Is President Obama Anti-Semitic?

Over at the Atlantic Wire, Alex Eichler usefully rounds-up some rightward opinion on President Obama and his attitudes toward Semites. Bill Kristol argues that:

Obama "aspires to be a leader of humanity, not merely a president of a single country. And there's no better way to be a leader of humanity than to show disapproval of the Jewish state." Whatever his real feelings toward Jews may be, Kristol holds that Obama must find it expedient to show "anger at the stiff-necked Jewish state. It puts him in sync with the rest of the world."

Pamela Gellar, Eichler reports, argues -- if that's the word for it -- that Obama was "wet-nursed on Jew-hatred" in Indonesia. And so on.

Does it need to be said that Obama is a philo-Semite, not an anti-Semite? I suppose it does. (Yes, I know, I've previously defined "philo-Semitism" as anti-Semitism for people who like Jews, but that was a joke, mostly.) It is nuts to think that Obama is out to sink Israel somehow, to make it into a scapegoat for the sins of the world, as anti-Semites and the occasional blogger try to do. When he's at his seder tonight, it would be useful for the President to understand that "Jerusalem" is not simply a metaphor for universal justice, but a real place that is Judaism's holiest city and the object of a great deal of Jewish veneration. But President Obama is a defender of Jews and a defender of Israel. I've seen nothing in the past several weeks to make me change my mind on that essential question.

One of the reasons I haven't blogged much on this new turn in Israeli-American relations is that I don't know quite what to think yet. I know that it is egregious to accuse American Jews of disloyalty to America for supporting Israel, but beyond that, I'm not sure what to make of this. On the one hand, Obama's destabilizing new paradigm could become very dangerous for America, for Israel and for America's Arab allies; on the other hand, Israel must soon give the Palestinians either citizenship or independence -- there's no other way around this, and if President Obama can figure out a way to safely midwife a Palestinian state, then he will cover his Presidency in glory. In the coming months, I hope to be able to report these questions out, rather than pop off on them, but to the question of whether President Obama is somehow hostile to Jews or the Jewish state, I know the answer already. 

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.


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