Obama is Jewish like I’m the Pope. Actually, that’s not a fair comparison. Like I’m Steppin Fetchit.
by Seth Mandel
It turns out Adam Sandler needs to revise his classic “Hanukkah Song.”
The new line: “Barack Obama: Not a Jew.”
What makes that necessary is that President Obama and some of his media courtiers seem to think he’s an honorary member of the tribe.
Obama consigliere David Axelrod told an Israeli news outlet this week that Obama once said to him, “You know, I think I am the closest thing to a Jew that has ever sat in this office.”
That’s not the first time the idea of Obama’s Jewyness has popped up, but it is the most explicit. And it goes to not just Obama’s ignorance, but confusion among the Jews he knows best — progressive Jews.
It also comes as we hit the anniversary of the date that confusion got a lot worse — for June 5, 1967, was the start of the Six-Day War, after which Israel went from underdog to regional military power — and the Western left fell out of love with it.
And that was a big problem for Jewish liberals who’d fallen back on identifying with the ever-imperiled Jewish state for their ethnic solidarity.
Which brings us to why Obama thinks he’s Jewish — or, at least, Jew-ish.
From the start, Obama’s been outwardly hostile to the Israeli government and uninterested in changing course.
So his defenders offered a new spin: Only true friends of Israel would criticize the Jewish state relentlessly, harping on its flaws while speaking apocalyptically of its future.
This was always nonsense: No one criticizes Israeli politicians more than other Israelis.
But the heart of the left’s criticism always goes back to the same moment in time: June 1967. That’s when Israel took over the territory from Jordan and Egypt on which many Palestinians hope to build a state.
Because of Israel’s supposedly Pyrrhic victory — or, as Ahron Bregman calls it in a recent book, Israel’s “Cursed Victory” — its demographic future, and democratic character, is in question. And so, the argument goes, Israel’s true friends must speak up to save Israel from itself.
This is ideological sour grapes masquerading as brotherly love. But Obama never recognized that because these are overwhelmingly the Jews he knows.
This isn’t the place to elaborate on how, for all that most US Jews vote as liberals, progressive politics clashes with traditional Jewish ideals and practices.
Yet the fact remains that many, perhaps most, Jews don’t actually want to sanctify secular humanism as a replacement for traditional theology.
It’s the Jews who do try to make progressivism the heart of their Jewish identity who think Obama is so Jewy.
In 2012, The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg bizarrely wrote that the only real argument concerning Obama and Judaism is over “what sort of Jew he actually is.”
Then he explained what he meant by Obama’s Jewishness: “No president, not even Bill Clinton, has traveled so widely in Jewish circles, been taught by so many Jewish law professors, and had so many Jewish mentors, colleagues, and friends and advisers as Barack Obama.”
True enough: Obama traveled in liberal circles, lived in liberal cities, studied in liberal academia and, as an activist and teacher, had a great many liberal colleagues. Parochial and intellectually incurious, he plainly absorbed their take on Judaism’s essence.
That essence has, in the hands of progressive Jews, been directed away from ancient texts and toward an airy version of the Jewish concept “tikkun olam” — repairing the world.
Obama’s worldview was shaped by social-justice warriors and puritanical progressives. That many of them happened to also be Jewish doesn’t provide Obama with the frame of reference he and his admirers clearly think he has.
You don’t have to be a philo-Semite to be the kind of president Israelis will embrace. (Few if any presidents were as crucial to Israel’s survival as Richard Nixon was during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and Nixon was no philo-Semite.) But it would help if Obama understood what he claimed to represent.
There’s a great deal of irony in this. Obama the uninformed, narrow-minded narcissist lays claim to honorary membership in the People of the Book. And his history of Israel is stuck in 1967 without understanding the events before or since.
Judaism is, as the cliché goes, a mosaic. That Obama doesn’t seem to even grasp this basic point perfectly underscores the daft strangeness of his comment — and the consistency of his insular worldview.
Seth Mandel is The Post’s op-ed editor.
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