Day two of President Obama’s trip to the Middle East was dramatic day, today. President Obama gave a rousing speech in Jerusalem, a speech in which he was heckled, a speech in which he went off script and made some rather blunt and surprising comments. He did not speak the way politicians usually speak, particularly in that part of the world. We’ll have more in a minute. President Obama also received the Israeli Medal Of Distinction which is the highest honor the Israeli government bestows upon civilians. A dignified and serious occasion, we will have for you a side note to that dignified and serious occasion. We will show you in a moment that will make you stare at your television, put your head in your hands and swear to yourself quietly.
The day began, today with president Obama visiting the Dead Sea Scrolls with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The president also visited a Tech Show where Israeli engineers showed him this creepy snake-like contraption that they invented. It’s for use after disasters to get into small spaces and relay to the outside world information about what is going on in those small spaces. They got the idea to invent it after 911.
That was the morning in Jerusalem. The president then traveled to Ramallah which is the defacto headquarters of the Palestinian Authority where he met with President ___Abbas and took questions from the press. That was all by lunchtime.
In the afternoon President Obama spoke at a Jerusalem Convention Center before an audience of more than 2,000 Israelis. Most of the audience was made up of college students but there were government officials and civil leaders in the audience. Shortly after beginning his remarks, the president as I mentioned was heckled. He responded by saying the heckler made him feel right at home. One advantage of having, you lie, screamed at you during a speech during congress is heckling probably never rattles you again. The crowd gave him a standing ovation in response to the heckler. They also cheered with approval at this point in the speech.
“Make no mistake, those who adhere to the ideologically of rejecting Israel’s right to exist, they might as well reject the earth beneath them or sky above because Israel’s not going anywhere”.
It makes sense that these young Israelis would be so appreciative of America’s president making such strong statements in support like that right about their state. Israel is surrounded by hostile regimes and Israelis and Palestinians have of course been engaged in a half century of conflict, fighting and violence and makes sense this audience would want to hear the president of the most powerful nation on earth pledge support to Israel’s security in such, such certain terms. But the moment in the speech though that really stood out, not just because of what the president said but how the crowd reacted to what he said. The moment that really stood out, I think, most people will remember is this one. Watch this.
“I’m going off script here for a second, but before I — before I came here, I met with a group of young Palestinians from the age of 15 to 22. And talking to them, they weren’t that different from my daughters. They weren’t that different from your daughters or sons. I honestly believe that if — if any Israeli parent sat down with those kids, they’d say, I want these kids to succeed. I want them to prosper. I want them to have opportunities just like my kids do. I believe that’s what Israeli parents would want for these kids, if they had chance to listen to them and talk to them. I believe that”.
President Obama asking Israelis to put themselves in Palestinians’ shoes, look at the world through their eyes. That is not an easy ask for either side of the conflict, right? But those were the words he used. He said, “It was not fair on point today that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of his or her own”. He called for peace as a means toward not just political stability but economic stability. And the Israeli audience cheered and applauded throughout those remarks and gave him a giant sustained standing ovation at the end. Do you ever feel like the conversation over there about the conflict they’re living through is more nuanced and even more sane than the conversation over here about the conflict they are living through. On days like today, you are correct in that assessment.
Which brings us to this, after that big speech so well received by that huge Israeli audience in Jerusalem, President Obama was honored at state dinner. He was awarded the Israeli Medal of Distinction which is the highest honor a civilian can receive in Israel. He is the first sitting US president to ever receive this award. Israeli Simone Perez said to President Obama, the people of Israel are particularly moved by your unforgettable contribution to their security. He called President Obama, Dear Barack. So, that’s what was happening live in Israel.
Here at home, this is what the coverage of that event looked like in the Cable News-a sphere. CNN and MSNBC are carrying it live, showing the President of the United States receiving this medal at a big state dinner in a foreign country. The Fox News channel, however, is pretending like it is not happening. They’re, talking about repealing Obamacare instead. This is what the three cable news networks looked like in snapshot at 2:24 p.m. I know that because this news media was going on and on the wall there was the live feed of the three networks at precisely 2:24 p.m., this afternoon. We’re all watching as the Israeli president is saying to President Obama, I know you will never stop striving for a better world. As he was speaking those very words live, as seen on MSNBC and CNN, what was running on Fox News instead was a commercial for their news special on President Obama as an enemy of Israel. That is the ad they’re running instead of the live feed of the government of Israel giving President Obama the highest honor a civilian can receive from the Israeli government. Seriously! You want to see what they were running? You know you do. Watch.
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>> Ah! That is what Fox News was telling its audience of American conservatives instead of showing this happening in Israel in real life in the actual world at that very moment. They report, you decide. Just amazing.