My sincerest apologies for the unintended hiatus of the past few weeks. For some terrible reason, I have been working a whole lot lately and as a result have been neglecting more important things, such as thinking about the world and writing about things that piss me off. Now that I'm back, please allow me to jump right in.
In his very first act after clinching the Democratic nomination for president of these United States of America, Barack Obama once again provided me with myriad reasons not to vote for him come November. Yes, his candidacy is historic and unprecedented. He's the new RFK, people say. He's progressive! He's liberal! He'll bring "hope" and "change" to the masses and clean this country up after eight years of chronic neglect and rampant criminality. He'll heal the fucking world, don't you know that?
Others simply call themselves realists and support Obama for pragmatic reasons, rather than ethical ones: he's not McCain (or Hillary); McCain is worse; Obama's electable; Obama's the first step towards a more progressive future; he's also, apparently, not John McCain.
What I do know is that while Obama may be a slightly lesser evil by CheneyMcCainian standards, and he may pretend to engage in "tough diplomacy" before dropping bombs on innocent brown people in deserty type places in the future, actually he offers very little in the way of real, substantive "change" for...uh...pretty much anything.
His campaign is supported by major Wall Street firms such as Goldman Sachs, UBS AG, Credit Suisse, Lehman Brothers, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, and the powerful hedge fund Citadel Investment Group. Obama has said time and again that "Washington lobbyists haven't funded my campaign. They won't run my White House and they will not drown out the voices of working Americans when I am president." And yet, according to insider and investigator Pam Martens, "Seven of the Obama campaign’s top 14 donors consisted of officers and employees of the same Wall Street firms charged time and again with looting the public and newly implicated in originating and/or bundling fraudulently made mortgages." And award-winning journalist John Pilger points out that "a report by United for a Fair Economy, a non-profit group, estimates the total loss to poor Americans of colour who took out sub-prime loans as being between $164bn and $213bn: the greatest loss of wealth ever recorded for people of colour in the United States," and, in addition, "according to files held by the Centre for Responsive Politics, the top five contributors to the Obama campaign are registered corporate lobbyists." Ooops.
Obama has voted to fund the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan at every turn during his short Senatorial career, approving each and every appropriation, hundreds of billions of dollars to kill hundreds of thousands (at least) of citizens in their own land and to thoroughly destroy and demolish two ancient countries. He demonstrated his utter disregard for American civil liberties, personal privacy, and Constitutional authority when he voted for an improved and reauthorized USA PATRIOT Act in 2006. He opposes universal health care and has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the healthcare industry in 2008 alone, probably to ensure his preferential treatment of insurance companies that reap huge rewards by denying critical medical treatment to their unfortunate customers. He emboldens the nuclear sector, opposes a carbon pollution tax, supports the death penalty, and has no intention of putting an end to the vast federal subsidies for major corporations, including Big Oil and Gas. He campaigns as the anti-war antithesis to the Bush/Cheney doctrine, and yet has stated with all the post-9/11, "War On Terror" brain-washed sincerity and gusto that, in an effort to pursue "the terrorists" he would willfully attack Pakistan (something the US currently enjoys doing). He lauds the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. He promises to continue the cruel fifty year old embargo on Cuba, despite stating the opposite only a year ago. Greg Kafoury, a lawyer and activist in Oregon, explains Obama's misguidance:
In 1959, Cubans overthrew a dictator who was in partnership with the Mafia and who allowed Cuban workers and natural resources to be exploited by giant American corporations. In response to their nationalizing American assets, the Cubans faced nearly fifty years of U.S. sponsored invasion, embargo, sabotage, terrorism, and attempts to assassinate their leaders.Obama has consistently in the past and continues to this day to threaten, bully, and intimidate Iran over its non-existent efforts to "destabilize" a militarily occupied Iraq by 'killing American troops' and legally pursue nuclear energy in a UN-sanctioned and supervised attempt to boost its own economy and enter developing-nation modernity. Obama, in best Dick Cheney-hand-puppet form, ridiculously insists that the Iranian government is "a threat to all of us" and that, with regard to further illegal sanctions and possible military (including nuclear) action, "all options are on the table," regardless of the legality of Iran's own actions or, apparently, the criminality of America's. He repeats the tired lies about Iranian President Dr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calling for Israel to be "wiped off the map." As Matt Kosko has pointed out, Obama has also "supported the demonization of Iran by urging the State Department to consider the Iranian Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization.”
Yet Obama spoke not a word of how the restrictions of political liberty in Cuba are linked to Cuba's struggle to maintain independence in the face of relentless attempts by a succession of U.S. administrations to use their great power to bring Cuba to heel.
Senator Obama spoke not a word of the accomplishments of the Cuban Revolution, the world-class health system, the high quality education, rural development, cutting edge research on infectious diseases, and the provision of thousands of Cuban doctors to the most disease-ridden, God-forsaken corners of the earth.
Senator Obama essentially gave the same kind of speech on Cuba that we have heard from American Presidents for the last fifty years. Where is the "change" that we have been waiting for, that we have been promised so repeatedly?
The Kyl-Lieberman amendment, which McCain and Clinton voted for but Obama missed, wasn’t the only bill that asked for the Guards to considered terrorists. S.970, the “Iran Counter-Proliferation Act of 2007” co-sponsored by Obama, included a suggestion that the “…Secretary of State should designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as a Foreign Terrorist Organization…” Really, the only difference between the three is that neither Clinton nor Obama have put their plans for destruction in song form.Even on the big issue of Iraq, over which he has constantly blasted McCain and Clinton for voting for the 2003 Authorization for Use of Military Force, Obama offers no substantial change from the past five years or the potential actions of a hypothetical (?) McCain Administration. He has stated that he doesn't know how he would have voted on the 2003 Authorization had he actually been in the Senate at the time. Since then, despite being pushed as an antidote to the bellicosity of the current administration, Obama has never denounced the invasion of Iraq on moral, legal, or humanitarian grounds, but only as a strategic blunder. Kosko notes that Obama (along with McCain and Clinton), "has refused to promised to end the occupation and completely remove all U.S. troops from Iraq, despite the fact that the occupation is opposed by an overwhelming majority of Iraqis and is the main fomenter of violence in the country."
Not only that, Obama has called Bush’s intentions in starting the war “sincere” but “misguided.” Neither McCain, Clinton, nor Obama considers the war to be a grandiose atrocity that has resulted in the deaths of one million people and the displacement of millions more nor do they acknowledge their own culpability by either authorizing the war or refusing to stop funding it; no candidate suggests the possibility of war crimes trials, impeachment of the criminals, or the fact that war had nothing to do with sincerity or heroic intentions on the part of the Bush government but was instead a quasi-imperial crusade to preserve American power and hegemony in the Middle East.John Pilger had this to say about Obama's current Iraq position:
On the war in Iraq, Obama the dove and McCain the hawk are almost united. McCain now says he wants US troops to leave in five years (instead of "100 years", his earlier option). Obama has now "reserved the right" to change his pledge to get troops out next year. "I will listen to our commanders on the ground," he now says, echoing Bush. His adviser on Iraq, Colin Kahl, says the US should maintain up to 80,000 troops in Iraq until 2010. Like McCain, Obama has voted repeatedly in the Senate to support Bush's demands for funding of the occupation of Iraq; and he has called for more troops to be sent to Afghanistan. His senior advisers embrace McCain's proposal for an aggressive "league of democracies", led by the United States, to circumvent the United Nations.Heck, the guy doesn't even support impeachment or gay marriage. But, then again, he is relatively young. And talks about a "better future" a whole lot which is nice because who doesn't want a better future, right? And, oh yeah, he's half-black. I had almost forgotten about that. That's certainly a change.
In America, to strive for a different future apparently means looking to the past for inspiration. The claims of Obama's Bobby Kennedyesque similitude are not off-base. John Pilger astutely notes that "Kennedy's campaign is a model for Barack Obama. Like Obama, he was a senator with no achievements to his name. Like Obama, he raised the expectations of young people and minorities. Like Obama, he promised to end an unpopular war, not because he opposed the war's conquest of other people's land and resources, but because it was unwinnable." Kennedy was also a staunch supporter of Israel's 1967 offensive war against its Arab neighbors and the subsequent occupation of the rest of historic Palestine - an issue over which he was tragically assassinated, exactly one year later. Hopefully Obama won't follow too closely in Kennedy's footsteps (despite the wishes of Hillary Clinton), though his recent pandering to Israel smacks eerily similar to his much-revered political predecessor.
and the "Unwavering" Support of Apartheid,
"Unshakable" Commitment to Aggression
and "Unbreakable" Bond of Occupation
The common refrain I hear from non-Zionist Obama supporters is that he has to say what he has to say in order to get elected. He buckled under the call to condemn the much-YouTubed statements of his longtime pastor Jeremiah Wright at the hysterical insistence of a fearful, ostrichesque, white American public, the sensationalist corporate media, and racist apologists for the State of Israel's violent history and primary role in anti-American sentiment throughout the world. "Jeremiah Wright," notes Pilger, "spoke an embarrassing truth. He said that the attacks of 11 September 2001 had taken place as a consequence of the violence of US power across the world. The media demanded that Obama disown Wright and swear an oath of loyalty to the Bush lie that 'terrorists attacked America because they hate our freedoms.' So he did."
In his much heralded (though actually quite unimpressive) "A More Perfect Union" speech, Obama "critiqued the topic of race in a way that would be considered tame in an Ethnic Studies department, but that was audacious by the standards of mainstream politicians," writes Virginia Tech English professor Steven Salaita, continuing, "Unexamined in the chorus of praise, however, was the following statement, offered as a rebuke of Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s beliefs, which Obama patronizingly dismissed as misguided despite his refusal to condemn their messenger:"
Since making those remarks in Philadelphia back in March, Obama finally did denounce, condemn, decry, criticize, and lambaste Rev. Wright into oblivion. After a strong decades-long relationship based on mutual respect, faith, and friendship, Obama clearly demonstrated the audacity of political convenience and what it takes (and what is thrown away) in order to become the most powerful man in the world. The temptation is simply too great and, as a result, every fiber of morality and every dear friend is expendable.But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren’t simply controversial. They weren’t simply a religious leader’s effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country—a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam. (Barack Obama, March 18, 2008)The statement does lots of things at once. From a public image standpoint, it allowed Obama to further distance himself from accusations that he is secretly Muslim while simultaneously cozying up to his still-slightly-suspicious Zionist patrons. As rhetoric, it enabled Obama to fulfill the requisite demand that whites be made adequately comfortable, a demand that entails the condemnation of anything that might actually threaten their privilege. This injunction is de rigueur for people of color.
But I don’t want to highlight these stupid political games. I’m more interested in what the statement doesn’t do, which is to convey anything even incidentally truthful. Obama’s claim is a profound insult not only to the Palestinians who have courageously fought for their physical and cultural survival, but to anybody who values the use of evidence to express an informed opinion. In no framework other than Zionist extremism can the Israel-Palestine conflict be attributed to “radical Islam.” Even those who disagree vehemently about the history of Palestine concur that the conflict is fundamentally territorial.
The very construct of a “radical Islam,” in fact, means nothing of substance; it is a rhetorical ploy for the intellectually vacuous. Much of Palestine’s resistance, in the past and present, has been conducted by members of the Christian minority. Palestinians, far from being religious extremists, are noted for their progressive secular institutions. The first Palestinian suicide bombing, an act said to exemplify “radical Islam,” didn’t even occur until 1994. To Obama, this is apparently the point at which the Israel-Palestine conflict started.
It is utterly indecent for a person to deem himself a moral authority on tolerance while concurrently recycling an anti-Arab racism whose existence has been devastating for the Palestinians.
Furthermore, Obama's pandering acts include supporting Israel's 2006 war against Lebanon as a rational response to Hezbollah's resistance (widely acknowledged as an unsuccessful offensive that successfully destroyed civil infrastructure and murdered over a thousand Lebanese civilians, 30% of whom were children - a war crime by any standard); he has pledged his allegiance and fealty to the Israeli state again and again in an effort to deflect criticism over his past pro-human rights leanings, emphasizing the sacrosanctity of Israel's 'security,' assuring Israel's qualitative military and nuclear superiority in the region, and vowing total US military and financial support to the tune of $3 billion per year over the next decade (that comes out of your paychecks, people!); he opposed a UN Security Council resolution in January that implied criticism of Israel's brutal siege and starvation of a million and a half Gazan civilians, claiming that Israel was "forced to do this" and had the "right to respond" to desperate Palestinian resistance to forty years of aggressive occupation, devastation, incarceration, and dehumanization. "In January," Pilger points out, "pressured by the Israel lobby, he massaged a statement that 'nobody has suffered more than the Palestinian people' to now read: 'Nobody has suffered more than the Palestinian people from the failure of the Palestinian leadership to recognise Israel [emphasis added].' Such is his concern for the victims of the longest, illegal military occupation of modern times."
Obama exaggerates and lies about Iran's oh-so-notorious nuclear program, claiming that the Islamic Republic's phantom missiles are an existential threat to Israel, the only country in the Middle East that actually possesses nuclear weapons of its own. Matt Kosko notes, painfully, that "Not one of the candidates has ever criticized Israeli policies in the Occupied Territories, preferring instead to praise them as necessary defenses against terrorism. We must then conclude that all the candidates support brutalization, occupation, murder, torture, arrest, arbitrary detention, home demolition, humiliation, degradation, property confiscation, and economic strangulation." Sure, this sounds harsh and "not condemning" doesn't automatically mean "condoning," and yet a politician's silence is often code for tacit approval or even strategic indifference.
In a recent article for DissentVoice.org, Steven Salaita eloquently sums up many of my own feelings regarding the Democratic presidential candidate (who hadn't yet become the presumptive nominee at the time), stating,
I won’t vote for Obama because he once was promising but has morphed into an unusually charismatic but typically mediocre politician. A man once known for engaging the issue of Palestinian liberation in Chicago’s Arab American community now can be found sharing his message of Israel-love to anybody who will listen. This change of opinion intimates a lack of integrity. Obama’s supporters will argue that he is simply doing what allows him to become a viable contender for president, to which I would respond: if one wishes to keep his or her integrity intact, then that person shouldn’t seek national office as a Democrat. Obama is willingly forfeiting his integrity for his ambition. That is his choice and it isn’t my place to make the decision on his behalf. However, it is my place to decide not to vote for him based on that choice.Generally, there would be very little for me to add to Salaita's sentiments, except that the article was written before June 4, 2008. On that morning, one week ago, his first ante meridiem as presidential candidate, Barack Obama celebrated his historic achievement by sprinting to the floor of the AIPAC conference, the most powerful Zionist lobbying organization, in Washington DC to give a speech that, as Israeli writer and peace activist Uri Avnery put it, "broke all records for obsequiousness and fawning."
The primary but not exclusive impetus for my displeasure with Obama is his suddenly avid support of Israel. It is an issue that I and many of my peers in the Arab American community cannot dismiss, as do other progressive supporters of Obama. We may be accused of shortsightedness by rejecting Obama based largely on this issue, but nearly everybody privileges one or few concerns when entering into the American political arena: religion, abortion, a particular foreign policy, immigration, the economy. I cannot listen to the man smilingly discuss the continued dispossession of millions of people who have already suffered unspeakably and then endorse such treachery with a vote.
In any case, there is no need to apologize for or shy away from emphasizing Israel’s brutality. Far from being a marginal item in the life of the United States, American support for Israeli colonization has serious moral and geopolitical consequences. It, more than any other action, generates justifiable anger toward the United States in much of Europe and almost uniformly throughout the Southern Hemisphere. It extends the bloody tradition of settler colonization in the American polity and in its imagination, a state of mind that helps facilitate so many of today’s imperialist adventures. And it renders every politician who has ever lectured an Arab nation about human rights glaringly hypocritical.
[Incidentally, Avnery's piece is entitled "No, I Can't" which I can only assume he stole from me, since I used that very same title on this site more than four months ago!]
In front of the audience of over 6,000 Zionist zealots and hawkish right-wingers that any AIPAC conference would invariably house, in addition to hundreds of United States Congressmen and women, Republicrats and Demublicans alike (oh wait, did I say Zionist zealots and hawkish right-wingers?), Obama embraced some of the most horrific ideologies of the modern world and displayed his blind obedience to power and a will to get elected for high office that trumps all sense of human rights and justice, a fair foreign policy, and any desire for peace.
But why am I making such a big deal of this? Isn't this what politicians do? What else was he supposed to do? Tell the truth? Of course not. Obama's AIPAC ass-kissing is striking and troubling because of what his whole candidacy is supposed to have stood for up until this point. Avnery illuminates the irony that Obama's "dizzying success in the primaries was entirely due to his promise to bring about a change, to put an end to the rotten practices of Washington and to replace the old cynics with a young, brave person who does not compromise his principles. And lo and behold, the very first thing he does after securing the nomination of his party is to compromise his principles." After the PR campaign about all that sexy "hope" and "change," it seems incongruous at the very least for Obama "to crawl in the dust at the feet of AIPAC and go out of his way to justify a policy that completely negates his own ideas."
Indeed, foreign policy analyst and professor of politics and Middle East Studies, Stephen Zunes, wrote yesterday that Obama's "speech in Washington [to AIPAC] in many ways constituted a slap in the face of the grass roots peace and human rights activists who have brought him to the cusp of the Democratic presidential nomination."
Obama went to extraordinary lengths to be a gracious mouse in a room full of snakes, describing himself as "a true friend of Israel" and pronouncing his "unshakeable commitment to Israel's security" that includes "ensuring Israel's qualitative military advantage" and guarantee that "Israel can defend itself from any threat, from Gaza to Tehran" and pledging fidelity to the idea that the "bond between US and Israel is unbreakable today, unbreakable tomorrow, unbreakable forever."
Obama, supposedly America's champion of peace and best bet for a change to the imperial US foreign policy of the past eight (or one hundred?) years, "rejected the view that the Middle East already has too many armaments and dismissed pleas by human rights activists that U.S. aid to Israel — like all countries — should be made conditional on adherence to international humanitarian law," writes Zunes.
Indeed, he further pledged an additional $30 billion of taxpayer-funded military aid to the Israeli government and its occupation forces over the next decade with no strings attached. Rather than accept that strategic parity between potential antagonists is the best way, short of a full peace agreement, to prevent war and to maintain regional security, Obama instead insisted that the United States should enable Israel to maintain its “qualitative military edge.He talked tough about Iran, while still emphasizing his willingness to exhaust aggressive diplomacy before resorting to pre-emptive violence, declaring that "there is no greater threat to Israel — or to the peace and stability of the region — than Iran" and then reiterating the Cheney falsehoods that "the Iranian regime supports violent extremists and challenges us [sic] across the region. It pursues a nuclear capability that could spark a dangerous arms race and raise the prospect of a transfer of nuclear know-how to terrorists [sic]. Its president denies the Holocaust [sic] and threatens to wipe Israel off the map [sic]. The danger from Iran is grave [sic], it is real [sic], and my goal will be to eliminate this threat." He pushed for privatized sanctions and divestments from Iran, but made clear that he can be as aggressive as the worst of 'em, stating, "We will also use all elements of American power to pressure Iran. I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Everything. And I mean everything." Just in case any audience members had been taking a leak during that especially repetitious and rapacious part of his speech, Obama reiterated his bellicose charge a few minutes later, "Let there be no doubt: I will always keep the threat of military action on the table to defend our security and our ally Israel." Whew, what a relief.
When "discussing" the Israel/Palestine conflict, Obama never once mentioned the Apartheid Wall that snakes illegally through Palestinian land in the West Bank, effectively annexing more territory to Israeli control; there was no mention of a stifling occupation, of checkpoints, of air strikes, of assassinations and extrajudicial killings, nor of the open-air prison that is Gaza. Israel could do no wrong, apparently, as it should never feel obligated to enter into peace talks or stop bombing civilian centers or refugee camps. Maybe slowing the building of illegal settlements would be a help, but no one's trying to twist anyone's arm here (unless they're Arab or Persian).
"Over the past three years," Zunes points out, "the ratio of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip killed by Israeli forces relative to the number of Israeli civilians in Israel killed by Palestinians is approximately 50 to one and has been even higher more recently. However, Obama chose only to mention the Israeli deaths and condemn Hamas, whose armed wing has been responsible for most of the Israeli casualties, and not a word about the moral culpability of the Israeli government." There was only praise heaped upon gooey celebration for Israel's hard-fought accomplishments, triumphs, and prosperity (do you think he meant land theft, dispossession of a native population, and institutionalized ethnic cleansing?), and its "resilient commitment to the rule of law" (though, naturally, Obama didn't mean international law or UN declarations), with absolutely no mention of Jews-only roads, collective punishment, anti-Arab laws and courts, and, of course, Obama never even let on that he had any knowledge of the bloody circumstances of the 1948 Nakba, the unquestionable root cause of the entire conflict.
Obama repeated the "never again" mantra that has been the calling card of all Israeli apologists since Ben-Gurion. Obama promised to stand with Israel in a slew of "nevers," never relenting, yielding, nor compromising when it comes to "security." He continued, "Not when there are still voices that deny the Holocaust. Not when there are terrorist groups and political leaders committed to Israel's destruction. Not when there are maps across the Middle East that don't even acknowledge Israel's existence, and government-funded textbooks filled with hatred toward Jews. Not when there are rockets raining down on Sderot, and Israeli children have to take a deep breath and summon uncommon courage every time they board a bus or walk to school."
I suppose Obama wasn't actually referring to maps in Israel that don't acknowledge the land of Palestine in any way, but rather call the West Bank by its biblical names "Judea and Samaria." I suppose he didn't mean the Israeli textbooks that claim Israel was given to the Jews by almighty god and that was, in the late nineteenth century, "a land without a people for a people without a land," despite the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians whose ancestors had worked and lived on that land for centuries and who are living there still. I don't think he was referring to the same textbooks that hail, as a struggle for freedom and independence, the terrorist efforts of early Zionist militias such as the Stern Gang, Irgun, and the Haganah (which later became the foundation of the Israeli military) or the same textbooks that don't mention the names of the over 400 Palestinian villages these militias destroyed and looted while violently driving over 750,000 Palestinians from their homes, lands, and livlihoods; the textbooks that acknowledge neither the massacre at Deir Yassin nor even, more recently, Sabra and Shatilla. My guess is that Obama wasn't talking about IDF drones, F-16s, and Apache helicopters whizzing overhead and dropping missiles and cluster bombs in residential neighborhoods, or the rockets that rain down daily on Palestinian homes, hospitals, and schools. Oh and, regarding uncommon courage? I wonder if Obama has ever heard of Abir Aramin, the Palestinian ten-year-old who was killed by an Israeli soldier's rubber bullet to the back of the head on her way home from school. If occupation and oppression breeds struggle and resistance, who are the courageous ones? The ones who oppress and fear reprisal? Or are they ones who go to school despite the humiliation of passing through checkpoints and beneath watchtowers manned by foreign soldiers in their own land? Does it take only common courage to fight against the region's most powerful military backed by the world's most powerful country? And then what kind of courage must it take for Barack Obama to stand up in front of a room full of ethno-supremacist cowards who are clearly using him for their own political, ideological, and hegemonic gain and tell them what they want to hear?
Zunes reports that "despite his openness to talk with those governing Iran and North Korea, Obama emphasized his opposition to talking to those governing the Gaza Strip, even though Hamas won a majority in the Palestinian parliament in what was universally acknowledged as a free election."
Though a public opinion poll published in the leading Israeli newspaper Haaretz showed that 64% of the Israeli population support direct negotiations between Israel and Hamas (while only 28% expressed opposition), Obama has chosen to side with the right-wing minority in opposing any such talks. Furthermore, Obama insists that Hamas should have never been even allowed to participate in the Palestinian elections in the first place because of their extremist views, which fail to recognize Israel and acts of terrorism by its armed wing. Yet he has never objected to the Israelis allowing parties such as National Union — which defends attacks on Arab civilians and seeks to destroy any Palestinian national entity, and expel its Arab population — to participate in elections or hold high positions in government.But isn't this all just par for the course in American politics? Sure it is, but that doesn't make it any more excusable or any less nauseating. Obama, due to his youthful impetuousness and riding a wave of recent success and political invincibility, decided that he'd win the crowd over with a declaration about the fate of Jerusalem, one of the four most hotly-contested "final status" issues of the conflict (the other three being the Palestinian Right of Return, internationally agreed upon and recognized borders of Israel and the Palestinian state, and the dismantling of Israeli settlement blocs on the West Bank), a declaration that according to Uri Avnery "breaks all bounds. It is no exaggeration to call it scandalous." Zunes explains what all the fuss is about:
He insisted that Hamas uphold previous agreements by the Fatah-led Palestine Authority with Israel, but did not insist that Israel uphold its previous agreements with the Palestine Authority, such as withdrawing from lands re-occupied in 2001 in violation of U.S.-guaranteed disengagement agreements.
Most disturbing was Obama’s apparent support for Israel’s illegal annexation of greater East Jerusalem, the Palestinian-populated sector of the city and surrounding villages that Israel seized along with the rest of the West Bank in June 1967.Obama's ill-fated comment regarding the holiest city in the world was immediately rejected by PA president Mahmoud Abbas. Khody Akhavi reports that "On the same day Obama made his pledge, President Bush announced that he was suspending a move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem," and that Obama himself, perhaps attempting to extract his saliva-soaked loafer from his own gullet, "backtracked on the position the next day."
The UN Security Council passed a series of resolutions (252, 267, 271, 298, 476 and 478) calling on Israel to rescind its annexation of greater East Jerusalem and to refrain from any unilateral action regarding its final status. Furthermore, due to the city’s unresolved legal status dating from the 1948-49 Israeli war on independence, the international community refuses to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, with the United States and other governments maintaining their respective embassies in Tel Aviv.
Despite these longstanding internationally-recognized legal principles, Obama insisted in his speech before AIPAC that “Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.”
Given the city’s significance to both populations, any sustainable peace agreement would need to recognize Jerusalem as the capital city for both Israel and Palestine. In addition to its religious significance for both Palestinian Christians and Palestinian Muslims, Jerusalem has long been the most important cultural, commercial, political, and educational center for Palestinians and has the largest Palestinian population of any city in the world. Furthermore, Israel’s annexation of greater East Jerusalem and its planned annexation of surrounding settlement blocs would make a contiguous and economically viable Palestinian state impossible. Such a position, therefore, would necessarily preclude any peace agreement. This raises serious questions as to whether Obama really does support Israeli-Palestinian peace after all.
Obama argued in his speech that the United States should not “force concessions” on Israel, such as rescinding its annexation of Jerusalem, despite the series of UN Security Council resolutions explicitly calling on Israel do to so. While Obama insists that Iran, Syria, and other countries that reject U.S. hegemonic designs in the region should be forced to comply with UN Security Council resolutions, he apparently believes allied governments such as Israel are exempt.
Also disturbing about his statement was a willingness to “force concessions” on the Palestinians by pre-determining the outcome of one of the most sensitive issues in the negotiations. If, as widely interpreted, Obama was recognizing Israel’s illegal annexation of greater East Jerusalem, it appears that the incipient Democratic nominee — like the Bush administration — has shown contempt for the most basic premises of international law, which forbids any country from expanding its borders by force.
Perhaps, the saddest part of the whole AIPAC charade is that the guy who had previously not fallen for the empty gestures of phony patriotism and spoken truth to symbology, showed up on the podium (beema?) donning not just an American flag pin on his lapel, but rather a pin depicting the American and Israeli flags entwined in a Kama Sutra pose, illegal in 38 states (much to the wet dream delight of Zionist media outlets like JTA). Is it not curious that an American citizen, running for the very highest office, wears the flag of a foreign state directly over his heart and is not accused of some sort of Benedict Arnoldish ideological treason? Regardless, what is most disheartening is that Obama has essentially stopped caring about the tenets of his nomination campaign and has become just another US politician, even though that's exactly what we're supposed to believe he's not.
Stephen Zunes concludes with the following truth:
Through a combination of deep-seated fear from centuries of anti-Semitic repression, manipulation by the United States and other Western powers, and self-serving actions by some of their own leaders, a right-wing minority of American Jews support influential organizations such as AIPAC to advocate militaristic policies that, while particularly tragic for the Palestinians and Lebanese, are ultimately bad for the United States and Israel as well.Oh well.
Obama’s June 3 speech would have been the perfect time for Obama, while upholding his commitment to Israel’s right to exist in peace and security, to challenge AIPAC’s militarism and national chauvinism more directly. Unfortunately, while showing some independence of thought on Iran, he apparently felt the Palestinians were not as important.
Taking a pro-Israel but anti-occupation position would have demonstrated that Obama was not just another pandering politician and that he recognized that a country’s legitimate security needs were not enhanced by invasion, occupation, colonization and repression.
That truly would have been “change you can believe in.”
VoteNader.org | 4 June 2008
There is one clear choice this year for peace in the Middle East.
Thanks to your ongoing support, the Nader/Gonzalez peace in the Middle East campaign is aiming to be on the ballot nationwide in November.
Only Nader/Gonzalez stands with the courageous Israeli and Palestinian peace movements.
Only Nader/Gonzalez stands with the majority of Jewish Americans and Arab Americans which polls repeatedly show support a two-state solution as a way for peace in the Middle East.
Only Nader/Gonzalez would reverse U.S. policy in the Middle East.
Then just listen to Barack Obama's speech from this morning to the militarist and right-wing American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
Did Obama make one mention of the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza's 1.5 million people and the UN-documented resulting humanitarian disaster there?
He did not.
Instead, Obama talked about "a Gaza controlled by Hamas with rockets raining down on Israel."
Did Obama mention U.S. government supplied Israeli firepower resulting in Palestinian civilian casualties in Gaza at a ratio of 400 to 1 (Palestinian to Israeli)
He did not.
Many peace loving Israelis and Jewish Americans will be disgusted by Obama's speech today.
Like the editor at the Israeli newspaper Haaretz who wrote that the Israeli government has "lost its reason" through the brutal incarceration, devastation and deprivation of the innocent people in Gaza.
Obama told AIPAC today that "we must isolate Hamas." (In its current form.)
Did he mention that a March 2008 Haaretz poll showed that 64 percent of the Israeli people want direct negotiations for peace between Israel and Hamas, while only 28% oppose it?
He did not.
Instead, Obama said this morning that "Egypt must cut off the smuggling of weapons into Gaza."
Did he say that Israel must stop bombing the people of Gaza?
He did not.
Obama this morning told AIPAC that "Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided."
Did Obama mention that this pledge undermines the widespread international consensus two-state solution peace plan?
He did not.
So, in a nutshell:
In this critical election year, Nader/Gonzalez stands on these issues with the majority of Israelis, Palestinians, Jewish-Americans and Arab Americans.
Obama/McCain stand with the hard-line minority position of AIPAC.
With your generous help, Nader/Gonzalez will work to make the voices for peace heard throughout this election year.
Together, we will make a difference.
The Nader Team