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‘Patronizing Israeli crap’ — more American Jewish responses to Oren

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Michael Oren’s new book Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide, continues to drive a wedge between Israelis and Israel supporters in the U.S. in ways that folks on our site have long been dreaming about. Oren’s Zionist American readers are treating the book as spiteful because of the former ambassador’s attacks on President Obama and on American Jews for being self-hating or indifferent to Israeli achievements; and so the book is undermining the very connections it was trying to shore up.

Here are three new important criticisms of the book.

First, Ron Kampeas at the Forward reports that Oren likely “concocted” the claim that he felt “kicked in the chest” by a 2010 statement from President Obama praising six countries that rushed to help Haiti after the earthquake. Oren wrote:

Omitted from the [president’s] list was Israel, the first state to arrive in Haiti and the first to reach the disaster fully prepared. I heard the president’s words and felt like I had been kicked in the chest.

Kampeas says these claims are simply wrong:

• Israel was not “the first state to arrive in Haiti.” Israel arrived on the evening of Jan. 15. According to this CNN timeline, the United States, Iceland, Canada, Spain, China, Argentina, Cuba and Brazil had rescue teams in place by Jan. 13 and 14. The Dominican Republic was first…

• Obama delivered his remarks between 1:08 and 1:14 PM on Friday, Jan. 15. The Israeli rescue teams arrived on Jan. 15 – in the evening, according to Walla News…

So why would Oren have “felt kicked in the chest”? Israelis did not rescue or treat a single Haitian until after Obama delivered his remarks; there was no Israeli team in place when he spoke…

I’d point out that Kampeas is a strong supporter of Israel who owns an apartment in occupied territory. Not the kind of reporter you’d expect to bash Oren.

Next Jeffrey Goldberg, diehard supporter of Israel who once moved there and joined its army (and did softball interviews of Oren a year ago and six years ago), now takes Oren to task in an interview. He criticizes Oren over his psychologizing of President Obama; and watch as Oren just digs the hole deeper: Obama has “deep.. very strong feelings about Islam.”

Goldberg: Do you believe that President Obama seeks reconciliation with the Muslim world for these deeply personal reasons having to do with unreturned love from Muslim father figures, and that he saw distancing the U.S. from Israel as a way to bridge the gap… ?

Oren: The answer is no…  I was trying to figure out what are the origins of his feelings toward Islam. He has deep feelings about Islam, obviously. [He] talks about them—I’m not making them up—and he has a high regard for Islam. And I wanted to know where it came from. If George Bush all of a sudden came out and expressed very strong feelings about Islam, you’d want to know where they’re coming from…

Goldberg: why do you think you’ve stepped in it, to the degree that you agree that you stepped in it on this particular question?

Oren: Have I stepped in it? I didn’t know I’d stepped in it.

Goldberg: … [It] strikes me as unfair, this idea that [Obama] was so influenced by his exposure to Muslims, to Islam. There’s an omission here. Fine—it’s fair game to look at the people and ideas who influence a president. But what about his exposure to Lester Crown, Newton Minow, Abner Mikva, all of his Jewish mentors, his Jewish supporters early in his career, when he was seen as the Jewish candidate in Chicago. These are important to grapple with, too.  You don’t talk about this.

Goldberg goes down the list of American Jews whom Oren finds objectionable, including a former State Department official whom he calls an “apostate”: “He became very secular. He became a WASP.” An ugly thing to say in this multicultural age.

The next questionable Jew is the NYT’s Tom Friedman:

I also think he said some things that were very problematic, not the least of which about Jews buying seats in Congress. That’s problematic.

Oren is surely referring to Friedman’s assertion in 2011 that a standing ovation Netanyahu got in Congress “was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.”
This most undiplomatic diplomat then repeats the blackmail he issued at the 92nd Street Y: American Jews should feel “gratitude” to Israel for restoring their self-esteem and their wholeness as people, by killing Arabs in 1967 and on…

I am expecting them, if they are members of the Jewish people, I expect them, as I said in the book, to be grateful that we are living in a moment which is totally unique in the history, when we have these two vastly successful, powerful Jewish communities, and we should be grateful. But that’s the whole thrust of that position—it comes down to the question of ingratitude, and what I have a problem with is Jewish journalists who say, “I’m Jewish, but I’m not those Jews.”

In the 1967 war, which was the foundational event for me, tens of thousands of American Jews went out to protest in the weeks before the war. You know, during the waiting period. They were protesting against the Vietnam War. They weren’t demonstrating for Israel.

Goldberg: So this gets to my point. There’s this feeling that runs through the book that you feel betrayed by American Jewry—by the community from which you come.

And this brings me back to my point: American Jews are also feeling betrayed, by Israel. So when this reputable and extremely presentable representative of that country maligns them and their president, they feel confused. Some of that confusion is evident in Leon Wieseltier’s angry response to Oren’s book. The former literary editor of the New Republic says that the author’s accusation that Wieseltier was anti-Semitic in his attacks on Netanyahu is “patronizing Israeli crap.”

Oren responds to disagreement with psychopathology: Jews who differ with him are infirm Jews. They suffer from an identity disorder. “Pondering these questions, I could not help questioning whether American Jews really felt as secure as they claimed. Perhaps persistent fears of anti-Semitism impelled them to distance themselves from Israel and its often controversial policies. Maybe that is why so many of them supported Obama …” This is patronizing Israeli crap…

Please support Mondoweiss today with a tax-deductible donation.But Wieseltier’s piece exhibits an anxiety that has nothing to do with Oren and everything to do with his own Zionism, or “my loyalty to the Jewish people,” and therefore his deep dissatisfaction with where Israel is going. Wieseltier asserts of the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu

that he will never preside over the establishment of a Palestinian state, which in my view is the very condition of the survival of a Jewish state; that he has no interest in the moral dimensions of Israel’s coexistence with Arabs and Palestinians (the Other, indeed!) and will poison Israel’s relations with its citizens and its neighbors if it suits his political purposes; that he prefers military solutions to diplomatic solutions and is utterly lacking in diplomatic imagination; that he regards Israel’s isolation not as a strategic threat but as a moral victory, as a proof of its righteousness; that he has promoted fear from an empirical response to actual dangers into a philosophy of history, and thereby diminished his country’s sense of historical possibility; that he will pander to the darkest forces of Israeli reaction, secular and religious, to advance himself.

So Wieseltier has seen the Israel that Max Blumenthal has described, and is recoiling from it. He speaks out now because Oren has smeared him — in the very same way Wieseltier smeared Andrew Sullivan and John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt when they dared to criticize Israel at the start of the unraveling several years ago– but the real problem is that American Jews don’t see much that they can embrace in Israel. And that is the great thing about the Oren book. He is another loose cannon for the Jewish state, but this one directed not against Palestinians and Israel’s neighbors but at the community he left for reasons having to do with his need to experience Jewish power and his longstanding disdain for the “tikkun olam” tradition in Jewish political life. His original community is shocked by the attack; and is recognizing its distance from a militant Jim Crow state with fascistic strains.

P.S. I know I touched on Wieseltier’s piece in an earlier review of the reviews.

Philip Weiss

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

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22 Responses

  1. amigo on July 1, 2015, 1:57 pm

    Look for “Time Immemorial” part two to come out soon.Oren is just as much a liar and propagandist as was Joan Peter,s.

    I love this guy Oren. He is just what is needed to show what exactly zionism is all about.Give him all the rope he desires.

    • just on July 1, 2015, 2:36 pm

      Yep. He’s the gift that keeps on giving!

      We’ve come to expect crazy from Netanyahu, Regev, Hazan, Ya’alon, Bennett, Mazuz, Lapid, Hotovely, Shaked, Lieberman, etc. but now people are becoming apoplectic that one of their own has broken the unspoken rules!

      Pass the popcorn and ‘fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.’

    • piotr on July 1, 2015, 5:39 pm

      Perhaps we see a bunch of camels with a back problem.

  2. JLewisDickerson on July 1, 2015, 2:12 pm

    RE: “Ron Kampeas at the Forward reports that Oren likely ‘concocted’ the claim that he felt ‘kicked in the chest’ by a 2010 statement from President Obama praising six countries that rushed to help Haiti after the earthquake.” ~ Weiss

    MY COMMENT: This is probably some of the Hasbara the Likudnik government of Israel asked him to include in his book. He dared not include it for fear of being subjected to the ‘Goldstone treatment’.
    Of course, he might simply be delusional.
    Early onset Alzheimer’s? ? ?

    • JLewisDickerson on July 1, 2015, 2:31 pm

      P.S. URI AVNERY: Yitzhak Shamir famously said, “It is permitted to lie for the Fatherland.” *

      * SEE: “A Boy Called Bibi ~ Netanyahu on the Couch”, by Uri Avnery, CounterPunch.org, May 1-3, 2015

      [EXCERPTS] . . . So who is this Netanyahu? Contrary to popular opinion, he is a man of very strong beliefs – the beliefs of his far-right father. The entire world is out to kill us at all times, we need a powerful state to defend ourselves, all of the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan has been given us by God (whether he exists or not). Everything else is lies, subterfuges, tactics.

      When, in a famous speech at Bar-Ilan university near Tel Aviv, Netanyahu embraced the principle of “Two States for Two Peoples”, those who knew him could only smile. It was as if he had recommended the eating of pork on Yom Kippur.

      He dangled this statement before the eyes of the naive Americans and let his Justice Minister, Tzipi Livni, lead endless negotiations with the Palestinians, whom he despises. Whenever it seemed that the negotiations were nearing some goal, he quickly put up another condition, such us the ridiculous demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Nation State of the Jewish People. He would not dream, of course, of recognizing the Palestinian territories as the Nation State of the Palestinian People – a people he does not really believe exists at all.

      On the eve of the last election, just now, Netanyahu announced that there would not be a Palestinian state as long as he was in power. When the Americans remonstrated, he repudiated himself. Why not? As his Likud predecessor, Yitzhak Shamir, famously said, “It is permitted to lie for the Fatherland.”

      Netanyahu will lie, cheat, repudiate himself, raise false flags – all for the purpose of achieving his one and only real goal, the Rock of our Existence (as he loves to say), the heritage of his father – the Jewish State from the sea to the river. . .

      ENTIRE COMMENTARY – http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/05/01/netanyahu-on-the-couch/

    • Mooser on July 1, 2015, 3:35 pm

      “Early onset Alzheimer’s? ? ?”

      Any other disability or illness can afflict a person who also suffers from Ziocaine Syndrome. It confers no immunity.

    • Kris on July 1, 2015, 3:49 pm

      Obviously Zionists are okay with lying, but what is the advantage in telling lies that are so easily exposed?

      They all do it, but why?

      Is it as Mooser has suggested, that a goal of Zionists is to make Jews so disliked everywhere but Israel, that they are all forced to move there?

  3. Krauss on July 1, 2015, 5:00 pm

    I wouldn’t classify Wieseltier as a liberal. He attacks Oren because he himself was attacked. He’s a typical Zionist. It’s only okay for Jews to criticize Zionism, but only if they are Zionists. When people say the truth, he goes off his leash like a rabid dog, like we saw against Sullivan/Walt/Mearsheimer.

    So why include his attacks as a sign of American Jews turning against Israel? More like a man with a big ego turning against another man with a big ego. Then there’s Kampeas, who may be exposing Oren’s history of fraud, but as you noted, that hasn’t prevented him from buying an apartment in the Jim Crow state. Another sign of a “liberal” turning against Zionism? Ha.

    Oren’s book is more useful in the sense of showing the total disconnect within American Jewry(the Zionist part, which is still the strong majority part).
    They have this Dreamcastle Israel view and whenever someone goes out and pops that bubble, like Oren, they go nuts.

    In a sense his book has shown the inability of the American Jewish establishment to fundamentally deal with Zionism in a way other than avoidance or shaming. The same people who bash Oren today will attack BDS tomorrow. Oren is a lot of things, but at least he has a coherent world view. The Zionist establishment doesn’t. They have a schizophrenic world view, where their “liberal” principles is divided on geography and whenever this chasm is opened, you get this hysterical reaction.

    It has nothing to do with Oren.

    • piotr on July 1, 2015, 5:53 pm

      I guess he is a liberal according to Chomsky’s view: not standing much for anything except tactically passionate advocacy of the most conventional causes acceptable to the establishment, and that included Zionism. Unfortunately, that also entails taking stands that Geller derided as “pretty”, like displaying moments of distraction upon learning of the killing of hundreds of children etc. This is roughly what raised Oren’s ire, while Wieseltier was clearly very pleased with himself for penning the offending articles. So we got a clash of mindsets: “How could he stab HIS country in the back”, versus “How could he fail to appreciate my subtle feelings”.

    • Xpat on July 1, 2015, 10:09 pm

      “They have a schizophrenic world view”
      Your points are spot on. In particular, the schizophrenia. It’s not just geographical. Take Jewish summer camp for example. You have a community that is built on interfaith families. Reform Judaism would not be the largest Jewish denomination without interfaith families . Other streams of Judaism have also embraced the openness of contemporary U.S. life.
      But then comes summer. The jewel in the crown of Jewish life is Jewish summer camp. It’s where most rabbis get hooked on Judaism. But Jewish summer camp is a shtetl in the wilderness. It’s all Jews all the time, with dozens of Israeli counselors. And then at the end of the summer, the kids head back to America back to their Jewish/non-Jewish interfaith community.

  4. piotr on July 1, 2015, 5:28 pm

    I am verklempt. First, Israeli cows produce less milk than Saudi cows. Now Israel was not the first to arrive in Haiti, not the second but something like number 10? What next? Do not tell me that it was possible to have cell phones and computers without Israeli help.

    • Dutch on July 1, 2015, 10:17 pm

      [I am verklempt. First, Israeli cows produce less milk than Saudi cows. Now Israel was not the first to arrive in Haiti, not the second but something like number 10? What next?]

      Bahahaaad deal coming soon. And July 20: EU decides to label products from the colonies.

      In the meantime you should not forget that these guys made the desert bloom, and they now have trees that produce Nobel Prize winners.

  5. JWalters on July 1, 2015, 6:31 pm

    Oren is doing what Rush Limbaugh does – decide your conclusion and then make up “evidence” to support it.

    This disdain for the facts is rampant in today’s political debates, mostly coming from big money interests and their well-paid mouthpieces, with agendas overriding the truth. The science-denial campaigns, for example, are highly financed. A climate catastrophe could be as profitable as several wars, with all that reconstruction.

    In the case of Israel, the idea that a few Jewish supremacists are dragging the world’s superpower around by the nose is ridiculous. These people are pawns in a bigger game. Oren is like one of those tobacco company talking heads insisting there’s “no proof” cigarettes cause cancer, when it’s in his own research files. Oren’s bad faith, idiotic case amounts to “my religious fanatics right or wrong”.

    A war in Israel would be as profitable as any other. It would be an unfortunate end to the “unraveling”, as Phil aptly puts it, which is increasingly clearly beyond the point of no return.

  6. Edward Q on July 1, 2015, 9:29 pm

    Is Oren the worst ambassador ever? I wonder who will be his replacement? He certainly fits in with the crazy nonsense that goes on in the U.S. these days. In a country that supports the TPP while burning down its own economy why not support to the hilt a country with an ambassador and government that is constantly badmouthing and undermining us?

    • just on July 1, 2015, 10:11 pm

      Oren certainly is an embarrassambassador, but then again so is Dermer~ the current one.

      Both renounced their US citizenship to serve their chosen country. That’s weird and more than a little suspect, imho. So many people serve Israel over their own country…

      • Edward Q on July 1, 2015, 11:08 pm

        Oren’s modus operandi seems to be that if he can imagine any interpretation in which Israel gets to be the victim then the interpretation must be true. He is a member of a cult.

      • lysias on July 2, 2015, 10:26 am

        Oren, in his new book, writes very favorably of Dermer. His book is full of compliments for an awful lot of people. Often embarrassingly sycophantic, like for Netanyahu and Peres.

  7. Edward Q on July 1, 2015, 9:31 pm

    Oren also fits in with the U.S. pattern of being your own worst enemy.

  8. Louieknoxville on July 2, 2015, 9:31 am

    Thank you, Leon Wieseltier, this is the most cogent analysis of Binyamin Netanyahu that I have ever read!

    “……..that he (Netanyahu) will never preside over the establishment of a Palestinian state, which in my view is the very condition of the survival of a Jewish state; that he has no interest in the moral dimensions of Israel’s coexistence with Arabs and Palestinians (the Other, indeed!) and will poison Israel’s relations with its citizens and its neighbors if it suits his political purposes; that he prefers military solutions to diplomatic solutions and is utterly lacking in diplomatic imagination; that he regards Israel’s isolation not as a strategic threat but as a moral victory, as a proof of its righteousness; that he has promoted fear from an empirical response to actual dangers into a philosophy of history, and thereby diminished his country’s sense of historical possibility; that he will pander to the darkest forces of Israeli reaction, secular and religious, to advance himself.”

    Under Netanyahu, Zionism has become a failed experiment.

  9. Vera Gottlieb on July 2, 2015, 10:48 am

    The word petulant comes to mind.

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