Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Now, I Don't Agree With Everything Barry Rubin Writes In This Piece,

but one salient point stands out. There is increasing concern amongst Israelis, and non-Obama hating supporters of Israel, about the direction of a number of Obama's policies concerning Israel. A regrettable portion of criticism of Obama's Israel policy has been hysterical and off the wall, but a great deal of it, especially from actual Israelis, is real, and valid, and to basically paint them all as Tom Tancredos is beneath you, Mr. President.

First, let's remember that Obama's first name is Barack, which is as much of Semitic language derivation as Hussein. Of course, that first name is found in Hebrew as well as Arabic. After all, Israel's defense minister is Ehud Barak and my Hebrew name sound the same though there are two different roots involved, while Hussein is more distinctively Arabic. But still, Obama's lack of awareness about the implications of his own name doesn't indicate a great depth of knowledge about the Middle East.

Second, Obama was initially--when he had the same name as he does now--quite popular in Israel as polls show. Only when he evinced hostility did the attitude of Israelis change sharply.

Third, that same name belies the impliction that Israelis are biased against him because of his middle name. Israelis, after all, have dealt with two famous Husseins: King Hussein of Jordan and Saddam Hussein of Iraq. The former was a good friend, the most popular Arab leader in Israeli history. (Note 1)

So one can be a good Hussein or a bad Hussein. Of course the issue with this third Hussein is his policies. And that's why I find his saying this thing far more upsetting.

I say again that the rift's degree has been exaggarated by some, but it is real, and this sort of thing isn't helping.

HT: Frum, at the Dish

ADDED: Looking over the actual video in context, his comments seem less harsh, but he still seem to be avoiding the reality that many of his actual policies have generated some real concern. I think Obama is going to have to take real steps to smooth things over, and actually address these concerns. This sort of rhetoric doesn't help.

Michael Totten spells it out clearly:

I was in Jerusalem the day he was inaugurated. Everyone knew his middle name then, and the Israelis I met on that trip swooned over him as much as my bohemian neighbors in Portland did. Whether for good reasons or bad, his plummeting poll numbers are based entirely on what has occurred between then and now.

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