06/11/2009 03:53 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Jews and Shoes in the News

In a rational world, one would have thought that today's top story on Drudge and AOL would have been the anti-semitic attack at the Holocaust Museum, and a mention of the fact that a black man, the security guard, died while defending Jews against a vicious bigot. It would have been a nice reaffirmation of the historic relationship between blacks and Jews in America, one in which Jews risked beatings and death to organize for civil rights. It would have brought us back to a time when many Jews believed that the best way to insure the safety of minorities was to build a strong, secular, democratic nation where civil liberties were protected for all. Sounds like a no-brainer top story, right?


Today, the leading story on Drudge depicts President Obama, with his feet up on his desk, speaking to the Israeli Prime Minister. The picture is taken facing the desk, so the soles of his shoes face the camera. Some Israelis are expressing outrage. Why? As we learned from the shoe-thrower, it's a big insult in the Arab world to expose the sole of your shoe to another person (except, presumably, a shoemaker). Of course, Obama was not exposing the sole of his shoe to the Israeli Prime Minister, he was exposing it to the photographer. The Israeli Prime Minister was on the phone, and could not see Obama's shoes at all.

More important, shoe sole exposure is not an insult among Jews. It is nothing among Jews. But apparently some Israelis feel themselves enough a part of the Middle East , according to the story, to perceive an insult. Other, more sinister views maintain that this is a secret Obama foot gesture to the Arab world, telling them, with his feet, how he really feels about Israel. Plenty of tin foil yarmulkes out there. Why isn't anyone concerned that these people have nukes?