So much has been commented in recent days about Barak Omaba’s speech in Cairo last week. There is little surprise. The script was already written and reported. In fact his narrative has been well articulated over the past few months, and the only question Jewish analysts were asking prior to the Cairo event was the extent to which Israel would be sold out.Reactions have been mixed. Some dismiss the remarks as political rhetoric, suggesting that nothing will change. Others point to a genuine opportunity that lies within the Barak administration’s opportunity. Some, such as Charles Krauthammer, note the blatant hypocrisy of the US administration saying they will listen, and not dictate domestic policy requirements to anyone, except apparently Israel.
As Melanie Philips points out, there were some positives. He told the Palestinians unequivocally that violence was wrong. He also said that there was an unbreakable bond between America and Israel. However Melanie Philips also highlights some significant negatives that are well worth pondering.
The Cairo speech is the fifth time Barak Obama has addressed the Muslim world during his six months as President. The other times include his al-Arabiya TV interview following his inauguration, his Iranian New Year greeting, his US speech and his speech to the Turkish parliament.
My starting point for analysing this speech was going to be about what wasn’t said, that shouldn’t have been said (i.e. – try a word search for the word terrorism within his speech….). Unfortunately, I’m not even going to get to that, because there were some things that were said by Obama that shouldn’t have been. Such as the strong implications that Israeli policy is the cause of Palestinian “suffering” and that Jewish settlement is the obstacle to peace.
More than the speech content itself, the chain of events before and after the speech trouble me even more greatly. Within hours of his speech concluding, a Kassam missile was fired into Israel. This was hardly reported, let alone condemned by the President. He had moved on already. On this matter, I also wondered about just how much dangerous symbolism and defining narrative is associated with President Obama’s orchestrated visit to Buchenwald straight after the speech. It’s all very well to shed tears and make statements condemning revisionism. However I think that Jewish people would have been far more impressed if the President had instead headed to Jerusalem and talked about the role of the Jewish nation and people into the future. After all, he has talked to Muslims about their role as a great nation. Instead of doing the same for our people, he is talking to us about through a lens of historic shame. He is perpetuating the image of the Jew as the victim. He is engaging with us on the basis of the past, and not of the future.
On the whole, the speech that President Obama gave was not “as bad as it could have been”, and from an objective point of view, is directed towards the right type of vision. To date, the route towards realising that vision has been misdirected by President Obama. I do not subscribe to the views that the President is a closet Muslim, or has view towards the disestablishment of Israel. However what will be more important than the Presidents words will be the response of the Arab world. I would have loved to hear President Obama say something to reinforce this.
Next time, maybe the President will use his new platform of dialogue to say something a little different. To help him along I have taken the liberty of studying his oratory style, and have prepared some text that he may like to build into his next speech to the Arab world:
“When Arab leaders start making unequivocal statements that support the existence of a Jewish nation in Israel, one that can represent the Jewish faith, and uphold Jewish values, then we will have progress. When Palestinian children get taught to respect the concept of co-existence, instead of preaching “resistance”, we will have progress. When the Israeli and Palestinian people can live in trusting communities with the freedom to travel, trade, and interact culturally and socially with each other, we will have progress. This work starts anew today. We need leadership that can stand tall and set the example. We need respect. We need change. Yes we Can. G-d bless the great nations of Mohammed. G-d bless the great nation of Israel. And G-d bless the great nation of America. Sallam Allekum, Shalom Aleichem, Peace be with you.”
Must read analysis by Barry Rubin is here
Yoram Ettingers balanced and informative analysis is here
Jeff Jacoby provides more great anaysis here
Anne Bayefsky calls it how it is with her must read article
Brilliant cynical and satirical appraisal by David Wediger
Consider this, sourced from MLADEN ANDRIJASEVIC (American Thinker):
OBAMA QUOTES VERSE 5:32, OMITS 5:33
President Obama in his speech said ” The Holy Koran teaches that whoever kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind; and whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind.”
I really find it odd that neither President Obama nor any of his advisors did not realize that the meaning of verse 5:32 is not clear until it is quoted together with verse 5:33 which follows it:
YUSUFALI: On that account: We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people. Then although there came to them Our messengers with clear signs, yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land
YUSUFALI: The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter;
Andrew Bostom writes:
Immediately following the murderous acts of jihad terrorism committed on September 11, 2001, Ibn Warraq highlighted the tragic irony of many apologists quoting selectively from Qur’an 5:32-“whoso slays a soul . . . shall be as if he had slain mankind altogether; and whoso gives life to a soul, shall be as if he has given life to mankind altogether”- attempting to demonstrate that the Qur’ran disapproved of violence and killing.
Firstly, these wonderful sounding words come from a preexisting Jewish text (Mishnah, IV Division 5, “Thus was created a single man, to teach us that every person who loses a single soul, it shall be written about him as if he has lost the entire world, and every person who sustains a single soul, it shall be written about him as if he has sustained the entire world.”
And apologists for Islam-just like President Obama-quote the Koranic words out of context. For the very next verse offers quite a different meaning from that of 5:32, which was “laid…down for the Israelites,” as stated in the next verse, 5:33, continuing:
“…Our apostles brought them [the Jews] veritable proofs: yet it was not long before many of them committed great evils in the land. Those that make war against Allah and His apostle [Muhammad] and spread disorder shall be put to death or crucified or have their hands and feet cut off on alternate sides, or be banished from the country. (Qur’an 5:33)”
The supposedly noble sentiments of the first verse, taken from a Jewish source, are entirely undercut by the second verse, which becomes a bloodthirsty menacing by Muhammad of the Jews. (And as an aside the Muslim sources estimate Muhammad killed 24,000 Jews in his jihad campaigns against them). Far from abjuring violence, these verses aggressively insist that any who oppose the Muslim prophet will be killed, or crucified, mutilated, and banished.