Does Obama Really Doubt Kosher Market Attackers’ Anti-Semitism?

paris62047[1]President Obama and other members of his administration have repeatedly condemned the January 9 Paris kosher market attack as anti-Semitic.

Anti-Semitic attacks like the recent terrorist attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris pose a threat that extends beyond the Jewish community. (Barack Obama, January 22)

The violent assault on the Jewish community in France that took place on Friday afternoon – as the Jewish community in Paris was in the final hours of preparing for the restfulness and peace of the Sabbath – was the latest in a series of troubling incidents in Europe and around the world that reflect a rising tide of anti-Semitism. (Denis McDonough, White House Chief of Staff, January 13)

All four [victims] were casualties of violent anti-Semitism–targets because they were Jews. All were killed playing some role in preparation for the celebration of Shabbat – a core practice of their faith. (Samantha Power, US Ambassador to the UN, January 22,

But in a Feb. 9 interview with Vox’s Matthew Yglesias, the President was not as clear as he could have been, and his critics ignored all of his previous statements and leapt to the most implausible interpretation, as if this was the first time the President spoke about it.

Yglesis: Do you think the media sometimes overstates the level of alarm people should have about terrorism and this kind of chaos, as opposed to a longer-term problem of climate change and epidemic disease?

Obama: Absolutely. And I don’t blame the media for that. What’s the famous saying about local newscasts, right? If it bleeds, it leads, right? You show crime stories and you show fires, because that’s what folks watch, and it’s all about ratings. And, you know, the problems of terrorism and dysfunction and chaos, along with plane crashes and a few other things, that’s the equivalent when it comes to covering international affairs. There’s just not going to be a lot of interest in a headline story that we have cut infant mortality by really significant amounts over the last 20 years or that extreme poverty has been slashed or that there’s been enormous progress with a program we set up when I first came into office to help poor farmers increase productivity and yields. 7 It’s not a sexy story. And climate change is one that is happening at such a broad scale and at such a complex system, it’s a hard story for the media to tell on a day-to-day basis.


Cartoon courtesy of Yaakov “Dry Bones” Kirschen:

Look, the point is this: my first job is to protect the American people. It is entirely legitimate for the American people to be deeply concerned when you’ve got a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris. We devote enormous resources to that, and it is right and appropriate for us to be vigilant and aggressive in trying to deal with that

Compounding matters, two White House spokespeople did a terrible job responding to questions, although they did get it right later that same day.

Our view has not changed. Terror attack at Paris Kosher market was motivated by anti-Semitism. POTUS didn’t intend to suggest otherwise. (John Earnest, White House Press Secretary, February 10)

We have always been clear that the attack on the kosher grocery store was an anti-semitic attack that took the lives of innocent people. (Jen Psaki, Department of State Press Secretary, February 10)

Yair Rosenberg spells it all out:

One of the downsides of Obama’s carefully cultivated intellectual persona is that onlookers often mistake his errors for intended actions, not realizing that this president makes miscues like any other. What critics would’ve written off as a gaffe if it came from George W. Bush, they instead see as part of deliberate plan when it comes from Obama. But those who would read a malevolent worldview–rather than mere mangled messaging–into this episode should remember that the Obama administration has in fact been a stalwart critic of rising European anti-Semitism. The president even dispatched his confidant Samantha Power to Berlin to hector European nations about not doing enough to fight it. It is exceedingly unlikely that the administration has suddenly decided that Jew hatred on the continent is no longer a problem.

Hopefully, the next time the president errs, his team will simply correct the record the first time, rather than awkwardly attempt to spin his mistake into something more sensible.

Obama Backs Israel’s Right to Self Defense Action Over Syria

— by John Tackeff

Over the weekend, President Barack Obama reaffirmed Israel’s right to defend itself with respect to Syira. President Obama said in an interview with Telemundo:

What I have said in the past and I continue to believe is that the Israelis justifiably have to guard against the transfer of advanced weaponry to terrorist organizations like Hezbollah. We coordinate closely with the Israelis recognizing they are very close to Syria, they are very close to Lebanon.

More after the jump.
Further, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Obama Administration is keeping in close contact with the Israeli Government to monitor the situation:

[Principle Deputy White House Press Secretary] Earnest said Obama believes Israel is justifiably concerned about the threat posed by Hezbollah obtaining advanced weapons systems, including missiles. The U.S. “is in very close contact” with the Israeli government on a range of issues, Earnest added.

Dems Denounce Perry/Romney Call to “Zero Out” Aid to Israel

— by Jason Attermann

This weekend, leading Republican presidential candidates Texas Governor Rick Perry and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney called for zeroing out the foreign aid budget, which includes vital aid to Israel that maintains its Qualitative Military Edge.

Reactions from the NJDC, White House, DNC, Wexler, Levine and Bloomfield follow the jump.
National Jewish Democratic Council

On Monday, the National Jewish Democratic Council organized a petition to send a clear message to the Republican Party that zeroing out aid to Israel is not acceptable.

White House

The White House objected the proposal, citing instances in which President Barack Obama’s support to Israel-including record-breaking assistance above and beyond the 2007 Memorandum of Understanding — played a crucial role in defending the Jewish state. When asked about Perry’s and Romney’s policy to start aid at zero, Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said:

Well, I can certainly say that is not an approach that this administration has taken.  There are a number of countries where the United States directly benefits from having a role in those countries, and that we can certainly help-that the provision of civilian assistance is critical to the success of promoting American interests and serving American interests in countries around the world.

The first one that comes to mind is obviously Afghanistan. But the other example that’s been talked about is Israel, and that certainly one of the things that the President has done is strengthened our ties with that country, and provided significant assistance in the form of the Iron Dome project and others that are critical to Israel’s security.

So these are the kinds of-it’s the President’s view that this is an appropriate use of government resources, particularly when we’re in the time when the federal government has to tighten-we have to tighten our belts, and we need to scrub the budget, go line by line to look for opportunities where we can reduce the budget and cut the budget. But we can’t do it at the expense of ensuring that our interests are well represented and well promoted all around the world….

I can say that it’s an approach that’s entirely different than the one that President Obama has pursued.

Democratic National Committee

Democratic National Committee Chair Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) rebuked the candidates:

I’m aghast that the leading Republican contenders for President tonight, including Mitt Romney, pledged to zero out the foreign aid budget including the traditional and vital support the U.S. has provided the Jewish state of Israel for its security. I cannot think of a more irresponsible, risky or deplorable position towards our most important friend and ally. That Mitt Romney and these candidates would sacrifice the security of the state of Israel for an applause line at a debate and to appeal to the far right wing Tea Party faction of the Republican base, shows that not a single one of them has what it takes to be Commander-in-Chief.

Robert Wexler

Haaretz’s Natasha Mozgovaya reported on former Representative Robert Wexler’s (D-FL) press conference, in which he called the candidates’ position “troubling.”

‘Romney was torn between two constituencies. He had an opportunity to appease the Tea Party constituency. On the other hand, he knew those who support Israel would feel differently – and he made his choice,’ Wexler explained.

For almost half an hour, Wexler lashed out at the Republican presidential hopefuls’ approach. ‘What is the most troubling in the position the Republican candidates took with such enthusiasm, is the fact they ignored the memorandum of understanding with Israel in 2007 that America agreed to provide $30 billion of military assistance to Israel in 10 years, and now we are in the third year of it,’ he said.

‘They either ignore it or intend to violate it. This memorandum of understanding is sacrosanct – and they have no intention to implement it or strengthen it as President Obama did. Ideas to minimize it, relocate it, zero it out are unfortunately designed to put the foreign aid on shakier ground, and it’s unacceptable. It particularly sends disturbing and dangerous message to nations like Iran. If you zero out the foreign aid to other countries, the aid to Israel is unsustainable,’ he added.

He further warned of the dire consequences America and Israel would face if Israel’s foreign aid was cut as proposed.

Mel Levine

Former Representative Mel Levine (D-CA) questioned Romney’s agreement with Perry’s suggestion to zero out foreign aid, asking, “Is this his idea of how the U.S. should increase needed support for Israel?”

Gov. Romney recklessly and inaccurately misrepresents President Obama’s record of leadership in foreign policy in general. His disdain for the President Obama’s foreign policy conveniently ignores the president’s leadership in building international coalitions which have imposed exceptionally stiff sanctions on Iran….

And, ironically, in terms of inventing his own facts, the core policies Romney advocates have already been accomplished by President Obama. (Perhaps the former Governor has not been paying attention.) For example, Romney argues that current sanctions against Iran are weak and specifically states that ‘if there ever was a possibility of gaining the Kremlin’s support for tougher sanctions against Tehran … President Obama foreclosed it.’ But he fails to recognize that President Obama succeeded, where others had failed, in obtaining both Russian and Chinese support for international sanctions against Iran, sanctions as a result of the president’s leadership are the strongest that have been obtained by any U.S. president.

Douglas Bloomfield

In writing about this topic, The Jewish Week’s Douglas Bloomfield made an interesting observation about the backpedaling statements issued by the Romney and Perry campaigns:

[M]ost revealing, neither candidate pledged to maintain the current level of U.S. aid to Israel under the agreement signed during the Bush Administration and extending beyond the end of the term of the president to be elected next year.