Monday, March 19, 2012

Post #218 - Another Take on President Obama

Rabbi Michael Lerner, leader of a group called Tikkun (Hebrew for “healing,” as in tikkun olam – healing the world), gave an alternate take on recent events. (In a message this week to Tikkun’s membership and friends, he cited their full-page ad in the NY Times urging that neither Israel nor the United States make a preemptive strike on Iran.)

The media has distorted what has been going on between Obama and Netanyahu, representing it as Obama standing up to Netanyahu and being a hero for peace. But actually what happened is that Obama legitimated a first strike and preemptive attack on Iran, arguing with Netanyahu about the timing of such an attack, seeking to allow coercive economic sanctions to work first, but stating explicitly that Israel should not be constrained in any way to follow what it decides to be in its best national interest in regard to a strike on Iran. That's why AIPAC gave him a standing ovation when Obama addressed them a few days ago. 

Obama has now fully embraced the militarist position of George W. Bush who argued that it was legitimate for the U.S. to take a preemptive attack on Iraq based on the suspicion that they had nuclear weapons, just as Obama two months ago gave the green light to legislation that allows the US to imprison for life without a trial U.S. citizens the government suspects to be cooperating in some way with terrorists, and just as he has taken the lead in developing drone technology aimed at civilians (which Pentagon militarists say may soon be used inside the U.S.). The media ignores this significant tilt toward militarism in the policies and rhetoric of Obama, and its potential for building even more support for the right wing policies that were once considered extremist in US politics. In so doing, Obama has set a lasting precedent that can be cited by other countries in the future should China, Russia or India ever get to the point where they have sufficient military advances to use the strategy of preemptive attacks against Israel or even the U.S. The ethical foundation for this has been set by Obama's AIPAC speech and his green light to Israel to attack Iran should they feel the need to do so. His caution of restraint is only about the timing, not about the legitimacy of first strike or preemptive attack.

The media has blocked this position out of public discourse. Our own attempt and the attempt of other peace groups to raise this issue through op-eds and public statements has been totally ignored. That's why we had to buy the ad in the NY Times, and why we now need to continue this campaign against preemptive strikes by taking similar ads in Israeli and US media. We need your help (and your understanding that we will make these points but may frame some of the sentences differently to make the ad feel up to date by the time we've raised enough money to publish it in Israel and in US media). Would you help us do that by donating for this ongoing media campaign at, or at least by adding your name to the 2,700 people who signed the ad by the morning of March 7. You do NOT have to donate to add your name, though the donations will help us spread this message beyond the NY Times!

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