Judy Shalom Nir-Mozes, an Israeli media personality and the wife of Israeli Vice Prime Minister and Interior Minister Silvan Shalom, tweeted a racial joke about President Obama on Sunday:
Though she quickly deleted and apologized for the tweet, this is not the first time she's gotten herself on trouble on Twitter. And this comes in a period of animus between the Israeli and US governments that can seem intensely personal, and from the Israeli side focused at times on Obama's background.
In March 2012, for example, Nir-Mozes tweeted in response to rocket fire coming from Gaza, "I hope that today they decide to destroy Gaza if they don't stop shooting. Let them suffer as well."
A few months later, when her husband's own Twitter feed was taken over by pro-Hamas hackers, she tweeted, "The murderers have taken over Silvan's Facebook, Twitter and email. Our son Nimrod is trying to salvage. I wish they would die!" The fallout ended with Nir-Mozes leaving her honorary position with the United Nations Children's Fund.
There is an odd tendency among some elements of the Israeli political right, which currently holds power there, to reference President Obama's race and heritage when explaining frays in US-Israeli ties.
Michael Oren, the former Israeli ambassador to the US who is now a member of Israel's legislature, wrote this week in Foreign Policy that Obama's Middle East policy stemmed from an upbringing that inculcated a special loyalty to Islam:
In addition to its academic and international affairs origins, Obama's attitudes toward Islam clearly stem from his personal interactions with Muslims. These were described in depth in his candid memoir, Dreams from My Father, published 13 years before his election as president. Obama wrote passionately of the Kenyan villages where, after many years of dislocation, he felt most at home and of his childhood experiences in Indonesia. I could imagine how a child raised by a Christian mother might see himself as a natural bridge between her two Muslim husbands. I could also speculate how that child's abandonment by those men could lead him, many years later, to seek acceptance by their co-religionists.
Murtaza Hussain, a journalist with the Intercept, called it "the polished sophisticate's case that Obama is a crypto-Muslim."
Nir-Mozes was not calling Obama a secret Muslim, of course. But this willingness of a senior Israeli official's wife to publicly denigrate the American president based on his race speaks to how Obama is seen in the Israeli right-wing political class.