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Jewish World Review
June 8, 2009
/ 16 Sivan 5769
How do you say kumbaya in Arabic?
Richard Z. Chesnoff
A few thoughts after the Cairo Address.
I don't know about you, but I am increasingly weary of our national leader trying to
win friends and influence enemies by fancy word-work mixed with apologies for
America's past sins real or imaginary. Yes, the presidential speech in Cairo could
have been a lot worse. But in the opinion of this veteran of 40 years of Mideast
reporting President Obama really stretched it.
Islam has "always been a part of America's story." That's news to me.
And why beat your breast over American involvement in the 1953 overthrow of Iran's
Mossadeq regime. If Mr Obama thought he was reaching out a conciliatory hand to the
Mullahs of Tehran, he missed it. The mullahs who seized power in 1979 have tried to
use Mossadeq now as a martyr. But they always opposed and despised Mossadeq who was
a secular nationalist. Nor was his regime "democratically elected". At the time
Mossadedeq was overthrown with CIA help, he had autocratically suspended elections
and ruled Iran by "emergency decree".
As David Frum put it, "for the United States to apologize to the
present Iranian regime for the overthrow of Mossadeq would be a little like
President Eisenhower apologizing to Josef Stalin for the murder of Trotsky."
But in my mind, our president erred most unhelpfully in trying to convince the Arab
world that "a Jewish homeland" (why not a Jewish "state"?) deserves to exist because
of past Jewish suffering in Europe most specifically the Holocaust.
No doubt, the monumental horror of last century's mechanized slaughter of Jews
helped nudge the world into finally recognizing the justice and need of a Jewish
state. But Jewish dreams of reestablishing a nation of their own are not derived
from centuries of anti-Semitic suffering in Europe or even the tragedy of the
Holocaust but rather from thousands of years of Judaism itself, a global religion
and culture that inexorably links the Jewish faith and people with its ancestral
The two are inseperable. Israel is the land of David and Solomon,
the place where the prophets preached, and Jewish wisdom was formed, the land Jews
have yearned for and to which they have directed their prayers for more than 2500
years long before Islam was even born.
Indeed, the Jews are the only people for
whom Israel was ever their nation! And their capital city of Jerusalem was a central
force in that faith. Jerusalem and Zion are mentioned 622 times in the Bible and in
almost every prayer that Jews utter each day.
The Holy City is not mentioned by name
once in the Koran. And Mr President, thanks to Israel's reunification of the city 42
years ago, it is already a place where the followers of Moses, Jesus and Mohammed
can freely pray.
Worse yet, a primary Islamic argument against Israel (one often used by Iran's
hateful Ahmad Ahmadinijad) is that Palestinian Arabs should not have to pay for the
anti-Semitic sins of European nations. By so firmly linking the Holocaust to
Israel's birth, Obama strengthened this false claim he did not weaken it.
So too does the idea even vague idea that somehow the Holocaust, black-African
slavery and Palestinian suffering are comparable. I have no doubt that daily life is
tough for the Palestinians. But so much of their suffering is of their own doing
or at least that of their leaders.
No one has been trying to exterminate them and
the fact is it is the Palestinian and Arab world that has prevented the formation of
a Palestinian state for more than 60 years. How many statehood offers by the United
Nations, by the United States and its allies and by left and right wing Israeli
governments have been rejected by the Palestinians since 1947? All offers have been
based on Arab acceptance of Israel as an independent Jewish state in the Middle East
something that even the so-called "moderate" Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas
still says he refuses to accept.
That is the core problem. It was. It is. and it remains so post-Cairo.
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JWR contributor and veteran journalist Richard Z. Chesnoff was Senior Correspondent at US News & World Report, and is now a columnist at the NY Daily News and the Huffington Post. A two-time winner of the Overseas Press Club Award and a recipient of the National Press Club Award, he was formerly executive editor of Newsweek International. The paperback edition of his critically acclaimed book, "Pack of Thieves: How Hitler & Europe Plundered the Jews & Committed the Greatest Theft in History" is now on sale. (Click on cover above to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.
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© 2009, Richard Z. Chesnoff