An ABI Response to President Obama’s Liberal Cognitive Egocentrism

I wrote years ago about Condoleeza Rice’s liberal cognitive egocentrism vis-à-vis the Palestinians, and I had planned to fisk the President’s speech to the Israeli students/people during his last visit and Fareed Zakaria’s typically adoring account of that misreading, in precisely these terms. Lacking the time, American-born Israeli Shoshanna Jaskoll’s excellent response will have to do.

Here’s the President telling us we need to take a positive-sum attitude towards the Palestinians, when it’s the miserably zero-sum Palestinian attitude he should be addressing. But then, that’s so far from finding a receptive audience that, apparently, it struck him as more “meaningful” to lecture Jewish Israelis on an attitude they already have deeply embedded in their culture and, alas, from which they have suffered much during the “Oslo Process”, than to begin a conversation with Palestinians about something so far from their cultural priorities that it would be like speaking a foreign language to them.

Mr. President, next time stick to the script.

MARCH 22, 2013, 1:10 PM
Shoshanna Jaskoll
Shoshanna Keats Jaskoll is an American Israeli, mom, dreamer, nonprofit consultant, lover of chocolate and seeker of truth… [More]

In his address to Israelis yesterday, President Obama spoke of Israel’s achievements, its history and its right to security. All the things an expat wants to hear from the President of her native land about her chosen one.

So, when Obama said that he was going ‘off script’ I expected some spontaneous and sincere observation or thought he’d had while traveling the country that he just had to share. But what I heard left me literally slackjawed and yelling at the computer in front of my children.

The President spoke of meeting young Palestinians and said, “I honestly believe that if any Israeli parent sat down with these 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.”

Mr. President, Are you kidding me? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? That is your message to and about millions of Israelis who live this daily?  You came here to give us the epiphany that we should “put ourselves in their shoes” and tell us that you truly believe that if only we could listen to them, we would want Palestinian kids to prosper and have the same opportunities as ours?  Aside from wondering exactly which opportunities you are referring to – surely not air raid sirens, rockets and PTSD, army at 18, fear of being blown up by a terrorist – the implication that we do not already think of their children is horrifically offensive because frankly, nothing could be further from the truth.

As parents of children who are all drafted at age 18, no one wants peace and prosperity for all children of the region more than Israelis. No one wants all kids to have the advantages, options, and fun of youth without thinking of war more than us. The idea that it is our lack of identifying with these kids, our not feeling that they should have the same opportunities as our children, our not wanting them to prosper, that is holding up peace is not only ridiculous, but it is practically libelous.

It is also dangerous. It is dangerous because it places the blame and responsibility for lack of peace on our supposed lack of empathy. It is dangerous because it does not put the blame on those whose job it is  to secure these kids’ future.  It is dangerous because it is overly simplistic and pie in the sky – and that does not bring peace.

You, yourself spoke of all that Israel has done to secure peace, from actual deals with Sadat and Hussein to deals offered to – and rejected by – the Palestinians.

The answer to peace does not lie in Israeli parents wanting good things for Palestinian children. It lies with Palestinian leaders wanting them.

As Golda Meir put it so pithily, so many years ago:

When the Palestinians love their children more than they hate ours, we’ll have peace.

Still so true. And what have you – liberals, progressives, and all the people who pretend to love positive-sum outcomes done to bring the Palestinians around from their revolting priorities? Not Fareed Zakaria, whose comment on the President’s speech takes the offensive quality to new heights:

Oratory aside, Obama has recognized and employed the strongest — and perhaps only — path toward peace and a Palestinian state: an appeal to Israel’s conscience.

And Palestinian conscience? That’s not even a player in this process? Racism anyone?

4 Responses to An ABI Response to President Obama’s Liberal Cognitive Egocentrism

  1. Shoshanna Keats Jaskoll is an American Israeli, mom, dreamer, nonprofit consultant, lover of chocolate and seeker of truth…

    Lover of chocolate, huh?

    How about those bereaved and oppressed Palestinians in Gaza who, because of the illegal blockade, have been deprived of the healthy variety of chocolate, the dark variety which is good for the arteries, and have only access to milk chocolate which is not deemed healthy? This is not merely a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, this is conducting slow genocide of the ancient peoples of Palestine – i mean, milk chocolate instead of dark?

    I say Ms Shoshanna is probably a settler and an extremist.

    Signed: a New York Times and Obama fan.

    • Fritz Wunderlich says:

      If you want to feed terrorists with healthy chocolate, they are all yours.

      • @ Fritz

        Fritz, i understand that my bleeding heart for the Hamas terrorists might make you consider that i am a victim of what Dr Landes has called “Liberal Cognitive Egocentrism”:


        The projection of good faith and fair-mindedness onto others, the assumption that “other” shares the same human values, that everyone prefers positive sum interactions.

        Now, it is true that the Palestinians are being brought up in such a way that they learn to value terrorism and seek martyrdom:

        It is also true that such an indoctrination at early ages turns them into a death cult:

        Surely, though, it must be worth it to raise Palestinian kids in this way because, after all, the conflict is religious and commanded by Allah, peace be upon him:

        But, Fritz, psychologists make too much of early formative experiences.

        I choose to believe that the Palestinians, despite their upbringing, are just people like you and me, people who look for a rational territorial compromise with the Israelis, not religious freaks dedicated to the destruction of Israel even at the cost of sacrificing their own kids in order to achieve their holly goal.

        What alternative do i have, Fritz, other than viewing them this way? What if i say something about the brainwashing of the Palestinian kids that turns them into meat for the terror mill? Maybe my fellow students will start calling me racist? Will i be able to find a girlfriend if they label me as such?

        What if my fellow journalist or academic coworkers call me a supremacist redneck? Will i be getting invitations to parties and dinners? Nobody likes rednecks.

        Better to blind myself and persuade my brain that the Palestinians are just like us.

        The Palestinians just want to have a choice between dark and milk chocolate.

        P.S. They actually do have chocolate because the blockade never banished food supplies (not to mention the luxury hotels and restaurants and shopping centers in Gaza), but just in case they can’t have chocolate for some reason, there is a way for us to make up for this grave injustice:

        Just deprive the Jews of chocolate, this would make the Pals equally (if not more) happy as if they had chocolate.

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