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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

Obama's Cairo speech « Previous | |Next »
June 9, 2009

I referred to Obama's Cairo speech in this earlier post which I'd only quickly scanned. I've read it more slowly since then, and parts of it---- eg, on Israelis and Palestinians--- are very powerful within the context of US policy in the Middle East. Obama says:

Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed - more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, ignorant, and hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction - or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews - is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.

On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people - Muslims and Christians - have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations - large and small - that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.

Remember, this is a president of the USA talking. Obama deals openly and directly with the suffering and aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians. He then goes on to point to a way that could address the suffering and aspiration:

For decades, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It is easy to point fingers - for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought by Israel's founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: the only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.
He goes on to say that "violence is a dead end. It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered."
| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 2:30 PM | | Comments (7)


Obama's speech must make many of the pro-Israeli group in the ALP somewhat uneasy. They are all trotting off to Israel, on an Israeli government funded trip, built around the old Bush assumption of Israeli's good, Palestinians bad.

I wonder what the ALP pollies will say about Israeli settlement expansion when they return from their trip to Israel? Or will they avoid the issue, and talk about the existential threat posed by Iran to Israel? Will they come out and say that Obama got it wrong in his speech?

They're not likely to say much of anything about it publicly. They're at odds with public sentiment and now the American stance. There is nothing whatsoever to be gained by resembling Bush.

Iran poses an existential threat to Israel???? Really?

It's sad that Obama's speech has stirred up such outrage in some circles. I thought the square-jawed, self-reliant, fearless conservatives admired a "straight shootin" US president.

"The tragedy of the people of Palestine is that their country was 'given' by a foreign power to another people for the creation of a new state. The result was that many hundreds of thousands of innocent people were made permanently homeless. With every new conflict their numbers increased. How much longer is the world willing to endure this spectacle of wanton cruelty? It is abundantly clear that the refugees have every right to the homeland from which they were driven, and the denial of this right is at the heart of the continuing conflict. No people anywhere in the world would accept being expelled en masse from their country; how can anyone require the people of Palestine to accept a punishment which nobody else would tolerate? A permanent just settlement of the refugees in their homeland is an essential ingredient of any genuine settlement in the Middle East."

there has been a shift in public opinion on the Israeli/Palestinian issue---it is moving against Israel--despite the lack of a proper public debate on the issue.

Obama did dispel the impression that the US is at war with Islam; an impression reinforced by the ugly white Israeli-American students

It's impossible to have a proper public debate on the issue.

Say you want to argue Mars' quote on the "tragedy of the people of Palestine". There is apparently no such place as Palestine, yet nobody questions the notion of Palestinian people. They're apparently the ones firing rockets. From where? Not Palestine, because there is no such place. It's ludicrous.

Any debate gets bogged down in minutiae about who said or did what, when, including biblical whens. Nobody can win such esoteric debates.

Israel lost public support with the disproportionate use of force against Lebanon, then again in Gaza. Invoking the holocaust makes no sense.

If you going to belt the hell out of civilians you need to make sure they're all creepy looking men. And it would help to be at least seen to be trying to be nice the rest of the time.

Obama said the only thing not up for negotiation was the America-Israel axis.
If that's the case the speech, for all its seeming positives still represents no substantial or in any way definitive, move forward.
Israel won't budge and the US won't force it.
Back to the big game of the last forty years- filibustering, playing for time and the same old "Groundhog Day" deja vu when we wake up yet again that it was all a con to further entrench Israeli usurpation of the Palestinian homeland.
And let's hear no more of this bunkum that its the Palestinians who are intransigent. Israel won't even except the 1967 compromise let alone ealier ones and as Mars says, why should ANY people have to accept the dispossession and occupation the Palestinians had to suffer. Even the Jews of the WW2 Ghettos resisted when oppressed.
They should have ALL of Plaestine back, morally.
It was given by the West out of guilt, but it was not the West's to give. It had NO right to make the Palestinian bystanders patsies for Western anti Semitism. pay the Wests dues.
When I see Israeli squatters moved ; duck-shoved if necessary since the Israelis have learned to be such dab hands at bull dozing argy bargy, out of the occupied teritories and occupier settlement construction (finally) stopped, THEN I will beleive that Obama has had something more to contribute then the usual obfucationary US platitudes, hot air and empty words.