According to the liberal Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, President Obama met yesterday with “about 20 Conservative Jewish community leaders.” At that meeting, Ha’aretz reports, Obama “stressed he probably knows about Judaism more than any other president, because he read about it.” He also asked why nobody questioned House Speaker Rep. John Boehner (R-OH)’s or Senator Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)’s support for Israel. “I [am] not going to tell you again how I even feel about Israel, but why [are] we still talking about it?” he complained. He even told these Jewish leaders that “all his friends in Chicago were Jewish – and at the beginning of his political career he was accused of being a puppet of the Israel lobby.”
This is insipid in every respect. To begin at the beginning, Obama clearly does not know the most about Judaism of any president. John Adams knew Hebrew. Harry Truman knew about Jewish history. George W. Bush knew about Jewish principles. In fact, there’s a solid case to be made that Obama knows the least about Israel – at least if his behavior and views on the Middle East are any indicator. He may think he knows about Judaism, but what he really “knows” likely comes from Israel-haters like Edward Said.
Which brings us to Obama’s comments about Boehner and McConnell. Nobody questions their support of Israel because … well … they support Israel. Obama doesn’t, and has made that eminently clear via his administration’s repeated leaks of critical Israeli defense information, his disrespect for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his advocacy of the pre-1967 borders, and his emphasis on Israeli concessions.
As to the argument that Obama’s “best friends were Jewish,” that’s no comfort. The question is what his Jewish friends thought of Judaism and Israel – and whether they shaped his perspectives more than, say, Jeremiah Wright or Rashid Khalidi or Roger Boesche or Frank Marshall Davis or Samantha Powers or Zbigniew Brzezinski or George Soros, or any of the other plethora of anti-Israel folks with whom he associates.
And was Obama really accused of being a puppet for the Israel lobby? If he was, it’s hard to see the evidence for that. In fact, earlier in his career, he was widely seen as an advocate for anti-Israel viewpoints on the Middle East.
Rabbi Obama ought to brush up on his own record before claiming his mantle as a second Moses.