Netanyahu & Obama: Classical Anti-Semitism Versus Contemporary Racism

Many media broadcasts have focused on the Iranian nuclear deal in recent times. One of the most remarkable and unprecedented features of this deal has been the reactions of the leaders of the United States and Israel. Binyamin Netanyahu told his colleagues in the Knesset that he will ensure the deal is blocked at the US Congress and Barak Obama stated in clear terms that he will invoke his presidential veto if Congress votes against the deal. Clearly, there is a conflict between the US President and the Israeli Prime Minister. Iran is a real threat to the world. And until the conflict and egos of these leaders are contained, something disastrous could befall humanity. This article examines the facts of this situation from the perspective of anti-Semitism and racism and draws conclusions on how the issue must be handled by the stakeholders involved.

Classical Anti-Semitism

Ashkenazi Jews experienced a lot of riots and xenophobic attacks throughout their stay in Europe in the past two millennia. Some studies show that in the 800 years leading to the Holocaust, there was a major exodus of a major Jewish community in Europe once every 70 years because of anti-Semitism and violent attacks. What explains this?

There are many perceptions from all sides about why Jews were hated and treated negatively. From the evidence at hand, the Jews who lived through the Middle Ages to the Age of Enlightenment through to the 20th Century were not evil people. They hardly took part in any of the political affairs. However, one dominant pattern is that the upper class of these European societies used Jews in seeking their selfish interests. The nobility, ruling class and barons found Jews to be a convenient group they could use to collect taxes and do things that their natives could not do or could not be trusted to do. So the Jew was draw into European feudalist politics and with time, he was hated by the natives of the country. This was the basis of most of the pogroms and many of the hatred directed at Jews.

A small group of Jews were picked upon because they allegedly sided with the enemy in the advent of Islam. In most of these cases, the Jews got nothing more than just the right to live. However, those European nobles who used Jews to collect taxes and pursue their policies looked the other way when Jews were being oppressed. These members of the European ruling class cared about nothing, but their gains. They hardly cared about Jews in any situation. All what they wanted is their interest — their right to enrich themselves through taxation and the Jew was the convenient agent they could use to attain that end.

Contemporary Racism

Black people and persons of African origins have been treated with contempt over the past 500 years. This is a phenomenon Theodor Herzl noted in his works. A critical review of history shows that this trend lies in the fact that Black Africans moved to areas south of the Sahara when there was no desert some 1,000 years ago. With time, the mighty Sahara desert developed and Black Africans were cut off from what was then the Known World — Europe, Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. Africans developed in small groups and faced a setback in terms of technological development due to their inability to interact with other peoples north of the continent.

At the Age of Exploration some 500 years ago, there was no major African state that possessed modern technology. Then the infamous thesis of enslaving Black Africans was presented to major courts in powerful European capitals in the 1500s and Africans were bound as slaves and shipped to the New World.

A lot of negative things occurred in-between — institutionalized slavery in the Americas, wars for the capture of slaves in Africa, the colonization of African states by the European powers and then the two World Wars came up. By the turn of the 20th Century, the United States was segregated and African-Americans came together to develop a culture and identity of their own.

In the First World War, Black skinned Senegalese and Caribbean soldiers questioned the fact that they were paid less than their European counterparts. They rioted and were appeased in various forms. The Senegalese became “partners” in the French colonization of Africa and the Caribbean ex-soldiers got some benefits in the United States and the British Commonwealth. In the Second World War, African soldiers from British Colonies were set to Asia to fight to prevent British India from falling to the Japanese. These Africans learnt about the possibility of self-rule and came back to form anti-colonial movements in the 1940s and 50s. By 1960, most of Black Africa was independent. In the United States, the Civil Rights Movement became more prominent around that time and they got equality in a nation where they were treated as second class citizens. This inspired the South African Anti-Apartheid movements to also stand up and claim equal rights.

Thus, by the year 2000, there were laws around the world forbidding racism and direct discrimination meted out against people on the basis of their skin color. However, one form of racism remained — subtle disrespect and sabotage. Many Black people who got into high positions around the world were sabotaged by people of other races because of their skin color.

The Obama Presidency

The Obama Presidency has shown a significant dose of contemporary racism, which is clearly based on sabotage. Personally, I have had an experience where I wrote an exam with a person of European origins and because he failed and I passed my examinations, this individual refused to talk to me again. What does that tell us? It is a subtle view that runs through some people’s mind — I should always do better than a Black person.

There is something in the subconscious minds of people that a Black man should not excel to a certain point. They believe there are some jobs that Black people should do and that is to do the low unskilled jobs and crime. I have had many personal experiences where I went to places and was thought of as a criminal, terrorist or dangerous person. I have had experiences where people of non-Black origins have done negative things and I was the one cautioned directly because I looked like the one with no connections and rights to react. What does that tell us? It tells us that there are some people who have a mindset that the Black man can never get to a certain level in life.

This might be a habit that many people have not even thought of. I pardon people and try to rationalize their actions because that is what they have seen on television and in the media — that the Black man always plays lower roles in movies. I try to rationalize people’s actions because we place a lot of emphasis on statistics. Therefore, we might be tempted to think in some ways. And that is what most contemporary Black people who are progressive think. The watch word is “do not pay attention to negative people”.

However, in the presidency of Barack Obama, this kind of negative attitude and psychological contemporary racism has been unleashed in significant proportions. The trend goes like this:

  1. Obama presented a message in his campaign and Americans accepted it;
  2. Obama won the Presidential election;
  3. A de facto boycott of Obama was declared by his opponents;
  4. These opponents waited for Obama to fail

The last two pointers continued and many people could not hold their prejudice. They just hoped for Point 4 above to be achieved. Thus, they could not even wait for Obama to fail. Anything that looked like a failure was touted in the media by some anti-Democrat groups and some right wing groups. It was disgraceful.

In reaction, like most contemporary Black people will do today — Obama had to go by the mantra “do not pay attention to negative people”. That is what my father would have told me and that is what I would have told my son if he finds himself in such a situation. And that is how Obama has run the country. This has further isolated him and he has had to get tough with people around him. Honestly, there is no logical way Obama can rule. He cannot go around begging his opponents to present constructive suggestions. Clinton got a far more constructive opposition that helped him to achieve great success in his reign. Obama on the other hand has a de facto boycott by his political opponents.

The result is that the Republican Party which represents the right wing of the United States polity has not really had a centralized message and a unified view. They just use a fire-fighting approach — show up when Obama makes a mistake. And that is destroying the party and its image, rather than building it. Creating a unified opposition could help the party in many ways, including winning the next election.

Implications for Israel & Right Wing Politics

Israel is by default a country that is meant to be nationalist and right wing in outlook. Israel could be the most liberal country in the Middle East, but it has to be firm and stand its grounds. Naturally, Israel is going to resonate well with conservative groups around the world.

However, the pointers of Classical Anti-Semitism still loom if Israel takes a tough stand against any other government they do not agree with. Of course, the Israeli government is not the only government that has such an outlook. The top tier of the judiciaries of most countries around the world is conservative and right-wing in outlook. However, they manage to tolerate and live with extremely liberal governments.

If Israel is seen to take sides of the upper class or the un-favored leadership of a country, it will risk losing the support of the masses. That means if Israel politicizes its relationship with any country, it will be risking its relationship with the country.

In today’s world, we have a Democratic Party that supports the masses and has made unprecedented tax reforms that have favored the masses of the United States significantly. On the other hand, the Republican Party is fragmented and segmented on many fronts. The flagbearer slot of the party is being contested by 15 different leaders who have different worldviews.

It must also be pointed out that the Republican Party is not without its own challenges. The Republican Party has had issues with many minorities in the United States and they have had some very bad foreign military policies around the world that makes them very unpopular.

Today, the Republican Party is apart and it has no figurehead with the appropriate level of credibility. Therefore, their fire-fighting tradition has caused them to use anyone and anything to smear the Obama Administration. There was a time when they sought action against Obama for authorizing a drone attack that killed a terrorist whose only merit was that he was an American citizen. This is no different from Hezbollah’s attitude of asking people who committed crimes to go free because they resisted Israel. However, it shows the kind of desperation that the leadership of right wing American groups to achieve their goals of boycotting and sabotaging Obama till he fails. They are ready to do anything that will help them to achieve their goal.

Netanyahu as a Tool & Classical Anti-Semitism

The quest to go any lengths and do anything to prove Obama’s failure has caused many people to be drawn into the fold. Binyamin Netanyahu is a great leader. He is a strong politician and any Israeli Prime Minister is backed by a strong and robust team of specialists that knows the Middle East and understands its dynamics.

Netanyahu’s political ideology resonates with the Republican Party. He has therefore become a propitious tool for the anti-Obama. And unfortunately, on some levels, he has taken the bait. The anti-Obama campaign and media smear found its way into Israel in the past two years. This caused some degree of contempt on his presidency.

It must also be pointed out that Obama had actions and views that were meant to see Netanyahu hand over power. However, there is a lot at stake here. Netanyahu had to survive so he came up with some actions that caused him to win the election. One might say it was a tit-for-tat situation and a quest for survival. However, actions of this nature have potential negative consequences.

First of all, Netanyahu has picked on Obama quite unusually. If you compare what people like Francois Holland, David Cameron and Vladmir Putin have been saying and doing about Israel’s settlement policies and other issues, in all fairness, Netanyahu should have said worse things about them. France and the EU have been very vocal about Israel’s settlement policies and other things. Yet, Netanyahu never said anything much about any EU leader. The moment Obama showed up, he put all the blame on him. The subconscious mind of a person like Barack Obama will be that Netanyahu views him as an easier target and in such a situation, one is tempted to get tough to resist what might be seen as disrespect. And that could explain why for the first time, a sitting US President has stated he will veto something an Israel Prime Minister does not like.

Secondly, the media in Israel seem to present Obama as the sole enemy in this Iranian deal. It does not blame Iran which is going to get the nuclear bomb and has repeatedly asked for the destruction of Israel. It does not mention China and India that have been buying cheap Iranian oil and keeping the regime going under sanctions. It does not mention Britain, France and Germany who want the Iranian economy to open up so they can gain their economic goals. It is all about the “weak” Obama. That is quite problematic. So in effect, Obama is being demonized excessively because he might not have the power to fight back. He is seen as the one who is giving the nuclear bomb to Iran. However, the truth is that if Obama passes away today, the Iranian threat will continue. Britain, China, India, France, Germany and the others who pushed this deal will continue pushing it.

Thirdly, taking to the media to smear Obama opens a door for classical anti-Semitism. There were protocols that forbade the Democrats and left wingers from saying negative things about Israel. It was due to mutual respect that every Israeli Prime Minister had for every US President irrespective of his party. However, we have a change in position with Netanyahu and Barack Obama. He has smeared a liberal president in the most surprising manner. So there could be some retaliation from the liberal camp.

Finally, Netanyahu allowing himself to be used as a bargaining tool for the right-wing lobbyists has caused a smear not on Obama, but on the US Presidency and on the Israeli Prime Minister position. Why? The disdain and boycott of Obama has made the US Presidency to lose its worth. Many things said about Obama by Americans have created an irreparable damage to the US Presidency. And instead of containing it, Netanyahu encouraged it to spread into Israel as well. Now, the liberal media has taken this up and they have shown the role played by Netanyahu in the Iraqi war and they are arguing against funding Israel and funding more wars in the Middle East.

The problem with this situation is that the argument of these liberals might not be logical today. However, tomorrow, when a more serious issue which needs immediate attention comes up and Israel might need America’s cooperation, these liberal media houses will belittle it. People like Omar Al Bashir and other rulers in the Middle East and Africa with the worst human rights records imaginable are not smeared negatively in the American media like Netanyahu. That is because these rogue leaders did not appear to be interested in American politics. Yet, Netanyahu took sides and it is not ending up right.

Recent exchanges between the Israeli Prime Minister and the White House show that we are nearing a trend of classical anti-Semitism in the United States where the masses will view Jews/Israel as cooperating with the ruling elite. In the British Commonwealth, it is fashionable for the generation that won independence from the British to side with the Palestinians. Now, it is getting fashionable for American liberals to ask for cutting funding to Israel. Who knows which oil-rich country is going to fund these liberals tomorrow to make America more distant from Israel? It all started when an Israeli Prime Minister allowed himself to be used as bargaining chip by America’s right wing extremists.

Dangers for the Iran deal

The Iranian nuclear deal is a major problem to humanity. Something must be done about it. It is a serious issue and we must all find a way of dealing with it to contain it. It has serious implications. Therefore, it is expected that Obama and Netanyahu do more than preserve their egos by cooperating on this matter.

Since the deal was announced, we have had numerous American opposition Congressmen and women calling it a bad deal. The question is where were they when the deal was being proposed? As opposition leaders, didn’t they have some obligation to speak up? If they loved their ally, Israel so much, what stopped them from engaging in tough lobbying from the time this deal started to the end? Do they hate Obama more than they love Israel? These are legitimate questions. If they had put pressure on Obama and set the caps and limits for the negotiations, some of the loose ends of this deal will have been tied. However, their position from the onset was to ensure there was no deal. That was what created the competition.

Judging from history, there was the need for some kind of deal in Iran. The sanctions were being overtly breached by China, India and Russia. And even if they were not being breached, there was the risk of Iran defying everyone and sacrificing their citizens to get a nuclear bomb if that was their intention. North Korea was sanctioned much more severely than Iran. However, on the blood and corpses of their starving citizens, North Korea got the bomb. So Iran would have gotten it. The only solution would have been to get China and Russia to be proactive to ask the nuclear program of Iran to be stopped. The obligation was not with the US, certainly not with Obama. That is how we arrived at the need for a deal.

The Way Forward

Personally, I believe in right wing ideologies. Due to my background of being born into an elite class that was deprived by Communism in my country of origin, I have grown to detest Marxist ideologies. I support the core values and ideas of Republicans meant to empower people and promote property-owning free market ideologies. However, there have been issues within the Republican Party relating to race that many people including Colin Powell have come out to criticize. The handling of Obama has been appalling and our generation will not be forgiven if no one comes out to ask for some kind of moderation in this situation.

The Iranian deal is problematic and could end up destroying the world. However, it is not late for the good people of the world to act on this. I see two possibilities here.

First of all, this deal is not an American deal. It is about five other countries as well. There is the need for the Israeli Diplomatic machinery to go around the relevant countries and get their parliaments to raise the bar for inspections and for this deal to be more critically presented to Iran. This will ensure there is more control and more monitoring of Iran’s nuclear project.

Secondly, Obama’s threat to veto anything short of an acceptance is not something that is absolute. Obama can and will change his mind if the right things are presented to him. So it is up to the Israeli President and top Israeli leaders like Shimon Peres and others to go to the White House and talk to Obama about the situation and the realities. Obama must be given the perspectives and facts from a completely different angle and various possibilities must be presented to him. This is the best way to soften his position and get to restore the relationship between the liberal media and Israel. Someone has to do this to prevent the negative view of Israel that is growing in the United States.

Finally, Israel must maintain a more modest posture in international communication. There must be tough laws passed by the Knesset that will hold Israeli leaders accountable for taking positions in foreign politics to avoid eruptions of episodes of classical anti-Semitism which can be detrimental to Israel. In this time of relative peace for Israel, it is time for the image of Israel to be enhanced around the world. This can be done by presenting more information about what Israel has been doing to defend itself and how Israel is helping the world. A few things Netanyahu has said in recent times, including hints that Israel will attack Iran and others must be kept to the minimum. Everyone who reads the history of the modern state of Israel pauses to admire Israel’s achievements in the 1967 War. That is because of a high degree of humility Israel showed in that war. Nasser won the publicity war, but Israel won the war on the ground.

At the moment, it seems Netanyahu is making more publicity stunts than other countries in the region. The Saudis were less critical of Obama and they were less overt in flexing their muscles in the US Congress. Hence, it might be more appropriate for Netanyahu to take a more laid-back posture and focus on defense and intelligence and allow other officials of Israel like the President and Shimon Peres to lead the international negotiations on this Iran issue.

About the Author
Sam Oystein is a partner in a global research entity. His background is in academia research and he is studying numerous elements of traditional Judaism.
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