Samantha Power: Did Obama's UN Pick Really Suggest Invading Israel?

Samantha Power, the White House's current senior director for multilateral affairs, has been accused of suggesting that the U.S. invade Israel. The Irish American is a renowned writer, professor, and government official who has devoted a large portion of her life to advocating for human rights and the prevention of genocide. The accusations can be traced back to 2002, when Power participated in an interview in California while on a tour to promote her Pulitzer-prize winning book A Problem From Hell. The allegations have recently received attention due to the fact that Obama has decided to nominate Power as the new U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

During the 2002 interview, Power was asked to reply to a “thought experiment” as to how she would advise a president if hypothetically either Israel or Palestine seemed to be heading towards committing genocide. The important factor to note here is that the scenario Power was discussing was completely hypothetical. Not once did Power actually accuse Israel of practicing genocide.

In response to the “thought experiment,” Power declared that should such a situation arise, America would need to “alienate a powerful constituency.” Although this statement could be interpreted in different manners, Rabbi Schmuley Boteach was aware that Power has given lectures on the horror of the Holocaust all over the world and decided to reach out to Power in order to clear any possible misinterpretations. Power explained to Boteach that during the interview she meant to claim that the U.S. would need to break off its friendly ties with Israel at the moment and send in forces in order to lower the chances of a situation like the Rwandan genocide occurring. The accusations arose simply because Power mentioned Israel and the chance of a Palestinian genocide together in her answer.

Boteach also explained that while Power is sometimes accuseed of being an enemy to Israel, she is actually far from that. Boteach points out that in A Problem From Hell, she documents all of the genocides that took place in the 20th century and never suggests that Israel was associated with any of them. In fact, Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz phoned Power after the release of her book and praised her for not linking Israel with genocide, unlike many other academics of the time.

It is clear that Power does not have any animosity towards Israel and that during her interview she was not suggesting that the U.S. invade Israel or that Israel was using genocide in order to fight Palestine. She should be judged by her actions instead of misinterpretations. In that case, Power ought to be seen as someone who has emphasized the atrocity of genocide, and therefore is a defender of the Jewish community. 

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Lauren Clark

Lauren is an International Studies major at Fordham University at Lincoln Center in New York City. She is currently studying abroad at King's College in London. Her interests include national security, terrorism, religion, health care, and women's rights. In her free time she loves to travel, learn new languages, and discover healthy food alternatives for vegetarians.

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