Thursday, March 15, 2007

Who's Suffering?

Am I the only one who thinks this is insane? Barack Obama gets in trouble for saying, “nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people”? Just who is criticizing him over it? There are certainly lots of knowing pundits talking about how this’ll hurt him with the AIPAC crowd. But is there a sane human being who would actually argue that, as a collectivity, the Israeli people are currently suffering more than the Palestinian people? Life in Gaza and much of the West Bank is one of unceasing misery, for god’s sake. This has nothing to do with whether you think Hamas is a legitimate political group, or whether you think the wall is a reasonable response to a security threat, or whether you think Arafat was a terrorist or a statesman.

Believe me, I appreciate what Israelis live with. I’ve spent plenty of time there, and members of my immediate family have shed blood fighting in Israel’s wars. But I repeat: is there anyone who would actually argue that the Israeli people are “suffering” more than the Palestinian people? If not, why is this controversial?

Even the people quoted raising objections are not objecting to Obama’s point about suffering. For instance, in this article in the Des Moines Register, we hear Paulee Lipsman, a former DNC member from Des Moines, say, “I think there's a great deal of empathy for the Palestinian people, but they need to change their government.” Fair enough. But she’s not arguing that they aren’t suffering. Yet the article’s headline said “Obama Remark Draws Fire From Jews.” Didn’t sound too much like “fire” to me.

But wherever you do find someone criticizing Obama directly, they seem to be saying that it’s other Jews who are going to be really mad. “Awarding first place in the suffering matrix is odious and infelicitous,” one Rabbi tells the New York Times. “I think a lot of Americans would find that comment offensive, too.” Would they? Allow me to engage in a little hyperbole here and state that nearly anyone who’s crazed enough to “find that comment offensive” has already decamped for Kiryat Arba or Ma’ale Adumim, where, in a monstrous act of fanaticism and selfishness, they’ve put their own children in the line of fire because the Moshiach will be arriving any day now.

So this seem seems to me like little more than an opportunity for reporters to write stories about how Barack Obama isn’t quite ready for prime time.

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