This incident happened while I was visiting my brother in Oregon and I didn’t find out about it till my return, when I read an e mail from reader Dan Sniderman, who pointed me to this post at The Field Negro. Dan and I both agree that it was a disgrace for Maariv to publish Obama’s personal petek, placed reverentially by him among the stones of the Kotel.
Apparently, even yeshiva bochers at the Kotel have become the equivalent of Jewish paparazzi because one stalked Obama, searched through other p’takim till he found Obama’s and then shopped it to Yediot and Maariv, among others. It reminds me of desperate celebrity stalkers who rummage through stars’ trash for something salacious enough to be salable to the tabloid press. Thankfully, it was beneath Yediot’s dignity to bite on this journalistic fish. But Maariv, having no scruples to speak of, gobbled the morsel up and regurgitated it for its readers.
What I find especially repellant about Maariv’s “defense” of its actions are the lies and Judaic supremacism that characterized its response. This is how the Jerusalem Post reported the story:
…A Ma’ariv spokesman said that “Barack Obama’s note was approved for publication in the international media even before he put in the Kotel, a short time after he wrote it at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. In any case, since Obama is not a Jew, publishing the note does not constitute an infringement on his right to privacy.”
Obama’s campaign…made clear that the campaign hadn’t approved the publication of any kind of prayer note.
“Prayer notes at the Wall should remain private,” a campaign aide said.
The paper added that is was “pleased” with its “journalistic accomplishment.”
Either the Maariv spokesperson was woefully misinformed about the Obama note being approved for publication or he was simply lying with impunity. Either possibility is simply disgraceful journalistic practice.
I also find especially noxious the idea that since Obama is Christian and therefore not fulfilling any religious commandment in praying at the Kotel, that stealing his petek is somehow permissible. Have we Jews come to the point that we justify unethical behavior by denying that non-Jews have rights when they enter our holy sites?
In addition, you know that the thief also justified his actions to himself using the same rhetoric: it’s not theft since Obama isn’t Jewish and victimizing a goy is permissible. If that doesn’t bring Orthodox Judaism, or at least this particular practitioner of it, into disrepute I don’t know what will.
Gershom Gorenberg notes that a New Republic writer typically attempted to besmirch Obama’s alleged involvement in this episode only to find yet another Maariv spokesperson who denied the first spokesperson quoted in the Jerusalem Post, existed:
…The accusation [that the Obama campaign released the note] is “completely false,” and that he has no idea who these papers were quoting from Ma’ariv. “No official spokesman for Ma’ariv told this to any of the papers.”
You’ll note the phrase “no official spokesperson.” That provides a loophole big enough to drive a truck through since I presume they would claim someone speaking off the record was not an official spokesperson. But does Maaariv seriously expect us to believe that the Post simply made up the quotation?
I really like this laugher of a phrase from TNR’s blogger describing Maariv:
Though Ma’ariv is one of Israel’s most prominent newspapers, there is certainly reason to question its motives regarding this story…
There are a lot of adjectives I’d use to describe Maariv, but “most prominent” would not be one of them: ‘scurrilous’ perhaps, ‘slutty,’ ‘tabloid journalism.’ They all fit. But not “most prominent.” The fact that someone at TNR considers Maariv so tells you a lot about TNR and its standards.
Thanks to the sharp-eyed Dan Sniderman who spotted this one..and only once again demonstrates how abysmal and absent any sense of the phrase “spirit of the law” has become..the only ‘spirit’ is a willingness to pervert law and conscience that should have restrained those who claim moral high ground, as if there is any! this tiny glimpse at those who have an acute skill in twisting their words and adjusting God’s law/word to suit the occasion. Shooting/murdering/torturing children, teens, the disabled, the elderly..is now common enough for even the average American to acknowledge that
things are uglier than they knew. Perhaps this latest affront
to Obama whose willingness to prostrate himself to aipac was disgusting –might temper his willingness to continue to genuflect? It seems as if every new lowering of the bar on morality would have to be the LAST…the bottom rung. Seems the bottom hasn’t been reached..how many more have to die before someone says NEVER AGAIN??!!!
Richard Silverstein says
This is undoubtedly a reprehensible act. But I’d prefer not to make the depraved act of a young Orthodox miscreant emblematic of an entire nation. Yes, I would agree that there is a general decline in ethical values in Israel that is aided & abetted by the Occupation. But I would hope there is some diff. bet. stealing a note in the Kotel & killing Palestinian children.
I am not putting the theft of Obama’s note at the kotel on the same level with murdering/torturing/abuse of Palestinians…however it is the “Justification” which is used by some of the ultra orthodox, the zealots the ‘religious’ settlers , who do all sorts of despicable and cruel acts in the name of G-d and Judaism. It surely is a gentle way of stating things
“a general decline in ethical values”…perhaps not aided by the Occ but which the Occ feeds..the moral depravity on various levels cannot help but continue to drive a seeming wild west lawlessness within Israeli society..thus the rise in Elder abuse,
rape, murder, drug use sex trafficking etc. All part and parcel in my understanding of downward spiral within.
Oh holier than thou folks, stop it. Barack fully expected that his note could end up in the newspaper. As my grandmother used to say to us all, “Don’t write anything in a letter that you wouldn’t want to read on the front page of the New York Times.” Why would or should Israelis be any more ethical or respectful of celebrities than Americans? Theft? Sheesh.
Cantor Richard Schwartz says
So what did the note say?… Just joking!
Richard Silverstein says
Thanks for clarifying yr comment. And I certainly agree with everything you write in yr most recent comment.
Well it would appear that Maariv and Richard are both gullible in their belief that Obama was putting a simple prayer note in the wall. He wanted it publicized. That’s Obama – everything is a campaign ploy. And Richard, prostrating himself to Obama, is filled with righteous indignation about the supposed slight to Obama’s honor.
Richard Silverstein says
@Ben: Isn’t it astonishing that Ben has such a direct pipeline into the Obama campaign as to know precisely what Obama intended? Remarkable powers he has. Esp. since the campaign has explicitly said that the petek was private & never intended for public consumption. I guess Ben knows their true & secret thoughts. Remarkable.
I read multiple pieces like this one at “Yid with Lid” and it seems that Sen. Obama planned to reveal the contents of the note. Not sure who to believe because it seems to be the press that assumed there was something unethical involved. Obama’s people could clear it up rather quickly if this is actually the case. Anyone else have any input on this?
[link removed per comment rules]
It’s so deep and dark and mysterious,NOT!..
I agree w/the comment the “prayer scandal is a cynical fraud” but due only to those troublemakers and cynical fraudsters who stole, exposed and published the man’s prayer. It’s not nearly as surreal and dark as you’d paint it.
What’s hard to understand that he’d PRAY for protection for his family and to have his sins forgiven?? Making mountains out of gnat piles…but since you’ve raised the issue of cynical FRAUD why aren’t you shouting from the rooftops about the cynical fraud that the Olmert/Kadima claims that they want peace rather than pieces…they want to expunge the indigenous and take all the coveted lands, whilst claiming that they are an insecure SUPERPOWER embedded with those who want an end to human life as we know it in exchange for a heavenly “high” of rapture post-apocalypse? That Israel wants to ‘nuclearize’ 70 MILLION Iranians to ensure their “security”…and will do darn near anything to bring that nightmare to reality. that anyone who stands for humanity and peace becomes a target and those who covet, abuse and kill are the ‘chosen”?? How backwards and upside down can things get? what’s wrong with apologizing, atoning for murder and theft? and living together as one people instead of catering to the supremacists?
that is my prayer! shema yisroel!
Miriam – despite my inquiry, I’m on your side. I just found it strange that the story got such traction with one slant and is now getting more of the “Yid with Lid” type recriminations. I also saw linked on YwL a supposed youtube vid claiming Obama’s people were part of the deception. It sounds like more swiftboating.
I’m an Obama supporter and can see just how much everything is twisted to serve the purposes of those trying to smear him. I just want to see this story cleared up once and for all.
Richard Silverstein says
@LanceThruster: Obama’s campaign explicitly told TNR that they DID NOT release the note & that it was PRIVATE. They are not happy w. what Maariv did. Pls. don’t make the mistake of crediting anything published in the pro settler hate site aka as Yid with Lid. Lid is laden with lies.
THX Richard. I find it easier to address the other side being wrong when I allow for those times they are right. It looks as if in this case it’s just more of the same lies.
Reality has a liberal bias