Guest Post by Amjad Atallah: First Thoughts on Obama’s Speech

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Amjad Atallah co-directs the New America Foundation/Middle East Task Force.
President Obama today delivered an exemplary speech that has the potential to significantly advance America’s national security interests in the Middle East. He spoke, as he has here at home, over the heads of established political leaders and directly to the Muslim world to marshal the vast majority of Muslims to assist US policy goals in Afghanistan and Pakistan by describing them as Muslim policy goals as well.
President Obama spoke to Muslims, convincingly, as a believer – and opened the door to a reshuffling of loyalties. Instead of Muslims against the West, the President implied a strong Judeo-Christian-Islamic heritage allied with humanist principles.
At a minimum he created more political capital for himself and for the United States while buying time for US policy options in the Middle East to be considered.
Although the speech acknowledged past transgressions (colonialism, the US overthrow of the democratic Mosadeq government in Iran in the 1950s, and an implication that the US invasion of Iraq was at least ill-considered if not a violation of international law) it did not apologize for them. He simply noted them matter of factly as a source of our tension with the Muslim world and moved on to discuss what the future might hold, directing a Muslim world that is very alert to past and present grievances toward a problem-solving perspective.
Interestingly, the President’s only mention of a political party was of Hamas. By noting Hamas’ acceptance by part of the Palestinian population, the President was drawing a distinction between those Salafist Islamist forces the US is combating in Afghanistan and Pakistan and those that have political constituencies and accept the legitimacy of electoral processes. Hamas leader Ahmed Yusuf’s first response to the speech was positive, flowery, effusive, and defensive all at the same time.
The President has also done Israel a great favor. No leader – anywhere – has ever presented the Zionist narrative of European oppression as a necessitating factor for a Jewish homeland – to a Muslim audience so directly and with such empathy while linking it directly to the Palestinian narrative of dispossession and oppression under occupation. He firmly linked the right to statehood (self-determination) for both peoples in one sentence.
By contrast, the message from al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden yesterday appears self-serving and irrelevant.
– Amjad Atallah

Comments

39 comments on “Guest Post by Amjad Atallah: First Thoughts on Obama’s Speech

  1. David says:

    Thanks for that link, POA. Ira Chernus is one of
    those commentators/analysts well worth paying
    attention to.

    Reply

  2. David says:

    Powerful lobbies are just that, best I can tell.
    Ultimately, of course, any elected official has
    only one overriding fear: loss in the next
    election. AIPAC’s and the NRA’s real power lie in
    their ability to direct campaign funds and
    determine the voting behavior of significant
    blocks of voters. And yes, AIPAC has historically
    been able to do both of those things. Its
    greatest power has been with Democrats, primarily
    because overall Jews still vote Democratic over
    Republican.
    And Palestinian political power in the United
    States? Only among morally driven progressives.
    AIPAC’s problem, from my perspective, is its far
    too narrow, short-sighted view of the Israeli-
    Palestinian conflict, and its unquestioning
    acceptance of all the unjust suffering inflicted
    on the Palestinians from the very inception of the
    modern state of Israel. The same goes for the
    Likud Party. To my mind, the most important
    recent Jewish political development in America is
    the J-Street Project. That, I think, is part of
    the crack. I haven’t read the Truthout article
    yet, but will as soon as I post this.
    Because of long-time close personal relationships
    with progressive Jews, first at the University of
    Florida in the 60s, the disconnect between the
    liberal Jewish sense of justice and what is being
    done by Israel in the Occupied Territories is
    utterly disconcerting. This is what I think also
    drives a fellow Southern Democrat and a champion
    of civil/human rights, Jimmy Carter. In his case,
    because he did what he did to try to make for a
    better Middle East for Israel and the Arab world,
    however ill-advisedly he stood by the Shah in his
    hour of medical need, and because unlike me he is
    a practicing Southern Protestant with roots in the
    Southern Baptist Church, whereas I am strictly a
    secular humanist with youthful experiences in the
    Southern Baptist Church (I did love that girl), he
    is even more deeply troubled by the moral self-
    destruction of Israel and the potential political
    self-destruction if it continues on its present
    course than I am, although my despair and horror
    run very deep.
    I also think Obama’s conversations with Carter
    likely enriched Obama’s larger understanding of
    this crisis. These are guesses, of course, but
    I’m not sure we can escape making educated
    guesses, since comprehensive pictures of anything,
    given the nature of our media, are hard to come
    by.

    Reply

  3. questions says:

    If it’s “beginning to crack,” was it ever there in the first place? I think that’s my point in a NUTshell.

    Reply

  4. PissedOffAmerican says:

    AIPAC Wall Beginning to Crack
    http://www.truthout.org/060909R

    Reply

  5. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “I have a long history here of being what I call an “AIPAC denialist” (made up the term myself)”
    Why make up terms when the label “detached from reality” will suffice nicely?

    Reply

  6. questions says:

    I have a long history here of being what I call an “AIPAC denialist” (made up the term myself). (I get called out on this view frequently.) To the best of my understanding, the jury is out on whether or not lobbies actually “control” Congress. What Olbermann oddly called “the logical fallacy” (as if there were only one) — post hoc ergo propter hoc (after therefore because) — is a huge issue with lobbying. We don’t really know if lobbying CAUSES votes or merely correlates with them. So I remain deeply skeptical of AIPAC’s power, more likely to believe that AIPAC is good at credit-claiming and less good at motivating votes, more likely to think that when AIPAC and the US agree on issues, AIPAC “gets its way,” and more likely to think that Bush and Cheney had non-AIPAC reasons for their actions in the ME.
    I was under the impression that you were suggesting that AIPAC controls not only Congress but also the White House, and that was what I was asking about. But in your response, you seem to separate the Cheney effect from the AIPAC effect.

    Reply

  7. David says:

    Thanks for the info, questions.
    AIPAC is, like any number of other powerful lobbies, quite influential, as is now being demonstrated by Democrats in Congress. The NRA is another, but both pale by comparison with the pharma, other healt care, and oil lobbies. Whereas AIPAC and the NRA can wield considerable influence, those other lobbies have ownership rights to way too many members of congress, and 2001-2008 the White House.
    Cheney is more knowledgeable and probably smarter than W, and was the most powerful vp in US history, so it is not hard to imagine him redirecting Bush’s thinking. He was in many ways de facto president, including from the time the twin towers were hit until Bush arrived in Washington. But he was not de jure the president, and for that reason he could not green-light Israeli airstrikes against Iran, badly as he wanted to. It is the one thing for which I thank Bush, and for which Israelis should thank Bush, because it would have been the worst mistake anyone could make in the current Middle East (the invasion of Iraq is the worst thing that actually happened). Why he said no I do not know, but it is the wisest thing he did during his presidency. His secret deals with Likud, on the other hand…
    Here’s the latest from my Swiss banker friend: “Yeah, Obama comes across very well, even in our bourgeois local Neue Zuercher Zeitung, much less in Jewish circles.
    >They feel the mounting pressure on the – very unsavory – Israeli regime.”
    This is a man, like me, without an anti-semitic bone in his body, but who is deeply troubled by the injustices in the Middle East, including the injustices against the Palestinians by an occupier for whom they are no match, and an occupier which has operated with the acquiescence of the United States, in particular, but by no means exclusively, during the Bush years.

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  8. questions says:

    David,
    Hit control A to block and control C to copy EVERY post before you submit. Then when you lose it, you can hit control V to paste it in a new window.
    Anyway, I’d love to hear from you what “countermanded by Cheney and AIPAC” means institutionally. What are the carrots and sticks, what would Cheney or Bush have to fear from AIPAC? How does this “countermanding” work?

    Reply

  9. David says:

    I just accidentally hit the CTRL key and erased my comment. I hate the location of the CTRL key. Demoralizing to have that happen. Who in hell thought that was a good location for that all-powerful key?
    Briefer response, as best I can remember what I wrote. A POTUS publicly acknowledging something of this magnitude changes the dynamic, and not by just a little bit. Press should have run with it, but then I have no expectations of the US press, not since the 70s, and not before the 60s. That brief, bipolar period, is bookended, at least during my lifetime, by a primarily misleading MSM serving corporate interests and “vital American interests” first.
    That my friend, who does know the history, reacted differently to Obama than Bush, is significant. Bush either lied, or was countermanded by Cheney and AIPAC. Legitimate question is whether or not Obama is just another liar and/or impotent on this issue.
    But he is sticking his neck out just in changing the dynamic, and he has bet a lot on rebranding the US in the Muslim world, which cannot work if Israel continues to do whatever the hell it wants in the Occupied Territories. It will be interesting to see if Bibi and Likud have met their match in Obama.
    If the people who hold that Obama is just another duplicitous, pro-empire POTUS are correct, then I will finally concede the futility of American electoral politics. But not yet.

    Reply

  10. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “….but when was the last time a POTUS publicly acknowledged that the United States was involved in the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Iran?”
    When your next door neighbor repeatedly arrives at your annual BBQ wearing heels, a mini, and his wife’s bra under a nifty little tube top, it can hardly be considered a revelation when his wife candidly admits her husband is a cross-dresser.

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  11. Don Bacon says:

    David,
    When your banker friend said “Finally an American who says Palestinians need their own country and Israel must stop building new settlements” he was unaware of the facts, and that led him to a false conclusion. As POA keeps pointing out, people like your friend are simple victims of image exploitation promoted by marketing experts, and so they believe that when the O-man says something, it has never been said before, and has some import. It doesn’t necessarily. So some can wish on a star if it makes them feel good.

    Reply

  12. David says:

    There is something new here, gang. I’ve known this Swiss banker since he was an apprentice sent to NYC in 1964 by the bank for which he then worked. He is an investment banker who oversees investment accounts, including American accounts. He is a 180 degree polar opposite of the standard notion of an investment banker. He has followed, and we have debated, American politics since those days 45 years ago. He is more conservative than I, but socially very liberal, and who you would turn to if you wanted a responsible, ethical, politcally aware investment banker. He loathed the Bush administration, as did his family and as most of his acquaintances came to.
    He is no fuzzy-headed hopester. That he reacted this way to Obama is significant. How this will all play out I do not know – none of us actually does – but when was the last time a POTUS publicly acknowledged that the United States was involved in the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Iran?
    While I recognize the unchecked power of AIPAC over Congress, and I have no trouble at all understanding your cynicism, especially based on 50 years of US-Israeli relations and the brutalization of the Palestinians, you are overlooking Joe Biden’s speech to AIPAC and you are judging Obama before the fact. If the status quo continues, I will concede. But there is a new dynamic in play. The only question I see is whether or not AIPAC, Bill Kriston, Frank Gaffney, and the whole chorus of hardcore, ideologically blinded, horribly misguided “friends of Israel” can crush it, or as they say “kill the snake in the egg.”

    Reply

  13. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “POA says he has to agree the problem is almost impossible to solve if…”we place no conditions on the billions in aid we send THEM.” Does that also include the money we send to the Palestinians through the UN?”
    During Fiscal Year 2009, the U.S. is providing Israel with at least $7.0 million per day in military aid and $0 in military aid to the Palestinians.
    http://www.ifamericansonlyknew.org/stats/usaid.html#source

    Reply

  14. Don Bacon says:

    And let’s not forget that yesterday was the anniversary of a day of infamy — the deliberate Israeli air and naval attack upon the USS Liberty, a clearly marked naval intelligence ship. On June 8, 1967, after several hours of aerial surveillance, unmarked aircraft attacked the USS Liberty with gunfire, rockets and napalm. This was followed by an attack by three motor torpedo boats, firing torpedoes and then machine-gunning the ship, its crew and their lifeboats. The ship managed to get out a call for help under extraordinary circumstances, but was nearly sunk, and more than 200 American sailors and Marines were killed or wounded.

    Reply

  15. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “I’m committed to two democratic states — Israel and Palestine — living side-by-side in peace and security. I’m committed to a Palestinian state that has territorial integrity and will live peacefully with the Jewish state of Israel.”–George Bush, Sep 19, 2006
    “Israeli settlement activity in occupied territories must stop. And the occupation must end through withdrawal to secure and recognize boundaries consistent with United Nations Resolutions 242 and 338.” –George Bush, April 4, 2002
    And still, the settlements have expanded, and new settlements have been established. And still, the money keeps flowing into the Israeli sinkhole.
    Like Don says, there is nothing new here. Words, spoken before, had no weight then, and have no weight now.
    Where are the condemnations of the separation fence? Where are the condemnations of the blockade? Where are the strong admonitions for Israel to adhere to the 62 UN violations it is in violation of? Why isn’t our government demanding reparations for Tristan Anderson and his family, and demanding that the soldiers involved be held accountable? Where are the condemnations for the war crimes committed during the latest Israeli duck shoot? Instead, Obama out of one side of his mouth blathers sopme empty horseshit about the settlements, and out of the other side oozes forth with promises of continued financial support and an unfettered alliance. All the while Netanyahu and his ministers are flipping him the bird, publically stating they have no intention of ceasing expansion in the settlements.
    Its an effin’ scam, a ruse. Any “concessions” on Israel’s part will be superficial at best, glorified and exagerated by the usual propaganda put forth by an American media cozily in bed with Israeli influence and money. Seen the latest on AP? They ommitted Obama’s Cairo comments about the hardships of the Palerstinians in their printing of the so called “transcripts” of Obama’s speech…..
    http://www.kabobfest.com/2009/06/ap-edits-palestinian-suffering-out-of-obamas-speech.html
    And now we have the saga of the two American journalists in North Korea, capturing the attention of the self same media and these posturing frauds masquerading as concerned politicians, fighting the good fight for American citizens in foreign lands. Saberi, and now this. But what of Tristan? Can you imagine the hew and cry that would be raised if N.Korean soldiers had simply shot these two in the head? Or imagine an American being shot in the head by Iranian police. Do you think Obama and this Hillary witch would be so prone to ignore such an event?
    What other country but Israel can get away with shooting down an Amnerican citizen engaged in peaceful protest, and get nary a mention from either the President or the SOS?
    Obama is just grandstanding. Israel will make a few transparently fraudulent “concessions”, our press will obediently mis-report the scale of those “concessions”, and this ball-less smooth talking fraud Obama will be touted as taking a “hard line” with Israel.
    And Israel will simply continue sauteing Palestinians, and dehumanizing the ones that manage to escape being barbequed, skewered, shot, or bulldozed, while openly stealing their land. Financed by the American taxpayer, and abetted by our very own Congress.

    Reply

  16. silver slipper says:

    POA says he has to agree the problem is almost impossible to solve if…”we place no conditions on the billions in aid we send THEM.” Does that also include the money we send to the Palestinians through the UN? Is there anything the Palestinians could do to help secure peace, or do you think they are doing everything just right?
    My point was also that the idea of two states has existed since the reformation of Israel, and that President Obama is not presenting anything new. Apparently the Palestinians have rejected that idea all along (unless they originally did not have a formal enough government to negotiate). It just appears that the solution that would make the Palestinians happy would be for there to be no Israel at all — and that will probably never happen – thus it seems impossible to solve this conflict.

    Reply

  17. Don Bacon says:

    Swiss banker in Zurich: Finally an American who says Palestinians need their own country and Israel must stop building new settlements. He is inspiring hope in the US’s ability to lead
    the world again with decency – who else could?”
    Ah, how about George Bush?
    “I’m committed to two democratic states — Israel and Palestine — living side-by-side in peace and security. I’m committed to a Palestinian state that has territorial integrity and will live peacefully with the Jewish state of Israel.”–George Bush, Sep 19, 2006
    “Israeli settlement activity in occupied territories must stop. And the occupation must end through withdrawal to secure and recognize boundaries consistent with United Nations Resolutions 242 and 338.” –George Bush, April 4, 2002
    In other wors, nothing new here, move along.

    Reply

  18. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “My point is just that this seems impossible to solve”
    Well, I hafta agree, if we place no conditions on the billions in aid we send them. Thats the real sticking point. What incentive does Israel have to act in good faith towards a solution when our Congress keeps shoveling money at them?
    Israel isn’t Obama’s problem when it comes to changing the dynamic. Its Congress that is the problem. These scumsucking corrupt opportunistic posturing whores in Congress will NEVER forcefully support and advance any policies towards Israel that threatens the AIPAC gravy train they’re riding on.
    Register AIPAC as a foreign agent, and stop flushing our money down the Israeli crapper. Make all monetary aid contingent on solid conditions, and stop sending them the makings of human barbeques.
    And tell the racist murderous leaders of Israel if they want to gun down American citizens engaged in peaceful protest, or sink American warships, we will do to them what they want us to do to Iran.

    Reply

  19. David says:

    This is excerpted from an e-mail from my Swiss banker friend in Zurich:
    “Impressed by the way Barak handled his trip to the old parts of the world. Finally an American who says Palestinians
    need their own country and Israel must stop building new settlements. He is inspiring hope in the US’s ability to lead
    the world again with decency – who else could?”

    Reply

  20. silver slipper says:

    Okay, I’ve read the Wikipedia version of how Israel was formed. The land was controlled by Britain who did not want Jewish people to settle in what’s now Israel. They did anyway. Britain imprisoned Jewish settlers in Cyprus to try to prevent this from occurring. Britain referred the problem to the UN. The UN decided for there to be two states – a Palestinian and a Jewish state. At some point, Britain gave up it’s rights to controlling the area, and pulled out. Some time after that, the Jewish people declared sovereignty. Harry Truman recognized Israel as a state. A war followed with neighboring Arab nations, and Israel won.
    So again, my question is – If the Palestinian people did not want a two state solution back then, why do they want it now? It doesn’t sound like the Palestinians had an organized government during that time though. So maybe some did want it back then, but were unable to organize to accept?
    My point is just that this seems impossible to solve. I also don’t see much difference in what President Obama says and what President Bush said. It’s a two state solution. But that’s the solution that’s always been available to the Palestinians since the reestablishment of Israel occurred.

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  21. Don Bacon says:

    “Settlements” like “enhanced interrogation” sounds rather benign but it’s important to understand what they are.
    Nearly 300,000 Israelis live in about 120 Jewish settlements, illegal under international law, ranging from frontier villages to small cities in the West Bank among a Palestinian population of about 2.5 million. Israel has seized 50,000 acres and destroyed 150,000 olive and fruit trees.
    In the vast majority of the settlements – about 75 percent – construction, sometimes on a large scale, has been carried out without the appropriate permits or contrary to the permits that were issued. The database also shows that, in more than 30 settlements, extensive construction of buildings and infrastructure (roads, schools, synagogues, yeshivas and even police stations) has been carried out on private lands belonging to Palestinian West Bank residents.
    In February 2008 the Israeli Government Civil Administration admitted that more than a third of West Bank settlements were built on private Palestinian land, originally seized by the IDF for ‘security purposes’. The unauthorized seizure of private Palestinian land has been defined by the Civil Administration itself in a recent case as ‘theft’.
    Israel is building a 450 mile, eight foot barrier in the West Bank which bisects some Palestinian land. On Friday, a Palestinian protesting Israel’s West Bank security fence was killed. Palestinian medical officials said Yousef Srour, 36, died Friday from live fire, Ha’aretz reported. Palestinian, Israeli and international protesters gather each Friday in the West Bank village, which is bisected by the barrier.
    The West Bank is carved into 200 disconnected islands, separated by Israeli settlements, highways, and checkpoints. Israeli settlers and soldiers have free passage on the highways but Palestinians are denied entry.
    But hey, says Obama, just don’t expand the settlements and everything will be cool.

    Reply

  22. David says:

    I honestly do not know, Dan. I think this process is still at the stage of broad but determined aspirations which incorporate, as a starting point, past realities on which the current debacle rests. We will now find out how astute he and those around him are. But first he had to reverse Bush policies and rebrand the United States on the world stage. He is doing those things effectively. I see this as likely an ongoing trend. Hence my guarded optimism.
    I would also add that the team of Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton are key to Obama’s success with influential Israelis. Who is probably as important as how, given human nature and poltical dynamics.
    There is a link to an excellent relevant commentary by Bernard Avishai over on Josh Marshall’s Talking Points Memo (in the Must Read post).

    Reply

  23. Dan Kervick says:

    David, in your view what is Obama’s plan for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? I’m not asking about his broad aspirations. I’m asking about the plan.

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  24. David says:

    POA,
    I have to disagreee, even though I consider Israeli treatment of the Palestinians as pretty much analgous to what we did to Native Americans, and essentially for the same reason: “manifest destiny.” But I do think Obama is laying some very important groundwork, and I also think that he is as intellectually honest as a POTUS can be. Keep track of Jimmy Carter, if possible, in all of this. Carter made some terrible mistakes, especially the Carter Doctrine regarding Middle East oil and his Afghanistan policy. But Jimmy Carter is also both intellectually honest and, I have to suspect, a different kind of thinker than when he made those mistakes.
    I think Obama has studied this dilemma and has decided it is not an impossible conundrum, nor is it an ancient conflict without peaceful resolution. He presented in his speech the reality that it is a modern conflict, the result of 20th century geopolitics. The roots of racist hatreds might be ancient, but the political catastrophes of the 20th century were the consequences of 20th century leaders decisions and actions, and also, of course, very much the spawn of 20th century global enterprises, especially as they related to resources.
    I think Obama sees the 21st century as an opportunity to set a 21st century course for geopolitics. I am not so naive as to think it will be easy, or that there will not be very powerful interests out to preserve their privileges, their agendas, and their control over whatever it is they want to have, control, exploit. I just think Obama might be shrewder and more of a political zen master than we realize. Strong support for Israel is the smartest starting point for any president who wants to change what the Israeli government is doing, especially as relates to the settlements. And apparently the majority of Israelis are willing to accept, at this point, withdrawl from the settlements, I guess if it is a key to peace and security and the personal safety of their children.
    I cannot know Obama’s mind, or what his actual agendas are, but if he really is seeking peace in the Middle East and some semblance of justice for the Palestinians, he is laying the correct groundwork. Joe Biden’s speech to AIPAC was a precursor to Obama’s Cairo speech.
    I agree that we have mostly seen half a century and more of brutal subjugation of Palestinians, especially in the refugee camps, and just a cursory perusal of the map of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories puts the lie to anything but Israel’s intention of displacing the Palestinians.
    I used to wonder (I’m talking about 30+ years ago) what the Israelis thought they were creating when they bombed refugee camps. I tried to put myself in the place of a young Palestinian who just saw his parents blown to bits in the manner of shooting fish in a barrel (at least that’s how it seemed to me based on news reports of the time) and wondered what I would grow up to become.
    This is a nightmare of modern making, and I think Obama the persistent, pragmatic idealist is trying to end it in as realistic but progressive a manner as it is in the power of an American president to do.
    If he betrays the Palestinians, then I will agree it is bullshit. But I think the jury should be out on this one.

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  25. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “No longer does Israel’s right to defend itself include the right to sow massive death and destruction throughout the neighborhood”
    Bullshit. Obama has taken the settlement issue on as a diversion, unwilling and too cowardly to actually get to the grit of Israel’s murderous treatment of Palestinian non-combatants, the starvation and dehumanization of an entire people, the illegal separation fence, the blatant war crimes of the latest Gaza bloodbath, the razing of Palestinian farmlands and orchards, and the continued blockade of essential infrastructural and human needs from entering Gaza.
    Obama is using the settlement issue to APPEAR unbiased and crirtical of Israel’s actions, yet is ignoring the most egregious of Israel’s actions.
    And Tristan Anderson is still a vegetable, abandoned by his President and Secretary of State, brutally shot down by the Israeli Gestapo.

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  26. silver slipper says:

    Did anyone posting here live during the 1940′s when Israel was reestablished as a country? How was that accomplished? Was the UN active then to cause that to happen or was it NATO? Was the Arab world given a chance to agree or disagree?
    Also, does everyone posting here believe that the Palestinians will be content with a two state solution? Or perhaps what the Palenstinians want is for Israel to be relocated to Europe as Ahmadinejad suggested be done.

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  27. Paul Norheim says:

    With hindsight, I actually think Obama has done a brilliant move
    during the last days. First, he goes to Cairo, saying that the US-
    Israeli bonds were “well known” and “unbreakable”. However, he
    continues, Washington “does not accept the legitimacy of
    continued Israeli settlements”.
    Then he goes straight to a German concentration camp, where
    he says: “To this day, there are those who insist the Holocaust
    never happened. This place is the ultimate rebuke to such
    thoughts, a reminder of our duty to confront those who would
    tell lies about our history.”
    Cairo and Buchewald must not be seen as unrelated events, they
    are parts of one unified, and very strong signal. The Cairo-
    Buchenwald speech does not only send a message to the Arab
    world and people like Ahmedinejad, but also to Israel and it`s
    American supporters. This message is very simple and effective.
    It says:
    Holocaust does not justify the settlements. Holocaust is one
    thing, unwise politics and occupation of Palestinian territory is a
    different thing, and not an automatic consequence of the first.
    By visiting Buchenwald after declaring that the settlements are
    illegal, he neutralizes the main weapon of those who defend the
    Israeli occupation: that Holocaust justifies whatever the Israelis
    do against the Palestinians. If he manages to bring this message
    through, he may have won half the battle.

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  28. Mr.Murder says:

    OT: Obama hit a home run on the NBC interview.
    Cruising for Burgers.
    POTUS style.

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  29. alan says:

    Some things of note: the place, the audience, the tv viewing public in the region and Israel outside looking in. I think one came away knowing that Arab viewers were given a view of Israel and the Holocaust not readily available to them. The Israelis have been shown up for the colonialists they are with their settlement creep policy.
    Meanwhile back in the US….AIPAC is making ready to …

    Reply

  30. rich says:

    Young American-Israelis react to Obama’s Cairo speech — film by Max Blumenthal in Jerusalem.
    http://www.philipweiss.org/mondoweiss/2009/06/max-blumenthal-feeling-the-hate-in-jerusalem-on-eve-of-obamas-cairo-address.html
    Gershom Gorenberg on ‘natural growth’ of settlements at the link below. I’ve written here before about this: about the administrative machinery of state and the momentum of business that incentivizes and backs up settlements as a tool for displacement of legitimate Palestinian residents.
    http://prospect.org/cs/articles?article=house_hunting_in_the_west_bank
    ” The U.S. demand was ‘immoral,’ Schneller said. He refused to agree to what he termed “an edict forbidding my daughters to give birth to my grandchildren.” And Schneller belongs to a party that refused to join Netanyahu’s coalition. Members of Netanyahu’s Cabinet have been more caustic. Science Minister Daniel Hershkowitz said that Obama’s demand was akin to ‘Pharaoh’s demand that all firstborn sons be thrown into the Nile River.’
    To call this nonsense would be too forgiving. It is one part of the multilayered lie about “natural growth” of settlements.
    Barack Obama has not demanded that women in settlements stop having babies. Rather, he has insisted that Israel stop construction in settlements, in line with its commitments under the 2003 road map for peace — in line, in fact, with American opposition to settlement building since 1967. Consistent with the road map, and with the 2001 report written by George Mitchell, now Obama’s Middle East envoy, the president has rejected Israeli insistence that construction continue to allow for “natural growth” of the settler population.
    The deliberate twisting of Obama’s stance is aimed at both a domestic and American audience. And it has confused some otherwise astute observers. Rep. Gary Ackerman, a Democrat from New York and chair of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East, said in press statement on Tuesday that he supported a settlement freeze but not one that “calls on Israeli families not to grow [or] get married. Telling people not to have children is unthinkable and inhumane.”
    Don’t worry, Mr. Ackerman: The president is not talking about universal contraception for Israeli settlers.”
    Note the rhetoric equates limiting territorial expansion with genocide. Hardly moderate or reasonable, and profoundly dishonest and Orwellian in tone.

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  31. Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi says:

    The US President Barack Hussian Obama’s Cairo speech an open index of his glowing reflections on progressive realism, liberal pragmatism, expedient political incrementalism, global humanitarianism and it is believed to have certain needed flavour to reduce the feelings of anti-americanism in the Muslim world if the thoughts relayed by the dynamic US President are translated into reality.Yet the international peace community’s advocates fairly, positively and fervently sanguine that the missing point of the Kashmir problem_ a real syndrome in cementing the South Asian peace- security atmosphere_ should be the nucleus of his future vision of resolving the Kashmir dispute that was once the focus of his elections-campaign.

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  32. Carroll says:

    I believe I read that Obama has given Israel 6 months to come up with their side of the peace plan.
    Frankly 6 months is too long and the Israelis will do nothing but dust off their usual demands and whine and recycle it as their 2009 plan…same plan as 1948.
    But we will see. If Obama doesn’t use some sticks on Israel nothing will happen and he and we will be the laughing stock of the universe.

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  33. Don Bacon says:

    President Obama fancies himself as someone who can find common ground between adversaries, as one who can “reframe” the argument. In the case of I/P he has done this by saying that both adversaries are at equal fault. This “reframing” plays right into the aggressive hands of Israel, making the victims (Palestinian Arabs) equally as guilty as their oppressors (Israel).
    Domestically, Obama has found ‘common ground’ by retaining or rehiring past miscreants and essentially continuing their malevolent policies. So we shouldn’t expect anything different in international policy, and in fact there has been no essential change in US foreign policy except to increase the military tempo with millions more displaced and with more deaths.
    Obama doesn’t have a Muslim program, other than this. There is no vision, no decision to do one thing or another to alleviate Muslim suffering. There has been no recognition of the recent rape of Gaza, no “tear down these walls”, no talk of boundaries, no end to the killing and torturing of innocents.
    Muslims don’t need sympathy and rehetoric, they need specific help: political and financial support, release from US military prisons, end of military occupations, etc.
    The reality is that Democrats who are now in power are even closer to Israel (and AIPAC) than the Repubs were, and more dependent on their financial support. AIPAC continues to hold the US Congress by its . . .purse-strings. So there’s nothing to see here — move on.
    Regarding Osama bin Laden, who is probably dead, it was a “purported bin Laden message”.

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  34. Dan K says:

    John H, I don’t see how this speech shifts the frame on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That part of the speech was larded with euphemism and draped in obscurantism and vagueness. I have no idea yet what Obama’s vision of a two-state solution looks like. I can tell Obama wants Israel to stop expanding settlements into more territory in the West Bank, and expects them to some day end their military occupation of Palestinian territory, but the speech leaves open the possibility that he only opposes “continued” settlements, doesn’t expect Israel to withdraw from the territory already seized, and might only call for a Palestinian state on the uncolonized territory that is left.
    Maybe Obama is prepared to go farther than that. But can you tell this from the speech? Even Bush called for Palestinian state and supported the road map, so this isn’t a frame-shifter.

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  35. JohnH says:

    Because of the spotlight on the settlements, occupation, and failure to keep one’s word, Israel has lost its status as eternal victim. On the contrary, the spotlight is shining on how Israel victimizes.
    Likewise, the Palestinians are no longer THE terrorists. And they are not just terrorists. By explicitly stating that their situation is intolerable, Obama is conceding that they are victims, as well.
    All in all, Obama has done a masterful job of changing the frame of reference and equilibrating the moral positions occupied by Israel and the Palestinians. Dark, dark days in Jerusalem.

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  36. JohnH says:

    The significance of this speech and other statements is that Obama has dramatically shifted the frame. No longer does Israel’s right to defend itself include the right to sow massive death and destruction throughout the neighborhood. No longer does Israel occupy the moral high ground–the spotlight is now on the settlements, the occupation, and keeping one’s word.
    On the other side, Palestinians have been recognized as a people with legitimate rights and aspirations. And the spotlight no longer shines solely on their violence but shines with equal brightness on Israeli violence.
    These have to be dark, dark days in Jerusalem. With the loss of the moral high ground, continued Israeli intransigence will be greeted with revulsion by people throughout the world. Israel can continue to reject peace, but only at the risk of becoming the pariah state it has long deserved to be.

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  37. Beth in VA says:

    As good a speaker as Obama is, I think they are even better when read. Perhaps because I am his same age, I share his vision and optimism for ecumenical/humanistic peace in the world. I was inspired and amazed that the same country that voted Bush for a second term elected this man President four years later. Amazing.

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  38. DonS says:

    I listened to the part of the speech where Obama unequivocally voiced solidarity with Israel — not that it will matter to the AIPAC likudists — and where he alluded to the basis of this unbreakable commitment — would that Israel were so steadfast in its cooperaton with the US. He noted the basis of cultural affinity. He did not explain, nor if pressed could he do more than mouth platitudes I suspect. I guess he doesn’t know too many Israelis, and has even less of a grasp of the pulse of assimilated American Jews.
    So Obama places himself in a position of a transformational figure . . . if only the Arabs will knuckle under to his vision.
    It is clear he will have to speak and act over the heads of Congress as well if his heart is truly set on rehabilitating, nay, instituting, a foreign policy repectful of Arabs and Muslims.

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  39. Paul Norheim says:

    I would guess that his speech was less significant with regards to
    the specifics – the Israel/Palestine conflict, Iran, etc. However, I
    think Obama was credible on a general level, expressing
    sympathy and respect for Islam and Muslims, quoting the Quran,
    demonstrating knowledge about Islams huge influence on our
    civilization. As the most prominent face representing the Western
    world today, this may be important. But I can`t imagine that his
    explanation of US policy goals in Afghanistan and Pakistan will
    have any impact upon those who oppose it.

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