Friday, June 5, 2009

Obama's Cairo Address: Israel & Palestine - A Little Good, A Lot of Outrageousness

Overall, Obama's discussion of Israel and the Palestinian issue during his address at Cairo was troubling indeed. Whatever else may come out of it, one is not improved chances for peace.

Obama's treatment of Israel and the Palestinian issue in his address at Cairo had some high points. One was when Obama called on Hamas to "put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, recognize Israel's right to exist." And no one could ask for stronger words about our commitment to Israel than:

America's strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.

"But on the other hand," that was thereafter followed by the low point of not just Obama's speech, but of any speech on the issue I can recall being given by a Western politician. Not only did Obama fail to put the Palestinian issue into context, he did a Ward Churchill/Noam Chomskey impression, giving the plight of Palestinians the moral equivalence of the Holocaust - the murder of six million Jews by Hitler, with the assistance of at least some Muslims, it might be added. It validated Palestian status as permanent victims on par with the greatest mass murder in history. That was so utterly outrageous as to be unconscionable - and made yet even worse by the fact that it was the leader of the free world uttering it.

As to the larger context, the truth is that the Palestinian issue is important to the Palestinians, but it is grossly inflated as a problem by the rest of the Middle East for their own political and religious purposes. As to the latter, the Wahhabists and Khomeinists in particular see the existence of Israel through the lenses of their triumphalist sects. Their entire legitimacy is predicated on the belief that Islam is the one true religion and that Allah meant for it to conquer the world. How can that happen if Jews have displaced some Muslims on what was once Muslim land. As an aside, the fact that it was Jewish land before that was another fact Obama should also have pointed out, but failed to do so. Instead, he predicated Israel's right to the land on which it sits with the evil of the holocaust - which just happens to be exactly what the Islamic propagandists also claim.

Obama's portrayal of the plight of the Palestinan issue was disingenuous at best, and even beyond the statement of moral equivalence, was framed in such a way as to further validate Palestine's victim status:

For more than 60 years they've endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations -- large and small -- that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable.

An honest characterization of the Palestinian issue would discuss how the Palestinians have been ruthlessly and cynically exploited by other Middle Eastern countries as a cudgel against Israel. That is a history that began on Israel's first day of independence and continues through today with Iran now acting as the deadly manipulator of Palestinians through its proxy, Hamas. Instead, Obama ignored that reality and painted a picture that puts all of Palestine's problems on Israel. That is not merely ludicrous, it dangerously ignores reality.

But "looking forward," the biggest problem with the picture Obama paints involves what he ignored - the so called "right of return." Israel is a small nation. There are a lot of Palestinians who left Israel when it was formed - some forced out, the majority who left deciding to go of their own accord. At any rate, rather than allow any of these individuals to be accepted into society, the various Middle East countries put them in refugee camps where many remain til today, living in ghettos and kept wholly cut off from the countries where their camps are located. Its insane, but it was done by the various other nations to insure that Palestinians could claim a right to return to the land they once occupied in Israel. To honor the right of return would effectively end Israel, as it would soon become a Muslim majority nation.

If Obama actually wants peace and a two state solution, he needs to address that issue head on. He needs to take a firm stand against a "right of return," and he needs to call on those nations with refugee camps to allow Palestenians to either integrate into their society or move to the West Bank/Gaza at the individual's discretion. Instead, Obama went for applause lines by criticizing Israeli's settlements. Those settlements are not a roadblock to peace. The "right of return" is not just a roadblock to peace, its a recipe for genocide within Israel's borders.

What I found most vacuous was Obama putting the blame on Israel for the quality of life of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. This was another outrage. The hard cold truth is that the luckiest Palesinians in the Middle East live inside the borders of Israel. Their quality of life is far better than the quality of life for Palestinians anywhere else in the Middle East. That state of affairs has been brought on by a combination of the utter failure of Palestinians to organize themselves as a civilized society, the cynical manipulation of the Palestinians by the other Middle Eastern countries, and the decision of Hamas et al. in the recent intifada to use freedoms to enter Israel as an opportunity to conduct bombings. The responsibility for Palestinians outside of Israel's borders is on the Palestinians, its on Hamas, its on the PLO, and its on Iran and Syria. Any responsibility that Israel bears is far down on the list. And the fact that Obama ignores that insures that neither the Palestinians nor any of the other players I mentioned will feel compelled to act responsibly in the future.

Another issue was Obama's toothless call for an end to violence against Israel because it costs the Palestinians the "moral high ground." If Obama believes what he said, he is naive in the extreme. Obama and the leadership of Hamas share a different view of what constitutes the moral highground. We value life. Under their salafist interpretation of the Koran, Hamas and the PLO value the slaughter of the non-believers. If Obama wants to stop the violence, he needs to hold Palestine to the same standards as the Israeli's and he needs to apply pressure.

For decades, Palestinians have directed untoward barbarity towards Israel without anyone holding them responsible. Further, they are allowed to spout the most horrendous of propaganda without a word of censure from the West. Shut off all funding for Palestine until Hamas takes its television its children's programming off the air - the shows that are teach hatred and murder from the time the little tykes are weaned from their mother's milk. The next time Hamas claims credit for murdering Israeli civilians, support Israel turning off their power for a week - or two or three. Tell the UN to go to hell the next time they complain that a civilian was killed because a murderer from Hamas was hiding behind the civilian while firing a rocket. If Obama is serious at all about bringing peace to Israel and Palestine, the answer is not going to be found in pressuring Israel over settlements. Hamas and the PLO don't care about the land Israel's settlements sit on, they care about the land Israel sits on. Asking them nicely to take the moral high ground is suicidally naive.

Lastly, there was Obama's vague references to Jerusalem. Obama did not acknowledge Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Instead, there was this unusual reference - that he looks forward to a day "when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together . . ." Does that mean that Obama would be open to UN policing of Jerusalem as an international city? Given that the UN is as anti-Semitic as 1939 Germany, I find any hint that Obama sees that as on the table more than a little troubling.

The bottom line is that Obama's remarks on the Israeli Palestinian issue were at best, not helpful, and at worst, damaging indeed to any hopes of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Where strength is required, we instead were treated to fantasy and weakness.

Summary - Obama's Cairo Address: What We Needed, What We Got
Part 1 - Obama's Cairo Address: Hiding From The Existential Problems Of The Muslim World
Part 2 - Obama's Cairo Address: A Walk Back From Democracy & Iraq
Part 3 - Obama's Cairo Address: Obama Calls For Women's Rights While Glossing Over Discrimination & Violence
Part 4 - Obama's Cairo Address: Nukes, Iran & Weakness Writ Large
Part 5 - Obama's Cairo Address: Israel & Palestine – A Little Good, A Lot Of Outrageousness
Part 6 - Obama's Cairo Address: Islam's Tradition Of Religious Tolerance?
Part 7 - Obama's Cairo Address: The Dangerous Whitewashing Of History

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Instead, there was this unusual reference - that he looks forward to a day "when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together . . ."

Jerusalem is NOW a secure and lasting home for a place where Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together. Only problem is the Muslims are killing and evicting Christians and those muslims who sell land to Jews. Get your facts right, President Obama.