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Obama can’t stop talking about love (and that’s bad news for the Israel lobby)

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Obama’s got the love drug. He used the word six times yesterday in his Memorial Day speech. At times it came out of the blue:

I love my daughters more than anything in the world…

He used the word love 14 times in Joplin, Missouri the day before.

the actions of these individuals were driven by love — love for a family member, love for a friend, or just love for a fellow human being.

Love isn’t just love between two people, it has a political social dimension. Obama talked about that love in Ireland last week:

as President McAleese has written, “For all the apparent intractability of our problems, the irrepressible human impulse to love kept nagging and nudging us towards reconciliation.”

Obama is a deep, thoughtful man, and he carried that idea of love that can heal a formerly intractable conflict– the words we all use about Israel and Palestine– to England a day or two later. He spoke about the Arab spring in hopeful terms, and about Ireland too. And lest there was any doubt about the lesson to Israelis, Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron said at his joint press conference with Obama that intractable Ireland is an example for the Middle East, and Obama picked up the analogy and ran with it, expressing impatience:

Let me just pick up on what David said about Ireland.  It was inspiring to see, after hundreds of years of conflict, people so rapidly reorienting how they thought about themselves, how they thought about those who they thought once were enemies.  Her Majesty’s visit had a profound effect on the entire country.  And so it was an enormous source of hope.  And I think it’s a reminder that as tough as these things are, if you stick to it, if people of goodwill remain engaged, that ultimately even the worst of conflicts can be resolved.

      But it [now referring to Israel/Palestine– the original question] is going to take time.  And I remain optimistic, but not naively so, that this is going to be hard work and each side is going to have to look inward to determine what is in their long-term interests, and not just what are in their short-term tactical interests, which tends to perpetuate a conflict as opposed to solving it.

All this love talk is bad news for the Israel lobby, which loves itself. Obama’s speech to AIPAC last Sunday was filled with obeisance, yes, but sand and scorn: “The world is moving too fast.  The world is moving too fast.  The extraordinary challenges facing Israel will only grow.” 

And when he went before the British Parliament last week, Obama mentioned Israel only once. And he did not include it in his list of American interests in the region. No, that list included energy, and implicitly support for “minority rights” in a democracy. 

The United States and United Kingdom stand squarely on the side of those who long to be free.  And now, we must show that we will back up those words with deeds.  That means investing in the future of those nations that transition to democracy, starting with Tunisia and Egypt -– by deepening ties of trade and commerce; by helping them demonstrate that freedom brings prosperity.  And that means standing up for universal rights -– by sanctioning those who pursue repression, strengthening civil society, supporting the rights of minorities. 
     We do this knowing that the West must overcome suspicion and mistrust among many in the Middle East and North Africa -– a mistrust that is rooted in a difficult past.  For years, we’ve faced charges of hypocrisy from those who do not enjoy the freedoms that they hear us espouse.  And so to them, we must squarely acknowledge that, yes, we have enduring interests in the region -– to fight terror, sometimes with partners who may not be perfect; to protect against disruptions of the world’s energy supply.  But we must also insist that we reject as false the choice between our interests and our ideals; between stability and democracy. 

I say that these last two weeks have angered Obama. He is reserved and protean, he sees a mainstream American discourse, urged on by the Arab spring, opening about Israel, and he wants to lead it, and secretly he hates the selfishness of the Israel lobby.

Because love isn’t just social, it’s personal. And Barack Obama is the son of a freethinking midwestern woman who overcame differences to love a Kenyan man. The values he celebrated in Joplin:

As the governor said, you have shown the world what it means to love thy neighbor….And in the face of winds that showed no mercy, no regard for human life, that did not discriminate by race or faith or background, it was ordinary people, swiftly tested, who said, “I’m willing to die right now so that someone else might live.”

Philip Weiss

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

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