Obama’s domestic and foreign-policy balancing act is being made more difficult because Islamists and tribal militias are using their new power in Egypt and Libya to kill and threaten the area’s remaining populations of Christians, to drive out immigrant Africans, to downgrade the legal standing of women and urge war against Jews.
Their brutality and anti-Semitism are threatening his political and financial support among the small but influential community of Jewish Americans, whose support could tip the electoral balance in key states such as Florida.
New videos from Libya, for example, show gunmen tormenting a group of Africans who are locked in a zoo cage. Another video shows Libyan Islamists wrecking the cemetery of British soldiers killed during World War II. Both videos were taken after Obama ordered U.S. forces to help destroy the dictatorial government of Moammar Gadhafi.
In Egypt, government soldiers have attacked killed Christian demonstrators. They have also stood by while mobs burned Israel’s diplomatic center, called for war against Israel and attacked Christian villages.
Obama alluded to the Middle East’s undemocratic culture, saying “we will oppose torture… [and] oppose the kind of oppressiveness that, unfortunately, had been too common in too many countries in that region.”
Obama also acknowledged the role of widespread anti-Semitism. “Part of what happens as a consequence of these regimes dissolving is that we’re going to have to take into account the politics and the attitudes of people in this region… that’s going to be challenging because there have been years of venom and anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli rhetoric that had been floating around for a long time.”
That statement represents a major shift in tone since 2009, when Obama used a speech in Cairo to promise a new outreach to Muslims. He opened that speach by declared that “I am honored to be in the timeless city of Cairo and to be hosted by two remarkable institutions. For over a thousand years, Al-Azhar has had stood as a beacon of Islamic learning… for over a century, Cairo University has been a source of Egypt’s advancement. Together, you represent the harmony between tradition and progress.”