Monday, July 12, 2010

Obama Misses the Point (Again)

Last week, President Obama addressed the Israeli people via an exclusive interview given to Israel's Channel 2 TV. He said the reason we Israelis distrust him, is because his name is "Hussein."

Actually, I couldn't care less what his name is, be it Richard, Jimmy, Ronald, George, William, Abraham or Jameel.

What I do care about is how he relates to the State of Israel and it's leaders.

I do care about that due to political correctness he removes "radical Islam" from the lexicon of terror.

I do care that he considers my home in Israel to be an obstacle to peace.

I do care that he is against the building of Jewish homes in Jerusalem.

I do care that he sends US generals to train and build a Palestinian army, which may very well turn their arms against Israeli soldiers...and civilians.

Professor Barry Rubin analyzes Obama's insulting and childish accusation:
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'd respect Obama more, and perhaps trust him a little more, if he had said something like this:

We've had our differences and we don't see everything the same way. But we are so fundamentally on the same side that our friendship and alliance will overcome these smaller issues. And, of course, we know that our mutual enemies are out to destroy us and favor totalitarian dictatorship rather than democracy. (Read it all here)
It's unfortunate that instead of appealing to reason and rationale, President Obama played the "I have a Muslim sounding name" card, which is irrelevant to the vast majority of Israelis. Israel cares more about actions and politics, than names.

In Israel this summer?
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Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד


yoni r. said...

This is not the first time he's done this. During the campaign, he predicted that Republicans will try to scare Americans off of him because of his youth, inexperience, funny name, and race.

By distracting listeners with silly concerns (how he looks), he gave himself a pass on the legitimate ones (youth and lack of experience).

Anonymous said...

Looks like he's pulling out the race card. I'm shocked he didn't say it was because he is an African American, as some liberal bloggers and pundits tried to claim.

Lurker said...

Obama's first name, Barack, is actually unrelated to the Hebrew name Barak [ברק], which means "lightning". Rather, it is Arabic for "blessed", and thus shares its etymology with the Hebrew name Barukh [ברוך].

I also was unimpressed by his insulting and shallow suggestion that Israelis distrust him not because of his policies, but because of his middle name. On the other hand, I'm sure this sounded very convincing to his not-very-bright, but politically correct and impressionable interviewer, Yonit Levy. She reminds me of the female anchor on the Latma news broadcasts.

An interesting aside: In 2001, after Ehud Barak resigned as Prime Minister, he moved to the US and started a new career as a businessman and corporate executive, working as an advisor for Electronic Data Systems and an executive in SCP Partners. During that period, he went by the name "Burke", apparently assuming that the foreign-sounding "Barak" would put off Americans...

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Lurker: Actually, Ehud Barak changed his name from "Brog" to "Barak" at some point during his IDF career.

Brog, Blog, Borg, Burke, Bork Bork Bork...

realRightWinger said...

Actually Ehud Baraks name originates from the term barach - to run away

Lurker said...

"Brog" to "Barak" was when he entered the IDF. "Barak" to "Burke" was when he left it.

Israeli judicial uber-deity Aharon Barak, btw, changed his name to "Barak" from "Brick"...

Nachum said...

I know an oleh from Britain named Burke who regularly gets called "Barak." (It's spelled the same way.)

And, of course, throughout the campaign, it was racist to mention Obama's middle name. As soon as he was elected, he couldn't shut up about it, usually as if it was a good thing.

I wonder if he even knows what his name means.

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