Friday, March 22, 2013

Obama in Palestine: a Symbolic Contrast (Update)

Daniel Halper of the Weekly Standard calls Obama and his handlers to task – and rightly so – for the photo op they allowed when Obama appeared with Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah yesterday.  Above the standard navy blue backdrop, there was a large portrait of Yasser Arafat, the "father of modern terrorism".

This was not an address to a small, select audience; it was a press conference with a large attendance of reporters, who were unlikely to have missed the huge likeness of Arafat gazing down on Obama.  And they didn't, as attested by this White House pool reporter:
Hope everyone saw the presser.  If not there, it was notable that Obama and Abbas spoke from under a banner bearing pictures of Arafat and Abbas.  Also another big banner was hanging on wall nearby with Abbas kind of superimposed on Arafat.
 Halper goes on to explain, for those who are apparently victims of public education (and I had a conversation teaching moment with college students from the nearby university on the exact topic of Arafat within the last two weeks):
CAMERA [Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America] notes, "In fact, groups under Arafat's direct or indirect command – including Fatah, Black September, Tanzim, and Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade – were responsible for hundreds of bombings, hijackings, assassinations and other attacks, including the 1972 murder of 11 of Israel's Olympic athletes in Munich, the 1973 murder of the American ambassador to Sudan, Cleo Noel, and the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruiseship (resulting in the murder of wheelchair-bound Leon Klinghoffer)."
 It is interesting that they remind us of another American ambassador dead at the hands of terrorists.  But then, again, what difference does it make? 

But as for the visual effect of the conference – the 'optics' which are always such a concern to the administration – contrast it with this item of less than a year ago, when the White House demanded that Georgetown University, a Catholic institution, cover up Christian religious symbols for a speech that Obama was to give there in Gaston Hall, and the university complied.  They even went the extra mile to cover up the pediment above the backdrop, on which was inscribed a cross and the letters IHS (Iesus Hominum Salvator, or 'Jesus, Savior of Mankind'), a standard Catholic reference to Christ.

Gaston Hall pediment, before and after

It's good to know where the Obama White House puts its priorities.

Update: Nile Gardiner of Britain's Daily Telegraph has picked up on the same theme, from the same Halper piece, about how "[i]t is simply astonishing that the leader of the free world would agree to speak against a backdrop of a murderous terrorist with American and Israeli blood on his hands."  He concludes his piece with: 
President Obama's first term was littered with embarrassing gaffes abroad, and it looks like his second term will be more of the same.  This is in many respects an amateurish presidency, headed by a president who is frequently out of his depth on the world stage, and all too willing to appease America's adversaries.

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