With apologies to Theo, Theo is a follower of this space and a fan who happens to be African American. He asked me to write a column pointing out all the good Barack Obama has done. He particularly wanted me speak truth to power to the Orthodox community that spawned me, who for the past eight years by and large considered the first African American president an anti-Semite and hater of Israel. I’ve used this space and much of my social media countering those accusations and I certainly don’t believe them. I can recount all of the good things Obama has done for Israel, the shortcomings and undiplomatic chutzpah of Benjamin Netanyahu and list all of the horrible things countless Republican administrations did towards Israel that seem far worse than anything Obama ever did. I however, hate repeating talking points whether they come from the right or the left. I prefer to speak from my gut and today my gut feels like Obama stuck a knife in my pro-land-for-peace, two-state-solution-supporting, left-wing-but-Zionist back.
With just about 30 days left to his administration Obama had an opportunity to prove all of my right-wing nut-job friends wrong. He could have conceded that he failed over the past eight years (despite an undeserved Nobel Peace Prize) of achieving his dream of a settlement to the Israel – Palestine conflict. He could have looked at the political reality and conceded that this late in the game with a bitter rejection of his agenda at the polls that punting on an issue like Israel – Palestine to the next administration would have been the safer course. Finally, he could have shown an affinity for and appreciation to one ethnic group that supported him with close to 80% of their vote in both presidential elections; the Jews, who also overwhelmingly back Israel in a complicated long-running conflict.
Instead, he chose to abstain in a UN vote denouncing Israel for building settlements in the Occupied Territories — empowering the hateful anti-Semitic, BDS — left fringe, and their campaign to delegitimize the one liberal democracy in the Middle East. While perhaps only God and Obama himself know his motive, it is not unreasonable to believe that he was sticking it to Netanyahu — which just makes him petty, or worse that he really believes that the only impediment to peace between Israel and Palestine are Israeli settlements and that Israel has no historical right to say, the Wailing Wall.
The Talmud teaches that with one act a man purchases his portion in the World-to-Come, implying the inverse, that he loses it with one as well. When the story of Obama and the Jews is written, it will forever start with the following narrative: “With a month left in his administration Obama ordered his UN ambassador to abstain rather than veto a resolution condemning Israel for settlement building — thereby turning his back on one of his most ardent and supportive voting blocks and further insuring that his Democratic party be considered the anti-Israel party for generations to come.”
Donald Trump’s campaign brought out the lunatic fringe anti-Semites, more like Unibomber types who form militias in rural Idaho and Wyoming and live in shacks without running water — in other words freaks who pose little threat to anyone but America’s reputation. In one stroke of a pen Obama empowered the intellectual anti-Semites and elitists who hide their Jew hatred in anti-Zionism and legitimized European leftists who consider Hamas and Hezbollah modern day Bolsheviks rather than the baby-killing terrorists they are. He has placed a road block in the two-state solution, rather than encouraged its furtherance by giving Palestinians a starting point for negotiations no Israeli government — left or right — will ever agree to.
I wanted my send-off column to President Obama to be full of praise for him, to recount the cool, grace and lack of scandal that exemplified his eight years in office. But mostly, I wanted to shove in the face of my right-wing Zionist friends how wrong they were about Obama and how racist their hatred of him made them sound, but, alas, I can’t because Obama made me and others who support him look foolish.