Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Well, If Obama is Insulting Israel, You Have to Respect His Subtlety

According to the CBS News World Wide Blog:
Israeli TV newscasters Tuesday night interpreted a photo taken Monday in the Oval Office of President Obama talking on the phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as an "insult" to Israel.
What is this scandalous photo in which the president is so obviously slighting Israel? Well, it's this one:

How dare he sit like that while... showing his wrist watch? Wearing a tie? Pretending to give a purple nurple with his right hand? Okay... I have no idea.

Apparently what is driving the Israeli newscasters interpretation is:
They saw the incident as somewhat akin to an incident last year, when the Iraqi reporter threw a shoe at President Bush in Baghdad. It is considered an insult in the Arab world to show the sole of your shoe to someone. It is not a Jewish custom necessarily, but Israel feels enough a part of the Middle East after 60 years to be insulted too.
That another person throwing a shoe at the US president is exactly the same as a US president getting photographed from an angle that displays the bottom of his shoe to the camera lens - while at the same time talking to the Israeli Prime Minister - is obvious. Those are completely equivalent. There is no way to argue those facts. It would be like arguing about gravity, the existence of snakes, or that fedora is a funny word. That's all reality. And it's nonsense to take a contrary position.

What confuses me though is the next part: "It is not a Jewish custom necessarily, but Israel feels enough a part of the Middle East after 60 years to be insulted too." And I am confused in two ways -
  1. It's not that it's not a Jewish custom necessarily, it's not a Jewish custom definitively. In any possible way.
  2. "Israel feels enough... to be insulted." Is that the barometer for when to be insulted? "Well, it's within the realm of possibility to offer an interpretation of your words that I would find insulting, so... HOW DARE YOU!?" Why would that be the litmus test? I know some Jews don't use razors, but I didn't know that extended to Occam's Razor.
The only thing that comes to mind in regard to shoes and Jewish tradition is the commandment of chalitzah, which is a ceremony in which a widow unties the shoe of her brother-in-law (and spits in front of him) in order to absolve him of his requirement to perform levirate marriages.

Well, if Obama is saying he doesn't want to marry Israel... Sir, I am insulted!


  1. I am surprised he doesn't have a Bluetooth.

  2. Although I did see a picture of him with his blackberry on a belt clip. Just as bad.