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Obama on Palestinian Suffering

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Yesterday’s Times had a fine piece on the politics of Barack Obama’s position re Palestinians. In a speech last weekend, Obama spoke of Palestinian suffering. The Times made clear this was a misstep.

Yet by singling out Palestinian suffering on Sunday, Mr. Obama could be tempting fate with some Jewish voters. “Awarding
first place in the suffering matrix is odious and infelicitous,” said
Rabbi Steven Silver of Redondo Beach, Calif…  “I think a lot of
Americans would find that comment offensive, too.

Mr. Silver’s
son, Jesse, a college student who supports Mrs. Clinton, said he was
spreading the word at the conference about Mr. Obama’s remark. “It’s just clumsy of him to say that on the eve of the Aipac conference,” Jesse Silver said. “His inexperience is showing.”

This is unfortunate on a number of levels.  First, that American Jews embrace the idea of Jewish suffering, at a time when Jews are prospering in America in unprecedented manner, shows a removal from our American reality. Of course, unquestionably, Jews are suffering in Israel. But the ratio of deaths of Palestinians to deaths of Israelis is outsized, more than 25 to 1 in the Gaza fighting, and of course there are the grotesque conditions under which Palestinians live, and so, secondly, this emphasis on Jewish suffering demonstrates an indifference in the Jewish leadership here to Arab life. Third, the way that the rabbi’s son is recruited in these pro-Israel politics, to the point that he can righteously lecture a politician twice his age on rhetorical nuances, shows the pressure on the college-age generation to maintain the lobby. You’d think they might be more independent.

Finally, the Times describes Hillary and Obama’s contest as one for Jewish votes. This is a euphemism. Long ago the Washington Post said that more than half of Democratic party funding was from Jews. I imagine the number is well above that in the center-left sweetspot that Obama and Clinton are competing for. It would be far more accurate, and informative, for the Times to explore the real competition here, for dough.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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