Thanks to Ellen at the Israel Palestine Forum for pointing out this Guardian story about George Bush’s comments about the impact Israeli checkpoints have on Palestinians:
“I understand why Palestinians are frustrated driving through checkpoints. I can also understand why the Israelis want a state of security.”
He went on to joke that “my motorcade of a mere 45 cars made it through without being stopped.”
I didn’t see his full statement and perhaps there is more context to this than the Guardian provided but…first, most Palestinians don’t drive through checkpoints. They walk through them after waiting on lines for hours on end and being subject to dehumanizing searches and treatment from IDF soldiers. Checkpoints are one of the sorest points for Palestinians regarding the Occupation.
Given these points, it’s simply remarkable that the man is so utterly tone deaf as to make a joke out of the fact that his motorcade seemed to have no problem getting through all those nasty checkpoints. Clearly, when it comes to humanity or understanding anything about the Middle East, George Bush is just breezing through on his way to somewhere else. He doesn’t give a flying you know what about any of this.
The NY Times’ coverage of Bush’s visit to Yad Vashem also showed an oddly disconnected president. The guy may boast that he reads history books in his supposed spare time, but he certainly hasn’t read any books about the Holocaust written in the last 40 years or he wouldn’t have been able to ask such a numbskull question as this one:
At one point Mr. Bush stopped before aerial photos of the Auschwitz death camp taken by American planes during World War II, and asked Ms. Rice why the American military did not bomb the camp. “We should have bombed it,” he told her…
Ms. Rice…said they had been discussing the reasons the wartime allies had not bombed railway lines to Auschwitz.
Someone ought to recommend that he read While Six Million Died which first raised the issue in 1967. While every Jew has a very hard time dealing with FDR’s decision not to bomb the tracks to Auschwitz and thereby disable the Nazi death machine, the idea that George Bush, who hasn’t been the most competent of American presidents in fighting his own wars, should get to second guess a president fighting a world war seems the height of chutzpah to put it mildly.
I found this ‘profundity’ from Bush to also be puzzling though understandable given his Christian piety:
“I was most impressed that people, in the face of horror and evil, would not forsake their God.”
While it is true that many believing Jews retained their faith in the face of their victimhood at the hands of the Nazis, Bush’s statement neglects the fact that Nazis killed Jews regardless of whether they believed or not. Not everyone who entered a camp believed in God as they entered and probably far fewer believed in Him if they had the good fortune to be able to leave. That’s why Bush’s statement, while in accord with his own views about faith, shows a complete ahistorical understanding of the reality of the Holocaust.
This may impress some Americans, but it gave me the shivers:
In the memorial’s visitors’ book, the president wrote, “God bless Israel, George Bush.”
Do you think he wrote in the PA guestbook when he left Abbas’s headquarters: “God bless Palestine, George Bush?” So what are the Palestinians supposed to think of a statement like that? Not to mention the fact that God is precisely the problem when it comes to this conflict. We should keep God out of it as much as possible. Too many people are all too prepared to shed others blood out of a sense of fealty to their own conception of what God wants in the Holy Land. Human beings might be able to work this out. But human beings backed by a sense of holy grievance or divine calling will never do so.
Andrew Schamess says
Actually I think Bush ended his quote with something to the effect of, “I don’t think it would be as easy for the average Palestinian” (to get through a checkpoint).
Still rather facile but I must say it beats Hillary, who visited Israel a couple of years ago and, standing at a watchtower, announced that what Americans need to understand is that the wall isn’t about oppressing people, it’s about protecting people.
I like your post above on Obama – best hopes for a more balanced American policy.
This post reminded me of the 2004 incident described by this article:
Bush is pretty obtuse, no doubt about it.
I so enjoy the writing here. THX.