DeWayne Wickham, USA Today, March 4, 2015
On the eve of his ill-conceived address to a joint session of Congress, Benjamin Netanyahu told cheering delegates at the annual meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee that he’d come to Washington to make his case against Iran, not to disrespect President Obama.
But, in fact, he has managed to do just that. The Israeli prime minister’s decision to bypass the normal diplomatic protocol and accept a Republican invitation to address Congress on Tuesday is a personal affront to America’s first black president.
“This is a real in-your-face slap at the president, and black folks know it,” Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., told me. “He (Netanyahu) wouldn’t have done it to any other president.”
When I asked Clyburn, the third-ranking Democrat and highest-ranking black in the House, why the Israeli prime minister would be so disrespectful of Obama, he responded: “You know why.”
I think I do. By agreeing to sidestep normal diplomatic channels to address Congress, Netanyahu has become an instrument of a Republican Party that has shown an unbridled, personal disrespect for Obama, his wife and children since this black family moved into the building many Republicans apparently think is literally a white house.
By plotting with Republicans to take his differences with Obama to the floor of Congress, [Netanyahu] has angered some black leaders like no Israeli leader since former Israeli foreign minister Moshe Dayan publicly disparaged the intelligence of blacks in the U.S. Army. Back in 1980, Dayan questioned the ability of the U.S. to respond militarily to Middle East trouble spots because the U.S. Army had too many black soldiers “who have a lower education and intelligence.” The U.S. Army, he said, needed “better blood and brains.”
Netanyahu may not have set out to offend Obama’s black supporters, but that’s certainly been the result. “Hell will freeze over before I attend” the prime minister’s address, Clyburn said a few days before Netanyahu arrived in Washington. Other black legislators, including Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., who chairs the 46-memberCongressional Black Caucus, and Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., the legendary civil rights activist, announced weeks ago that they would boycott Netanyahu’s speech.