Obama told his former staffers on the Pod Save America Saturday that “all of us are complicit to some degree” in the violence in Gaza, as he appeared to describe a moral equivalence between Hamas murdering Israelis and the Israeli “occupation” of Gaza.
Gaza has not been “occupied” by Israel since 2005, when Israel withdrew all of its soldiers and civilians in a “disengagement” that aimed to reduce violence in the region. Hamas responded by launching thousands of rockets at Israel and starting several wars.
Obama’s remarks, as published by the podcast, are as follows:
President @BarackObama on the violence in Gaza.
Full interview out Tuesday. pic.twitter.com/U42Jy2Aa4y
— Pod Save America (@PodSaveAmerica) November 4, 2023
If there’s any chance of us being able to act constructively, to do something, it will require an admission of complexity. And maintaining, what on the surface may seem contradictory ideas — that what Hamas did was horrific, and there’s no justification for it; and what is also true is that the occupation [sic] and what’s happening to Palestinians is unbearable. [Applause] And what is also true is that there is a history of the Jewish people that may be dismissed, unless your grandparents, or your great-grandparents, or your uncle or your aunt tell you stories about the madness of antisemitism. And what is true is that there are people right now who are dying who have nothing to do with what Hamas did. And what is true, right — I mean, we can go on for a while. And the problem with the social media, and trying to — TikTok activism, and trying to debate this, on that, is you can’t speak the truth. You can pretend to speak the truth. You can speak one side of the truth, and in some cases you can try to maintain you moral innocence, but that won’t solve the problem. And so if you want to solve the problem, you have to take in the whole truth, and you then have to admit nobody’s hands are clean, that all of us are complicit to some degree. I look at this, and I think back, “What could I have done during my presidency to move this forward — as hard as I tried, and I’ve got the scars to prove it. But there’s a part of me that’s still saying, well, “Was there something else I could have done?” That’s the conversation we should be having. Not just looking backwards, but looking forward. And that can’t happen if we are confining ourselves to our outrage. I would rather see you out there talking to people, including people who you disagree with. If you genuinely want to change thin, then you’ve got to figure out how to speak to somebody on the other side, and listen to them, and understand what they are talking about, and not dismiss it. Because you can’t save that child without their help. Not in this situation.
Obama’s approach matches his posture toward the Middle East throughout his presidency. He creates a false moral equivalence between the deliberate murder of 1,400 people in Israel, with extreme brutality, with an “occupation” that does not exist in Gaza and that exists in the West Bank only because the Palestinian Authority refuses to agree to peace with Israel.
He adopts a post-modern approach that insists there is not one truth, but many truths, which has the effect of minimizing the evil of genocidal violence, as practiced by Hamas, into merely one perspective among many.
Obama did the same, notoriously, in 2015, when he reacted to the violence of the so-called “Islamic State,” which had published a video of a Jordanian pilot being burned alive inside a cage, by arguing that medieval Christians had been just as violent during the Crusades. It was that dismissive approach, critics argued, that allowed ISIS to grow on Obama’s watch into a malevolent and tyrannical terrorist regime, and a threat in the West as well.
While Obama encourages his left-wing audience to talk to those who disagree with them, it is noteworthy that they applaud his remarks about the “occupation” and not his condemnation of Hamas’s murders.
The former president claims to have wondered whether there was something more he could have done. During his presidency, he adopted a hostile posture toward Israel that caused Palestinians to dig in and refuse to negotiate; he reached a nuclear deal with Iran that gave the regime billions of dollars to spend on terrorist proxies; and he allowed the United Nations to declare the Jewish presence in Jerusalem illegal.
In postmodern fashion, he also claimed in 2013 that it was not “fair” that Palestinians did not have a state of their own — ignoring that they had attacked Israel rather than building their own state when the land was partitioned by the United Nations.
Last month, in the wake of the October 7 terror attacks, Obama said that Israel must “dismantle” Hamas — and he has spent the last several weeks backtracking, in the face of anti-Israel (and antisemitic) activism on the “progressive” left.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the new biography, Rhoda: ‘Comrade Kadalie, You Are Out of Order’. He is also the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.