Dr. Manfred GerstenfeldThe writer has been a long-term adviser on strategy issues to the boards of several major multinational corporations in Europe and North America.He is board member and former chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and recipient of the LIfetime Achievement Award (2012) of the Journal for the Study of Anti-Semitism.
For many years to come, doctoral dissertations and other studies will be written about the Obama administration. As rhetoric is one of President Barack Obama’s greatest skills, there is also much need for analysis of statements he made during his presidency. This should, as well, include what Obama did not say, as he has systematically ignored evident facts. Remaining silent about them constituted a major distortion of reality.
How Obama spoke about the Middle East and Muslims, what he did and what he did not say or do, is not only of interest to Israelis and Jews. It is also of great relevance to many others. In an article of limited size, one can only look at a few aspects of Obama’s expressions. Even these need further in-depth investigation.
The “Hope” poster created in 2008 by street artist Shepard Fairey became iconic for Obama, even though it was never officially adopted by his campaign. One word Obama used frequently was “change.” In his victory speech after being elected in November 2008 Obama said that “change has come to America.” He also spoke of changing the world, for instance in 2008 and in 2016.
Obama has brought no hope to the Middle East. To the contrary it has changed greatly for the worse under his presidency. The region is now far more chaotic than it was when he became President. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in the Middle East during the Obama presidency, mainly in Syria, but also in Iraq and other countries. The U.S has conducted airstrikes on seven countries from 2009 until today: Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and Syria.
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991, the position of Russia in the Middle East was greatly weakened. Putin’s policies have enabled Russia to become a leading player in the Syrian civil war. It now has an anti-aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean Sea to serve its ambitions. The flawed policies of the Obama administration made this possible.
In 2011 the United States moved away from decades of support for American ally Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. That facilitated the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is currently considered a terrorist group in Egypt. In 2013, field marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi overthrew Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Mursi after mass protests against the latter’s rule. The Egyptian Army and Sisi, now Egypt’s President, have greatly reduced the dangers of this extremist Muslim organization. Yet his government is largely ignored by the Obama administration. There are various indications of his administration’s sympathy for the Muslim Brotherhood, the breeding ground of most Islamic terrorist organizations, including ISIS.
Obama’s distorted view of the Muslim world was already apparent early in his presidency. In his 2009 Cairo speech Obama apologized for Western “colonialism,” and understated the major criminality prevalent within many parts of the Muslim world.
Obama applied double standards when he consistently ignored many important facts concerning the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. He demanded that the Israeli government stop building in the "settlements". When he visited Israel and the Palestinian Autority territories in 2013 his behavior and rhetoric betrayed these double standards.
A thorough investigation is required about the American interference in the 2015 Israeli elections.
A thorough investigation is required about the American interference in the 2015 Israeli elections. In that year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel would not build any new "settlements in the West Bank". Yet the Obama Administration regularly condemns Israeli building in the territories, even if minor.
In a major interview he gave to Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic all Obama could say about the Palestinian Arabs was the caricature remark: “The Palestinians are not the easiest of partners.” Not a word by Obama about the fact that the largest party Hamas is a genocidal Islamo-Nazi movement. Not a word about the glorification of murderers of Israeli civilians by the Palestinian Authority. Nor has Obama ever demanded that various Arab or Muslim countries stop murderous anti-Semitic incitement.
Obama has defended his criticism of Prime Minister Netanyahu arguing that such criticism gives him credibility when defending the Jewish state in the world arena. According to both the State Department definition of anti-Semitism and the IHRA definition which needed the agreement of the U.S government to pass, Obama’s double standards condemning Israel while remaining largely silent about the many huge crimes in parts of the Muslim world qualify as anti-Semitic.
One subject which should be investigated in far more detail is to what extent Obama’s frequent criticism of Israel has contributed to the anti-Israel mutation of anti-Semitism on campuses in the United States.
Another topic for investigation of Obama’s rhetoric concerns the major persecution of Christians in the Muslim world that took place during his presidency. One would have to check whether it was entirely or largely ignored. Part of his whitewashing technique was the doubtful claim that ISIS and Al Qaeda distort Islam. Obama was also silent regarding the frequent, radical, anti-Semitic hatred emerging from large parts of the Muslim world.”
Obama avoids linking terrorism to Islam. He has admitted that he refrains from using the words “Islamic terror” in describing Middle East extremism. The Obama administration has referred to terror attacks by Muslims as “lone wolf attacks” and refused to use the term “radical Islam.” The terms “Islam” and “jihad,” “Islamic extremism,” “radical Islamic terrorism,” and “radical Islam” have been banned from US Security documents.
Obama does not remain largely silent about Muslim criminality because he is ignorant or uneducated in these matters. He does so intentionally. In the interview with Obama, Goldberg mentioned that Obama has not come out against the huge criminality in large parts of the Muslim world in order not to “exacerbate anti-Muslim xenophobia.” During his first trip to a mosque while in office, Obama said that Muslim-Americans were being "targeted and blamed for the acts of a few". In a 2012 speech to the UN General Assembly, Obama said, “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.” This contrasted with his structural silence about the anti-Semitic hatred and other slander coming out of large parts of the Muslim world.
In a speech to the American people after the cruel murder of journalist Jim Foley by the ISIS movement, Obama said, “No faith teaches people to massacre innocents.” One can only hope that the Trump Administration will make it clear that much of the world’s terror is linked to Islam and that this is a factor in changing the world for the worse.
In his first meeting with the press after the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States, Obama had advice for him, which included maintaining “a commitment to reason and facts and analysis.” If Obama had applied that advice himself he would have spoken often and truthfully about the huge problems emanating from parts of the Muslim world.
The above are not more than fragments which require both further investigations and far more profound analysis. Another major issue, though not in the category of rhetoric, is to what extent Obama has saddled the world through the agreement with Iran with a huge future problem. Much depends however on what the Trump administration will do concerning this matter.