In these days of Occupy Wall Street demonstrations across the U.S., it’s important to see what motivates Obama administration policies here and abroad. Mr. Obama, as a candidate, had to bat away accusations that he was close, too close, to Rashid Khalidi, a radical Palestinian Arab intellectual. Candidate Obama then soothed worried friends of Israel, by minimizing his intellectual fealty to Khalidi, saying merely that “[Khalidi provides] consistent reminders to me of my own blind spots and my own biases” on matters related to the Arab-Israeli conflict. How humble. How becomingly modest.
Rashid Khalidi is a professor at Columbia University, Mr. Obama’s alma mater. Khalidi holds the Edward Said Chair in Modern Arab Studies at that distinguished Ivy League school. The late Edward Said (sigh-EED) gained respect among left-leaning intellectuals for his numerous writings on Orientalism, the notion that Western colonial powers viewed Arabs, Asians, Africans and Latin Americans as lesser peoples, as “others.” But Said was most famous—or infamous—for some direct action. He was photographed throwing stones at Israeli forces as they departed South Lebanon in 2000. Harmless, Said claimed, he was only practicing with his son. But deadly stoning was the weapon of choice for the intifadas engineered by Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas against Israeli soldiers. Arafat and Abbas knew that teenage boys throwing stones with lethal accuracy would play well in the Western media, including especially in the pro-PLO precincts of CNN.
At home, the Occupy Wall Street crowd quickly descended to anti-Semitism. They are protesting income inequality, they say, but their cry of 99% against the 1% is a veiled reference to American Jews, who constitute less than 2% of the U.S. population. More than a few anti-Semitic signs and demonstrators have been drawn to Zuccotti Park, in Lower Manhattan.
In Israel, author George Gilder points out, Arabs were wealthier on the West Bank of the Jordan River and in the Gaza Strip than any Arabs in the world. This, in territories administered by Jews that had no oil. From 1967, when Israel won the Six-Day War against four Arab enemies, until 1991, when Arafat instigated the first of his intifadas (stone-throwing riots by youths) and initiated suicide bombings as a terror tactic, Arabs working with the Israelis prospered and lived healthier longer lives.
Despite vast oil revenues in much of the Arab world, Gilder notes in his important book, The Israel Test, the Arab peoples who live in these countries are poor. We have only to contrast the vast wealth amassed by the late and unlamented Muammar Gaddafi (estimated at $200 billion) with the wretched state of the average Libyan to see this. This was equally true of Iraq. The Saudi people, while materially better off than many Arabs, nonetheless are denied religious and civil rights. Arab rulers keep their peoples at bay by blaming all their troubles on the Jews, on Israel.
Gilder sees a direct link from attitudes toward Israel, attitudes toward Jewish excellence, and attitudes toward free enterprise itself. Occupy Wall Street today is protesting against income inequality. They have been embraced by President Obama, whose stated goal is to “spread the wealth around.” Asked by an interviewer if he would seek tax increases on the wealthy even if that meant lower tax revenues for the government, Mr. Obama said he would, for the sake of “fairness.”
From each according to his abilities to each according to his need: that’s the standard Marxist formulation. Left unsaid is that it is Mr. Obama and his administration that decide whose needs are met and how much to take from those with abilities.
Gilder challenges us to ask ourselves what we think about excellence—that of Jewish achievers and all those others who excel. Do we resent their achievement? Do we attribute it to some evil conspiracy? Do we want to drag them down? Or do we want to emulate them, study, work hard, invent, create, and share our own ideas?
Gilder writes: “With wealth seen as stolen from the exploited poor, the poor in turn [are given] a license to dispossess and kill their oppressors and to disrupt capitalist economies. This is the foul message of Franz Fanon, Hamas, al-Qaida, Hezbollah, and the academic coteries of Chomsky, Zinn, and a thousand Marxist myrmidons across the campuses of the world. But no capitalist system can sustain prosperity amid constant violence. The idea that suicide bombing is a tolerable policy that can be extenuated by alleged grievances is preposterous. It is the violence that makes necessary the police measures that render economic progress impossible, particularly for the groups associated with the attacks. By justifying violent attacks on a civilized democracy -- and then condemning the necessary retaliatory defense -- leftists would allow no solution but tyranny.”
Gilder’s “Israel Test” is not one our Ivy Leaguer president can pass. Of course, Mr. Obama does not support terrorism. But he is giving $500 million this year to the PLO—which has simply deconstructed and re-defined its support for suicide bombers and stone throwers. The president simply shares the worldview of the academy—in which Israel is much to blame for “Mideast turmoil” as her attackers are. He believes that fairness requires redistribution of what he terms “the nation’s wealth.” He sees our Judeo-Christian heritage not as the bedrock of American Exceptionalism, but as merely one part of the broad tapestry of American life.
Barack Obama’s intellectual world is one in which Fanon, Chomsky, Zinn, and those neo-Marxist thinkers hold sway. Only free societies can create enough surplus wealth to support such dissident scholars and their “myrmidons” in the Occupy Wall Street Movement in their midst. But such societies—in the U.S. and Canada, in Western Europe and in Israel--will not survive if they do not understand and protect the very foundations of their own freedom.