Thursday, June 04, 2009

"The Speech and Its Implications"

Arlene Kushner

I write this almost immediately following the completion of Barack Hussein Obama's speech in Cairo. What I provide here is in great measure my take; undoubtedly I will share other analyses in days ahead.

I will start with other aspects of his talk and save the very worst, regarding Israel, for last. Obama began with his "suck up to Muslims" approach, which is precisely what we expected. It becomes a bit sickening at times:

Talking about how the US has had a solid Muslim connection since its founding, for example. As one TV commentator observed, this man is making up history. Talking about the Muslims in the US and all that they contribute. Informing his audience that there are mosques in every state in the union. Speaking not about the Koran, but the "holy Koran," which he cited some four or five times. Enumerating the great contributions in math and poetry made by Islamic society -- which is true enough, but ancient history now, and hardly relevant to the struggles we face as large parts of the Muslim world are caught in resistance to and resentment of modernization. (According to the dean of Arabists, Bernard Lewis, Islam is now functioning in the 15th century.)


When he referred to his own history, and his own connection with Islam across three continents, he misrepresented. "I am a Christian," he intoned, before tracking his father from Kenya -- whose family "includes generations of Muslims" (which isn't quite saying his father was actually Muslim, though he was). And then the years he spent in Indonesia, where he heard the call to prayer of the Azaan. And I say, just a second! He may be a practicing Christian now, but in Indonesia he did more than hear the call to prayer: he was registered in school as a Muslim, was given Muslim teachings, and sometimes was taken to the mosque for prayers, which he is reported to have recited. By birth, and by the practice of his step-father, he is a Muslim. At least he might have said, "I come from Muslim roots." But better for his political fortunes at home not to mention this.


The vision that he then presented for a better world was -- almost across the board -- pie-in-the-sky, which I had also anticipated. What he offers far exceeds the real possibilities and sets him up for failure down the road. As another commentator said, "And unicorns won't poop in our streets any more."

He prefers to pontificate on what "must" happen, without grappling with the painful realities of how we get there. For example, fault lines within Islam -- between Sunni and Shiia -- must be closed. Must be? I doubt that he has the remotest idea how deep these divisions are or how long the history of these tensions. His saying this achieves absolutely nothing. Were he serious, he would offer a halting start, for example, saying that he has spoken with this Sunni leader and that Shiite leader, and he is encouraging them to start a dialogue, which will be a beginning.


Nowhere was the tendency to avoid confronting the realities more blatant than with regard to Iran. The "rights and responsibilities" of nations with regard to nuclear weapons has been a source of tension, he said, by way of lead-in. It has been a source of tension between the US and Iran. In fact, there has been a tumultuous history between the two countries. But rather than be trapped in the past, he has made it known to the leaders of Iran that he and the American people are prepared to move forward. There will be much to discuss.

"But it is clear to all concerned that when it comes to nuclear weapons, we have reached a decisive point. This is not simply about America's interests. It is about preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that could lead this region and the world down a hugely dangerous path."

And that's it. I had the feeling as he moved to his next sentence (which I'll get to) that there had been a glitch in transmission and something had been lost. With Iran, you see, he didn't use the "must" word. He's too busy offering them sweetness and light (isn't that lovely?), so that he just "suggests." No "If Iran wants to join the community of nations it must abandon plans to build nuclear weapons and must stop threatening Israel." In fact, while at least he mentioned the nuclear issue, he didn't even touch on Iranian threats to Israel. And there was not even a hint of a threat to Iran regarding what will happen if they don't abandon nuclear ambitions.

His next thought? Well, some people might think it's unfair, that some nations have nuclear weapons and some don't. But he has the solution:

"No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons. That is why I strongly reaffirmed America's commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons."

I am not making this up. This is what passes for policy with Obama.

He's dreaming, of course. Because nuclear nations are not going to surrender their weapons, nor should they, necessarily. Our capacity to wage war is the edge that keeps us from being destroyed here in Israel. And assured mutual destruction has likely prevented what would have been WWIII between the US and the USSR -- instead we had the Cold War. But never mind, if surrender of weapons would make Iran happy, so that it would not be left out of the club, then it's a good thing to do. Right?


In summary, to this point, this is a vacuous speech. Obama is a politician, not a diplomat. I hear a lot about how smart he is, but he sure sounds stupid here. This is a worthless speech on many counts.

And it's particularly important to note how foolish and simplistic it is to address "the Muslim world," as if it's a monolith, which it most certainly isn't.


Now as to the clincher: the issue of Israel and the Palestinians.

He began nicely enough, recognizing our suffering in the Holocaust, the unbreakable bond the US has with Israel. Etc. Etc. Setting us up for the one-two punch, POW!

Obama's take on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one that adopts in toto the Palestinian narrative. Ignoring history. Ignoring painful realities that he doesn't confront -- in spite of his talk of how it's time to be honest.

" 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."


Let me here interject a brief response in terms of history and reality.

"They've suffered in pursuit of a homeland." Hell, they could have had a homeland several times over. It's been offered and they always find a reason to refuse it. (Most recently when Abbas refused a shockingly generous offer made by Olmert.) How about telling the PA to get real, and face the fact that they cannot have everything, such as "return of refugees," and that if they are really serious about wanting a state it's time to make compromises?

And about those refugees: "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..." (This is the nakba vision.)

The "pain of dislocation," he needs to know (DOES he know?), was the result of a war that the Arabs imposed on our brand new nation in order to destroy us. If they had not been the aggressors there would have been no dislocation of Arabs. Time to tell it like it is.

And those refugee camps? Hey, all the other refugees in the world are settled as quickly as is possible -- in many cases re-settled in a third country. Only the Palestinians are kept in those UNRWA camps for generations because it has been decided that they must return to Israel (in order to destroy Israel). How about telling the Arab nations that the way to contribute to peace is to absorb these refugees?

"The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable"? "Occupation"? How about facing the fact that the Palestinians have made their own bed, via violence and incitement, and corruption and turning international donations to weapons instead of genuine national development? How about holding them responsible for themselves instead of making eternal victims of them? How about acknowledging that per capita the Palestinians get more international money than any other people on earth, but that this hasn't been used by them as an opportunity for self-development?


Obama does address the issue of violence. "The Palestinians must abandon violence," he said. Good.

But then he talks about Hamas and how it must abandon violence, recognize past agreements, etc. This is also pie-in-the-sky. Hamas will not do this. (Does he know nothing of their radical ideology?) But the way in which he has spoken about Hamas -- as having a responsibility to the people, and a role in unifying the people and fulfilling their aspirations -- gives troublesome credibility to Hamas as a recognized player. There's a red light on here with regard to where he's going with this.


Then there's the "must" for Israel: "The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop."

There's a certain ambiguity in this. What is not accepted by the US -- building in the settlements, or the "legitimacy of continued settlements"? In the short term he's demanding a settlement freeze. And here he sets himself most publicly on a road to conflict with Israel. May Bibi and our government stay strong!!!

But it sounds to me as if he's also laying out a policy of Israeli pullback to the Green Line, which in my book marks him as our enemy.

It must be said unequivocally: There is NO agreement we've participated in that obligates us to remove major settlement blocs. There is no document anywhere that requires us to pull back to the Green Line. This is merely widely-touted Palestinian mythology. And Obama is right in line.

I cannot here do justice to the issue of our rights on the land, but I will return to this.


There are other things he said that disturbed me as well:

"All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when...Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together."

Uh oh! He doesn't know that under Israeli sovereignty there IS room now in Jerusalem for all of the children of Abraham? And that ONLY under Israeli rule has this been the case? Doesn't he know, or doesn't he care?

He should mark this well -- Jerusalem will not be divided again.


It galls me without end that he has decided what is best for us. This is what he says -- the two-state solution is in "Israel's interest." He hasn't noticed that we're a sovereign state, capable of deciding on our own what's best for us?

The bottom line is that a "two-state solution" is not viable and is not going to happen. It is not remotely the solution to the region's problems that Obama likes to imagine it is.


It irks me enormously, by the way, that he's make the analogy between Palestinians and blacks in America who suffered humiliation. Condoleezza redux.


You can read the full speech here:


There are difficult days in front of us. May the Almighty grant us wisdom and strength, and may Barack Hussein Obama fall on his face soon.

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