Thursday, July 24, 2008

WHAT OBAMA MISSED IN THE MID EAST

Ali Abunimah, Guardian, UK When I and other Palestinian-Americans first knew Barack Obama in Chicago in the 1990s, he grasped the oppression faced by Palestinians under Israeli occupation. He understood that an honest broker cannot simultaneously be the main cheerleader, financier and arms supplier for one side in a conflict. He often attended Palestinian-American community events and heard about the Palestinian experience from perspectives stifled in mainstream discussion.

In recent months, Obama has sought to allay persistent concerns from pro-Israel groups by recasting himself as a stalwart backer of Israel and tacking ever closer to positions espoused by the powerful, hard-line pro-Israel lobby Aipac. He distanced himself from mainstream advisers because pro-Israel groups objected to their calls for even-handedness. . .

Every aspect of Obama's visit to Palestine-Israel this week has seemed designed to further appease pro-Israel groups. . . Other than a cursory 45-minute visit to occupied Ramallah to meet with Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinians got little.. . .

Obama missed the opportunity to visit Palestinian refugee camps, schools and even shopping malls to witness first-hand the devastation caused by the Israeli army and settlers, or to see how Palestinians cope under what many call "apartheid". This year alone, almost 500 Palestinians, including over 70 children, have been killed by the Israeli army - exceeding the total for 2007 and dwarfing the two-dozen Israelis killed in conflict-related violence.

Obama said nothing about Israel's relentless expansion of colonies on occupied land. Nor did he follow the courageous lead of former President Jimmy Carter and meet with the democratically elected Hamas leaders, even though Israel negotiated a ceasefire with them. That such steps are inconceivable shows how off-balance is the US debate on Palestine.

Many people I talk to are resigned to the conventional wisdom that aspiring national politicians cannot afford to be seen as sympathetic to the concerns of Palestinians, Arabs or Muslims. They still hope that, if elected, Obama would display an even-handedness absent in the campaign.

Without entirely foreclosing the possibility of change in US policy, the reality is that the political pressures evident in a campaign do not magically disappear once the campaign is over. Nor is all change necessarily for the better.

2 Comments:

At July 24, 2008 7:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Never again? Not if you're Palestinian...

 
At July 25, 2008 8:20 AM, Anonymous Hancock said...

From Rendering Public Opinion Irrelevant by Glenn Greenwald, "Views that differ from the elite concensus are banished from sight",and
"A new WorldPublicOpinion.org poll of 18 countries finds that in 14 of them people mostly say their government should not take sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Just three countries favor taking the Palestinian side (Egypt, Iran, and Turkey) and one is divided (India). No country favors taking Israel's side, including the United States, where 71 percent favor taking neither side."
http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2008/07/20/israel/index.html

 

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