Monday, November 08, 2010

The President and Orthodox Jews - Disagreement or Racism?

I just do not understand it! The hatred some of my people have for the President is mind boggling! And it is completely undeserved. I see it every time I mention the President in any context. Especially in the context of Israel. He is vilified and the names he is called in some cases border on the irrational. It isn’t all Orthodox Jews that so vilify him. But a sizable portion of us do. And it turns my stomach.

I am not a fan of President Obama’s policies. Not his domestic policy. Not his foreign policy. But in no way do I consider him to be an anti Semite or evil in any way. Nor do I consider him to even be anti Israel.

True, I would like to see a friendlier attitude towards the Jewish State. For example I should think that by now he would have paid a visit to the Jewish State in gesture of friendship. It would have been nice for example if he had done that following a visit early in his Presidency to Muslim countries.

Although I disagree with it - I think I understand his reluctance to do so. He is trying to win the support of Arabs by showing them a more even handed approach. He is trying to undo their perception of the US siding with Israel on every issue. True or not, that is their perception. And he wants to counter it.

This is not the ‘even-handedness’ that has always been a code-word for the abandonment of Israel in favor of the Arabs - so often used by those who support the Palestinian cause. It is his attempt to portray himself as more sympathetic to them so that he will have more influence with them.

But he clearly does not sacrifice US support for Israel. That was reiterated again yesterday in a speech by Vice President Biden to the general assembly of the Jewish Federation of North America. From a Press Association report:

He said the Obama White House "represents an unbroken chain in American leaders who have understood this critical strategic relationship" between the two countries. "We will not yield a single inch," he said.

But that hasn’t stopped some people from vilifying President Obama at every turn. They will twist such commentary into the most negative interpretation and continue to vilify him. It is almost seems as though the hatred is irrational – even racist!

Of course I can’t prove it is racist but I suspect it based on the acrid and venomous tone of some comments I’ve read when addressing his policies toward Israel (or any of his policies for that matter). The animus expressed towards the President is the strongest of any President in my memory (...with the possible exception of Jimmy Carter. But even with him - it was not while he was President. It was decades later.)

This rang true again this morning when I read a piece on about the President’s current visit to India. When he reached Mumbai, it would have been perfectly natural for him to overlook a tragic event that took place two years ago… the terrorist murder of Orthodox Jews. Why stir up memories like that while on a mission to promote economic and strategic ties between the two countries? But he didn’t forget about them. He mentioned them. From Matzav:

In India for the first time, Obama and his wife, Michelle, paid quiet tribute to the people who were murdered in the terror attack in Mumbai in November 2008.

“We visit here to send a very clear message that in our determination to give our people a future of security and prosperity, the United States and India stand united,” Obama said from the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel which was targeted in the attacks.

“We’ll never forget,” he said…

The president celebrated Karambir Singh Kang, general manager of the Taj hotel here who saved lives even after losing his wife and sons in the attack.

Obama also praised Sandra Samuel, the Indian nanny “who braved bullets to save the baby” - Moishy Holtzberg, the then-two year-old baby now living in Israel with his grandparents.

Samuel worked for Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg at the Chabad house in Mumbai which was also attacked by the terrorists…

How nice of the President – I thought - to remember and mention this on his visit… and to praise the nanny who risked her life to save the 2 year old baby.

But when I looked at the 4 comments that are there now, not a single one had a word of praise. Here they are in full.

1. It’s amazing how Donald Trump has a casino in India!
3. The Donald for President!
4. stupid headline

That’s it! That is the sum and substance of how religious Jews responded. Not one favorable comment about the President. Only four comments - three of which were purposely written to ignore the President’s gesture!

I can’t help but suspect that there is an element of racism here. I sense it… and if true it’s disgusting and a Chilul HaShem. Constantly bashing him in such vitriolic terms - even if it isn't because of racism borders on Chilul HaShem. And it ought to stop!