This week President Obama took his “Hey I really don’t hate Israel” tour to the 71st General Assembly of the Union for Reform Judaism. The Reform movement’s attachment to Israel (cultural rather than theological) and its progressive bent made this an ideal location for Obama’s attempts to make Jewish Americans to forget his anti-Israel policies of the past three years.
The first part of Obama’s speech was an outline of the progressive policies he enacted. And each one was greeted with applause.
As in introduction to his talk he put the Torah on the same level as a Broadway Play:
And if there’s one thing I’ve learned from [my daughter, who has begun attending Bar/Bat Mitzvahs], it’s that it never hurts to begin a speech by discussing the Torah portion. It doesn’t hurt.
So this week congregations around the world will retell the story of Joseph. As any fan of Broadway musicals will tell you — there is a lot going on in this reading.
Nice–instead of talking about the Torah as sacred text, he relates it to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
Obama then went into a list of his progressive accomplishments–each greeted with applause from the progressively-inclined audience. Finally, he got to Israel:
I have never wavered in pursuit of a just and lasting peace — two states for two peoples; an independent Palestine alongside a secure Jewish State of Israel. (Applause.) I have not wavered and will not waver. That is our shared vision. (Applause.)
Secure, Jewish State of Israel? Obama’s mismanagement of the “Arab Spring” has damaged the security of Israel. He helped push out Mubarak and turned Egypt over to the radical Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. He has supported Lebanon’s Hizballah-dominated regime and has remained silent about Lebanon’s breaking of the treaty which ended its most recent war with Israel.
Obama has supported the radical Islamists who took over Libya, and listens to the advice of Islamist-governed Turkey, while accepting their anti-Israel stance. Is that what he means by “secure Jewish state of Israel?”
How can one have unshakable support for Israel’s security when one is helping to destroy its security environment?
This is the President who has placed one-sided demands on Israel regarding the Palestinians. Not once has he demanded that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish State. Not once.
Now, I know that many of you share my frustration sometimes, in terms of the state of the peace process. There’s so much work to do. But here’s what I know — there’s no question about how lasting peace will be achieved. Peace can’t be imposed from the outside. Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them. (Applause.)
But according to this president, Israel must concede returning to the 1949 armistice lines before negotiations. And Israel (alone) must get to the “damn” negotiating table already. And the leadership of Reform Judaism applauds anyway.
And the fact that peace is hard can’t deter us from trying. Because now more than ever, it’s clear that a just and lasting peace is in the long-term interests of Israel. It is in the long-term interests of the Palestinian people. It is in the interest of the region. It is the interest of the United States, and it is in the interest of the world. And I am not going to stop in pursuit of that vision. It is the right thing to do. (Applause.)
Now, that vision begins with a strong and secure State of Israel. (Applause.) And the special bonds between our nations are ones that all Americans hold dear because they’re bonds forged by common interests and shared values. They’re bonds that transcend partisan politics — or at least they should. (Applause.)
This is President Obama echoing the appeal of the ADL and the AJCongress that Jews don’t complain about Obama’s anti-Israel policy, and that Republicans should not be allowed to bring it up. And the leaders of the Reform movement apparently agree with President Obama that Jews should put their heads in the sand and shut up. (Or applaud.)
We stand with Israel as a Jewish democratic state because we know that Israel is born of firmly held values that we, as Americans, share: a culture committed to justice, a land that welcomes the weary, a people devoted to tikkun olam. (Applause.)
So America’s commitment — America’s commitment and my commitment to Israel and Israel’s security is unshakeable. It is unshakeable. (Applause.)
I said it in September at the United Nations. I said it when I stood amid the homes in Sderot that had been struck by missiles: No nation can tolerate terror. And no nation can accept rockets targeting innocent men, women and children. No nation can yield to suicide bombers. (Applause.)
Does he mean not yield–like he did by leaving Iraq against the wishes of his most senior generals? Or does he mean not yielding to terrorists–like his administration encourages Israel to do when it criticizes the Jewish state’s blockade of Gaza?
And as Ehud has said, it is hard to remember a time when the United States has given stronger support to Israel on its security. In fact, I am proud to say that no U.S. administration has done more in support of Israel’s security than ours. None. Don’t let anybody else tell you otherwise. It is a fact. (Applause.)
Stronger support? And the leaders of the Reform movement are eating it up!
Do they forget the recent indecent when President Nicolas Sarkozy ripped into Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and Obama replied, “You’re fed up with him, but I have to deal with him even more often than you”?
Perhaps they don’t remember that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently compared the Jewish State to Islamic Republic of Iran–or that US Ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman blamed the Jewish state for the outbreak of Muslim-animated anti-Semitism in Europe.
That doesn’t sound like support to me.
I’m proud that even in these difficult times we’ve fought for and secured the most funding for Israel in history. I’m proud that we helped Israel develop a missile defense system that’s already protecting civilians from rocket attacks. (Applause.)
And how about the part where he broke an agreement between the United States and Israel about the construction of new housing units in existing communities is Judea and Samaria? Shhh–don’t share truth with the leaders of the Reform movement; it seems they are not interested.
Another grave concern — and a threat to the security of Israel, the United States and the world — is Iran’s nuclear program. And that’s why our policy has been absolutely clear: We are determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. (Applause.) And that’s why we’ve worked painstakingly from the moment I took office with allies and partners, and we have imposed the most comprehensive, the hardest-hitting sanctions that the Iranian regime has ever faced. We haven’t just talked about it, we have done it. And we’re going to keep up the pressure. (Applause.)
Here’s the other thing President Obama hasn’t just talked about: when the Senate passed a measure imposing harsher sanctions against Iran, Obama threatened veto. Even Democratic Party senators expressed frustration that the administration had not moved fast enough to curtail financing of Iran’s nuclear activities:“Given what appears to be a shortening timeline until Iran has a potential nuclear weapon, it would seem that we are not doing enough fast enough,” said coauthor Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) (D-N.J.).
The Reform movement’s belief in Obama’s anti-Israel policy is based on two things.
First–its strong affiliation with domestic progressive politics. Earlier in the convention, the movement passed an economic platform that would make the most hardcore progressive proud.
Second–theologically, Reform Judaism does not proclaim the same connection with Israel as Conservative and Orthodox Jews. Its association is mainly cultural (and the Reform movement even once opposed Zionism.)
While the other Jewish “flavors” believe that the eventual return to Israel by all Jews (in a messianic age) is an essential part of their faith, the leadership of the Reform movement believes in the vital importance of Israel as a Jewish homeland–a refuge for a persecuted people, but not a theological necessity.
Reform theology does not believe there will be a Third Temple in Jerusalem. That’s why Reform synagogues are called temples. The vast majority of Conservative synagogues, and all Orthodox ones, believe that the only place that can be called a Temple will be on top of Mount Moriah in Jerusalem.
Many Reform congregations do not face Jerusalem when they pray; all Conservative and Orthodox Shuls do. Reform Judaism has removed direct references to the Temple in its prayer books (although some indirect or ambiguous references remain such as “Happy are those who dwell in your House”, Psalm 84:5).
Between its progressive bent and its very lose affiliation with Israel, President Obama was preaching to the choir as he defended his anti-Israel policies to the the to the 71st General Assembly of the Union for Reform Judaism.
The bottom line: if Obama supplied Hamas with rockets, the leadership of the Reform movement would still vote for him.