The paralysis that overcame American Jewry in the face of the Barack Obama phenomenon is pitiful and prompts sad thoughts. Obama himself is clear of any trace of anti-Semitism and has been voicing very pro-Israeli positions throughout his campaign. Yet he grew up, was educated, and internalized values in an environment that is hostile to the Jews and to Israel
– and also to America, as it turns out.
About two months ago already, starting with political blogs, stories were published that detailed the hateful anti-Israel sermons delivered by Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s pastor in Chicago. And he is not just a pastor: Wright is the closest person to Obama, as the candidate himself admitted in his books. He is his spiritual father, his guide, his model.
Wright’s extreme anti-Semitic words have been well documented, yet the vast majority of Jews preferred to ignore them. Obama supporters in the Jewish business community did not demand that he sever his ties with Wright. Here and there we saw weak articles of reservations that were nonetheless filled with words of flattery. American Jewish intellectuals continued to keep their sense of criticism paralyzed.
Then someone uploaded a video clip to YouTube that shows Pastor Wright cursing not only the Jews, but also America itself, calling on God to destroy it, and with a theatrical voice and hand gestures charging that the American government spread the AIDS virus in order to kill blacks and planned the September 11 attacks itself.
Obama rushed to respond only after these horrifying sermons became publicly available. In a lengthy speech that was already designated as one of history’s greatest speeches by some American journalists (mostly Jews,) Obama presented his defense of, or at least a sophisticated understanding to, Pastor Wright.
To that end, Obama used three infamous demagogical arguments, starting with the reasoning of victimization and discrimination. Wright’s “comments were not only wrong but divisive” and “expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country “Obama said, yet at the same time they also reflected the honest fury of blacks in America, who have been the victims of discrimination for hundreds of years.
The second line of reasoning was about character: Pastor Wright, Obama said, is a man of noble character, warm, embracing, and people-loving. He has some opinions that are wrong (Obama did not detail which opinions those are) yet Wright himself should not be disqualified. Actually, he is one of us.
In his third and decisive line of reasoning, Obama admitted that “I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother…a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street.” That is, the grandmother who is secretly scared of black men was presented by Obama as the moral equivalent of the pastor who openly preaches hatred for Israel and America’s destruction, and both “these people are a part of me…they are a part of America, this country that I love.”
To Obama’s credit, in his speech he did not bluff or beat around the bush. He did not try to make things look pretty, but rather, he drew on his persuasion skills in order to respond to the question of why he did not disown and is not disowning Pastor Wright: Because he views the pastor as an authentic representative of the black minority in America and a moral pillar of fire. He’s a little flawed, a little wrong, a little extreme, yet he is still a model.
Barack Obama is a smart, deep man who understands the soul of his voters, and he may become a president who surprises us for the better, even though his political inexperience is very worrying. However, I am much more concerned about his enthused fans, ranging from screaming college girls to the self-depreciating Jewish intellectuals. Their eyes have been blinded to see their new hero, the “sun of the nations,” as he is: Filled with stains.