Forward Thinking

Obama's Israeli Fans Sing His Praises

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

“Tank you Mister Obama, about everyting.”

So says a random Israeli interviewed in an exceptionally strange new video out today from the National Jewish Democratic Council.

The video opens with jaunty music playing under images of missile batteries. Then Israelis stopped on the street say nice things about the president.

One woman in a shopping mall laughs “Viva, Obama!” Residents of Sderot, the southern Israeli city that’s faced rocket attacks from Gaza, praise him. An older, bearded man standing on a sidewalk calls the president “a very bright man.”

Obama is apparently being thanked by Israelis for the Iron Dome system, which was designed to intercept missiles form Gaza. That’s strange, too, because the Iron Dome system is built in Israel. The United States partially funds the program.

The new ad comes a week after Sheldon Adelson initiated a libel suit against the NJDC.

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What Ashton Really Said: Watch the Video

By J.J. Goldberg

The foreign policy chief of the European Union, Catherine Ashton, is under furious attack for a speech she gave March 19, several hours after the deadly shootings at the Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse, in which she mentioned the Toulouse attack and deaths of Palestinian youths in Gaza in the same sentence.

First Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, called the supposed analogy “inappropriate.” Then others piled on: Defense Minister Ehud Barak called her words “outrageous.” Interior Minister Eli Yishai demanded she resign. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized her more indirectly, just before a meeting with French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, who had flown to Israel for the funerals of the Toulouse victims. The Anti-Defamation League expressed “outrage.” The American Jewish Committee expressed “profound dismay.” For a more detailed critique, here’s Middle East scholar (and my old high school chum) Barry Rubin, dissecting what’s wrong.

Actually, what’s wrong is the false notion that Ashton’s words were, as Barry puts it, “a statement” issued “in response to the Toulouse shooting.” They were nothing of the sort. As I write in my latest Forward column, she was delivering the keynote address at a U.N.-E.U. conference on the challenges facing Palestinian refugee youth. She concluded with a sad litany of unrelated tragedies around the world that clearly share nothing except that young people die. Here’s the video of the speech.

How did everyone get it so wrong?

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