Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Oren's Assault on President Obama and American Jewish Critics of Israel a Revealing Look at Zionist Worldview

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Oren's Assault on President Obama and American Jewish Critics of Israel a Revealing Look at Zionist Worldview

Article excerpt

In his book, Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide, former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren, a native-born American who emigrated to Israel and, upon being named ambassador, renounced his U.S. citizenship, launches an attack upon President Barack Obama and American Jewish critics of Israel which is unprecedented for a former diplomat. It reveals perhaps more about the Zionist worldview than Oren intended.

In op-eds and lectures prior to the book's publication, Oren psychoanalyzes President Obama and accuses him of being too softon Muslims because his Muslim father and stepfather abandoned him. He accuses Obama of "intentionally, maliciously abandoning Israel." In Israel, this assault on the president has been widely criticized. Oren, now a member of the Knesset representing the Kulanu Party, did not even gain his own party's support for such claims. Instead, the party leader, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, apologized for Oren's remarks in a letter to the U.S. ambassador.

Israel's Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan declared that "Oren's claims are disconnected from reality." Columnist Nahum Barnea, writing in the June 23 Israel Opinion, noted that, "Some of Oren's colleagues in Jerusalem and Washington thought that he had gone mad."

In his review of the book in the June 28 Washington Post, Philip Gordon, who served from 2013 until this spring as White House coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Persian Gulf region, declares that, "The problem with the book is that Oren's main argument is a caricature, bolstered by exaggerations and distortions."

To Oren's charges that Obama is the first U.S. president to air differences with Israel in public and the first to break with the principle that there should be no "daylight" in the U.S. relationship, Gordon responds: "Really? To take just a few examples, Dwight Eisenhower slammed Israel for the 1956 Suez operation and forced it into a humiliating retreat. Gerald Ford froze arms deliveries and announced a reassessment of the relationship as a way of pressing Israel to withdraw from the Sinai. Jimmy Carter clashed repeatedly with Prime Minister Menachem Begin before, during, and after the 1978 Camp David summit. Ronald Reagan denounced Israel's strike on the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq and enraged Jerusalem by selling surveillance planes to Saudi Arabia. George H.W. Bush blocked loan guarantees to Israel over settlements; Bill Clinton clashed publicly with Israel over the size of proposed West Bank withdrawals; George W. Bush called for a settlement freeze in the 2002 road map for peace and afterward repeatedly criticized Israel for construction in the West Bank. In other words, Oren has a point-except in the case of virtually every Republican and Democratic administration since Israel's founding."

When it comes to his attitude toward American Jews, Oren is particularly instructive. He claims that Jewish journalists are largely responsible for the American media's alleged critical coverage of Israel.

According to Oren, the work of such journalists as Thomas Friedman of The New York Times, David Remnick of The New Yorker, Joe Klein of Time Magazine, the late Bob Simon of "Sixty Minutes," Leon Wieseltier of The Atlantic and a host of others resembled "historic hatred of Jews." He speculates that "perhaps persistent fears of anti-Semitism impelled them to distance themselves from Israel."

Oren describes how "The pinch I felt reading articles censorious of Israel sharpened into a stab whenever the names on the bylines were Jewish. Almost all of the world's countries are nation-states, so what, I wondered, drove these writers to nitpick at theirs? Some, I knew, saw assailing Israel as a career-enhancer-equivalant of Jewish man bites Jewish dog-that saved struggling pundits from obscurity...Others still, largely assimilated, resented Israel for further complicating their already conflicted identity. Did some American Jews prefer the moral ease of victimhood, I asked myself, to the complexities of Israeli power? …

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