Foreign Policy
Foreign Policy

Israeli Settlements, Racism and President Obama

| by MPAC
Extremism permeates on many levels, such as in matters of race and religion, especially in the on-going case of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. Neither side can claim innocence and objectivity in this matter, but both sides can be blamed for hindering the peace process to a certain degree. These forms of extremism have become more evident with the Obama administration's recent efforts to initiate and further a two-state solution and peace process between both sides.

The President's differing approach from his predecessor, George W. Bush, towards Muslim communities at large and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has opened a new and prolific door to relations with the Muslim world, but simultaneously has begun to impede relations between the new administration and the current Israeli government. This latest rift between the U.S. and Israel is cast as a "marital spat" and an "identity crisis" by columnist Thomas Friedman. The refined spin by Friedman conceals a larger crisis in America--silence over a new form of racism.


In a recent New York Times article, 'West Bank Settlers Send Obama a Defiant Message,' Ethan Bronner reports on how a certain group of religiously zealous Israelis were protesting the visit of U.S. special envoy to the Middle East, George J. Mitchell, by inaugurating an unauthorized outpost on land owned by Palestinian families.


Additionally, another disturbing part of the news item was a reference to a racial slur attributed to President Barack Obama by Rabbi Yigael Shandorfi, leader of a neighboring religious academy. According to Bronner, the slur included "an insulting Hebrew slang for a black man," which was not published by the New York Times. In a blog run by Richard Silverstein, Tikun Olam--Make the World a Better Place, the rabbi reportedly called President Obama a "nigger." The Israeli settlers did not object, but instead reinforced this ideology by calling President Obama, "Saddam Hussein Obama."


This sentiment echoes the defensive as well as elusively defiant angle that the current Israeli government has adopted towards the Obama administration. Inflammatory rhetoric and coercive behavior such as the ones spouted by the Israeli settlers are only an amplification of extremism ranging from race to religion. As this behavior cannot be tolerated from Muslim extremists; it cannot be tolerated from Jewish ones as well, whether common citizen or state official. Ideologies simulating hate remain one of the major obstacles to Middle East peace.


As Americans our responsibility is to break down barriers and set an example as leaders of reform, such as in the issues of racism and equality. Tolerating racial attacks against a head of state at best and concealing it at worst negates that responsibility. Remarks and behavior such as these cannot be recognized and then evaded, especially in an era when Americans like President Barack Obama break the race barrier and fulfill the American dream.