Thursday, December 10, 2009
[The following, by Tom Mountain, here in full, appears in this week's Jewish Advocate]
The rabbis could barely contain their glee at meeting their president for the first time. Ignoring protocol, they crowded around him, hands outstretched, in a sincere, even loving attempt, to express their adulation. One rabbi grasped the president's hand, looked him in the eye, and said, "Mr. President, I believe that had history placed you in your special position during World War II, there would not have been a Holocaust." The president, visibly moved, was uncharacteristically speechless.
Another rabbi, so overcome with emotion at standing in the presence of the man, took the president's hand and kissed it. It was a rare and telling moment.
Such was the scene when a delegation of Orthodox rabbis visited the White House as described to me by a presidential speech writer.
Oh, for the glory days of President George W. Bush.
It hasn't even been a year, yet it seems like eons ago since one of the two most pro-Israel presidents in history (Richard Nixon being the other) stood before the Knesset and declared, "Citizens of Israel. Masada shall never fall again. America will be at your side."
Contrast that to "America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own." So proclaimed President Barack Obama, who, not coincidentally, is also fond of reminding the world, "As the Holy Koran tells us...."
Obama's support in the Jewish community is in such free fall, by the end of his term he'll probably count only Rahm Emanuel and the leadership of J-Street among his Jewish fans.
If ever there was a more vivid contrast between the two presidents, one only need compare two landmark presidential speeches on the Middle East - Bush in Jerusalem, followed by Obama in Cairo a year later.
Bush: "Israel's population may be just over 7 million, but when you confront terror and evil, you are 307 million strong, because America stands with you." Obama: "America and Islam ... share common principals principals of justice and progress, tolerance and the dignity of human beings."
Bush: Israel "was the redemption of an ancient promise given to Abraham and Moses and David - a homeland for the Chosen People, Eretz Israel." Obama: "The United States does not accept the legitimacy of settlements. It is time for these settlements to stop."
Bush: "The president of Iran dreams of returning the Middle East to the Middle Ages and calls for Israel to be wiped off the map." Obama: "Any nation, including Iran, should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty."
Bush: "You [Israel] have forged a free and modern society based on a love of liberty, a passion for justice, and a respect for human dignity." Obama: "Palestinians endure daily humiliations, large and small, that come with the occupation."
Bush: "You [Israel] have raised a modern Promised Land. A light unto all nations that preserves the legacy of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." Obama: "The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable."
Bush: "The Jewish people endured the pogroms ... the horror of the Holocaust." Obama: "On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinians ... have suffered in pursuit of a homeland."
Bush: "America stands with you in firmly opposing Iran's nuclear ambitions. For the sake of peace, the world must not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon." Obama: "I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nation should pick and choose which nation holds nuclear weapons."
Bush: "You [Israel] have built a mighty democracy that will endure forever and can always count on America to stand at its side." Obama: "Israel must also live up to its obligation to ensure that Palestinians can live and work and develop their society."
Bush: "No one who prays to the G-d of Abraham could strap a suicide vest to an innocent child, or blow up guiltless guests at a Passover seder, or fly airplanes into office buildings." Obama: "Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance."
Bush: "We must have faith in our values and ourselves and confidently pursue the expansion of liberty as the path to a peaceful future." Obama: "I know that there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years. ... So let me make it clear. No system of government can or should be imposed by one nation over another."
Bush: "I have touched the Western Wall, seen the sun reflected in the Sea of Galilee, and prayed at Yad Vashem." Obama: "As a boy I spent several years in Indonesia and heard the call of the azaan [Muslim call to prayer] at the break of dawn and at the fall of dusk."
Bush: "May G-d Bless Israel." Obama: "Assalaamu alaykum."
And yet Obama garnered nearly 80 percent of the Jewish vote, while Bush never got more than 24 percent.
Think of that. Think real hard.