Three recent instances of anti- Israeli stances have come from administration officials in a very short period of time.
First Hillary Clinton overreacted to an orthodox effort to separate the seating of men and women on Israeli buses. The effort was thwarted by Israel’s own courts.
From The Telegraph Israel furious at Hillary Clinton’s concern for democracy in country, 12/6/11:
“We fail to see why this is a matter of such importance for the US Secretary of State. Does she deal with the same urgency to the social problems in states other than Israel?
“There is capital punishment in America, this is not the practice in Israel. America’s hard-line Mormons practice polygamy. Which of us is like Iran? We could make many more comparisons which would point out just how ridiculous her criticisms are.”
From Commentary Clinton’s Anti-Israel Broadside Misreads Both Democracy and the Facts by Evelyn Gordon 12/5/11:
In the Obama administration’s latest salvo against Israel (see here and herefor previous rounds), Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reportedly accused Israel of behaving like undemocratic regimes, even comparing it directly to Iran.
This is so outrageous it shouldn’t need refuting. But since the secretary of state is clearly confused about what distinguishes democracies from non-democracies, allow me to help: Democracies, like non-democracies, consist of human beings, and human beings everywhere sometimes produce bad ideas. But unlike non-democracies, democracies have numerous self-correcting mechanisms to keep such bad ideas in check. And nothing better proves this than the very examples she cited.
Take, for instance, the segregated buses. Some years ago, a few extremist ultra-Orthodox communities decided that buses should be segregated, with men sitting in front and women in back. Shockingly, the public bus company serving these communities complied. Like Clinton, I find this outrageous, as did most Israelis when they learned of it. But here’s the part of the story Clinton didn’t tell:
Israel’s vibrant free press reported on the issue, creating a public outcry. The issue was taken up by Israel’s democratically elected government. Ordinary individuals joined with some of Israel’s numerous civil-society organizations to petition Israel’s independent High Court of Justice, which unsurprisingly ruled the segregation illegal. Now, civil-society activists are monitoring the ruling’s enforcement. The verdict so far, as per one activist’s account in Haaretz last month: Some ultra-Orthodox passengers are palpably hostile, but women can sit in the front of the bus without suffering harassment.
In short, the self-correcting mechanisms of Israel’s democracy worked exactly the way they were supposed to: Instead of receiving official sanction, as it does in, say, Saudi Arabia, gender segregation was legally quashed.
Leon Panetta earned a rebuke from the Anti -Defamation League (ADL) in ADL ‘Deeply Troubled’ at Speech by Defense Secretary Panetta that Puts Onus on Israel:
The president has taken important steps to express U.S. understanding of the challenges facing Israel, notably in his September speech to the U.N. General Assembly, and in work to forestall Palestinian statehood efforts at the U.N. Secretary Panetta’s unjustified attempt to place the onus on Israel to overcome these forces is a step backward in that effort at precisely the wrong time.
Finally U.S. Ambassador Howard Gutman placed blame for anti-Semitism in Europe on Israel’s shoulders. In the Jerusalem Post Scary US views 12/5/11:
Just two days before Panetta made his disturbing comments, US Ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman, the son of a Polish Holocaust survivor, basically blamed Israel for Muslim anti-Semitism in Europe.
Thankfully the White House later distanced itself from Gutman’s speech, made to aconference held by the European Jewish Union. Nevertheless, Gutman had carefully thought out what he said in advance. This was no slip.
First, he noted the “significant anger” and “yes, perhaps hatred and indeed sometimes an all too growing intimidation and violence directed at Jews generally as a result of the continuing tensions between Israel and the Palestinian territories and other Arab neighbors in the Middle East.”
But instead of denouncing Muslims who attack European Jews because Israel stubbornly insists on defending itself in, say, Operation Cast Lead – a military incursion into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip to stop rockets and mortar shells fired at Israeli civilians – Gutman attempted to understand these outbursts of violence as a legitimate reaction and, therefore, fundamentally different from “traditional” forms of anti-Semitism.
Just as Jews such as Gutman’s father were not responsible for the sort of anti-Semitism directed at them during the Holocaust, so, too, is it unfair to point to Israeli policies as triggering Muslim violence against European Jews.
And finally from Commentary Has Obama Destroyed the Alliance? By Jonathan Tobin, 12/6/11:
It’s been a difficult week for Israel. A trifecta of attacks on the foundation of the ties between the United States and the Jewish state in the past few days have exposed the ambivalent feelings of top Obama administration officials. If you add together recent statements by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta,Secretary of State Hillary Clinton andU.S. Ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman, it’s hard to blame Caroline Glick for claiming that “under Obama, the U.S. is no longer Israel’s ally.”
But it’s worthwhile pointing out that despite these ominous signals and the failure of the administration’s promises to stop Iran’s nuclear program, Obama is still operating under constraints that will make it difficult for him to further weaken the bonds that unite Israel and the United States. The offensive words uttered by Panetta, Clinton and Gutman, as well as previous actions by Obama, point more to their frustration with a situation in which they know they cannot teach Israel’s government the rough lesson they believe it deserves than anything else.
Read the articles in full and the various links. As Alan Derschowitz so eloquently explained, the difference between genuine criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism is when you expect Israel to act in a way that you would never expect another country to behave.
With friends like these…….