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Obama = Ahmadinejad? Pleease!

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The rightward shift in Israel is affecting the American Jewish community. Dana Goldstein at The American Prospect puts her foot down here, rejecting Israeli Aluf Benn’s op-ed in yesterday’s Times that urges Obama to truckle to Israeli opinion. She seizes on a crucial point:

Benn engages in some anti-Obama scare-mongering himself, suggesting that the American president’s view of twentieth century Jewish history is akin to that of Holocaust-denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad:

...Mr. Obama seems to have confused American Jews with Israelis. We are close emotionally and politically, but we are different. We speak Hebrew and not English, we live in the Middle East and have separate historical narratives. Mr. Obama’s stop at Buchenwald and his strong rejection of Holocaust denial, immediately after his Cairo speech, appealed to American Jews but fell flat in Israel. Here we are taught that Zionist determination and struggle — not guilt over the Holocaust — brought Jews a homeland. Mr. Obama’s speech, which linked Israel’s existence to the Jewish tragedy, infuriated many Israelis who sensed its closeness to the narrative of enemies like Mahmoud Ahmedinejad.

I take Benn’s point that American and Israeli Jews have different historiographies. But it is patently absurd to claim that Obama somehow sounded like an anti-Semitic "enemy" when he acknowledged that the Zionist project is a direct outgrowth of the oppression of European Jews over centuries and centuries. Zionism predated the Holocaust, but was obviously strengthened by it.

P.S. Balfour Declaration was on the books for 20 years before the Holocaust. Britain was walking away from the commitment during the 20s and 30s. Partition surely wouldn’t have been passed except for the Holocaust.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

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