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Friday, March 5, 2010

[The following is crossposted from JStreetJive]

steve_cohen.jpg

"I Cannot Tell a Lie - I Wrote it."

For nearly ten months questions have swirled around the country about the identity of the speechwriter responsible for Obama's controversial address to the Muslim and Arab world delivered at Cairo University on June 4, 2009. In attendance was the Grand Sheikh Mohammed Sayyid Tantawi of that other great seat of learning and tolerance (and co-host of the speech), Al Azhar; the Sheikh has stated that there are "good Jews and bad Jews": "The good ones convert to Islam...the bad ones do not."

The much ballyhooed speech, originally scheduled for Morocco, was changed to Cairo to have the greatest impact in "correcting" the perceived Muslim hostility to the U.S.engendered by  George.W. Bush.  The Wall St. Journal and Politico guessed it was the product of Ben Rhodes, Obama's only foreign policy speechwriter (and erstwhile novelist: "The Oasis of Love") who traveled with him for his first major European speech, often dubbed the "Blame America First" speech.

Well, speculate no more. The writer wasn't Ben Rhodes or Chris Brose, former foreign policy speechwriter for Condoleeza Rice. If we can believe him - and there is no reason to doubt his word - it was Stephen P. Cohen. Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel called Cohen a week before the trip and asked him to prepare a first draft for the speech, "A New Beginning."

That's right! BHO chose a Jew to write the most important address by an American President -- in the middle of a war against Islamic terrorists -- to the Muslim world.

Steve Cohen, founder of the Institute for Middle East Peace and Development, Harvard PhD, visiting professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Princeton and other high powered institutions, recently spoke at Harvard's Center for Middle East Studies beneath the smiling portraits of Harvard's stellar contributors to the landscape of failed foreign policy initiatives, notably, Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski. We all remember "Zbig", the guy who helped weaponize the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan along with someone called Osama Bin Laden. Now that was a brilliant move.

You might recall the less-than-rave reviews the Cairo speech garnered. Charles Krauthammer called it "abstract, vapid and self-absorbed." Anne Bayefsky had this to say:

"President Obama's Cairo speech was nothing short of an earthquake -- a distortion of history, an insult to the Jewish people, and an abandonment of very real human-rights victims in the Arab and Muslim worlds. It is not surprising that Arabs and Muslims in a position to speak were enthusiastic. It is more surprising that American commentators are praising the speech for its political craftiness, rather than decrying its treachery of historic proportions.

"Obama equated the Holocaust to Palestinian "dislocation." In his words: "The Jewish people were persecuted. ...anti-Semitism ...culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust.... Six million Jews were killed.... On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people -- Muslims and Christians -- have suffered in pursuit of a homeland." This parallelism amounts to the fictitious Arab narrative that the deliberate mass murder of six million Jews for the crime of being Jewish is analogous to a Jewish-driven violation of Palestinian rights.

Speaking in an Arab country to Arabs and Muslims, Obama pointedly singled out European responsibility for the Holocaust -- "anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust." In other contexts, the European emphasis would be a curiosity. In Egypt, it was no accident. The Arab storyline has always been that Arabs have been forced to suffer the creation of Israel for a European crime."...

Bayefsky's piece was entitled Obama's Stunning Offense to Israel and the Jewish People. Why an "offense?" What could have prompted such visceral reactions from writers like Bayefsky and Krauthammer? Read this excerpt to find out:

"America's strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.(our emphasis)

Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed -- more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, it is ignorant, and it is hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction -- or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews -- is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.

On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people -- Muslims and Christians -- have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than 60 years they've endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations -- large and small -- that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. And America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own." (Applause.)

To trace the history of the Jewish People in Israel from a point 70 or so years ago is grossly and historically innacurate - and a slander. Speechwriter Cohen quickly followed up the slap with another: Imputing the seemingly endless Middle East conflict to Israel's creation by visiting "the pain of dislocation" upon the Palestinian Arabs. That one, needles to say, went over big in Cairo and around the Muslim world.

To further woo and wow his Cairo audience, Cohen decided to recount the Isra, or The Prophet's miraculous "night journey" to heaven on the back of his noble, flying steed, Buraq, during which he hangs with Moses and Jesus. Cohen reads ecumenicism into what most of the Muslim world sees as triumphalism. Jerusalem is never mentioned in the Koran; only the term, al-Masgidu l'-Aqsa, the "farthest mosque." Considering the fact that Palestine had not yet been conquered and colonized by Muslim armies (621 CE), many scholars dismiss as ridiculous the notion that that "mosque" indicates Jerusalem. At any rate, Cohen not only buys into the story, but glorifies it.

For at least the past 75 years, Palestinian Arabs (and much of the Muslim world) have attempted to deny the abundant historical data and physical evidence that substantiate Jewish presence as the sovereign people in their own land for at least a thousand years before the birth of Mohammed and the Islamic conquest of Palestine. Official after official of both Hamas and the PA have denied Jewish existence there and have refused to acknowledge the historicity of Har ha Bayit, The Temple Mount, built by Herod the Great over 2000 years ago. The Islamic Waqf, or Holy Trust for the Haram al Sharif, has even attempted to destroy priceless Jewish (and other) artifacts uncovered on the Temple Mount during expansions of the Al Aqsa mosque.

Having erased the nettlesome matter of Jewish patrimony, Cohen then goes beyond mere dhimmitude and starts writing like a true believer. His rhapsodic rendering of Prophet's miraculous night journey to heaven could have come from the pen of a ninth century compiler of the hadiths.

When asked during the Q&A why he had traced Jewish "aspirations" for their land only as far as the end of World War II, he did show a measure of remorse - but only to extend that connection back to 1920! He still refused to acknowledge the historicity of thousands of years of Jewish presence on the land.

Listen to his answer (and my apology for the poor audio quality):

Yes, "upsetting to Israelis", but apparently not so for Mr. Cohen.

Yet in spite of his regrets over making Israelis uncomfortable, he concluded by again warning Israelis to hew to the Administration line by heeding Joe Biden's upcoming admonitions in Israel, no doubt reiterating Obama's demands for a settlement freeze.

Again, the Academy has marched the world ever closer to the abyss in its insatiable desire to become the perfect dhimmi.

[Martin Solomon adds: It may give you some further insight into Cohen's makeup by reviewing this post from January where I commented on an op-ed he wrote at that time: Boston Globe: Key to Middle East Peace is Disarming Israel.]

Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: Revelation at Harvard: Who Wrote Obama's Cairo Speech? [Hillel].

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10 Comments

What a chubby putz. He'd be better off writing gags for Letterman.

I thought the outreach to Muslims, per se, was a good idea and it was an effective speech, given the objections noted.

Equating Israel's existence to the Shoah was just flat wrong and I think it was probably upsetting to most Jews including many on the Left, certainly those who've done some reading.

Here's Marty Peretz:

http://www.tnr.com/article/narrative-dissonance

This excerpt is telling:

snip

There are two basic narratives to the nearly century-old Jewish and Arabs-of-Palestine dispute. The sheer truthfulness of these narratives is so unbalanced that Obama or his panel of oddly partisan experts must have felt obliged to tamper with real history. What is most brazen or, at best, bizarre in Obama's historical recitation is the stark omission of the whole Zionist enterprise. Instead, he chose to understand the Jewish presence in Palestine as a sort of restitution for the Holocaust. For the president, the balancing of claims--and they must always be balanced; he does not tolerate asymmetries, which would make his divine even-handedness impossible--requires distortion of what actually happened. First off was to diminish the determination of the Jewish people through the ages, and especially since the age of nationalism in the mid-nineteenth century, to reclaim their homeland, to bring its very earth out of desolation and restore its dispersed sons and daughters to Zion--all this not as a reparation, but as a right. By the time World War II--before the Holocaust, that is--began, there were already more than 500,000 Jews in Palestine. Most of them had arrived as their palpable reply to the 1917 Balfour Declaration, to the approval by the League of Nations of a British mandate for a Jewish homeland in Palestine in 1922, to the recommendations of the Peel Commission for a two-state settlement. None of this enters the president's text, not even a hint of it, perhaps because it might muddle the clarity of the equal-claim argument.

snip

But - that Boston Globe piece is even worse.

I do understand that the settlement issue is divisive. However focusing solely on that and not on the underlying issues that caused the conflict in the first place is ridiculous.

I do understand that the settlement issue is divisive. However focusing solely on that and not on the underlying issues that caused the conflict in the first place is ridiculous. -- Sophia

The creation of a Non Muslim state in the middle of millions of Arab Muslims in the Middle East?

The creation of a SUCCESSFUL, POWERFUL, post-DHIMMI, INFIDEL, "sons of pigs and apes" state in the middle of millions of UNSUCCESSFUL, BACKWARD, HOMICIDAL, Arab Muslims in the Middle East.

Even the koran jealously admits that Jews belong in the Middle East. Just the Israelis don't want to play their past role, and THAT is the NAKBA.

Sophia,

Equating Israel's existence to the Shoah was just flat wrong and I think it was probably upsetting to most Jews including many on the Left, certainly those who've done some reading.

Not just flat wrong because it only reinforced the narrative that the Jews have no real connection to the land.
On the path to delegitimize the state and on the path to its removal.

Now we have the Turkish leader stating while in Saudi Arabia that the Jews have no connection to Rachel's Tomb and the Cave of Patriarchs and they will never be Jewish but Muslim while in reality the Muslims have no historic connection to the sites having arrived on the scene centuries later.

More arab/muslim THEFT/CO-OPTING of other peoples culture.

So mecca/makka and the kabba aren't muslim holy sites.

Think of the two 1,500 year old Buddahs the islamofascist taliban destroyed in Bamiyan Afghanistan.

What Cynic said - I hadn't realized Erdogan was reinforcing this baloney -

I doubt if Mohammed himself would have said anything so ridiculous. After all the Quran wouldn't exist had it not been for Judaism.

The whole thing is baffling to me.

Simply saying, these are Jewish heritage sites doesn't mean they also aren't important to Muslims and Christians does it?

Can you please explain how the Quran wouldn't exist had it not been for Judaism?

Arabian, in whose books does Archangel Gabriel appear?

Don't you realize that much of the underpinning of Islam is based on Judaic texts? Also, it's pretty well known that Mohammed was well-acquainted with Jews, who were populous in Arabia at the time.

Of course, because they wished to remain Jewish, the Jews of Arabia were attacked and exiled and many were killed.

In any case Jewish books and tradition obviously include the story of Abraham and his descendants; Muslims of course claim Abraham as a patriarch but Islam didn't exist at the time the Hebrew books were written.

Some people try to backdate Islam to ancient Mesopotamian times and claim Abraham as the first Muslim but this a matter of faith, a belief, just as Christians try to claim they've replaced Jews in God's eyes.

That's based as much on a desire to be powerful as anything else. And simply making a claim that your faith is better than another doesn't make it so, but it does help control people in imperial systems. Doesn't it.

Armies or no armies, Christianity wouldn't exist were it not for Jewish tradition.

Jesus was a rabbi, in Judea, he was a Jew obviously, and his philosophy was not unusual for Jews, for example it is reflected in work of Rabbi Hillel who lived also during Roman times.

Christianity however also includes Greek and other Eastern religious overlays and myths, and later became the state religion of Rome which is how it became politically and militarily powerful.

Other, older religions eventually were destroyed and even Jews are now practically extinct and we are repeatedly threatened and attacked.

The practice of aggressively seeking converts, sometimes through force, then spread throughout the world including the Americas, where Native American populations were sometimes brutalized into becoming Christian and giving up their own culture.

In fact, Arabian, you might want to study this and how other hyperpowerful religious cults have grown, frequently via armed conquest of other cultures (ahem). Need I say this obviously includes armed Islamic conquests.

Often in the process the older culture, regardless of how much it has contributed to the younger, is marginalized. People are killed, forced to convert and give up their languages, traditions and religions.

For example Catholic tradition considers the Roman church to be the "true Israel" and other Christian theory regards Jews as damned for non-belief in Christ, and that Christians have replaced Jews in God's favor. This, at the same time Jewish tradition and philosophy and holy books have been completely co-opted and blended into the Christian religion. Christian versions of Jewish holy books are even annotated to show how ancient Jewish stories and poems supposedly prefigure the life of Christ.

One of the wierdest examples, to my mind, regards the ancient Song of Solomon as a poem of love between Christ and his church. Needless to say neither Christ nor the church existed when the Song of Solomon was written.

This is an example of how an ancient Jewish/Hebrew text has been retroactively taken to support the new religion while the people that created the text in the first place are damned and attacked and condemned as inferior simply for not having adopted the new religion.

Similarly, Muslims frequently ignore Jewish history even in Israel, which is profoundly absurd. Jerusalem itself was founded by Jews, obviously; and the holy sites, Rachel's Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs, the city of Hebron too have been Jewish holy sites for thousands of years.

The fact that you even have to ask how Judaism influenced Islam is just amazing. I can't believe you don't understand this.

Islam has other influences too of course, not least Mohammed's own creativity, and subsequently has been enriched by the work of many scholars, and obviously has broken into several different sects as you know.

Judaism itself, and the Jewish holy books, themselves reflect other Middle Eastern stories and philosophies, for example the tree of life is not an uncommon image throughout the Middle East and Central Asia and some think Zorastrianism may have been a parallel or overlapping sort of monotheism and may even have been an original inspiration to Judaic tradition.

A monotheistic idea was espoused briefly in Pharonic Egypt too, by Akhnaten, but Egypt's polytheistic mythology was more potent and persisted for a long time thereafter, until wiped out by more powerful imperial forces such as Rome but probably also, Islam.

Indeed worship of various local gods and goddesses and shamanism persisted well into Islamic times and shamanism is still widely although perhaps quietly practiced in many regions considered primarily Islamic and older religions persist in Africa and of course elsewhere in the world, for example consider Buddhists and Hindus and the Native Americans and aboriginal peoples in Australia and elsewhere in Asia.

None of these ideas, stories or philosophies just appeared by magic, did they? And to a degree not always appreciated, they have influenced each other and ought to be respected and acknowledged.

This is particularly true of Christianity and Islam in regard to Hebrew tradition and Judaism, which predate both by thousands of years.

"Syme: It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words. You wouldn't have seen the [Newspeak] Dictionary 10th edition, would you Smith? It's that thick. [illustrates thickness with fingers] The 11th Edition will be that [narrows fingers] thick. Winston Smith: So, The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect? Syme: The secret is to move from translation, to direct thought, to automatic response. No need for self-discipline. Language coming from here [the larynx], not from here [the brain]" -1984 (film)


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