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Obama And Purim

By Larry Gordon

It is not just the story of Purim that is punctuated with strategic and well-thought-out deception; this type of ploy seems to have been a course of choice of our forefathers and those who followed them through the ages.

I don’t know if it is the influence of the Purim story, but at this time in our modern history it seems difficult to find anything out there that is genuine. What used to be everyday routine news has become a game of mystery and intrigue filled with guesswork and unpredictability.

After four years of complaints about President Obama’s treatment of the Jewish state, all of a sudden, as if to celebrate his reelection, the president has decided to travel to Israel.

Israel has now officially dubbed the Obama visit “Operation Unshakable Alliance.” I would like to add that this is a great and impressively strong name—much better than the Gaza Operation of a few months ago, which was dubbed “Pillar of Defense” but was really “Pillar of Cloud” when translated from the Hebrew (Amud Anan), although almost no one knew what that meant or understood the Biblical reference. That is except us, of course.

Why has the president chosen this specific time to travel to Israel to express his solidarity and demonstrate his commitment to Israel’s security while simultaneously pushing the confirmation of the very Purim-like Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense in his second term as president? It just doesn’t add up, it doesn’t make sense, and that may be the precise objective that is being achieved here.

I am not suggesting that Hagel comes across as the ancient figure of the Megillah, Haman, but he seems to have tinges of that negative aura when it comes to the subject of Jews and Israel following him around everywhere. The question is, did he say the things they say he did, and if he did express those opinions, is it enough to just say that now he sees things differently, regrets those remarks, and repudiates some of his own previously held views? How exactly does that work? And would Haman have chosen this option if given the chance?

Of course when Haman was appointed to his high government position in ancient Persia, there were no Senate hearings, no threats of filibuster or any other kind of bluster to hold up the appointment. In fact, that bribery dimension of the matter was right out there and up front with Haman giving the king 10,000 talents of silver.

Haman thought negatively about the Jewish minority and was determined to do something about it. He didn’t like the influence they had on the society, and he also held in disdain the separateness or the uniqueness of the Jewish people that just made them look and seem different than everyone else. His objective was to build a greater and negative wedge between the society and the Jewish people.

It seems that King Achashveirosh had such a vast and immense empire that it really did not matter that a few tens of thousands of people would be systematically disposed of, as long as the price was right. The impression was created that the loss would simply be within the margin of error of the national census, or something like that.

So what is former Senator Chuck Hagel’s problem with the Jews? My superficial impression is that he really doesn’t have a deep or serious problem, but rather that his attitude is part of his internal mental wiring. Having disdain for Jews or imagining that this tiny minority has this inordinate, gigantic influence on the U.S. or the world population is something that has just always been out there to grasp like the trees or some other part of nature.

So Mr. Hagel said or wrote that the Jewish lobby in Washington intimidates people up on Capitol Hill. When asked in the Senate hearing by Senator Lindsey Graham whether he could name anyone who was intimidated by the “Jewish lobby,” Hagel said that he did not know anyone who was. So the image he was painting of Jewish influence was imaginary, he was saying. He’s fortunate, because usually when it comes to hostility for Jews that is sufficient.

In reality, his reference to a so-called Jewish lobby was problematic in and of itself. And that is because there is no such thing as a Jewish lobby in Washington. There is, however, an Israel lobbying group—AIPAC—that exists to promote and oversee the recognition of the strategic interests and compatibility of the U.S.–Israel relationship. AIPAC indeed may have a lot of friends in Congress, even occasionally in the White House, but the characterization of the group and its supporters as a “Jewish” lobbying group cannot be anything but an attempt to cast aspersions and isolate Jews by suggesting that we have something in our hearts that takes precedence over our interests in and loyalty to the U.S.

And this brings us back to the Obama visit to Israel that is scheduled for March 20, just a few days before Pesach. The White House already stated that the president is not bringing any new peace plans with him and that there would be no unusual amount of pressure—as there usually is, for some reason—to force Israel to make additional “good faith” gestures to the Palestinians.

The Palestinians have their new agenda, which focuses on the international delegitimization of Israel, and they seem content with working on that at the UN and in other world bodies for now. Is it that everything else they have tried over the years has failed, or are they just having internal problems that do not allow them to progress?

Though I argued in this space for the defeat of Barack Obama in November, I am at peace with the misguided choice of the majority of the country to reelect him. I believe that Obama has developed intellectually in office and though he cannot afford to do a 180-degree turnaround, he has a new, quiet appreciation for the challenges facing Israel and the uniqueness of the U.S.–Israel relationship.

Yes, he did try to downgrade and even marginalize it to an extent in his first term, but as you can see, Israel’s Arab neighbors were wholly unresponsive. I like to believe that Obama has been introduced to a new Middle Eastern reality, which includes the understanding that despite the fact that Israel and the U.S. do not see eye-to-eye on every issue, it is Israel that is the most reliable American ally, and by very significant margins.

Whether Obama has changed to any appreciable degree will be better discerned upon his arrival in Israel. As for the so-called tradition of deception—it is all over the place. There was the instance of Esther withholding her ethnic identity from Achashveirosh. Yaakov deceived his father into believing he was the firstborn, Eisav; Leah represented herself as being Rochel; Sarah presented herself as Avraham’s sister; and on and on.

And now, though not quite a biblical figure, there is Mr. Obama on his way to Israel a few weeks after Purim but still unable to resist that shot of putting forward a Chuck Hagel—a harsh critic of Jews and Israel—to do the president’s bidding.

And then there is this week’s story about who will potentially be the next pope. One of the candidates is a Honduran cardinal, Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, who is on record saying that he believes the Jews created the Catholic Church sex scandal as a way of distracting attention from the way Israel treats the Palestinians.

Well, here we go again. Sometimes it looks like every day is Purim. Chag Sameiach. v

Comments for Larry Gordon are welcome at editor@5tjt.com.

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Posted by on February 21, 2013. Filed under In This Week's Edition. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.