Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Obama Plants a Tree

Mike L.

Like most people who follow the Arab-Israel conflict, I am still in the early stages of processing the fact that the least friendly president to the Jewish State of Israel in American history has now condescended to drop in.

Many of you may have noticed that I am not exactly a fan of president Obama when it comes to Israel or the well-being of the Jewish people.  (Shocking, I know!)  

But here he is planting a tree in Israel and how sweet is that?  Is that Shimon Peres standing beside him?  I think that it is.

I do not know, but there is something so exceedingly plastic about the image above that it caught my attention and imagination as soon as I saw it, which was all of about five minutes ago.

The notion of planting a tree in Israel is an old cliche that came out of the kibbutznik-socialist project of building up Eretz Yisrael.  I have respect for that tradition because it was the tradition out of which Israel was born.  It's the tradition of Ben Gurion and Dayan and Meir.

And while one should not be harsh toward a president of the United States merely for planting a tree in Israel as a photo opportunity, given Obama's general unfriendliness it still rankles a tad.  I assume that at some point in the last couple of weeks Obama was conferring with his advisers on his upcoming trip to the Holy Land and someone said something to the effect of, "Oh, and be sure to plant a tree.  They like that kind of thing for some reason."

The real test, of course, though, will come when Obama opens his mouth.  He will speak to Netanyahu personally, and that's the conversation that counts, but he will also give a speech to the Israeli people, bypassing their elected representatives.  That speech will largely consist of hokum and trumpery, as Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. might have said.  

I still very much hope that the Israelis do not take this trip too seriously, as they seem not to be doing.

The guy is simply not worth it.


  1. Lighten up.

    As for the Israelis, I think they have a good handle on things, and what is real and what is not.

    1. Well, I certainly have much more faith in them than I do with their counterparts over here, I tell you that.

      I have a great deal of respect for Israelis because they have no choice but to look reality directly in the eye, whereas diaspora Jews are experts at deflection.

      Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward. - Vonnegut.

  2. A very good piece from Isi Leibler on this and the relationship between Obama and American Jewry just uploaded.

  3. Apropos of how the Obama visit is related to in Israel, here's a good instance of cultural misunderstanding: On the conservative news wire Weasel Zippers, which I regularly read, they put up an item, Top Israeli Rabbi Declares Obama A "King". The comments below are disappointed and shocked, to say the least. Unfortunately, what happened was that they took Jewish religious terminology and interpreted it in the eyes of American history.

    "King" and "monarchy" in the Jewish sources are terms for governance. They're technical terms: The ruler of a state—itself termed "a kingdom" in the Jewish sources even when it's a democracy—is called "king" whether he's a monarch or not. Netanyahu counts for "king" as far as Jewish Law is concerned; moreover, Britain's Prime Minister fits the term far more than Britain's monarch does. And yes, there is a blessing in Hebrew to be said once a "king" is seen.

    Rabbi Yosef's use of the term is technical, then, and in no way signifies approval. If Rabbi Yosef had called Obama a righteous king, that would be praise for Obama; merely "king" just means Obama is considered a ruler of a nation in the eyes of Jewish Law. For all we know, Rabbi Yosef thinks Obama is a wicked king—I have no idea really, he might be neither here nor there regarding Obama, though I'm almost certain he doesn't consider Obama a good king.

    To American readers the term "king" rubs off badly not only because they don't know about its technical use in the Orthodox Jewish context, but because anti-monarchy is an integral part of the American ethos; Americans are, as a rule, allergic to the idea of kings and queens. Brits often ask why so many Americans had such a cynical air about William and Kate's wedding; they need to realize most Americans simply can't control it. Israelis, even of American extraction, rarely have such a visceral attitude. What happened with Rabbi Yosef's statement was a clash of the two most contradictory interpretations of it.

  4. Mike I agree with you.

    My initial thought was "How cute!!"

    I think most Israelis couldn't give a damn about Obama because he has shown he is not a friend of Israel's in the past.