I’ve already weighed in on the Emergency Committee for Israel’s newspaper ad attacking President Obama on Israel, but when I wrote my previous blog post I didn’t fully grasp something of significance.
As I noted earlier, among other things cited by ECI as evidence of the Obama administration’s alleged hostility toward Israel, the ad points to some critical remarks on domestic Israeli developments made by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The ECI ad included the following quote from Haaretz seemingly criticizing Clinton: “U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton got it badly wrong: Israel isn’t Iran, and comparing it to Iran… demonstrates either ignorance or malice.” The ad simply attributes the quote to “Haaretz,” as if the liberal Israeli daily itself had slammed Clinton for her remarks.
Let’s set aside for the moment the question of whether Clinton actually compared Israel to Iran (an issue I addressed in my previous post). There’s another issue, namely that the quote ECI uses in its ad is taken wildly out of context.
As I noted in my first post, the quote in the ECI ad was taken from an opinion article written by Haaretz columnist Zvi Bar’el. If you read the article in its entirety, however, it becomes clear that Bar’el is more interested in criticizing Israel than he is in criticizing Clinton.
Indeed, the rest of Bar’el’s article suggests that his criticism of Clinton may actually have been an effort at sarcasm aimed not at her but at her critics.
After the initial quote used by ECI, Bar’el continued:
First, Iran isn’t considered a democracy: It openly and proudly adopted a system of government in which a religious scholar is the supreme leader. Israel, in contrast, wears a facade of democracy even as a select group of religious scholars who are only ostensibly committed to the law dictate the state’s way of life.
Israel isn’t Iran. Iran officially and openly separates unmarried men and women in public venues. In Israel, such segregation is against the law, but in practice, it is alive and well and sneering at the law. In the army, on buses that serve the ultra-Orthodox community and in state religious schools financed by the government, segregation flourishes.
The article continues in that vein until it concludes with a ringing (and also likely sarcastic) defense of Israel’s right “to decide for itself what kind of democracy best suits it — even if it is a suicidal democracy.”
That’s not exactly the line ECI is trying to push.