While Michael W. Schwartz finds much that is praiseworthy in the 44th president’s account of his first term in office, he considers Barack Obama’s treatment of the Jewish state to be “not just an inaccurate mess but an inaccurate mess of a very particular sort—a propagandistic mis-telling.” Schwartz writes that a reader coming to the book without prior knowledge would learn
that the roots of the Jewish state lie in a unilateral declaration by imperialist Great Britain issued while it was “occupying” “Palestine”; that the subsequent growth in the territory’s Jewish population was the result of “mobiliz[ation] by “Zionist leaders” who “organized highly trained armed forces” to protect their “settlements”; that the UN resolution calling for the creation of Jewish and Arab states in the territory was rejected by the Arabs because “they were just emerging from colonial rule”; that the resident Arabs were “driven from their lands” by the Jews; . . . and that the formation of the PLO [in 1964] was the “result” of Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six-Day War in which Israel took control of the West Bank from the Jordanians.
Whence all this falsehood? Schwartz believes the most likely culprit to be the education Barack Obama received at Columbia University, and the influence of such prominent academics as Edward Said and Rashid Khalidi, who have done much to propagate the view that the Zionist project is inherently unjust:
What is most deeply disappointing about Obama’s parroting of the Said/Khalidi line in his memoir is not merely that it puts the prestige of a former U.S. president behind its distortions, but that it represents a huge missed opportunity to probe and question a false narrative—one that has caused untold violence and suffering. What might be called the lachrymose version of Palestinian history has left its adherents stuck in a world of grievance, envy, violence, and hatred. . . .
For all Obama’s interiority and self-questioning, he somehow couldn’t bring himself to apply that skeptical and self-challenging mindset to this particular subject. It is a perverse compliment to the power of this phony narrative that even a man committed to avoiding “truth decay,” and who has nothing more to achieve in his political life, could not put it under the magnifying glass, but mindlessly repeated it.
More about: Barack Obama, Edward Said, Israeli history, Rashid Khalidi