But I have to say, I find that whole argumentative sequence bizarre. I've noted before that I -- resolute Zionist that I am -- have no serious problem with the "nobody is suffering more" statement. People are acting as though Obama was claiming that the Palestinians are objectively worse than Darfuri Africans. But Obama was speaking in the context of a) the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and b) failures of leadership -- nobody suffers more than the Palestinians from the failures of their own leadership. And that's true (as was quipped, the Palestinian leadership "never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity"). Tragically, I can't say that nobody would be so rabidly anti-Israel as to think that Israeli treatment of the Palestinians is worse than the Sudan's treatment of the denizens of Darfur, because that appears to perfectly characterize the UN (more on them in a minute). But it's clearly not Obama's position.
So, the original statement -- supposedly proof of Obama's bold progressive independence from the clutches of The Israel Lobby (or whatever) -- is perfectly consistent in my mind with mainstream pro-Israel politics and practice. Then, we move to the betrayal: Obama's demand that the UN unequivocally condemn rocket attacks coming out of Gaza.
Knowing my friend, the problem here isn't (I don't think) that the rocket attacks are not important or condemnable. Rather, I suspect his concern is that Obama didn't nod strongly enough towards the suffering of the Gazans. But anyone who even casually observes the UN knows that their problem is not that they're insufficiently attentive to the plight of the Palestinians. The UN is perfectly able and willing to launch an infinite amount of fusillades regarding the horrific Israelis and their bloody imperialist wars of domination. What's missing is any substantive counter-weight -- that Israelis are suffering too, that Palestinian terrorism is a significant issue, a (if not the) primary obstacle to the peace process, and utterly unjustifiable to boot (as opposed to "resisting the occupation"). Criticizing a speaker for being insufficiently worried about Palestinians getting their due account in UN resolutions is like criticizing the NAACP for not showing enough concern about White people's rights in 1935 Mississippi. That isn't the problem -- Jim Crow Mississippi didn't due anything else but concern itself with the rights of White people.
I remember once being in a practice debate round in which the other team ran a plan by which the US would become more "balanced" in its voting on UN resolutions concerning Israel. "More balanced" was left incredibly vague, but I noted that the US already has a well-delineated criteria, the Negroponte Doctrine, determining whether we will support a given UN resolution regarding the Israeli/Palestinian conflict (this was in July of 2002):
For any resolution to go forward, the United States — which has a veto in the 15-nation council — would want it to have the following four elements:
* A strong and explicit condemnation of all terrorism and incitement to terrorism;
* A condemnation by name of the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, Islamic Jihad and Hamas, groups that have claimed responsibility for suicide attacks on Israel;
* An appeal to all parties for a political settlement of the crisis;
* A demand for improvement of the security situation as a condition for any call for a withdrawal of Israeli armed forces to positions they held before the September 2000 start of the al-Aqsa intifada Palestinian uprising in which 1,467 Palestinians and 564 Israelis have died.
Precisely which of those four elements is an unreasonable demand for inclusion? But yet, they consistently fail to be met, so the US consistently vetoes SC resolutions. It is extraordinarily depressing to me that this is considered some sort of capitulation away from progressivism.
So getting back to the original point: Obama really hasn't moved at all. There is no tension between noting that Palestinians suffer greatly in the I/P conflict, particularly from being constantly betrayed by their leadership, and demanding that the UN take a time-out from single-minded blasting of Israel to remember that Jewish lives matter too. Both are crucial insights that all progressive parties need to keep in mind when viewing this conflict.