An Israeli army officer’s highly offensive, racially charged insult, aimed directly at President Obama, has thrust him into the glare of international media since the week-end.
Beginning on Sunday morning, Lieutenant Sacha Dratwa’s Facebook page, on which he posted a darkened photo of himself with the caption, “Obama Style,” has been the subject of a growing number of news reports and commentary.
Yahoo News was first among Internet news media to post a piece about Dratwa and the controversy stirred up by his Facebook photo. According to Yahoo News, Dratwa, 26, who controls the Israeli Defense Forces’ new media desk, “is the Israeli military’s most visible spokesman.”
The Israel Defense Force has refused to comment. The White House, faced with an almost daily dose of these kinds of offensive posts and statements, is typically quiet and, true to form, has been mute in this case as well.
While political leaders in the United States, virtually all of them Tea Party activists or Republicans, continually hurl insults by the scores at President Obama–and physical threats too–this latest one, by an officer holding a sensitive post for a close military ally, seemed nothing short of surprising.
African American leaders contacted for comment by BlackAmericaWeb.com, including the NAACP’s Washington Bureau, did not respond before this article was posted.
The New York Times, on Tuesday morning, posted a piece by Yossi Gurvitz, who writes for the widely respected Tel Aviv news blog, + 972. Gurvitz, one of the young officer’s most vocal critics, asked, “why does mud (Dratwa used some to darken his face), remind Dratwa of Obama? The simplest answer is that Dratwa was caught expressing soft racism toward blacks, which is pretty common in Israel,” Gurvitz charged.
“It is reflected in the attitude of asylum seekers and even in the attitude toward Jewish immigrants from Ethiopia, Gurvitz recalled.” Israel, he noted, “is one of the few countries in the world where a large segment of the population believes that President Obama is a secret Muslim.” One wonders, Gurvitz added, “whether the hostility of the Israeli media toward Obama–which was often expressed before he was elected in 2008–would reach such heights if he were a white man.”
However, Gurvitz continued, “even if this is not racism, on Dratwa’s part, this is gross stupidity. If you don’t know what black face is and why it is considered offensive, then you are an ignoramus who has no business being in the media business, particularly when most of the target audience is largely American.”
Dratwa, originally from Belgium, is “active in engaging Israel’s supporters and critics on social media,” according to Yahoo News. Dratwa, Yahoo reported, regularly “updated the Israeli Defense Forces’ Twitter account and various web sites during the “Pillar of Defense” against Hamas in the Gaza Strip last week.”
President Obama blamed Hamas, not Israel, for the conflict that resulted in the death of an estimated 100 or more Palestinian civilians.
In this light, Dratwa’s Facebook post seems misdirected, highly confused and opens the door to charges that he holds a distinct racial animus against blacks, as well as President Obama.
Dratwa, in an effort to defend himself, on his Facebook page wrote, “I am, and have always been, completely candid about my beliefs and have nothing to hide.”
He concluded by saying, curiously, that “the aforementioned photos do not reflect my beliefs and have no bearing whatsoever on my position in the Israeli Defense Forces.” Yet Dratwa, as a spokesman for the Israeli military, is expressly forbidden from issuing political statements of any kind and at any time.
At the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D. C., however, that regulation is apparently unknown. In a statement for BlackAmericaWeb.com, the Embassy commented, “this man, while not correct, was using his personal social media account.”
In speaking to its apparent concerns, the Embassy continued, “this event does not and should not reflect on the relationship between the United States and Israel, or their leaders.”
That relationship, however, remains strained, even as President Obama has been credited, including by political opponents, with providing Israel with the greatest financial and military resources the United States has ever extended to that small, conflicted nation.
The United States-Israel Mutual Security Cooperation Act, signed by President Obama about two months ago, cemented $70 million in fresh aid for Israel’s defense.
Funding for the “Iron Dome,” a short range missile defense shield–and Israeli access to America’s most advanced weapons systems–were included in the agreement. For the past several months, 3,000 United States troops have joined Israeli soldiers in sophisticated war games.