Monday, March 02, 2009

Compare and Contrast: the trade in false Messiahs

The Obama Administration Double-Deals On Israel -
Barack Obama just added double-dealing to his foreign policy repertoire. On Friday, administration officials led many Jewish leaders to believe that the president had decided to boycott the United Nation's "anti-racism" conference known as Durban II. At the same time, however, human rights organizations were being led to believe that the administration was not pulling out and was looking for a way to "re-engage."

Durban II, scheduled for Geneva in April, is the U.N.'s attempt at a rerun of the 2001 global anti-Semitic hate fest held in Durban, South Africa.

After sowing confusion over the phone lines, the State Department chose late Friday night to put the real deal in print. Their release reads: "the current text of the draft outcome document is not salvageable," and "the United States will not ... participate in a conference based on this text," but we will "re-engage if a document that meets [our] criteria becomes the basis for deliberations." A new version must be: "shorter," "not reaffirm in toto the flawed 2001 Durban Declaration," "not single out any one country or conflict," and "not embrace the troubling concept of "defamation of religion."

And by the way, it continued, the U.S. will "participate" for the first time in the U.N. Human Rights Council.

All of this leaves the American people not knowing whether they're coming or going.
In fact, Obama's four deal-breakers do not include many other troubling provisions still on Durban II's negotiating table. These include: questioning the veracity of the Holocaust, a variety of attacks on freedom of expression in addition to "defamation of religion," and incendiary claims of "Islamophobia"--the general allegation of a racist Western plot to discriminate against all Muslims.

The administration's decision to slip in the Human Rights Council as a consolation prize for Durban enthusiasts is an attempt to downplay a major move. State Department officials intimated that they intend not only to observe but to run for a seat--subject to the "likelihood of successful elections." Council members and human rights gurus, like China, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, are sure to welcome the instant legitimacy provided by U.S. participation. The Council--controlled by the Organization of the Islamic Conference--has adopted more condemnations of Israel than all other 191 U.N. states combined, while terminating human rights investigations on the likes of Iran, Cuba and Belarus. Obama's move denies the opportunity to leverage the prospect of American membership to insist on reform.

Whether Obama actually stays away from Durban II is most likely to depend on his cost-benefit analysis of sacrificing Israel vs. heeding the siren's call to engage. My guess is he'll take the loss in the engagement column on Durban and the Israel column on the Council. Who said the human rights business had anything to do with human rights? | Canada | Iran's ideology 'evil,' Harper tells U.S. paper
The ideology of the Iranian government is "evil," Prime Minister Stephen Harper says.

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal's editorial board, Harper criticized Iran, which the West accuses of covertly seeking to build nuclear weapons. Iran denies the charge.

"It concerns me that we have a regime with both an ideology that is obviously evil, combined with a desire to procure technology to act on that ideology," Harper said, as reported in the newspaper's online edition late Friday.

"My government is a very strong supporter of the state of Israel and considers the Iranian threats to be absolutely unacceptable and beyond the pale."
Many a liberal will see Harper's use of a word like "evil" to mark him as some kind of unsophisticate without the nuance of an Obama. I think however that Wretchard at Belmont Club has the latter closely pegged:
I am not so sure that Barack Obama is going to lose support among his followers any time soon. If deception has worked to his advantage so far it was largely the self-deception among those who felt compelled to believe in him. BHO’s great talent was knowing how to tap into this need and package himself so that he passed, like a shiny silk cloth which changes color depending on the angle of the light, as anything you wanted him to be at all.

The real political task isn’t to defeat BHO in the next election but revive among his cadre of supporters the ability to see things as they are. Otherwise they’ll simply elect someone else like him. I think the biggest challenge among conservatives is how to radicalize the liberals: radicalize as in getting them to see the root. There is no way things will change unless at least 20% of the voters who elected Obama find a way to see things differently. It won’t happen automatically. Peretz of the New Republic is apoplectic at the appointment of Chas Freeman yet still can’t bring himself to accept that Freeman is Obama’s creature: his appointee. Over the past month one nominee after the other has been found to have tax problems, legal problems or ethical problems and they’ve all been put down to “blunders” or “mistakes” — as if the President was somehow misled, or naive or didn’t know these people when he chose them despite having all the resources of a great state at his disposal. But how many have drawn the obvious conclusion. His appointments are consistently shady because the core of the administration itself is shady. They flow from the source and are not incidental to it. But no one will believe this, because there is a need to cling to a light-worker, a transcendent figure or at least a Cool Cat.
Now here's an example of the kind of thing Wretchard is talking about: My Muslim President Obama -
I know President Obama is not Muslim, but I am tempted nevertheless to think that he is, as are most Muslims I know. In a very unscientific oral poll, ranging from family members to Muslim acquaintances, many of us feel, just as African-Americans did for the non-black but culturally leaning African-American President Bill Clinton, that we have our first American Muslim president in Barack Hussein Obama.

I know it's odd to say this. At first, I thought I was the only Muslim engaging in this folly, and I am reluctant to express it lest right-wing zealots try to use "Muslim" as a smear and cite my theory as proof of an Islamic traitor in the White House or some such nonsense. But, since Election Day, I have been part of more and more conversations with Muslims in which it was either offhandedly agreed that Obama is Muslim or enthusiastically blurted out. In commenting on our new president, "I have to support my fellow Muslim brother," would slip out of my mouth before I had a chance to think twice.

"Well, I know he's not really Muslim," I would quickly add. But if the person I was talking to was Muslim, they would say, "yes he is." They would cite his open nature and habit of reaching out to critics, reminiscent of the Prophet Muhammad's own approach, and also Obama's middle name, Hussein. Most of the Muslims I know (me included) can't seem to accept that Obama is not Muslim.

Of the few Muslims I polled who said that Obama is not Muslim, even they conceded that he had ties to Islam. These realists said that, although not an avowed and practicing Muslim, Obama's exposure to Islam at a young age (both through his father and his stint in Indonesia) has given him a Muslim sensibility. In my book, that makes you a Muslim--maybe not a card-carrying one, but part of the flock for sure. One realist Muslim ventured that Obama worships at a Unitarian Church because it represents the middle ground between Christianity and Islam, incorporating the religious beliefs of the two faiths Obama feels connected to. Unitarianism could be Obama's way of still being a Muslim. (And let's not forget that the church Obama worshiped at for so many years had a minister who reminds most Muslims of their own raving, excitable ministers. Even if Obama really is Christian, he picked the most Muslim-esque minister out of the bunch to guide him.)

The rationalistic, Western side of me knows that Obama has denied being Muslim, that his father was non-practicing, that he doesn't attend a mosque. Many Muslims simply say back, "my father's not a strict Muslim either, and I haven't been to a mosque in years." Obama even told The New York Times he could recite the adhan, the Islamic call to prayer, which the vast majority of Muslims, I would guess, do not know well enough to recite.

I think many of us Muslims see Obama as Muslim, or at least of Muslim heritage, because his background epitomizes one of the major Muslim experiences--a diverse upbringing that eludes any easy classification as specifically one religion or one culture. So many of us Muslims around the world have Islam in common, but an altogether different culture from one another. Many Muslims share a culture with a Christian, Hindu or Buddhist community but not the same religion. When faced with such diversity, there are no hard and fast rules for Muslim identity.

The Qur'an speaks often of the umma, or the worldwide community of Muslims. In the early days of Islam, the Prophet Muhammad led the small umma. Every decision, every effort, everything was for the umma--people who were often unrelated by blood but had become related by choice as Muslims. In those early days, many Muslims had gone against the wishes of their own families in converting to Islam, pitting brother against sister, father against child. Perhaps that's why the concept of umma became so dear and is still echoed today--in my opinion, echoed more than that Western favorite jihad--in Muslim homes, whether those homes are in the United States or in Palestine.

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