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How Do You Say "Kumbaya" in Arabic?

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A few thoughts after the Cairo Address.

I don't know about you, but I am increasingly weary of our national leader trying to win friends and influence enemies by fancy word-work mixed with apologies for America's past sins -- real or imaginary. Yes, the presidential speech in Cairo could have been a lot worse. But in the opinion of this veteran of 40 years of Mideast reporting, President Obama really stretched it.

Islam has "always been a part of America's story." That's news to me.

And why beat your breast over American involvement in the 1953 overthrow of Iran's Mossadeq regime. If Mr Obama thought he was reaching out a conciliatory hand to the Mullahs of Tehran, he missed it. The mullahs who seized power in 1979 cynically try to use Mossadeq now as a martyr. But they always opposed and despised Mossadeq who was a secular nationalist. Nor was his regime "democratically elected" . At the time Mossadedeq was overthrown with CIA help, he had autocratically suspended elections and ruled Iran by "emergency decree."

As David Frum, of Newmajority.com put it, "for the United States to apologize to the present Iranian regime for the overthrow of Mossadeq would be a little like President Eisenhower apologizing to Josef Stalin for the murder of Trotsky."

But in my mind, our president erred most unhelpfully in trying to convince the Arab world that "a Jewish homeland" (why not a Jewish "state"?) deserves to exist because of past Jewish suffering in Europe -- most specifically the Holocaust.

No doubt, the monumental horror of last century's mechanized slaughter of Jews helped nudge the world into finally recognizing the justice and need of a Jewish state. But Jewish dreams of reestablishing a nation of their own are not derived from centuries of anti-Semitic suffering in Europe or even the tragedy of the Holocaust -- but rather from thousands of years of Judaism itself, a global religion and culture that inexorably links the Jewish faith and people with its ancestral promised land. The two are inseperable. Israel is the land of David and Solomon, the place where the prophets preached, and Jewish wisdom was formed, the land Jews have yearned for and to which they have directed their prayers for more than 2500 years -- long before Islam was even born. Indeed, the Jews are the only people for whom Israel was ever their nation! And their capital city of Jerusalem was a central force in that faith. Jerusalem and Zion are mentioned 622 times in the Bible and in almost every prayer that Jews utter each day. The Holy City is not mentioned by name once in the Koran. And Mr. President, thanks to Israel's reunification of the city 42 years ago, it is already a place where the followers of Moses, Jesus and Mohammed can freely pray.

Worse yet, a primary Islamic argument against Israel (one often used by Iran's hateful Ahmad Ahmadinijad) is that Palestinian Arabs should not have to pay for the anti-Semitic sins of European nations. By so firmly linking the Holocaust to Israel's birth, Obama strengthened this false claim -- he did not weaken it.

So too does the idea -- even vague idea -- that somehow the Holocaust, black-African slavery and Palestinian suffering are comparable. I have no doubt that daily life is tough for the Palestinians. But so much of their suffering is of their own doing -- or at least that of their leaders. No one has been trying to exterminate them and the fact is it is the Palestinian and Arab world that has prevented the formation of a Palestinian state for more than 60 years. How many statehood offers by the United Nations, by the United States and its allies and by left and right wing Israeli governments have been rejected by the Palestinians since 1947? All offers have been based on Arab acceptance of Israel as an independent Jewish state in the Middle East -- something that even the so-called "moderate" Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas still says he refuses to accept.

That is the core problem. It was. It is. and it remains so post-Cairo.