system. These are not straws in an anti-S wind.
        I do not think that there is any statistical or rational argument for the idea that our fellow citizens who are Jewish are in an endangered or even a difficult position in respect of crime or in respect of general life-chances.

    • Mooser
      May 22, 2015, 11:32 am

      “especially when there is a worldwide rise in antisemitism, and life for Jews in Europe is becoming increasingly untenable.”

      I know how you feel Hophmi, but I think you should give up on it. I don’t think Zionism’s “best friends” are going to carry out their part of the deal.

    • Boo
      May 22, 2015, 4:50 pm

      How many of those Jewish refugees who established Israel are still alive?

      Zionists these days are quite a different breed indeed. Too many of them are full of self-entitlement, and when that attitude infects a government, only bad things can be expected to result.

    • Shingo
      May 22, 2015, 6:19 pm

      life for Jews in Europe is becoming increasingly untenable.

      Spoken liking a right wing ignoramus who has never been to Europe. You should tell all those Jees lining up to migrate to Berlin Hop.

    • RoHa
      May 22, 2015, 7:41 pm

      Quite right, hophmi. The problem has to be solved on the backs of the Palestinians because, as we all know, Jews are much more important than Palestinians.

    • talknic
      May 22, 2015, 8:43 pm

      @ hophmi “They just can’t solve the problem on the backs of the Jewish refugees who established Israel as a refuge from worldwide bigotry”

      Herzl was a refugee? Odd isn’t it that the first Zionist Federation members up until 1922 could have immigrated to Palestine en mass, acquired citizenship, bought land and settled anywhere in the Jewish People’s Historic Homeland. Herzl didn’t bother. Preferring instead to loan money to and arm Jewish settlers

      ” especially when there is a worldwide rise in antisemitism”

      It appears to rise whenever Israel slaughters Palestinian civilians en mass. Israel’s propagandists favour conflating a hatred of Israel’s overtly violent and illegal behaviour with Antisemitism

      ” and life for Jews in Europe is becoming increasingly untenable”

      Mass exodus is there? Oh well, plenty of room in Israel (even without all those territories Israel has never legally acquired since proclaiming its borders)

  13. JimMichie
    May 22, 2015, 5:31 pm

    A rhetorical question: I wonder how Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Medgar Evers would respond to Mr. Goldberg’s questions?

  14. iResistDe4iAm
    May 23, 2015, 11:15 pm

    “There’s a direct line between supporting the right of the Jewish people to have a homeland and to feel safe and free of discrimination and persecution,
    and the right of African Americans to vote and have equal protection under the law.”
    ~ Barack Obama

    There’s no direct correlation between the two rights. In fact the correlation is indirect rather than direct.

    There’s a direct line between supporting the right of the Jewish people to have a homeland and to feel safe and free of discrimination and persecution, and supporting the right of the Palestinian people to have a homeland and to feel safe and free of discrimination and persecution — it’s better known as two states for two peoples or the two state solution as championed by Obama himself.

    There’s also a direct line between the right of African Americans to vote and have equal protection under the law, and the right of Palestinians to vote and have equal protection under the law.

    Therefore, the common denominator between the two universal rights espoused by Obama is actually the Palestinians. Ironically, the Palestinians are denied both of the above rights (as well as many others) by the very same party that Obama is pandering to, Israel.

    Rights attained for one group of people at the expense of the rights of another group of people is not justice. Obama should stop trying to bend the arc of the moral universe away from justice.

    “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice” ~ Martin Luther King Jr

    “These things are indivisible in my mind.” ~ Barack Obama

    “Justice is indivisible. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” ~ Martin Luther King Jr

    King: I Have a Dream. Obama: I Have a Drone.
    http://rootsaction.org/news-a-views/580-king-i-have-a-dream-obama-i-have-a-drone

  15. Abdul-Rahman
    May 26, 2015, 11:00 am

    The attempted “comparison” by President Obama is truly repugnant. But such repugnant words and actions have been part and parcel of Obama’s warmongering, anti-liberal presidency of selling out any supposed positive activism this puppet of Wall Street and war criminal drone killer once may have had in his youth.

    As for the supposed “comparison” itself: the idea that the ethnic cleansing of Palestine by Zionist terrorist militias somehow has any relation to African-Americans finally getting the right to vote in America is an assault on all logic or decency. It is clear also that once again we are seeing historical mistreatment and oppression of Jews, predominantly in Europe, attempting to be misused to excuse Zionist crimes in the Middle East. The absurdity of this is evident; what should be just as evident is the insult to Judaism, and those Jews who did suffer that historical oppression, such ridiculous Zionist propaganda claims are.

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