Some 40 centuries of history are recalled when Jews celebrate Passover in their calendar and what this history of exile, persecution and the flight to freedom from Egypt to Canaan (Palestine) means for each passing generation of Jews.
Passover this year coincided with an ominous chill in relationship between the Obama administration and Israel.
There have been, in the past, difficult moments between American presidents and Israeli leaders when the two countries’ interests appeared at odds. President Eisenhower, for instance, leaned heavily on Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion after the 1956 Suez War to withdraw Israeli forces from Sinai.
It was, however, President Truman — when he supported the partition of Palestine and, soon after Ben-Gurion announced Israel’s independence in May 1948, extended diplomatic recognition to the new country over his State Department’s objection — who set the tone and substance of what is meant by America’s embrace of the Jewish state.
When the survival of Israel, surrounded by Arab enemies, hung in precarious balance and there was no glimmer of how this little patch of earth squeezed between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea could be of strategic importance to the United States, what mattered to Truman was the moral imperative in affirming the right of Jews to have sovereignty over a part of Palestine that was their ancestral home.
It is this moral imperative that has guided every president since Truman up to George W. Bush — Jimmy Carter was the exception — to keep America’s embrace of Israel generous in private and firm in public.
This embrace was also meant for Israel’s foes to note America’s weight will favour the Jewish state in holding the balance between Jews and Arabs.
Carter equivocated between Arabs and Jews as he still does, and he gave heart to the legions of Israel’s mortal enemies.
Now sits in the White House another president who has taken Carter’s equivocation to new lengths, and views Israel as a liability for America in accommodating the Arab-Muslim world.
Obama is America’s first African-American president, and he is also the first American president emotionally representative of Third World sentiments. For two decades without a whimper, Obama soaked in the racially toxic prejudices of his pastor Reverend Jeremiah Wright, and his treatment of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House recently barely masked his scorn for the Jewish state.
There is terrible irony in all of this since an overwhelming majority of American Jews voted for Obama. It could be said that this one-sided vote was indicative of how Jews remain open to embrace the other in their longing for peace.
Israeli leaders since Yitzhak Rabin have shown their willingness to go any distance for securing peace with their neighbours without weakening their country’s security.
But the overwhelming majority of Arabs and Muslims are fanatically committed to the destruction of Israel as laid out in the charter of the Palestinian Hamas, or as publicly declaimed by the present day leaders of Iran.
Four millennia of Jewish history teach Israelis how to contend with their foes, and on this Passover how to bear with patience an American president with a wayward sense of morals and politics.