Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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Obama, Judaism, and the Holocaust

by Elliott Abrams
September 25, 2012

In June 2009, President Obama addressed the Muslim world in a speech in Cairo.  About Israel, he said this:

America’s strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.

Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed – more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today.

At the time, there were objections from Israelis and from many Jews in the United States that he appeared to believe Israel was the product of the Holocaust, period.  The “tragic history” to which he referred appeared to be not two millennia of anti-Semitism but the Holocaust alone, and he seemed to ignore two millenia of Jewish longing for a return to Jerusalem.

Today the president said this in his speech to the UN General Assembly:

The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam. Yet to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see when the image of Jesus Christ is desecrated, churches are destroyed, or the Holocaust is denied.

As Ronald Reagan once said, there he goes again. Islam has a prophet; Christianity has a savior, but Judaism has…. the Holocaust. The problem Jews and especially Israelis face, with apologies for having to spell it out, is not so much Holocaust denial as it the slander of the Jewish religion as a whole and the desire to eliminate the Jewish state.

Mr. Obama and his speechwriters should get over their equation of Judaism and Israel with the Holocaust. It is dispiriting to see the 2009 error repeated again three years later.



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Post a Comment 9 Comments

  • Posted by Ken

    Mr. Abrams is pro-Israel to the extreme as all of his posts show. That is his right of free speech but I am surprised that the Council, which I had always thought was a a neutral organisation when it comes to issues such as this, does not allow at least an op-ed response. His views are too biased to be considered good scholarship. kl

  • Posted by Noga

    It’s more than that. There cannot be an equivalence suggested between offending the prophet, Jesus or religions and denying the Holocaust. Religions are based on myths and blind faith and are a matter of personal choice and inclination. The holocaust is an event, recorded, attested to, suffered by people who still have living memory of it. Offending the prophet might hurt his believers’ feelings. Denying the Holocaust goes far behind mere offending of feelings –it is a denial of historical, verifiable facts. To equate these things, Muhammad, Jesus and the Holocaust, is to imply that the Holocaust is an event on the same footing as the lives and virtues of mythical figures.

    Obama’s selection of words in his recent UN speech does nothing to clarify this CRUCiAL distinction, of which I’m sure he is fully aware.

  • Posted by James

    Objects of pity (the opposite of what Israel is and should be regarded as) are tolerated for a time, but do not last when the going gets tough; to the apostate, they serve as an inconvenient reminder that the mere projection of comfort and prosperity into eternity is a complete façade.
    ‘Strong Bonds’ = B.S.
    ‘Unbreakable’ – Why the apparent redundancy?
    ‘Cultural and Historical’ = Swiss (Neutrality)
    Recognition and aspiration = Ayn Rand, precisely the atheist abhorrence one must revile (it is a logical impossibility to rule out the existence of G-d; one must preserve the asymptote). Ideally, Yom Kippur serves that function, though not in matters of life and death.

  • Posted by Steve

    Our right of free speech does not depend on whether Muslims do or do not say or do terrible things. Even were Muslims not to burn churches etc., they have no standing to deny my free speech rights. The whole point is absurd.

  • Posted by Nougat

    What is the Israeli expression that says people call others by what they are themselves? Beware that you do not become a ‘mythical figure’.

  • Posted by Mihai-Robert Soran

    It’s not Obama’s fault.
    He just adopted Netanyahu’s view of the world and its history. For him, Jews, Israel, Holocaust and God are closely tight together. Listening to Netanyahu the largest danger for Israel is a new Holocaust he’s waiting as intensively for as most orthodox Jews wait for Messiah ….

  • Posted by josephs

    Would be grateful to be corrected using history rather than myth:
    First ever reference to a CXanaanite Jerusalem 1500BCE
    First historical reference to early Israelites (not Jews) 1230 BCE
    Second reference 850BCE (400yrs later) .Nothing else in between
    North Kingdom of Israel destroyed by Assyrian SargonII 722BC
    Up to that time, the many Gods of Israel were : Ashtar-Chemosh, Yahweh, Astaroth, Asherttoreth, Baal and Asherah.
    In 720 BC almost all of the 12 tribes of North Israel were deported to Mesopotamia. The broken political Covenant with Assyria is replaced by a spiritual Covenant with the preferred God Yahweh naming him as the Only One in return for His Protection :this was the birth of the monotheistic Jewish religion Whilst in Babylon, the Jews set about beginning the writing of the Old Testament: a beautiful,inspiring, in-house magazine.

  • Posted by Herman King

    The holocaust is religion, not history.Old jews who “remember” the holocaust remember their horrible time in concentration camps, which was not the holocaust.The entire WW2 was a holocaust aimed at exterminating the German people.It almost succeeded.Germans, not Jews, are the scapegoats of history.

  • Posted by Jett Rucker

    Equating the mainstream mythology of the Holocaust (gas chambers, genocidal intent, six million deaths) with the mythologies of the Prophet and of the Son of God is PRECISELY on point.

    Regardless of what he believes about the mythologies themselves, Obama’s understanding of the nature and bases of the belief systems is bang on. Appearances aside, you DON’T get to be President by being stupid.

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