Israelis for Obama – Now, the Movie

Gershom Gorenberg

I met Avraham Yakin 30 years ago. We were on a tour group together in the Sinai. Everyone in the group but Avraham and his wife Hannah were students. Avraham was much older, an established artist. He’d been in the British army in World War II, and afterward in the Haganah.One night we climbed Jebel Mussa, the supposed Mt. Sinai, to reach the top at dawn. When the students arrived gasping for breath, Avraham was up there with his artist’s pad, sketching mountains and sunrise, serene, quiet, looking with sharp eyes across distances. Later I visited his home, in the Mahaneh Yehudah neighborhood of Jerusalem, next to the open market. He lived in a rambling stone house that had belonged to his family for several generations, the house in which he’d grown up, in which he and Hannah were raising eight kids in a kind of non-stop festival of creativity that made me look forward to being a father. (You want family values? Here are family values for you.)

What a pleasure meeting old friends in the right place. Avraham is in this video of Israelis – prominent and less known – who hope that Barack Obama will be elected president of the United States. To say that Obama would be better for Israel does not require revelation at Sinai, merely the ability to take a clear look back across the last eight years, and a clear look forward. Once again Avraham has that ability. So does ex-Knesset Member Naomi Chazan, one of Israeli’s leading political scientists and feminists. So does Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, former military chief of staff.

Obviously, American Jewish voters weigh many more issues than Israel, which is the way it should be. But those bothered by (unfounded) doubts about Obama’s commitment to Israel might do well by seeing this clip. Yes, it works mainly on the emotions – because the goal is to dispell inarticulate anxieties, not precise ideological positions. Bottom line: If Obama is kosher in Israel, he should be in Boca Raton.

Remember, if 269 Bush votes had been Gore votes in West Palm in 2000, the world would be a better place.

12 thoughts on “Israelis for Obama – Now, the Movie”

  1. I find it fascinating that you ‘progressives’ all seem convinced that somehow that Obama is going to succeed in ‘making peace’ between Israel and the Arabs when all his predecessors failed. Clinton made a full-court press including a high-profile summit after spending years coddling Arafat (Arafat visited the White House more times than any other foreign leader) and came up empty handed. Yes, I know the ‘progressive’ like to quote Robert Malley, Kurtzer, Miller and others who claim that “really” Arafat wanted a deal but Barak didn’t and that Clinton and Dennis Ross were “too pro-Israel” and so, somehow, Obama isn’t going to have any of these problems and he will come down harder on Israel.
    All of this is based on the myth that Israel and the US can get an agreement any time they want one since the Arabs are supposedly dying for one. This is a myth. There can be no agreement because the Arabgs will never agree to terms any Israeli gov’t could live with, with particular emphasis on the so-called “Palestinian Right of Return” which they will not give up. I saw an interview with Obama in the Jerusalem Post made during his visit some weeks ago and he said EXPLICITLY he can’t force an agreement on the two sides.

    Anyway, why do you all assume McCain wouldn’t attempt to force an agreement? Is it because you ‘progressives’ all think he is “too pro-Israel”? His top two foreign policy advisors are Henry Kissinger and James Baker, neither of whom are particular friends of Israel.
    Bush himself personally promised his close personal friends in the Saudi royal family that he would get the Palestinians a state. The problem that held it up was the Palestinian suicide bomber war against Israel and 9/11. Still, he pushed Israel for the destruction of Gush Katif , and although you ”progressives” got the pleasure of seeing peoples home lovingly built over 3 decades bulldozed (BY JEWS, NO LESS) and their synagogues and yeshivot desecrated by raging Arab mobs and then burned to the ground, all of this under Bush’ influence, you still give him no credit for all that excitement you got out of it. What a bunch of ingrates!- especially considering that Olmert promised another quick withdrawal . What is it you want? The reality is all Presidents of the US follow the same policies…withdrawal of Israel to the pre-67 lines in return for a peace agreement. Since this is not attainable, they then spend their terms doing “conflict management”. If Obama wins, it will be the same. I really think you “progressives” should remove your ideological rose-colored glasses and look at reality, for a change.

  2. I felt worse after watching this — even worse than after the vp debate. This is how we conduct the political process? Note that there is next to no cogent argument here, simply the assertion that Obama is good for Israel. I mean I agree, but why should this convince anyone?

    In a year where the problems the U.S. and the word faces are so huge and urgent, and when the policy and ideological differences between the candidates and parties are so clear, it’s depressing that no one is really talking pointedly about the issues.

    I’m not a campaign strategist, so maybe this kind of vapid political commercial is what convinces people to vote for candidates. But if that’s the case, all the worse for Israel, the U.S., and the world.

  3. Actually, Haim, I agree with you that this is shallow – it’s done on the level of old UJA feel-good PR for Israel. That kind of PR turned me off, and so does the lightweight approach of whoever put together this ad.

    Nonetheless, I think it may work on those voters who have no actual ideological or political objection to Obama, but just feel uncomfortable with him – somehow sure that he is unsafe for Israel though they can’t say why. The “why” may have to do partly with racism, and partly with being influenced by viral emails. The ad says: Calm down. Israelis are comfortable with him. You can be as well.

    This hints at a paradox of politics: It’s not true that all voters are superficial. But a significant portion of those who waver back and forth and make up their mind at the last minute are influenced by how the candidates strike their feelings. At some point, campaigns will focus on those voters, and the overall discussion seems to get very shallow. Alas, there are also Jewish voters who would rather go with how they feel than think about the candidates’ positions.

  4. I am frightened by videos like this one and I intend to vote for Obama. The power of emotion is incredible. I could not watch without feeling a rush. I believe humans are driven by the rush no matter how much they claim rationality.

    One must consciously hold emotion in check in politics because as in any form of advertising, those creating the material know exactly how to push your buttons. The only way to deactivate those buttons is to turn off the power supply at the source – in your head (well, maybe your endocrine glands).

    The greatest testimony to emotion as a lever in politics is the shallowness of American political dialogue. Obama is best placed to take advantage of the heartstrings – he’s black! His dad was African! He is the promise of America made flesh! It not only goes to the electorate’s heads, it can also cloud the mind of the elected, witness all the talk as a president nears the end of his term of his legacy.

    The number one reason I have to vote for Obama is to remove as many of the incompetents and ideologues of the current administration as possible while preventing the addition of more with McCain and CutiePie.

    The past eight years have not been all dark, they have increased my admiration for the strength of the United States system of government – we have survived the malign, conniving Dick Cheney who held us all beneath contempt.

  5. H Watzman & G. Gorenberg – this video is not meant for you. You find it shallow and trite because the points it makes are obvious to you. The facts it presents do not register with you because you are not even aware that they may be new to the target audience.

    But these facts are not apparent to the people I spent Rosh Hashanah afternoon with – my mother and her friends, older American Jews who do not read the Israeli press, and who may not know more than one or two Israelis, but who have a strong emotional reaction to anything they see aa a threat to Israel. These are voters who have a strong historic relationship with the Democratic Party and whose own self-interest – economic and social – is to vote Democratic. But they can be pried away if they can be led to believe that Obama is bad for Israel. The right accordingly has targeted them, with anti-Obama propaganda pitched at the lowest emotional level: Obama is a Muslim, he’s not an American, he hates Israel, he’s a terrorist.

    The “Obama is a Muslim” message has been particularly effective, spread by viral emails and word of mouth. That is why this video spends so much time on it, and on the name “Hussein.” You probably found the whole “Hussein” business confusing and boring. But it is essential that Jewish American voters lose their fear of the name, which the right routinely uses to smear Obama, as if his father and mother actually named him for Saddam.

    This video shows that actual Israelis are not afraid of Obama. You know that already, but the target audience does not. It’s intended to neutralize a fear that you don’t share – the fear that Obama is a stealth candidate, a secret Muslim and an ally of terrorists. You may think that fear is absurd, but it’s real. Once the fear can be overcome, an actual debate can be started. But the first step is to show that real Israelis of all ages and political views would welcome an Obama presidency.

  6. Bloix-
    I don’t think most Israelis support Obama. I don’t know if they are “afraid” of him, but I do know that the propaganda message Obama’s campaign put out about “tough soldiers who fought for Israel” only shows people associated with the far Left in Israel. Israelis prefer a President who projects American strength and power throughout the world. They remember that an appeaser like Jimmy Carter is associated with the rise of the Iranian mullahs to power, who are now Israel’s most outspoken enemy, and they fear that Obama is like him, and indeed Obama in the past has talked about opening unconditional talks with them and other America haters in the world (although he has qualified this in the debates I have heard).
    Thus, American Jews who care about Israel have legitimate reasons not to want Obama in the White House, and it has NOTHING to do with “racism”.

  7. Oops-I meant to say that Obama’s campaign recruited a few far Left Israeli IDF officers and Mossad people to say they want Obama (on what basis they reach this conclusion is beyond me, other than the fact that he says he wants “peace” , after all, McCain says the same thing). This is odd since they are not Americans and don’t vote in the US.

  8. The idea that Obama is better for Israel just isn’t “progressive propaganda”. It’s also predicated on a “maverick” like McCain making sudden, unpredictable moves that endanger Israel or the Middle East.

    On Oct. 6 the Los Angeles Times published a story on McCain’s early Navy record. “This examination of his record revealed a pilot who early in his career was cocky, occasionally cavalier and prone to testing limits.”

    While it’s true that a lot of personal transformation occurred after that, I think it’s fair to say that McCain is still “prone to testing limits”.

    No direct talks with Iran. Missile confrontation over the nuclear issue. The possibility of risk-taking pre-emptive strikes. I don’t really want a maverick testing limits in this milieu.

  9. Now the video’s endorsements appear to be fraudulently obtained, according to the interviewed…..this doesn’t do much to inspire faith in Obama.

    I don’t like Obama. It has nothing to do with Israel, his middle name, national security or that he’s black. If looks alone counted, he’s got McCain beat — he’s young, handsome, sexy and articulate.

    He’s also been running for President since his “community activist” days; he taylors his speeches to his audiences and changes his positions to fit his needs of the moment; his earmarks have gone to his wife’s hospital as payback for her obscenely gigantic raise; other earmarks have gone to his lobbyist lawyer pals; his mortgage comes from another Chicago pal who both sits on the hospital board with Michelle and gave the Obamas a $1.3 million mortgage.

    This is not “Change.” This is politics-as-usual.

    His slogan of “change” is nothing more than smoke and mirrors. He is a politician from the heart of the Chicago political machine, and that he will say anything to get elected. Morally, he is an empty suit.

    He will do nothing to advance the peace process.

    I don’t like McCain either. I wanted to vote for Hillary–but that’s no longer an option.

  10. I am frightened by videos like this one and I intend to vote for Obama. The power of emotion is incredible. I could not watch without feeling a rush. I believe humans are driven by the rush no matter how much they claim rationality.

    Frightened by the emotions it sets free? I think that’s it’s point. Should I feel shame for the tears?

    Anything is better than that this mindset wins again.

    Strictly I prefer tears from laughter too, watch especially the end.

  11. John Mc Cain should have been the Republican’s candidate in 2000 when he was more prone to have a mind of his own and not in league with the faustian right. The last few weeks have shown a old man who has lost it and his disasterous gaffs and illogical strategies hav e knocked the wheels off the “double talk express”. The annointing of Sarah Palin is blowing up in his face if polls are to be believed regarding her unfavorable ratings and his drop in the overall ratings. What should concern all Americans of all political stripes is the Karl Rove sponsored continued use of patently false racial advertisements and other slimy tactics. He used the same stuff on McCain in 2000 ,alas how soon we forget America has a deep seeded history of racial intolerance ; this is why polls mean nothing at this point.What frightens me more than anything is if the election is won by McCain because the same criminal activity by the Republicans in Ohio and Florida,I guarantee you that there will be mass killing and rioting

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