Here is a criticism of Obama’s Cairo speech that I’ve heard from a number of places, in recent days.
This is André Aciman, a professor of comparative literature at the City University of New York Graduate Center, and the descendant of exiled Egyptian Jews, in the New York Times
President Obama’s speech to the Islamic world was a groundbreaking event. Never before has a young, dynamic American president, beloved both by his countrymen and the nations of the world, extended so timely and eager a hand to a part of the globe that, recently, had seen fewer and fewer reasons to trust us or to wish us well.
As important, Mr. Obama did not mince words. Never before has a president gone over to the Arab world and broadcast its flaws so loudly and clearly: extremism, nuclear weapons programs and a faltering record in human rights, education and economic development — the Arab world gets no passing grades in any of these domains. Mr. Obama even found a moment to mention the plight of Egypt’s harassed Coptic community and to criticize the new wave of Holocaust deniers. And to show he was not playing favorites, he put the Israelis on notice: no more settlements in the occupied territories. He spoke about the suffering of Palestinians. This was no wilting olive branch.
And yet, for all the president’s talk of “a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world” and shared “principles of justice and progress,” neither he nor anyone around him, and certainly no one in the audience, bothered to notice one small detail missing from the speech: he forgot me.
Much has been said about the linkage between the Holocaust and the migration of Jews to Israel.
Much less is said about the 800,000 Jews from the Middle East who fled or were chased into Israel, and who make up about half Israel’s Jewish population.
It would have been easy, and proper for Obama to have mentioned them. Their story is a truly Middle Eastern tragedy. It is a pity that the President forgot their story. It was a wasted opportunity.