Obama, Foxman and Israel’s Purpose

Obama at Yad Vashem, the diplomatic ‘gateway’ to Israel whose function is to root Israel — in the mind of every visiting dignitary — squarely in the Holocaust

Abe Foxman, President of the Anti-Defamation League and a stalwart cheerleader for Israel in Washington, has been worried about President Barack Obama ever since the new Administration took office. When Obama named Senator George Mitchell as his Mideast envoy, Foxman actually complained that the problem with Mitchell was “meticulously fair and even handed,” which he insisted was not a desirable approach for the U.S. to take to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Ever since Obama’s Cairo speech, Foxman’s concerns have become more pronounced. It’s not that the Anti Defamation League president didn’t take heart from Obama’s insistence that Israel’s security is sacrosanct; or that “he made strong statements against anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.” No, his concern — among others — was that Obama should have “made clear that Israel’s right to statehood is not a result of anti-Semitism and the Holocaust.”

He’s not the only one who argues this, of course; many on the Zionist right have long insisted that the movement claimed sovereignty in Palestine not on the basis of the Holocauast, but claiming to represent the continuity of the Hebrews of Judea thousands of years ago.

The same theme was echoed today in Haaretz by Israeli liberal Aluf Benn.

Commenting on Obama choosing to follow his Cairo speech with a visit to Buchenwald, Benn said this decision to balance an outreach to the Muslim world with a gesture recognizing the horrors of anti-Semitism may have been welcomed by American Jews, “but in Israel it was taken as an affront. The Israeli narrative attributes the state’s creation to a historical bond from biblical times, to the Zionist struggle and to the victory in the War of Independence. Obama’s message in Cairo – that Israel was established as compensation for the Holocaust – was perceived in Israel as an adoption of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s anti-Zionist stance.”

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear… Where on Earth did Barack Obama get this idea that Israel’s foundation was intimately tied to the Holocaust? Maybe it’s the fact that the first place Israel takes every visiting dignitary is to Yad Vashem, which as Avrum Burg has so eloquently argued, a visit designed effect what he calls the “emotional blackmail” that sears into the minds of the guest that Israel is the answer to the Holocaust, and that any criticism of the Jewish State must be muted for that reason.

Or maybe it’s the fact that Israel’s leaders are always rabbiting on about every new challenger in the region being a reincarnation of Hitler. Begin said it about Arafat; Netanyahu says it about Ahmadinejad. For years, Israel’s leaders have spoken about the 1967 borders as “Auschwitz borders.” I could go on and on. The Zionist narrative as I was fed it growing up portrayed the creation of the State of Israel as a triumphant redemption from the horrors of the camps. And the same narrative became the organizing principle of Israeli education starting in the 1960s with the Eichmann trial, when as Tom Segev and others have shown, the Israeli state makes a conscious decision to emphasize the Holocaust as the basis of its national identity to keep people from leaving. Jewish schoolkids, many of whose families had never set foot in Europe, now make an annual pilgrimage to the death camps of Poland. Israeli air force planes fly over Auschwitz in symbolic claiming of the mantle of the survivors.

And most of those Jews abroad who support the principle of a Jewish State — and the Western nations who do likewise — do so on the basis of the Holocaust. If Israel’s claims were based only on a mythologized history of a Biblical kingdom, frankly it would have aroused no more sympathy in the Jewish world than Bin Laden’s fantasies about resurrecting the Islamic Caliphate have done in the Muslim world. Without the Holocaust, in other words, Zionism would have remained the fringe movement among Jews that it was before World War II.

To suggest that the link between Israel’s claims to legitimacy and the Holocaust were invented by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is absurd. They were present at the founding in the international community’s response to Israel’s creation (does Aluf Benn really think Israel won the UN vote that enabled its creation because of the Biblical claims of the Zionist movement?!), and they have been systematically developed and exploited by Israel itself.

The reason the likes of Foxman, and the Israelis themselves, are suddenly feeling queasy about the Holocaust-as-basic-argument-for-Israel, is that they’re suddenly recognizing the limits of what that buys them.

As I wrote here following the Cairo speech, the likes of Foxman suddenly realized that the Holocaust argument set limits on what Israel could legitimately demand — Obama expressed a rock solid commitment to ensure Israel’s security, but warned that settlements outside its 1967 border had no legitimacy. After all, they were if anything a drain on Israeli security, and Obama made clear that the U.S. recognizes that Israel’s creation came at the expense of another people, rooting the plight of the Palestinians first in the expulsions of 1948, and then in the occupation that began in 1967 — and he insisted, to the chagrin of Foxman and others, that the Palestinian narrative and aspiration had equal status, and could not be ignored by the U.S.

I wrote:

Hence, a solid U.S. bond with Israel to guarantee its survival and security in a hostile environment, but no endorsement of an expansive Zionism that calls on Jews to “redeem” the Biblical Land of Israel by settling on West Bank land. By insisting that Palestinians are born equal to Israelis and that their side of the conflict be understood, and that Israel halt its expansion into Palestinian territory, Obama is forcing Israel to confront a basic question of its own identity — and also to reckon with the fact that its creation, and expansion, have occurred at the expense of another people who are deemed of equal status in the mind of the American president. No wonder, then, that some Israelis and their American supporters are annoyed.

Still, having told the world and the majority of Jews who live in it that Israel was the answer to the Holocaust and the inheritor of the mantle of the survivors (a contestable claim, to be sure, but you only have to look at the fact that Germany paid most of its “reparations” not to the survivors themselves, but to Israel), Foxman et al are going to have a hard time pivoting to the narrative of Biblical redemption. For starters, most of the world’s Jews don’t buy such bubbemeis. And you’re going to have a hard time getting American Jews and most Western countries to accept the idea that the Palestinians’ epic suffering has been inflicted simply in the name of a distortion of Biblical fantasy.

Essentially, the problem they face is that an ideological construct of their own making is no longer serving its purpose of ensuring a blank check for Israel’s endless dispossession of the Palestinians. The bad news, of course, is that justifying that dispossession on the basis of a Biblical narrative is going to get even fewer takers in America, of any persuasion.

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25 Responses to Obama, Foxman and Israel’s Purpose

  1. Craig says:

    If the fact that part of Palestine, 2000 years ago, was home to the Hebrews is a justification for the establishment of the modern state of Israel, then I hate to think what that means for the rights of Native American and Australian aboriginal peoples with regard to their respective continents. It hasn’t even been 200 years, let alone 2000, since some parts of North America were conquered by the United States.

    Every nation on Earth owes its existence to conquest. It’s ridiculous to suggest that we should rewind the clock 2000 years and give any land back to the descendants of the nation that once occupied it. Where would you stop? Who did the Hebrews take the land from anyway?

  2. bernard g says:

    Well the article by Benn simply notes that the Biblical thing is now the dominant Israeli narrative – he doesn’t express agreement with it and I doubt that he would. There is another article in Haaretz by the insufferable Yoel Marcus which does indeed express support for the narrative – are you sure this is not what you are in fact referring to, Tony?

  3. morris says:

    I now think Western policies have not been so much sympathetic to Zionism, but controlled and dictated by Zionists.

    As the myths and foundations get frayed, they’ll probably bring on the apocalyptical end, for everyone.

    On a separate note

    Here is a 4 minute video from Gilad Atzmon: “Israel will implode”


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  5. DaveS says:

    Superb analysis by Tony. I had already noticed the shift in emphasis from the Holocaust justification for Israel to the biblical one. Just recently, Marty Peretz joined in with an essay in the New Republic criticizing Obama for linking the Holocaust to Israel’s creation while omitting how a Jewish national revival had burned in the collective bosom for a long time. And this is happening so soon after Deborah Lipstadt accused Carter of some form of Holocaust denial by leaving the Holocaust out of his book. I was wondering what the motivation for this shift was, and Tony provides a reasonable explanation.

    It has always been a tough topic for Israel supporters. The broad outline of the history – European immigrants of Jewish descent emigrating to Palestine and subjugating and dispossessing the native inhabitants – has always been unpalatable and required rationalization. The Holocaust was so awful that it provided the required justification, until one spends five minutes realizing that Zionism predated the Holocaust by several decades and the Palestinians did not perpetrate it. The always reliable Alan Dershowitz has repeatedly articulated the theory that the Palestinians can be blamed for the Holocaust, because of the Mufti’s association with Nazism, but few have been convinced that Jewish Statehood and expulsion was punishment justly meted out to the Palestinians. We’ve also heard other theories: “Arab leaders told them to leave; we begged them to stay”; “they could have had their own state in 1937 and 1947 if they wanted”; etc.

    More Likudnik Israelis and Zionists have been more likely to be honest about it – yeah, we kicked them out because we wanted their land for our state. Still, in 21st century international discourse, that candid view is unlikely to win any points. With the Holocaust justification, especially for the present situation, fading in effectiveness, the spinmeisters are looking for something else. As Tony persuasively argues, the ancient biblical connection is unlikely to succeed. Watch for the next evolution of theory.

  6. DE Teodoru says:

    Burg has it wrong: the Holocaust blackmail is not from psychotic fear but from psychotic chutzpah. Too long some people thought that they can work us “dumb goyim” over to our last dime with guilt over the Holocaust. The problem is not excessive fear but excessive hubris. Israel’s Ambassador has DUAL CITIZENSHIP and comes to US as both Israeli and American. A former Mossad chief bragged of his multiple passports. Neocons brag about their mensch-hood” as they impose their anti-Islam “World War IV” on us “dumb goyim.” Netanyahu demanded that the Palestinians recognoze Israel as “the nation of the whole Jewish people.” Now Foxman demands the same of Obama. This is the same Foxman who, at a Jerusalem Conference a few years back begged to be forgiven for not attacking anti-Zionism but he was too busy “fighting against assimilation.” Imagine that: we thought he was fighting against segregation but he was fighting FOR segregation of Jews. That tells it all. If the Palestinians and US recognize that Israel is the nation of all the Jews, then the settllements are nothing but homes for the Jewish people “coming home.” In fact, most settlements are empty, mere facts on the ground while the mass majority of Jews deem Israel a nice place to visit but NOT to live. Proof is where Jews live and where Israelis go for jobs as soon as they get their degrees from Israel’s wonderful universities– DIASPORA! So Foxman is not a “never again” hysteric out of fear; he is a shyster that wants to have his cake and eat it too: an EMPTY Jewish state to visit while living it up in NY & LA. Zionists are not fighting for a Jewish homeland but for a Kosher Jewish vacation resort at US taxpayer’s expense, Biblical tourism every once in a while. That’s why Israel is a 60 y/o fetus living on an engorged American $ placenta. The shekle is backed by the dollar and the shekle is invested abroad and cashed in as dollars to keep a few “Israelis” fat and rich as entrepreneurs everywhere but in Israel. But now America is broke and can no longer support this Biblical casino. Foxman will keep barking, “anti-Semite, anti-Semite…” because that’s all he knows how to do. But the Diaspora Jews who out-number the Zionists many fold are finding their homelands quite fine thank you…so, it seems, are very many Israelis migrating to “Eurabia” on a reverse aliyah. As Sharon’s Finance Minister Netanyahu promised to make Israel independent of the massive american welfare check on which it subsists. He failed. But now as Prime Minister he is trying to economically integrate the Palestinians with Israel economically on way to Israel’s economic integrating with the Arabs, eventually leading them out of the banana republic one crop (oil) economies into modernity as one Arab/Jewish region. Bibbi will be a lot better at modernizing and democratizing the Arabs than Bush, for sure. Afterall, they are both “family.” Israel will soon be able to offer its Arab neighbors protection from Iran’s puny A bomb under its massive H-bombs laden deterrent umbrella in exchange for political and diplomatic integration of Israel into the region. So, a smaller Israel can be a REAL Israel, not just a perpetual fetus tied to an American placenta that is now drying up because the US is broke. Israel’s skilled and schooled Sabras will be able to stay home and guide their Semitic Arab cousins out of their entrapment by the West. The future looks bright so long as Israel and the Jews shed the shysters like Foxman “working” the Holocaust into an industry that keeps them employed in sacrilegious exploitation of the victims. I hope Jewish leaders pay him to shut up instead of paying him to bark, as he now does, for he is feeding the anti-Semtism brewing in a fallen America looking for scapegoats. God forbid, but we may well be 20 minutes to an American Krystalnacht since the Gaza massacre. Our Jews are some of the main pilars of Western society. The mass majority of Jews are OF the Diaspora, NOT of Israel, and never will be because Israel has nothing to offer them or their progeny. Likudnik Greater Israel expansionist Zionism is an obsession no one can any longer afford. But because the Great Aliyah of Diaspora Jews is so necessary to the Likud’s Greater Israel scheme, Likud could well again turn to the likes of Foxman to make Jews falsely look like an Israeli Fifth Column and enrage non-Jews so OUR Jews might be stampeded into an alyiah as panicked olims with all their goods when the American Krystalnacht unleaches. As their fellow Americans we must make sure that OUR Jews never suffer cause for fear of that sort. For they are an American asset and we desperately need these, our fellow Americans, if we are to recover as a country from the fall into which Bush drove us.

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  8. anon says:

    DE teodoru bravo. that was well written.

  9. bob k says:

    Israel’s purpose is hell on earth.


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  15. Zhu Bajie says:

    Actually, Biblical fantasies are probably the chief reason Americans favor Israel, along with fantasies about Israel = cowboys and Palestinians = Indians. Born-agains are around 1/3 of all Americans or around 100 million people. Not all of them are as gung-ho pro-Israel, anti-Palestine as John Haggee, but the idea that Palestinians are Philistines or Canaanites and should disappear is part of the mental furniture of 100 million people.

  16. Zhu Bajie says:

    Palestinians are almost certainly descended from the Jews, Samaritans, Idumaeans, and other Israelites in the Roman province of Palestine. When Constantine and Theodosius told them to turn Christian, many did. Later, when it became possible for non-Arabs to become Muslim, many did.

    However, this is not well-known in the USA.

  17. Pizzas says:

    pretty cool article on Obama and Isreal.

  18. Rolande Duka says:

    This whole issue is very illogical. Do we send money to Muslim nations? Do we send troops to defendMuslim people in Muslim nations? Do we bring Muslim refugee’s here from Iraq and Afganistan and othercountries? Do our tax dollars go to support and rebuild Muslim nations? But we tell the Muslims herethey cannot build their mosque. CRAZY

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    ?? ?? ? ?????????, ?? ?? ??? ??? ? ??? ????? ???????? ????, ?? ??? ????? ???????

  20. Israelites in the Roman province of Palestine.

  21. rada says:

    good information nice post thank you

  22. Israelites in the Roman province of Palestine.

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