Keep those soles down!

June 10, 2009 in Politics

When I first saw this picture, I thought Obama's media team must have fallen asleep at their otherwise pristine desks, or resigned:

The image shows the President speaking on the phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And yes, those are the President's shoes in the picture.

I'm astounded. Showing the soles of one's shoes is among the worst insults of the Arab world. There is no excuse for not knowing that. Six months ago, an Irqui reporter threw his shoes at then-President Bush and the event (as well as its cultural ramifications) was seared into the American conscience. Yet here, the White House has chosen to release a photo of the President speaking to the Israeli PM (not exactly loved in the Arab world) while displaying his shoe soles??

But that's not all -- Israelis are feeling angry and insulted as well! The stated reason is that after all their time in the Middle East, Israelis have adopted the shoe sole taboo as their own, but I wouldn't be surprised if the resposnse is much more pragmatic: the Israelis are afraid that this image will lead to some sort of retaliation, as if they were the people foolish enough to release it.

Maybe for an encore they'll fly near some Manhattan skyscrapers in Air Force One.

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