Ignore the Grandchildren

letter-447577_1280

The Obama campaign is encouraging Jewish kids to fly to Florida to visit their grandparents over Columbus Day weekend. The website for the intitiative, www.thebigschlep.com, features comedienne Sarah Silverman instructing Jewish youth in Lysistrata-style tactics: Threaten to withhold future visits unless Granny agrees to vote for Obama. Here’s another suggestion: Tell them that if they don’t vote for Obama, “the goodest person we’ve ever had as a presidential choice,” it can only be because they are racists.

My guess is that Bubbe and Zaidy will not be too impressed by such bullying; nor should they be. The grandchildren will seek to prove that Obama will is good for Israel, but their identification with Israel bears no relationship to that of their grandparents. For them the Holocaust is the stuff of history books, not a living memory. Ditto the U.N. vote on Israel’s creation. They did not huddle anxiously around TV sets listening to the U.N. debates leading up to the 1967 war, when a second Holocaust seemed all too possible and 10,000 graves were dug in Tel Aviv in anticipation of war casualties. Many have never heard of Entebbe.

A 2007 study by sociologists Steven Cohen and Ari Kelman found that more than half of non-Orthodox Jews under 35 would not view the destruction of the State of Israel as a personal tragedy. The death and/or expulsions of millions of fellow Jews is something they can live with. By those standards, they probably would not see the Holocaust as a personal tragedy either.

Indifference to Israel, Cohen and Kelman found, “is giving way to downright alienation” among the under 35 cohort. Israel complicates the social lives and muddles the political identity of young Jews. Only 54% profess to be comfortable with the idea of a Jewish state at all. These are not the people to be telling their grandparents who will be good for Israel.

The grandchildren will cite Senator Obama’s high rating from AIPAC as proof of his pro-Israel bona fides. Irrelevant. Every senator with national ambitions has such a high-rating, which is based on nothing more than voting for appropriation resolutions. Far more relevant to determining a candidate’s likely relationship with Israel as president is his worldview.

Obama views talk as a universal solvent, and seems to believe that most conflicts can be solved by sitting people down around a conference table to air their grievances. That makes him remarkably sanguine about resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict, which he says would be a high priority from day one of his administration. The last time an American president made solving the conflict a high priority Israel ended up with the Al Aksa intifada and open warfare.

If Obama thinks there is an easy solution to the conflict it can only come in one form: Israel’s return to its 1967 “Auschwitz borders.” He basically confirmed that in a June interview with Jerusalem Post editor David Horowitz, in which he allowed that Israel might justify “67 plus” in terms of a security buffer, “but they’ve got to consider whether getting that buffer is worth the antagonism of the other party.”

Yet an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank would almost surely result in a third Iranian-armed and financed adversary confronting Israel, just as previous Israeli withdrawals from southern Lebanon and Gaza led to the takeover by heavily armed Iranian proxies in the form of Hizbullah and Hamas. Israeli intelligence officials estimate that absent an Israeli presence in the West Bank Hamas would takeover almost as quickly as it seized Gaza. From the Israeli point of view, withdrawal from the West Bank, at present, would be a classic example of Einstein’s definition of insanity – the repetition of the same action with the expectation of different results.

Obama assumes that Israeli settlements, not Israel’s existence, are the source of Palestinian “antagonism.” But Palestinian polls tell a different story. A June 5-7 poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey research found that three-quarters of Palestinians do not believe that reconciliation with Israel is possible in this generation, even after the conclusion of a peace agreement and the creation of a Palestinian state, and nearly two-thirds think it could only happen after many generations or never.

Nor is acceptance of Israel any greater among the senior political echelons with whom Israel is supposed to conclude some kind of peace treaty. The Palestinian Authority recently sent its warmest congratulations to child-murderer Samir Kuntar on his release from an Israeli jail and announced plans for festive celebrations in honor of Dalal Mughrabi, the mastermind of the 1973 Coastal Road massacre in which 37 Israelis were murdered. Those gestures make it difficult to understand how Obama could credit Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salaam Fayd with doing everything possible “to address some of the systemic failures of the Palestinian Authority,” (unless ceaseless incitement against Israel is not one of those systemic failures in his eyes) .

Senator Obama’s faith in the power of words is equally dangerous with respect to the Iranian threat. In June, Obama told the AIPAC convention that face-to-face negotiations with Iran would be necessary before any military response could be justified. In the last presidential debate, he dropped any reference to military action and said negotiations must precede any strong sanctions, and must include the Russians and Chinese.

But the Europeans have been engaged in futile, unconditional negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program for six years. If Obama has a tastier carrot to offer than the Europeans, he should at least say what it is. As for the Russians and Chinese, they have made clear that their economic interests lie in supporting Iran, and that they will stymie any further U.N. Security Council sanctions.

The only result of yet another round of face-to-face negotiations, after six years of Iranian stonewalling, would be to give Iran with more crucial time to complete its nuclear weapons project and provide Ahmadinejad greater internal legitimacy.

An Obama presidency, then, would almost surely result in an Israel living within indefensible borders and in the crosshairs of a nuclear Iran. Bubby and Zaidy should tell their progeny that in Jewish tradition wisdom flows from the elders to young, not vice versa.

This article appeared in the Jerusalem Post, October 9, 2008.

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20 Responses

  1. DF says:

    Rabbi Oberstein –

    First, the election is not over. There may be millions of democrats who wake up very surprised next week. Recall that many polls were predicting a Kerry victory in 04, but Bush won by three million votes. Everyone should hold off the parties and consolations till next week.

    Second, Obama did not run any campaign, good or bad. The press ran it for him. This campaign will be remembered historically as the begining of the official return to the “partisan press” model of the 19th century, rather than the “non-partisan” model that developed in the 20th. The press has been democrat for decades, but never declared it so blatantly. (Rather & Co. came close 4 years ago, but this year was the kicker.). In Israel, many newspapers were founded by political parties as a means to express a viewpopint. No one expects them to be bi-partisan. We’ve come away from that here in the states, but this campaign has reminded us. Smart businessmen will adopt the Fox model towards making a national, USA-Today style newspaper of fair and accurate reporting. They will have to heavily edit AP and Reuters reports. Look what a bonanza Fox has been. The most watched network in the country. A newspaper run simialry will do equally as well.

  2. Bob Miller says:

    Evan Steele protests that “Marxism, by the way, is not socialism”.

    This implies that he is OK with Obama’s socialist tendencies but he doesn’t like the word Marxist. Like a true Marxist would—and I’m not saying he is one—Evan redefines a pesky word (in this case, “Marxist”) to suit his political needs. If socialism is not one form of Marxism, what exactly is it, Evan?

  3. YM says:

    Evan Steele: whereby the President(Bush) cares not to bother with the opinions of a duly elected Congress or the rest of humanity

    Actually, the Iraq war was authorized by Congressional vote, or at least a majority vote in the Senate. Congressional leaders were briefed on the wiretapping and other security measures. I don’t think for a minute that the mainstream news media represents “the rest of humanity”. Bush was re-elected in 2004 with more votes than he received in 2000.

    I do believe that America’s culture is sick, but I think Mr. Obama will make it worse. WE NEED MOSHIACH NOW, not “the messiah”.

  4. Evan Steele says:

    It is axiomatic that the radical left will be happy for the Democratic candidate to win and for the Republican to lose, but to suggest that this indicates that the candidate himself is of the radical left is a highly specious argument. The right has its share of scary radicals that Bush and McCain are all too happy to cozy up to. Indeed, I am often perplexed by frum Jews’ embrace of evangelical Christians. I appreciate that they often support Israel, but, having grown up in a very Christian community with few Jews, I believe them to be no friends of the Jews. Imagine, for a moment, if a frum Jew decided to run for President, and someone unearthed the candidate’s Rabbi’s statements about non-Jews. While we understand that Torah is emes and truth is not relative, it is hardly suprising that a Black man would have some association with a religious leader who expressed exclusivity and superiority of his group. As to Obama’s “company,” many of the names have very loose or no association at all with Obama. Marxism, by the way, is not socialism, and if what is happening right now in this administration is not socialism, then I don’t know what is. Apparantly, government subsidies, giveaways to special interests, and outright government bailouts are all fine, as long as they are for rich people. Finally, if writer LOberstein thinks that something must be right because everyone agrees to it, then I suggest s/he learn some lessons from Avraham Avinu and the popularity of Avodah Zorah.

  5. aron feldman says:

    The Jewish People won’t survive on such Jewishness.

    Comment by LOberstein

    R”Elchonon,

    This is partly the fault of the grandparents,for their expression of Yiddishkeit does not go beyond herring and brisket

  6. LOberstein says:

    I doubt if anyone ever changes their mind because of a blog.It is “preaching to the choir”. Cross – Currents attracts a more sophisticated readership than some others ,but it seems as if almost all chareidi Jews are conservative Republicans. If everybody is, there must be some good reasons for it. However, there is also a lunatic fringe that believes in stuff that is so over the top that it is embarassing to be in the same sub-group. There are very good reasons to be for McCain,but the ones that I hear from otherwise intelligent people in my community.
    The reality is that we will most probably have an incresed Democratic majority in the House and maybe even a supermajority of 60 in the Semate and Obama-Biden. This will end grid lock and let our country deal with the issues we must face. Maybe, the Republicans could also deal with the same issues and maybe their solutions would also work, but they have had their chance and they are going to have a time out.
    The United States has suffered from divided and stalemated government. We need new leadership with the willingness and ability to take dramatic and drastic action on many fronts. Bye Bye Neo-Cons.
    I could have voted for McCain and think he could be a fine leader, but he doesn’t have a chance. He is underfunded and out organized. Obama has run a super campaign and maybe it indicates that he will be an effective executive. I hope so, for all our sakes.

  7. Bob Miller says:

    Sorry to pop your balloon, Evan Steele, but Obama is indeed some form of Marxist whichever way we define that word. His lifelong list of mentors and associates, his legislative record such as it is, and his stated plans for America all testify to his attachment to socialism.

    I couldn’t care less if he’s personally a Muslim or not; what offends me is his associations with and support from radical Muslims. Why do Louis Farrakhan, other radical Muslim activists in the US, and terrorist Muslim states abroad feel comforted by the prospect of Obama’s election? Why does that great friend of the Jews, Jesse Jackson, essentially proclaim in Europe that Obama would nail Israel to the wall?

  8. Leah says:

    George Stephanopolous, former WHite House Press Secretary, interviwed Barack Obama about a month ago and stated that he is deep in his Muslim faith for which Mr. Stephanopolous corrected him to his Christian faith. Obama then said, ‘Yeah, I mean Christian faith.”
    I do not think Obama to be a Christian. There are factual instances that have been documented re: Obama’s interest in helping the Palestinian cause. Why isn’t the media calling this one- or perhaps the media is made up of liberal Democrats?

  9. Steve Brizel says:

    Evan Steele-One can argue very seriously that Senator Obama’s views on foreign policy in general are appeasement oriented and dangerous to America’s right to defend itself and that his domestic policies are simply a tuned up version of Democratic tax and spend policies. After all, Democrats have only won the White House since the 1960s by runninng to the Center. Both Carter and Clinton were elected in such a manner and governed in a sharply leftward turn.

    I would hesitate to condemn Bush for his leadership of the US in a conflict that may ultimately be as significant for the US and any other truly pluralistic society as either the Civil War or WW2. Americans especially should remember that the North won because of siege warfare in Petersburg that wore down Lee, Sherman’s march through Georgia , Sheridan’s destruction of the Confederacy’s breadbasket in the Shenandoah Valley and Farragut’s leadership of a successful naval blockade that strangled the Confederacy’s ability to export and import immeasurabley and that Lincoln was pilloried in the Northern press-even after the critical victories of Gettysburg and Vicksburg. Lincoln also suspended civil liberties such as habeas corpus. FDR approved secret military trials with capital punishment for German saboteurs, directed a total war against the Axis that included aerial bombardments of cities and unrestricted submarine warfare. One wonders today what would have been the results of the Civil War or WW2 if Lincoln or FDR was either constrained or deemed themselves obligated to fight by the rules of international law against enemies that clearly did not abide by these rules.

  10. Jewish Observer says:

    Evan Steele:
    I was brought up to think that you can “judge a man by the company he keeps”. You may or may not consider this aphorism valid, but I, for one, have found it to be a reliable measuring rod in my experience.
    Now,let’s apply this test to Barack Obama.
    I’m not familiar with all or even many of Obama’s friends and associates, but the ones I am familiar with, give me great cause for concern and even alarm.
    Here’s just a partial list: 1.Tony Rezko; 2. Reverend Jeremiah Wright; 3. Louis Farrakhan; 4. Nadhami Auchi; 5. M. Marzook; 6. Mummar Quadaffi; 7. Allison Davis; 8. William Ayers; 9. Rashid Khalid; 10. Odinga; 11. Chicago Annenberg Challenge; 12. Acorn; 13. The Woods Fund.

    Here’s a partial list of Obama’s Middle East Advisors: 1. Zbigniew Brzezinski; 2. Robert Fisk; 3. Dennis Ross; 4. Daniel Kurtzer; President Jimmy Carter.

    You may not be familiar with all the names on the above partial lists, but I think you can get a little bit of the influences that resonate positively with Obama. If you need background information on anyone named, I invite you to go to “Google” and do some simple personal research.

    With special regard to Obama’s Middle East advisors, I am personally horrified and filled with a sense of impeding doom for Israel, G-d forbid.

    As for your comments regarding President Bush, I feel that Bush’s (and Cheney’s) basic instincts vis-a vis Israel were positive and correct. Unfortunately, Bush has been unable to stand up forcefully against a hostile Arabist State Department and deeply divided Congress not to mention the UN, European Union etc. He also chose unfortunate Secretaries of State- Powell and Rice – who do not share his views and undermine his diplomacy.
    If you believe Bush has not carried out secret negotiations with Iran, North Korea, Syria, etc. etc. then you are either extremely naive or suffering from “Bush Derangement Syndrome”

    Finally your statement that “the U.S. has alienated the world” is pure Democratic Party political “spin”. Most non-Americans would sacrifice their right arm if they could live in America. America is still the most admired Nation in the world. You and your ilk can never forgive George Bush for defeating Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004.

  11. Ori says:

    Evan Steele: Indeed, America is an empire in decline, with no allies left in world, largely as a result of Bush’s extreme disregard for the rest of the world’s opinion.

    Ori: You’re confusing the rhetoric for the reality. Germany, Japan, and Kuwait may not say they are our allies – but they are happy to have US military bases on their territory. Georgia and the Ukraine are trying to get into NATO to have a mutual defense treaty with the US, not with France and Italy. The fact that Russia and China are not US allies can hardly be blamed on Bush, they haven’t been allies long before 2001.

    I recommend Empires of Trust to people interested in US foreign policy. It’s a different perspective, which IMHO makes a lot of sense.

  12. Evan Steele says:

    It’s time to speak the truth. In the frum community, it is literally impossible to have a rational discussion about the presidential election. The things that come out of frum people’s mouths that pass for political discourse is deeply embarrassing. Blatant falsehoods (he’s a Muslim!), wonton distortions (he’s a Marxist!), and, my favorite, which I’ve heard countless times, “it’ll be just like Dinkins,” (we all know that Black people are all the same). Let’s not even discuss the jokes about the man’s name. There are certainly reasonable, issue-driven reasons for opposing Obama, but all I hear around me are statements that I wouldn’t expect my 9 year old to say.
    Regarding Mr. Rosenblum’s article, as Obe-Wan_Kenobi said “only a Sith thinks in extremes.” Mr. Rosenblum makes a good case for being wary of over-reliance on diplomacy. However, moving away from the Bush administration’s approach to leadership, whereby the President cares not to bother with the opinions of a duly elected Congress or the rest of humanity does not constitute the singular focus on “talk” that Mr. Rosenblum warns of. Indeed, America is an empire in decline, with no allies left in world, largely as a result of Bush’s extreme disregard for the rest of the world’s opinion. Where, for example, is the evidence that “Obama views talk as a universal solvent?” A rational foreign policy combines diplomacy with force and the threat of force, but, as any parent can attest to, when force is the only method available because “talk” has been abandoned, the results are rarely effective. Indeed, Mr. Rosenblum makes reference to the diplomatic situation with Iran, and the fact that it is emboldened by alliances with Russia and China. This is indicative of how little diplomatic clout the United States has left. Instead of cultivating alliances and picking battles carefully, the U.S. has alienated the world and now cannot count on allies when fighting important enemies, such as Iran. Mr. Rosenblum further takes some enormous inductive leaps and engages in the kind of manipulative scare tactics typical of the right. Somehow, with no conceptual link, much less factual statements, he links Senator Obama to Jewish indifference regarding Israel.

  13. Dave Weinstein says:

    Fact Check: The Great Schlep is organized by the Jewish Council for Education and Research, not by the Obama Campaign.

  14. LOberstein says:

    One of the perils of the internet is seeing stuff that is inappropriate.I was looking for political news and somehow got to the piece by a Jewish female comedian about getting your grandparents to vote for Obama.Not being used to it, the nivul peh, the foul mouthed trash talk coming out of a Bas Yisroel’s mouth was such that I tuned out.This is what our young people listen to and maybe how they talk. I experienced the same surprise when I took out a tape from the library by two Jewish comedians in Hollywood which was a history of Am Yisroel.Once again the needless and over the top use of cursewords was very surprising. I also only listened a short while and had no interest n hearing it. One sentance that sticks in my mind, he says “we’re not self hating Jews, we go to synagogue every couple of years and to a seder from time to time”. The Jewish People won’t survive on such Jewishness.

  15. Yehoshua Mandelcorn says:

    In many families it is the younger generations for McCain and the older generation still with the Democratic party.
    Somewhat related to this topic:
    Obama wants to have our daughters register with the Selective Service. Oy vey!!!

  16. aron feldman says:

    Our youth are in a sorry state when an obnoxious,abrasive miscreant like Sarah Silverman can sway their decision for whom to vote

  17. aron feldman says:

    Great article,but you are fighting for a lost cause! The Jewish kids on campus are so ingrained with the notion that the US are a bunch of nasty aggressors,only Obama can change that perception.All will be well if the French like us

  18. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    Is Sarah Silverman an official of the Obama campaign? Or are you simply imputing her bad-taste gag to Obama to gain some traction for McCain? As far as the assertion that “An Obama presidency, then, would almost surely result in an Israel living within indefensible borders and in the crosshairs of a nuclear Iran,” do you really think that Obama will be any more successful than Bush 41 was in pushing Israel back to ’67 borders? And please remember, that when Bush 41, the most anti-Israel president since Eisenhower, was up for re-election, rabbonim told us Hashem would take care of Israel, and we should vote for Bush since he was what was best for the US.

    If you want to vote for McCain based on Israel, you better believe that McCain will be able to solve all Israel’s problems in 4 years. If he doesn’t right the economy (and I doubt he will) the Democrats will win in 2012 with a Hugo Chavez-Evo Morales clone, who will adopt a pro-Palestinian policy that will make anything Obama says now look extremely pro-Israel by comparison.

  19. Ori says:

    Could you get this published in a Florida Jewish newspaper? I doubt many Jerusalem Post readers in Florida will be swayed anyway.

  20. Garnel Ironheart says:

    Kol hakavod.

    Unfortunately, the same attitude that drives people like Sarah Silverman to think that bubbie and zaidie are not voting Obama because of ignorance is giving Obama the lead in the polls over a vetern politician who has actually done more with his life than get elected and write a book about how great he is.

    Perhaps when the grandchildren threaten to withold their visits unless bubbie and zaidie vote for Obama, bubie and zaidie should threaten to withhold their grandchildren from their will until they vote for McCain!