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Obama Edge: A Reversal of Fortune: Mary Robinson, Anti-Semitism, and Israel Policy


Gregg J. Rickman, The Cutting Edge, August 10, 2009

Mary Robinson

President Obama's recent suggestion that America's closeness with Israel for the past eight years produced very little and that his policies would produce more credibility with the Arab world, is either shocking naiveté or purposeful diversion. Add to this, his misguided honor of the Medal of Freedom to Mary Robinson, the person who sat at Durban ignoring the anti-Semitism around her and later castigated Israel at every turn at the UN, and we are brought full circle to a perilous policy towards our only democratic ally in the Middle East, Jews in general and the United States itself.

At the infamous Durban Conference in 2001, Israel was isolated and called a racist state. Israel was treated as the worst kind of pariah. From there on, it only got worse. Synagogues were burned, Jews were beaten and even murdered and Jews around the world were threatened. It was from this point in history that we can arguably trace the reemergence of virulent anti-Semitism at the start of the 21st century. Durban is where it began. In September 2001 when Durban became too much for the United States, President George W. Bush withdrew our delegation from this mockery of a conference. That withdrawal occurred on September 9, 2001. We all know what happened two days later.

While these two events do not directly impact causally, we can nevertheless see the downward spiral of history from this point. Israel, the United States, and yes the West itself came under attack. Jews in Europe were upheld as representatives of Israel and by connection the United States. Anti-Semitism around the world rose to levels unseen since the 1930s.

At the same time, Israel stood by the West which was under attack by the same forces that have besieged Israel since Jews began returning to its shores. There was a convergence of interests, of needs, of realities. In attacking the closeness the United States has with Israel, these realities are betrayed. The denial of our commonality is laid bare.

What is even more dismaying is the view that a policy designed to bolster respect for the United States in the Muslim world has to be achieved at the expense of Israel. From whom are we seeking to gain respect?

To start, the goal is to lure Iran into a peaceful stance. Yes, this is the same Iran that rigged its own Presidential election and then used snipers from rooftops and terrorists on motorcycles to put down the brave protestors who dared to challenge that fraudulent election. It is Iran, of course, that races to gain nuclear status pleading innocence along the way while denying the Holocaust and calling for Israel's destruction. It is also Iran that kidnaps Americans - most recently three hikers, funds attacks against American troops in Iraq, Hezbollah and Hamas against Israelis, Lebanese, and Palestinians daring to oppose them, and befriends our enemies around the world, such as Cuba's Castros, Venezuela's Chavez, and North Korea's Kim Jong Il, among others. Let's also not forget ongoing efforts to befriend Syria, another nation that seeks Israel's destruction and a staunch ally of Hezbollah and the provider of the killers of American troops in Iraq.

It is folly to expect that a touch of the now infamous "reset button" with an ally in favor of terrorist regimes will work. Tough love with our ally will not bring peace to the region. Moreover, it is hard to expect that Iran's Ahmadinejad, bolstered by a military coup, aimed as much against the rest of the world as it has been against his own people, will be any more conciliatory to our apologies and goodwill gestures. Coddling Iran will be seen there as a sign of weakness not boldness. Attempts at charm will be interpreted as naiveté. Our sacrifice of an old ally, Israel, will be seen in Iran as recognition of their righteousness and America's weakness. Any regime willing to so brazenly kill its own people and overwhelm their political choices cannot hope to be swayed by nice words and admissions of wrongdoing. Iran's boldness is appalling in its raw ambition and will not be appeased or slowed by changing our policy with Israel.

Iran's headlong race for hegemony in the Middle East through nuclear power will be a disaster, yes for Israel, but much more for the United States and our Arab allies we so ardently seek to woo. Iranian hegemony in the region will mean casting our Arab allies in the Gulf to the mercy of the Mullahs whose naked aggression is now hardly concealed even to its own people. Our Arab allies will have a nuclear-armed bully in their backyard. With neighbors hulking over them, already all too willing to use bullying tactics, our Arab allies will be forced perhaps to seek nuclear status themselves, only increasing the dangers facing an already volatile region.

If we therefore worry about our commitments to the Middle East being too onerous, we should get ready to either increase them or write off those commitments because the neighborhood will certainly get worse and the costs greater. Iran seeks to remove us from competition there and believing us to be weak will be the "blood in the water" to which the Iranian shark will flock.

This policy is reckless. Casting Israel aside in favor of Iran is a dangerous policy that will come back to haunt us as a nation. Not only are we forgoing a deeply committed ally in favor of hopeless concessions from a belligerent enemy, but we are committing an act of betrayal of our very principles. Where once we stood for strength in the face of naked aggression, we now come before our enemies on bent knee, begging for an understanding that will never be granted.

The award to Mary Robinson following upon the heels of this policy reversal with Israel is thus significant for its audacity, its reversal of history. Where once we stood with Israel and thus against anti-Semitism and violence, now we denigrate both in favor of the forces that oppose the former by promoting the latter. We now beg for the attention of the oppressors and disregard the oppressed. Frighteningly, we are seeing a perilous policy in its early development. This policy threatens Israel and Jews around the world. Worse, it threatens us for as Jews have long known, the fire that threatens the Jews, soon will consume us all.

Cutting Edge contributor Gregg J. Rickman, Ph.D, served as the first U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism from 2006-2009. He is a Senior Fellow for the Study and Combat of Anti-Semitism at the Institute on Religion and Public Policy and a Visiting Fellow at The Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism at Yale University.
(Tags: America, Muslim, Iran, Anti-Semitism).