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Thursday, June 04, 2009


Obama in Cairo


"We [the United States] were born out of revolution against an empire," says Obama. Much later in the speech, we see the lesson he learned from that fact, which he hopes the Palestinians will learn:

"Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and it does not succeed."
Hmmmm. Of course he also claims that's the lesson of the fight against slavery in this country:
"For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America's founding."
I seem to remember there was a war in there somewhere. It's true that Blacks did not come out of the Civil War with "full and equal rights," but without that war, a great many of them would have had no rights at all.

Then we come to Palestine, with so much to say.

"The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. (Applause.) This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop."
Actually, it was time for them to stop in 1967, since they were illegal on that day and have been illegal every day since. Not accepting the "legitimacy" of "continued" settlements (by which he means continued building of new settlements, not the "continued" existence of existing ones) is a not-so-clever way to accept the legitimacy of the existing settlements.

And the seige of Gaza?

"Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build."
But the ones in Gaza quite literally can't "build" anything since Israel and Egypt are preventing the importation of all building materials - steel, concrete, glass.
"They endure the daily humiliations -- large and small -- that come with occupation."
They do. But starvation, or dying because of the denial of access to medical care, is not just a "humiliation," even a "large" humiliation. It's genocide.
"And Israel must also live up to its obligation to ensure that Palestinians can live and work and develop their society. Just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel's security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank."
Again, 1-year-old Palestinians are dying in Gaza because of lack of medical care, and Obama's reaction to this is that it "does not serve Israel's security." Really, it would be hard to find a more offensive formulation than that.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, Obama's talk about how he's going to "pursue this outcome with all the patience and dedication that the task requires" is patent nonsense, particularly when it comes to the siege of Gaza. Obama could break the siege of Gaza tomorrow if he chose to do so, and it wouldn't even have to involve giving an ultimatum to Israel or Egypt:

Imagine, instead of the puny "Free Gaza" boats sailing into Gaza with a day or two's worth of supplies, if a U.S. warship (or peaceship if you prefer, but they'll need to be armed to make sure the Israelis take no action) filled with hundreds of tons of supplies were to sail up to Gaza.
No, instead he'll keep talking about how "now is the time" to do something about it, instead of acknowledging that that time was long ago.

9/11 and the invasion of Iraq?

"Nine-eleven was an enormous trauma to our country. The fear and anger that it provoked was understandable, but in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our traditions and our ideals. We are taking concrete actions to change course. I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States, and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year."
That's what you've got? The actions "contrary to our traditions and our ideals" consisted of torturing people and imprisoning people at Guantanamo? How about invading other countries which didn't attack us? How about the indefinite imprisonment of tens of thousands of people without charges, trials, or any rights at all? How about indiscriminate bombing of civilians?

On Iran:

"For many years, Iran has defined itself in part by its opposition to my country."
Yeah, yeah, it's all about you. Iran's concern has nothing to do with the continued threats against it from Israel and the United States. And, by the way, thanks for acknowledging that the United States "played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government." Quite true. The leading role.
"But it is clear to all concerned that when it comes to nuclear weapons, we have reached a decisive point...And any nation -- including Iran -- should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty."
If it complies? Iran is in complete compliance with the NPT, so why we have "reached a decisive point" about nuclear weapons is completely unclear.

I'll end on a hopeful (with tongue in cheek) note. Obama did explicitly endorse a "two-state" solution. But doesn't this sound like he should have been endorsing a one-state solution?

"Too many tears have been shed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of the three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; 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 as in the story of Isra -- (applause) -- as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed, peace be upon them, joined in prayer. (Applause.)"
Of course (you knew I really couldn't end on a hopeful note, didn't you?), what "God intended" is precisely one of the major sources of the problem; just ask the settlers (and their supporters in the Knesset) who believe God ordained them to possess "Judea and Samaria." Putting your weight behind what "God intended" is precisely the wrong way to solve the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

I'm sure there's lots more to say; it's a long speech. But for now I've got to move on.

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