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Obama’s and Netanyahu’s Solutions: An Emperor’s New Clothes

By Jamil Toubbeh, source

There are as many permutations of the Emperor’s new clothes as there are of US foreign policy in the Middle East, and Israel’s, on Palestine.

Since 1948, the policies of the US and Israel in the region have contributed substantially to the alienation of the Arab and Muslim World. With the exception of Eisenhower administration’s policies in the region, all other policies since have been subject to the influence of Israel and its myriad lobbies. Notable among these is AIPAC. This influence transcends those of established single-issue lobbies: it influences networks, journalists, TV and radio anchorpersons, political commentators and hosts, academia, entertainment industry, the military-industrial sector, but most prominently Federal and State government officials, Congress and the Executive branch of the government. Ha’aretz, Israel’s quasi liberal newspaper, referred to Obama’s WH Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, as “our man in the White House”. Emanuel occupied an office next to former President Clinton’s Oval Office.

Obama’s address to the Arab and Muslim World was timely. It was necessary diplomatic jargon, but it left much to be desired especially on the topics of relevance to Arabs and Muslims.

One may easily forgive cultural and linguistic flaws in speeches, but flaws in presentation and perusal of topics addressing a specific audience are troublesome; they render presentations ineffective, or at best, distorted. Obama’s topics were over-crafted and too ‘balanced’ to suit the palate of Arab and Muslim populations, hungry for political reform, eager to shed every form of colonialism. Obama’s speech did not offer a smidgeon of hope to his audience that economic and military colonialism are a thing of the past, rather, his message underscored the status quo in the region, emphasizing America’s allies, the moderate Arab countries and Israel and avoiding subjects related to violations of international laws and the Geneva Convention. The audience, knowledgeable and experienced in these matters, does not differentiate between state, group or individual terrorism.

Obama came to Cairo with weighty baggage, not only with America’s 60-years of failed diplomacy, but also Western nations’ machinations, colonization, and violence against the region’s indigenous populations. For example, justifying the establishment of Israel on the basis of the holocaust, without addressing the violation of the rights of Palestinians under international laws and Geneva Conventions, not only diminished any hope of reconciliation between Arab and Jew, but also provided a green light for further Zionist confiscation of Palestinian land and violation of their rights. Obama’s two-state solution became fodder for Likud and its leader. The nature of this “state” was defined long before the establishment of the Zionist entity in Palestine, and in fact, long before the German holocaust. The Zionist leadership since Herzl (1890s) denied the existence of people living in Palestine. Obama’s Palestinian “state” fits Netanyahu’s construct of Palestine, well described in a statement by the late Israeli Zionist-warrior, Raphael Eitan, “When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do about it will be to scurry around like drugged cockroaches in a bottle.” To Israeli leadership, settlement is no longer equated with expropriation of land; it is, rather, a natural development of a modern society.

This was not the only blemish Obama’s speech, but Arab and Muslim audiences rarely throw shoes at hosts. When displeased, they hear but do not listen. From his Cairo platform, millions of Arabs and Muslims heard Obama’s eloquent presentation, but kept a listening ear open for Channel 1 in Israel.

One cannot but admire President Obama for taking a giant step to reach the long alienated Arab and Muslim world, home to more than a billion people. But it will take a miracle of diplomacy to achieve his vision of America’s responsibility as the model of a great and responsible nation. Inside the Beltway, the nation’s capital is a “war zone” of competing interests and lobbies often disregarding or violating the law in the interest of the few.

Will our President’s speech change US policies toward the Arab and Muslim World?

The peddlers of the invisible cloth for the Emperor’s new clothes are already at work. If all goes well, we might see, again, the Israeli-made magic cloth on an Abbas, an al-Maliki, or a Kharzai, or perhaps even on Obama at Camp David. In the early 90s, then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir welcomed such an event: he wanted the negotiations to last at least 10 years to allow Israel to complete its goal of occupying what it could not in 1948—all of Palestinian land.

In the fairy tale of the invisible cloth, it was a child who recognized that the emperor was parading without clothes.

- Jamil Toubbeh is author of Day of the Long Night, (McFarland & Co. Publishers), a Fulbright Scholar and recipient of the Eagle Feather for work on Native American disability policy. He is currently Senior Researcher at Center for Asian Health in Philadelphia, PA.

From Cairo with love

{Iran…Iran…Iran…Iran} by Jalal Al Rifa’i-Al Dustour newspaper-Jordan

{Iran…Iran…Iran…Iran} by Jalal Al Rifa’i-Al Dustour newspaper-Jordan

The Arabs applauded Bush’s vision of a Palestinian state before the end of his term in office. Why expect anything better from Obama, asks Azmi Bishara , source

The US president has announced that he is going to address the Islamic world. Let’s listen to what he has to say. The Arab media has heralded the event using the same words, saying that “the US president is to deliver a speech addressing the Islamic world.” The countdown to the event has been marked with such expressions as “the awaited speech” and the “expected address”.

It is hard to say why the Arab media struggled to predict what the president would say in his message for more than a week — as if we were on the verge of a war or the signing of a peace treaty. Would knowledge in advance have helped in any way? Would it have clued us in to any steps we might take before the anticipated event, for example? But why not just wait to see what he would say?

There was no compelling reason to attempt a forecast. Even if someone had some insight into what was in the speech, he or she was not going to pre-empt it by declaring some course of political action. But then a forecast was not really the point. After all, a media professional is not a soothsayer or an oracle. Instead, he is in the business of creating expectations, building suspense, shaping moods and moulding these elements into a pattern and steering them in a certain direction. Expressions like “historic visit” and “landmark speech” are the materials he works with.

As a result, and contrary to what is commonly believed, the US president did not have to mount a public-relations campaign. Others were already doing this for him and creating the type of interest he needs.

Of course, the purpose of the speech was not really to address the Islamic world. It was to present a new US foreign-policy approach to the region. Indeed, much of what was contained in Obama’s speech he had said before in his speech to State Department staff, in his speech in Turkey, and in his address to the Iranian people. He was elected to change US political rhetoric, and anyone who cannot see that it has changed is blind. For change had to come. It was inevitable not because of those who applaud US policy unconditionally, whether now or in the past, but because Arab resistance and other factors had combined to destroy Washington’s previous approach to the region and the rhetoric it had used with regard to the issues of Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon.

Yet, the Arab media went ahead anyway and echoed the title Obama had chosen for his address — an “Address to the Islamic world” — and in doing so it compounded the force of his rhetoric. It stirred a tendency to hyperbole and a willingness to believe that everything Obama said was new. It also represented the Islamic world as if it were a homogeneous whole, and as if those who lived in it were wringing their hands in confusion, unable to put their minds at rest until they had heard what Obama had to say. After hearing it, they would reward him by taking his speech as the beginning of a new era.

However, the Islamic world is far from homogenous. It is made up of friends and allies of the US to varying degrees, and enemies and opponents of the US to varying degrees. Obama cannot possibly address all these at once within the same framework, least of all when American missiles are currently “addressing” Muslims in Afghanistan and Waziristan and other Muslims in the same countries are carrying out such policies. Furthermore, it seems unlikely that Muslims in Indonesia were waiting politely to hear the US president’s speech from Cairo.

It would have made more sense, and would have been easier to accept, if Obama had claimed that he would be addressing the Arab world from Cairo. However, this was not what he claimed. Washington had evidently decided to keep the term “Arab world” out of circulation except in the context of the Arab peace initiative. Maybe it was not all that odd that the Arabs, who have been reaffirming their Arab identity in the face of Iran, were not keen to reaffirm their Arab identity in the context of this “historic” visit.

The US president is an oratorical phenomenon, and he brings a smooth and cultured polemical talent to his task. He was swept into power on a tide of change. This president has undoubtedly gladdened the hearts of America’s conservative allies in the Islamic world because he does not strive, and nor does he claim, to strive for a “democratic revolution” in the Arab world like the previous neoconservatives.

Instead, he speaks a language of pragmatism that is characteristic of the conservatives of the past, a language that, as in the past and as remains the case today, betrays the hypocrisy of American “progressive” liberalism when its most senior representative, the president, needs to sing the praises of a king with whom he has nothing whatsoever in common. Such has been the fate of this liberal Harvard graduate who, after coming to power on the crest of a youthful wave of change, finds himself following a conventional conservative line and espousing common interests as the foremost criterion of foreign policy.

Of course, interests are elegantly wrapped up in noble-sounding allusions to a “meeting” and “dialogue” of civilisations, a “respect” for other cultures and for “the other” instead of a “clash of civilisations”. This is the kind of balancing act that the current US president is so good at because of his proficiency in progressive jargon and because of the political correctness that he so amply demonstrated during his electoral campaign.

Both discourses — the dialogue of civilisations as well as their clash — derive from a framework that divides the world politically into civilisations. Yet, even so, hypocrisy is still better than war. This feature of the president’s message to the Islamic world was epitomised by his praise for the official Arab order, and here the hypocrisy was two-fold. There was false modesty in handling relative positions and displaying respect with the aim of winning affection, while at the same time concealing an underestimation of others’ intelligence. The hypocrite extols what he would not ordinarily admire, and he selectively exaggerates things that merit admiration. He dissimulates in order to win someone over regardless of ethical contradiction in the hope of gaining some advantage over that person or getting something out of him. It is one of the ugliest forms of politics.

If Obama homed in on the radiant face of Islam, relying on Quranic verses that were greeted with enthusiastic rounds of applause from audiences eager to hear Islam being recognised in the West, let us not forget that this is also the person who treated the word “Muslim” as a kind of slander when he was accused of being one during the US presidential election campaign.

Now that he is free of the constraints of that campaign and of the scrutiny of his former opponent John McCain and of the right in America regarding his relationship with Islam, he can give expression to his hypocrisy on this score and on others. As we have seen, Obama is an expert at balancing acts: while he is for democracy, he is against exporting it; he is for the war in Afghanistan, but against the one in Iraq; he condemns Palestinian violence, though not the violence of the occupation, though he does criticise the settlements. It all boils down to stereotypes, all these words and sentiments that bring neither good nor harm in reality. If someone were to point out his omissions with regard to Israeli violence, then he might well declare his opposition to it in his next speech, or justify it in the manner in which he said that he was opposed to the war on Iraq, but that toppling Saddam was a good thing.

Colonialist hypocrisy was hardly invented by the new US president. Take Napoleon, for example. At the beginning of his expedition against Egypt in 1798, Napoleon addressed the sheikhs and scholars of Al-Azhar and opened what he had to say with the declaration of faith. According to the Egyptian chronicler Abdel-Rahman Al-Jibarti, Napoleon proclaimed, “In the name of God, the Just, the Merciful; there is no God but He; He was not begotten, nor has He begot; no partner hath He in his kingdom…. O Egyptians! You have been told that I have come to this land with the intention of eradicating your religion. But that is a clear lie; do not believe it […]. I […] worship God, glory be to Him, and respect His Prophet and the great Quran […] O you sheikhs, judges, imams, and leading men of the country, tell your people that the French are also sincere Muslims. [… The French] entered Rome and destroyed the throne of the Pope, who had always urged Christians to combat Islam. Then they marched to Malta, from whence they expelled the knights who claimed that God, exalted is He, sought of them that they fight the Muslims.”

I can only add that Napoleon, who claimed that he and the rest of the French were Muslims and that his armies had defeated the Vatican because the Pope had urged Christians to wage war against Islam, also called for the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine almost a century before Herzl and the birth of the Zionist movement. No matter how the new US president indulges in the language of political correctness and in his “on the one hand, … but on the other” formulas that are calibrated to upset no one, he will never attain the heights of the hypocritical orators that the Arabs today, and their ancestors in the past, have heard and would probably prefer not to remember.

Conservative Arabs will thrill at the pragmatism of the new US president, as well as at his disinclination to export democracy and his desire to work with the existing Arab and Islamic regimes on the basis of mutual interest, all packaged in the language of civilisational dialogue, tolerance and mutual respect. But they will not thrill if the same spirit of pragmatism is exhibited towards Iran.

Neo-liberal Arabs, on the other hand, who had a meeting of minds with the neoconservatives over exporting democratic revolution at the end of an American gun, will be disappointed. However, they will find recompense in their ability to praise the US openly, now that it has officially abandoned belligerency in favour of diplomacy and the language of peace. When the US changes tack again because of Iranian “intransigence”, or because of its refusal to abandon uranium enrichment, or because it has been unable to strike a deal with Tehran, then people in the Gulf and elsewhere will continue to sing the US’s praises when it tightens sanctions against Iran.

Those Arabs who agreed with everything the last US president said will probably not care one way or another about what the new president says or about any analysis of it. They will agree with the US president regardless. It is not as if the US’s Arab allies had any serious qualms about what Bush used to come up with, and they are now relieved at what the new president has to say. Whatever the US president says is good by definition from the point of view of these regimes, which take it as their duty to accept and justify what the US president says, and what the next US president says, even if it turns out that different US presidents are saying exactly opposite things. This is the only strategy they have to their name.

I do not intend to dredge up Bush’s remarks about Islam, extremism, moderation, and good and evil, with all of which America’s conservative Arab allies agreed, nor do I intend to dredge up his remarks about the democratic imperative, with which America’s neo-liberal Arab allies agreed. Even if these two sets of opinions were polls apart in theory, they were not that far away from each other in practice. Bush at that time was their answer, and their alliances with him were sufficient for both the neo-liberal and the undemocratic regimes. Instead, I will simply turn to the roadmap.

Why should the Arabs hope for anything new from the new US president with regard to Palestine, having agreed so enthusiastically to Bush’s roadmap and having fixed their demands on Israel’s fulfilling its obligations under the plan after the Palestinians had carried out theirs? That they should not hope for much was clearly demonstrated during the war on Gaza. The Palestinian Authority (PA) on the West Bank not only repressed the resistance forces, but it also clamped down on peaceful demonstrations of solidarity with the people in Gaza. By so doing, the PA argued, the Palestinians would be in a position to insist that Israel meet its obligations under the roadmap because they were demonstrating their commitment to the destruction of terrorist infrastructure. The Arabs applauded Bush’s vision, and today they are applauding Obama’s. Bush envisioned a Palestinian state before the end of his term. Why expect anything from Obama, who has made exactly the same pledge?

It is true that the US has changed. It also changed in the eras of Roosevelt, Kennedy and Reagan. But the problem resides elsewhere, namely in changing the political mentalities of the Arab regimes.

Washington is taking a new tone towards Israel, one more in tune with the Zionist left than with the Zionist right. It is insisting on the “rights of two peoples”, while still according the Jewish state the higher value and painting a picture of equality where there is none. Still, one must acknowledge the new tone.

Yet, this tone is not only the product of a change in the US. There has also been a change of tone in Israel. The Israeli government refuses to make a verbal commitment to freezing settlement activity, as did the previous government to the Bush administration. This government also refuses to make a verbal commitment to a two-state solution, as did the previous government under Olmert.

Obama’s refusal to recommit to Bush’s letter of assurance to Sharon led Netanyahu to refuse to recommit to Bush’s vision of a two- state solution. The Israeli attitude has shifted further to the right, and the US attitude has reacted to that shift. That is the only difference. On the Palestinian question, in particular, there has been no real change in the US position. The new Israeli government has rejected the basis of a return to the so-called “peace process”, though this is what Obama has pledged to the Arabs. In addition to adopting a tougher tone towards Israel, he has also pledged to pressure Israel into returning to the “peace process”. The US and its Arab allies need this ongoing “process” as a kind of muzak, one that is essential to setting the mood for Arab moderation.

The problem is not whether or not the US has changed, something which in any case will not be manifest in a lecture or visit. The problem is the lack of agreed Arab interests and the lack of a strategy for attaining them. Without these things, the Arabs have little hope of reaping the benefits of changes in the US, apart from some relief at the change in tone and atmosphere.

Minefields in Obama’s Cairo Speech

by Khalid Amayreh, Palestinian think tank

It is hard to treat with indifference President Obama’s speech in Cairo on 4 June, 2009.The speech itself seemed to represent an ostensible departure from the virulent anti-Islam rhetoric which very much characterized the general discourse of the former Bush administration.

Needless to say, the calumnies and canards concocted by Bush against the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims; using the term “Islamofascists” and claiming that Muslims “hate our freedoms” effectively put the United States and Islam on a virtual collision course.

Eventually, this sullen hostility to Islam and Muslims found expression in the genocidal wars of aggression the United States and its allies waged against Muslims, resulting in the invasion, occupation, and the destruction of two sovereign Muslim states.

Hence, it is laudable to see the Obama Administration making a real effort to mend relations with Muslims, and trying to refurbish America’s tarnished image throughout the Muslim world.

Nonetheless, Muslims, especially Arabs and Palestinians, should not be carried away by the false euphoria accompanying the speech although arguably balanced — by the American standard — and ostensibly friendly it may be.

Rhetoric Cloaked in the Same Policy

If we put symbolism and matters of style apart, one is left with the inescapable conclusion that Obama did not really come up with any real surprises in terms of actual policies, especially with regard to the Palestinian issue; the main and enduring point of contention between the United States and the Muslim world.

His assertion of the two-state solution is hardly a surprise. George Bush had spoken ad nauseam of his vision of seeing a Palestinian state living side by side with Israel in peace.

Bill Clinton had done the same thing while allowing Israel to keep up building Jewish-only colonies on Palestinian stolen lands.

In his remarks about the Palestinian issue, Obama actually left many questions unanswered as to the nature of the Palestinian state for which he has declared his support and backing.

For example, will the creation of that contemplated state involve full and total Israeli evacuation from the West Bank, including East Jerusalem?

And what would be the fate of the huge Jewish colonies in and around Al-Quds, such as Pisgat Zeev, French Hell, Har Homa, and Maali Adomim — to mention just a few colonies? Would these colonies be dismantled or annexed to Israel?

Indeed, even Israel itself does not really object to the creation of a Palestinian state as long as the Zionist regime has the final say in determining all the characteristics of such a state.

Next week, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu will deliver a speech in which he is expected to declare his “acceptance” of the two-state solution.

However, Netanyahu is likely to insist that Israel must be in control of that state’s “borders”, border-crossings, air space, territorial water, underground water, telecommunications channels, and international relations.

Netanyahu will also insist that the prospective state would have to be totally demilitarized and deprived of any right to make treaties with foreign states.

In other words, Netanyahu will propose a state with a form and a name, but without any substance. In fact, it would be an insult to language to call such a deformed brat a state.

More to the point, Netanyahu is likely to invoke the mantra of “two states for two peoples”.

It suggests that the Zionist state would have the right — at a certain point in the future — to expel its 1.6 million strong Palestinian citizens to the future Palestinian entity on the ground that Israel is an exclusively Jewish state where only Jews could enjoy equal rights as citizens.

Ignoring International Law

Interestingly, Obama made no mention whatsoever of the rule of international law and its relevance to the Palestinian plight.

This fact alone generates a lot of suspicions and misgivings about the credibility of the president’s commitment to pursuing a just and durable resolution of the conflict in Palestine.

According to international law, every centimeter of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem is an occupied territory.

This principle was reasserted in 2004 by the International Court of Justice in the Hague in its famous ruling on the Apartheid Wall which Israel erected in the West Bank, as well as by numerous UN resolutions.

Moreover, Obama spoke laconically of Jerusalem becoming a home for the three monotheistic religions. However, he did not say if he was alluding to East Jerusalem or West Jerusalem or both.

If indeed he meant East Jerusalem, then this would be utterly unacceptable to the Palestinian people and their Arab and Muslim brethren all over the world, because Al-Quds Al-Sharif is an occupied territory.

In fact, even the United States itself does not recognize the Israeli annexation of Al-Quds, and has repeatedly refused to transfer its embassy to the Holy City due to its status.

Besides, what about West Jerusalem? Does not Obama realize that Palestinian refugees own more than 90 percent of land in West Jerusalem?

So, one is prompted to ask if Mr. Obama believes that a theft becomes legal and lawful after the passage of 60 years?

Moreover, does Obama really think it is fair to allow Jews to possess property and real estate in East Jerusalem while Palestinians are denied the same right to reclaim their own property, including homes and lands in such West Jerusalem neighborhoods as Al-Malha, Ein Karem, Lifta, Dir Yasin, Beit Mahsir, Deir Aban, and the like?

One of the subjects conspicuously absent from Obama’s Cairo speech was the right of return for millions of Palestinian refugees who were brutally uprooted from their ancestral homeland when Israel was created in Palestine in 1948.

Needless to say, the right of return is the soul and heart of the Palestinian issue, and without addressing it justly and sincerely, no possible peace deal can last long and withstand the tests of time.

Condoning Israeli Atrocities

This is why Obama’s failure to even mention this fundamental element of the Israeli-Palestinian strife does not augur well for the future and for peace.

Furthermore, Obama called on the Palestinians to abandon violence, saying that “resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed.” Well, should not Mr. Obama have also called on Israel to abandon violence against the Palestinians?

Does not he realize that Palestinian “violence” is in the final analysis a mere “effect” or inevitable reaction to an overwhelming “cause” which is the enduring Israeli occupation?

After all, the occupation itself is the ultimate form of violence and oppression since it deprives its victims of their human rights, freedoms, and dignity. Indeed, the occupation is an act of usurpation.

So, I would most candidly want to ask Mr. Obama the following question: Does or does not the usurped victim have the right, even the duty, to resist her/his attacker?

Finally, in his speech, Obama spoke elaborately of Jewish suffering at the hands of the Europeans.

Well, as human beings and as Muslims, we do sympathize with Jewish and non-Jewish suffering.

However, showing sympathy and understanding is one thing, but being demanded that we pay the price for this undeniably legitimate suffering is quite another.

It is unfair, unjust, and immoral to demand that the longest-suffering people in modern history, the Palestinians, who have inhabited and toiled the land of Palestine since time immemorial, to be coerced to pay the price for the Nazi atrocities of European Jewry seven decades ago.

Smile On The Face Of The Tiger

{Obamas speech-Islamic world} by Yaseen AL Khaleel-Al watan newspaper-Oman

{Obama's speech-Islamic world} by Yaseen AL Khaleel-Al watan newspaper-Oman

June, 11 2009, By John Pilger, source

At 7.30 in the morning on 3 June, a seven-month-old baby died in the intensive care unit of the European Gaza Hospital in the Gaza Strip. His name was Zein Ad-Din Mohammed Zu’rob, and he was suffering from a lung infection which was treatable.

Denied basic equipment, the doctors in Gaza could do nothing. For weeks, the child’s parents had sought a permit from the Israelis to allow them to take him to a hospital in Jerusalem, where he would have been saved. Like many desperately sick people who apply for these permits, the parents were told they had never applied. Even if they had arrived at the Erez Crossing with an Israeli document in their hands, the odds are that they would have been turned back for refusing the demands of officials to spy or collaborate in some way. “Is it an irresponsible overstatement,” asked Richard Falk, the United Nations special rapporteur for human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories and emeritus professor of international law at Princeton University, who is Jewish, “to associate the treatment of Palestinians with [the] criminalised Nazi record of collective atrocity? I think not.”

Falk was describing Israel’s massacre in December and January of hundreds of helpless civilians in Gaza, many of them children. Reporters called this a “war”. Since then, normality has returned to Gaza. Most children are malnourished and sick, and almost all exhibit the symptoms of psychiatric disturbance, such as horrific nightmares, depression and incontinence. There is a long list of items that Israel bans from Gaza. This includes equipment to clean up the toxic detritus of Israel’s US munitions, which is the suspected cause of rising cancer rates. Toys and playground equipment, such as slides and swings, are also banned. I saw the ruins of a fun fair, riddled with bullet holes, which Israeli “settlers” had used as a sniping target.

The day after Baby Zu’rob died in Gaza, President Barack Obama made his “historic” speech in Cairo, “reaching out to the Muslim world”, reported the BBC. “Just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza,” said Obama, “does not serve Israel’s security.” That was all. The killing of 1,300 people in what is now a concentration camp merited 17 words, cast as concern for the “security” of the killers. This was understandable. During the January massacre, Seymour Hersh reported that “the Obama team let it be known that it would not object to the planned resupply of ‘smart bombs’ and other hi-tech ordnance that was already flowing to Israel” for use in Gaza.

Obama’s one criticism of Israel was that “the United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements . . . It is time for these settlements to stop.” These fortresses on Palestinian land, manned by religious fanatics from America and elsewhere, have been outlawed by the UN Security Council and the International Court of Justice. Pointedly, Obama made no mention of the settlements that already honeycomb the occupied territories and make an independent Palestinian state impossible, which is their purpose.

Obama demanded that the “cycle of suspicion and discord must end”. Every year, for more than a generation, the UN has called on Israel to end its illegal and violent occupation of post-1967 Palestine and has voted for “the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination”. Every year, those voting against these resolutions have been the governments of Israel and the United States and one or two of America’s Pacific dependencies; last year Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe joined them.

Such is the true “cycle” in the Middle East, which is rarely reported as the relentless rejection of the rule of law by Israel and the United States: a law in whose name the wrath of Washington came down on Saddam Hussein when he invaded Kuwait, a law which, if upheld and honoured, would bring peace and security to both Palestine and Israel.

Instead, Obama spoke in Cairo as if his and previous White House administrations were neutral, almost divine brokers of peace, instead of rapacious backers and suppliers of the invader (along with Britain). This Orwellian illogic remains the standard for what western journalists call the “Israel-Palestine conflict”, which is almost never reported in terms of the law, of right and wrong, of justice and injustice – Darfur, yes, Zimbabwe, yes, but never Palestine. Orwell’s ghost again stirred when Obama denounced “violent extremists in Afghanistan and now Pakistan [who are] determined to kill as many Americans as they possibly can”. America’s invasion and slaughter in these countries went unmentioned. It, too, is divine.

Naturally, unlike George W Bush, Obama did not say that “you’re either with us or against us”. He smiled the smile and uttered “many eloquent mood-music paragraphs and a smattering of quotations from the Holy Quran”, noted the American international lawyer John Whitbeck. Beyond this, Obama offered no change, no plan, only a “tired, morally bankrupt American mantra [which] essentially argues that only the rich, the strong, the oppressors and the enforcers of injustice (notably the Americans and Israelis) have the right to use violence, while the poor, the weak, the oppressed and the victims of oppression must . . . submit to their fate and accept whatever crumbs their betters may magnanimously deign suitable to let fall from their table”. And he offered not the slightest recognition that the world’s most numerous victims of terrorism are people of Muslim faith – a terrorism of western origin that dares not speak its name.

In his “reaching out” in Cairo, as in his “anti-nuclear” speech in Berlin, as in the “hope” he spun at his inauguration, this clever young politician is playing the part for which he was drafted and promoted. This is to present a benign, seductive, even celebrity face to American power, which can then proceed towards its strategic goal of dominance, regardless of the wishes of the rest of humanity and the rights and lives of our children.

Obama Spoke to Muslims for Oil, Not Humanity

By Kevin Gosztola, Palestinian Chronicle

Obama’s speech to Muslims, which he made during his trip to the Middle East last week, may have seemed like it was made to show America shares “principles of justice and progress, tolerance and dignity of all human beings,” but more precisely, this was a speech to the Muslim world that Obama made so America could ensure access to Muslim oil.

Ask any foreign policymaker or analyst in America and you will likely get he or she to agree that typically, if you substitute one individual for another and if the setting remains the same, so too does the foreign policy. Additionally, foreign policy has always been about bargaining and compromise, a result of a political process.

Obama, whose campaign slogan could have been “Continuity We Can Believe In,” is just the right statesman for guaranteeing future access to resources and cooperation with American interests. He has made his actions about finding middle ground on issues so that compromises and bargains which will satisfy as many as possible might be achieved.

Giving a speech to the Muslim world was an act of power—Obama was using what Robert O. Keohane and Joseph S. Nye Jr. call “soft power” to get a desired outcome and to lay the foundation for the achievement of goals “through attraction rather than coercion.”

Al-Azhar, the university where Obama gave his speech, claimed it was the “highest Sunni Muslim authority” and asserted that it was “a fortress of Islam” in a statement given to Agence France Presse (AFP) on February 18, 2000.

The university suggested it was a “reflection of true Islam, moderate, tolerant and thoughtful” and an institution “which rejects and condemns fanaticism and terrorism.”

The speech, despite Obama’s heritage, was given in Egypt, not Indonesia, which is the most populous Muslim-majority nation in the world with over 300 million Muslims. (Compare that to the less than 80 million Muslims in Egypt.)

The administration’s decision to go with Egypt over Indonesia simply indicates there was major geopolitical value to giving a speech at a major Islamic forum in that location on the globe.

First off, Juan Cole writes in his latest book Engaging the Muslim World, “Americans on the whole like Egypt, giving it a 62 percent favorability rating in one recent poll. Younger Americans like Egypt even more, with those aged eighteen to thirty-four being 69 percent favorable toward it.” (Contrast that with U.S. allies Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq which receive only 20 to 31 percent and the Palestine Authority and Iran, which earn “14 percent and 8 percent favorable views respectively.”)

If one considers this to be just as much a speech to the Muslim world as it was a speech to Americans skeptical and anxious with Islam. Cole illuminates the reality that Egyptian tourism established largely for Westerners and its actions as a “reliable U.S. geopolitical and military ally” since making peace with Israel in 1978 make it a place of American interest and a starting point for the renewal of reconciliation in the Middle East.

Secondly, Egyptians overwhelmingly (88 percent) think groups like al-Qaeda that attack civilians violate precepts of Islam, according to a World Public Opinion report by the Program of International Policy Attitudes (PIPA).

The report also suggests that Egyptians are less likely than Pakistanis, Indonesians, or Moroccans to support attacks on the United States (4 to 7 percent support).

Geopolitics and the favorable opinions Egyptians have toward taking on “violent extremists” explain the location. What explains the fact that Obama ignored Mubarek’s unpopularity and faults as an anti-democratic dictator may be the fact that, in January during Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, he shut down the Rafah crossing on the border between Gaza and Egypt and watched “callously as Palestinians starved on his doorstep.”

Egypt allowed for Obama to not stray to far away from being wholly supportive of Israel. It also allowed Obama to make his case to Muslims that they have shared interest in the world.

The Obama Administration needed to calm Muslim anxiety toward the U.S. that was created as a result of the Bush Administration’s foreign policy failures. It needed to convince Muslims that the U.S. will withdraw from Iraq soon, only intends to keep troops in Afghanistan and Pakistan until “violent extremists” are eliminated, and it will no longer “accept the legitimacy of continued Israel settlements.”

This all had to be done to ensure further access and cooperation with countries or allies which America depends on for petroleum.

Juan Cole describes in Engaging the Muslim World how four of the top seven suppliers of oil to the United States are Muslim-majority countries and together they supply “a fifth of all U.S. petroleum imports.” (The top seven in 2008 were Canada, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Nigeria, Venezuela, Iraq, and Algeria.)

More importantly is the fact that, according to Oil and Gas Journal list of “World Oil Reserves by Country as of January 1, 2007”, eleven of the top nineteen countries with reserves are Muslim-majority states. (The top eleven were Saudi Arabia, Canada, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Russia, Libya, Nigeria, and Kazakhstan.)

OPEC claims that its twenty-two members have 900 billion barrels. If so, it is likely that Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Iraq have at least 56 percent of that total.

That explains why Obama had to mention the U.S.-backed CIA-sponsored coup in Iran in 1953 which removed Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh from power and gave control of Iran to Mohammad Reza Pahlevi as shah so that Iran would not nationalize its petroleum and thereby threaten major U.S. oil companies’ assets in the region.

America’s history of meddling in the affairs was a sin that had to be atoned for (at least, rhetorically). Decades of CIA covert operations and using foreign policy to help U.S. corporations gain business advantages globally (“neomercantilism”) had to be alluded to so that Muslims might possibly forgive and forget.

The Obama Administration knew it had to abandon the Bush Administration’s Project for a New American Century for a policy that would look less brash and rapacious. The speech was indeed a “new beginning”—an opportunity for ushering in a foreign policy in the Middle East that Obama Administration officials could argue would bring greater cultural understanding and cooperation to America’s international relations in the world.

In Kenneth Waltz’s “Anarchic Orders and Balances of Power,” Waltz claims that “a state worries about a division of possible gains that may favor others more than itself. That is the first way in which the structure of international politics limits the cooperation of the states.”

Continuing, Waltz adds, “A state also worries lest it become dependent on others through the cooperative endeavors and exchanges of goods and services. That is the second way in which the structure of international politics limits the cooperation of states.”

As Juan Cole says in his book, the United States needs about 12 million barrels of petroleum a day to maintain its present way of life.

America’s dependence on American oil puts unwanted constraints on what America can and can’t do on the world’s stage. And, in the 21st century, with China rising in power along with India, dependency on Islamic oil forces America to go the extra mile so that Muslim oil states will not cut off cooperation in favor of support from another industrial power.

Obama may have said in his speech when addressing “stereotypes” that “America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire,” but on its face, that’s simply not true and difficult for those with knowledge of American foreign policy history to believe.

There existed an opportunity for America to use the speech to press not simply for peace in the Middle East but for support in taking on climate change. Requests for assistance in fostering new technologies and fashioning a post-carbon world of alternative energy could have been made.

But, where in the continuum of U.S. foreign policy would that have fit? Such idealism would have demanded that those pulling the strings of American empire rethink their views of power politics and, in fact, their very understanding of the way foreign policy works.

No doubt, the rulers of America and those tasked with the job of ensuring America’s status as the supreme power in the world feared the future Bush’s actions in the Middle East had created. America’s foreign policymakers now will use Obama’s speech to the Muslim world as a touchstone for enriching relations which will allow for dependency on Islamic oil to continue.

- Kevin Gosztola is a writer for OpEdNews.com, a 2009 YP4 Fellow, and a student studying documentary film at Columbia College in Chicago. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

Obama’s speech-cartoons

by Khalil Bendib

by Khalil Bendib

{Speech to the Islamic world-Hey we are Muslims too/ Pakistan-Afghanistan} by Yaseen Al Khaleel-Al Watan newspaper-Oman

{Speech to the Islamic world-Hey we are Muslims too/ Pakistan-Afghanistan} by Yaseen Al Khaleel-Al Watan newspaper-Oman

Lebanese opposition wins “popular majority” and an analysis of the election results considering American rhetoric

“Popular Majority” Goes to… Opposition with 54.5% of Votes

By HUSSEIN ASSI, almanar

“There is a difference between parliamentary majority and popular majority,” Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah recalled on Monday while commenting on the elections’ outcome.

Yes, the parliamentary majority is not necessarily the same as the popular majority…

The Lebanese case seems to be the best example. Thanks to the electoral law, the majority of elected members of the Parliament does not necessarily represent all Lebanese. If another law was applied, other results would emerge.

To determine the popular majority, it’s enough to count the number of votes each candidate has taken. The results show that the national opposition got 865,012 votes, thus 54.9% of overall votes. The parliamentary majority, in contrast, doesn’t get more than 680,000 votes, this 45.1% of overall votes.

Lebanon Elections Between Obama’s Speech and Settling Palestinians

By MOHAMAD SHMAYSANI, almanar

And on Monday, official results came in: The March 14 bloc has won general elections, yet the map of the representation of opposition ‘heavy weights’ has not changed. Hezbollah has kept its 11 MPs and General Michel Aoun now has a larger bloc: 26 MPs including 25 Christians. The 2005 elections gave Aoun a 22 member bloc including MP Michel Murr who later pulled out of the Change and Reform camp.

Surprisingly, the New York Times reflected Washington’s “biggest disappointment” at the outcome of elections. ”Though the Hezbollah-led challengers appeared to lose, Hezbollah itself — a Shiite political, social and military organization that is officially regarded by the United States and Israel as a terrorist group — will continue to be one of Lebanon’s most powerful political forces. The biggest disappointment may well have been Michel Aoun, a retired general who appeared to preserve his bloc of seats but left the Christian constituency divided,” the New York Times said.

Aoun now has the largest Christian bloc in parliament and therefore he’s established as the leader of the Christian community in Lebanon.

What’s to be disappointed about?

Lebanon is likely to slide again into a political crisis over the formation of the next government, similar to the one that battered the country for the last four years. The new government should rule the country based on a policy statement that would set its fixed standards and govern its conduct for the next four years. It goes without saying that the most complicated issues on the statement will be the legitimacy of the resistance and its weapons on the one hand and the settlement of Palestinian refugees.

Hezbollah, which stands firmly with the right of return of Palestinian refugees, has warned that the next government must vow not to touch the arms of the resistance, period. On the other hand, Hezbollah’s ally, Aoun, who continues to lead the Christian majority in Lebanon with more impetus, is a fierce opponent to any project aimed at settling Palestinians in Lebanon.

Back to Obama’s speech in Cairo

“The richness of religious diversity must be upheld – whether it is for Maronites in Lebanon or the Copts in Egypt,” US President Barack Obama said in his Cairo speech on July 4, 2009, only three days before general elections in Lebanon.

It was not very clear why Obama had mentioned the two Christian minorities.

Obama’s speech coincided with high-level US “diplomatic” activity towards Lebanon on the eve of elections. US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton made her visit followed a month later by a visit of a high ranking official, a US Vice President to be precise. Despite refuting allegations of interfering in Lebanese elections and domestic affairs, Clinton and Joe Biden held lengthy meetings with March 14 poles.

The message was that Washington was willing to deal with any government that the new majority in parliament will form, although a government formed by a March 14 majority will make things much easier for Washington.

Three days after Obama’s speech in Cairo and hours before polling stations were to be opened, Assistant US Secretary of State Jeffery Feltman decided to remind Maronite Christians in Lebanon about Obama’s remarks, which were still dubious.

“..One of your politicians (Michel Aoun) is proposing that Christians shouldn’t depend on the United States. I hope the Lebanese had accurately listened to the president’s [Barack Obama] speech that specifically pointed to the widest Christian religious minority in Lebanon, the Maronites. The president spoke about the need for respecting all peoples in the region including minorities…I hope the Lebanese would ask themselves: do we want to be on the side of the international community and close to the stances that president Obama made? I hope they would say yes.”

This insistence on reassuring the Maronites in particular and Christians outside General Aoun’s flock is definitely questionable.

The Mideast Crisis solution relied on elections outcome

A solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict in the region will be Washington’s magic key that will open the doors wide into new relations in the region, mainly with Iran and Syria.

On the one hand, the US is pressing Israel to adopt a two-state solution in occupied Palestine and to halt settlement expansion. On the other hand, Israel is concerned about an independent Palestinian state that will become the homeland of millions of Palestinians in exodus. The issue of the right of return of Palestinian refugees must be solved urgently and perhaps at any price.

In his speech in Cairo, Obama did not announce a new roadmap for “peace” as expected and did not address the refugees’ issue.

Article two of Phase three of the roadmap stipulates that: “Parties reach final and comprehensive permanent status agreement that ends the Israel – Palestinian conflict in 2005, through a settlement negotiated between the parties based on UNSCR 242, 338, and 1397, that ends the occupation that began in 1967, and includes an agreed, just, fair, and realistic solution to the refugee issue, and a negotiated resolution on the status of Jerusalem that takes into account the political and religious concerns of both sides, and protects the religious interests of Jews, Christians, and Muslims worldwide, and fulfills the vision of two states, Israel and sovereign, independent, democratic and viable Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security.”

The just, fair and realistic solution to the refugees issue is an elastic sentence.

Settling Palestinians in hosting countries is the most likely, if not sole solution.

In Washington’s calculations, the pro-western March 14 camp – that was assured by Obama, Biden, Clinton and Feltman that settling Palestinian refugees in Lebanon will not harm them – should have emerged as the bloc that comprises the majority of Lebanese Christians. But not to the US’s expectations, General Aoun’s Christian base grew wider, and ultimately any project to settle the Palestinians in Lebanon will face strong resistance by the majority of the Christians – not the “reassured Christians”. This same Christian majority has been skeptical about the Maronite Church’s stance Sunday, when Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir declared Lebanon an “entity in peril”, contrary to the electoral law that bans making such direct statement to induce voters on Election Day. Sfeir’s stance that functioned as a lever to the alliance, prompted March 14 ministers to interfere with the Elections’ Supervision Committee to clear the Patriarch’s comment for publication.

Even key Arab players in the region want a permanent end to the refugees’ issue.

According to the Saudi daily “Al-Hayat”, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has urged U.S. President Barack Obama to “impose a solution on the festering Arab-Israeli conflict if necessary,” a Saudi newspaper said on Sunday.

Saudi Arabia, the backer of MP Saad Hariri’s Future Movement, was the driving force behind an Arab peace initiative first put forward by Arab states in 2002 offering Israel recognition in return for withdrawal from Arab land captured in 1967 and a Palestinian state. Israel reacted saying a return of Palestinian refugees to areas “now inside Israel” would destroy the Jewish character of the state. Saudi Arabia believes the “collapse of Middle East peacemaking” has given Iran a chance to expand its regional influence through groups such as Hamas in occupied Palestine, as well as Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The project to settle Palestinian refugees in Lebanon would surely mean that the country would transform into a confederation; the kind of state some key poles in the March 14 alliance, namely Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea, have been envisioning.

True, the project to build the fair, capable, strong and incorrupt state of Lebanon was temporarily postponed, but there is no doubt that, in parallel, the project to transform the country into a confederation where Palestinians, Sunnis, Shiites, Christians and minorities would live in ghettos has permanently failed.

Hezbollah Slams US Interference in Lebanese Affairs as Flagrant

Al manar

09/06/2009 Hezbollah vehemently condemned on Tuesday the United States interference in the Lebanese internal issues as flagrant and shameless, calling on US officials to learn democracy from the performance of Hezbollah and the national opposition’s performance.

Hezbollah issued a statement in which it commented on the latest speeches and statement made by US officials concerning the outcome of the Lebanese parliamentary elections. Hezbollah statement also denounced the American attempts to impose US dictations on Lebanese people.

“Hezbollah strongly condemns the United States’ continual harsh and overt interference in Lebanon’s internal affairs, especially the statements of its officials on the results of recent parliamentary elections,” Hezbollah statement said.

According to the Resistance party, the US reaction to the elections conveys a clear message of displeasure with the public support for the resistance . “The US is annoyed by the level of popular support for the Resistance and its choices,” Hezbollah said. “That’s why it re-vivified its unfair classifications of Hezbollah and invalid accusations against it of terrorism and anti-democracy.”

The Resistance party emphasized that its presence, alongside the national opposition in Lebanon, constitutes a strong obstacle to all US sedition schemes. It pointed to the insolent US meddling in the Lebanese internal affairs, recalling that such affairs should be managed by the Lebanese people and only the Lebanese people.

Hezbollah concluded its statement by noting that its performance during the parliamentary elections, alongside the Lebanese national opposition, was exemplary. “The performance of Hezbollah and the Lebanese opposition and their position after the election outcome is a model for Washington and those who claim democracy in the world to follow and to learn from,” Hezbollah said.

Will Obama’s speech result in any change?

{1) Negotiation table 2) Settlement} by Ala Al Laqta-Palestine newspaper-Palestine

{1) Negotiation table 2) Settlement} by Ala' Al Laqta-Palestine newspaper-Palestine

It seems both the Israelis and the Palestinians are not happy with Obama’s speech. The former want Obama to let them do whatever they want without any criticism (kill, steal, harass, build settlements, etc.) and the latter want their rights fulfilled yet they know even if Obama has good intentions he will not be able to do much for even just asking the obvious of stopping settlements seems too much for the Israelis.

Qassem: Obama’s speech change in tone not heart

[ 07/06/2009 ]

RAMALLAH, (PIC)– Dr. Abdul Sattar Qassem, a veteran Palestinian academic, has lashed out at the recent speech of American president Barack Obama in Cairo on Thursday, saying that it only carried a change of tone not of heart.

Qassem told Quds Press news agency on Saturday that Obama’s speech did not carry any real change in American administration’s stand regarding the Palestine issue.

The political science professor said that if the US really wanted to change its stands then it should stop supporting Israel and should end interfering in Palestinian internal affairs.

He expressed surprise at the welcome statements by Arab regimes, saying that Obama’s words rejecting expansion of settlements did not pose as a final solution to the Palestine issue as there are still core issues not touched such as the Israeli occupation itself, Jerusalem and the right of return for millions of refugees.
Qassem said that Washington’s praise of the Ramallah authority’s assassination of resistance activists in the West Bank proved that it was seeking Palestinian infighting.

Israeli settlers dedicate new outpost to Obama

Saturday June 06, by Saed Bannoura – IMEMC News

In response to US President Barack Obama’s plea to Israel to freeze new settlement construction, extremist Israeli settlers report that they have dramatically increased the number of settlement outposts in the West Bank over the last week, even going so far as dedicating one of the outposts “the Obama hut”.

The current Israeli administration has voiced its support for settlement expansion, and the Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu even appointed settlers to high-level positions in the cabinet. The reported spike in settlement construction is considered by many to be a slap in the face of the US President’s efforts to make peace in the region.

The sneeringly-named “Obama” outpost is part of the newly-established colony Oz Yehonatan, which was illegally constructed on stolen Palestinian land in the West Bank.

All Israeli settlements are considered to be in violation of international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prevents the transfer of civilian populations onto land acquired by military takeover. There are currently over 500,000 Israeli settlers living illegally in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, most of whom moved there since the Oslo “Peace Agreement” was signed in 1993, in direct violation of that agreement.

Israeli officials have harshly criticized the new US President for calling for an actual freeze on settlement expansion, saying that George Bush, when he was President, allowed Israeli expansion of settlements while still saying publicly that the Israeli state was in adherence with a settlement “freeze”. The officials are disappointed that Obama appears, unlike Bush, to mean what he says in his public speeches, and is actually taking diplomatic action (also unlike Bush) in that arena.

‘Obama Talks Democracy, Endorses Dictatorship’

Analysis by Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa Al-Omrani

CAIRO, Jun 5 (IPS) – Egyptian officials are lining up to praise U.S. President Barack Obama’s address to the Islamic world delivered in Cairo Thursday. But local campaigners for political reform say the speech was disappointingly light on the issues of democracy and human rights.

“Obama spoke very briefly and in very general terms on these two subjects,” opposition journalist and reform campaigner Abdel-Halim Kandil told IPS. “Despite the hype, Obama’s speech was little more than an exercise in public relations.”

Obama arrived in the Egyptian capital amid much fanfare Jun. 4, where he delivered a seminal address aimed at Arab and Islamic audiences. The U.S. President came to Egypt via Saudi Arabia, Washington’s other main Arab ally in the region, where he spent a day meeting with Saudi Arabian leaders and officials.

Ahead of his speech, Obama also met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Although talks were held behind closed doors, the two heads of state reportedly focused on regional issues, including the conflicts in Iraq and Central Asia, impending elections in Lebanon, and the volatile Israel- Palestine conflict.

Obama’s much-awaited address, in which he called for “a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world,” covered a range of issues. These included the dangers of violent extremism; prospects for peace between Israel and the Palestinians; nuclear weapons proliferation; democracy; civil liberties; and economic development.

On democracy, Obama declared his belief that “all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose.

“Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere,” he said. “Governments that protect these rights are ultimately more stable, successful and secure. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments – provided they govern with respect for all their people.”

Officials of Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) hastened to praise the “historic” address.

“Obama’s speech reignited hope for new U.S. policymaking,” wrote Osama Saraya, editor-in-chief of state daily Al-Ahram. Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi, head of Cairo’s prestigious Al-Azhar school of Islamic learning (who is appointed by the President), declared that the address “succeeded in touching the hearts and minds of Muslims.”

But local reform campaigners and human rights activists were considerably less impressed.

Bahaieddin Hasan, head of the Cairo Centre for Human Rights Studies, described the address as “superficial” and devoid of details. “There didn’t appear to be any concern for either democratic reform or human rights,” he was quoted as saying in the Friday edition of independent daily Al-Dustour. “This came as a major disappointment.”

Hisham Kassem, a leading Cairo-based rights activist, agreed. “The Obama administration appears to have put human rights and political reform at the bottom of the agenda,” he told IPS. “It’s noteworthy that only 367 words of the speech out of a total of almost 6,000 were devoted to democracy and human rights. This tiny proportion appears to be an indication of Obama’s priorities.”

Kassem said that after a full five months in the presidency, Obama “still hasn’t appointed an assistant secretary of state for human rights, while he has also done away with the Bush-era position of special envoy for human rights and political reform.”

Kandil said that Obama’s choice of Egypt – ruled by Mubarak under a draconian state of emergency for 28 years – sends the wrong message. Saudi Arabia that Obama visited earlier lacks even pretence of democracy.

“Obama’s visit was a show of support for both the dictatorial Egyptian regime and the criminal policies of Israel regarding the Palestinians,” he said. “It represents an acknowledgement of Egypt’s role in serving U.S. and Israeli policy objectives, while totally overlooking the regime’s dismal record on human rights and political reform.

“The government, in crisis due to skyrocketing inflation and enormous popular disaffection, is hoping that Obama’s visit will somehow bolster its legitimacy and lengthen its dwindling lifespan,” said Kandil.

Kandil is also coordinator of the pro-democracy Kefaya movement, which decided to boycott the event. “Instead of attending, Kefaya members staged a protest march in downtown Cairo on the eve of the speech in order to remind the U.S. President that he is visiting a dictatorship,” he said.

Kandil said the new Obama administration differs from its predecessor “only in style and not in substance.”

In 2004 and 2005, the George W. Bush administration pushed Cairo hard to invite broader political participation and human rights improvements. It later backtracked on these demands after unexpected victories by the Muslim Brotherhood opposition movement in parliamentary elections.

Kandil pointed to recent statements made by U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates as a more reliable indicator of the Obama administration’s long-term approach to the issue. Early last month, Gates, after meeting with Mubarak, announced that U.S. military assistance to Egypt would not be made conditional on Egypt’s human rights record or the pace of democratic reform.

“Democratic change can’t be expected to come from the White House, because, ultimately, the U.S. and Israel – like the regime itself – don’t want real democracy in Egypt,” said Kandil. “They know that if fair elections were ever held, they would be handily won by opponents of U.S. policy and the American-Zionist project in the region.

“And as for human rights, the U.S. is a constant perpetrator of rights violations in Iraq and Afghanistan – and now Pakistan – while simultaneously overlooking violations committed by Israel and its own Arab allies,” he said.

Obama Speech: Part Vapid and Part Sinister

by Angry Arab,

I did not expect much. I mean, you know the routine by now. When presidents change, they merely change the Zionist Middle East “expert” at the White House who guides the president. Something happened in Middle East policy making in the White House in the Reagan administration. They no more trusted a real Middle East expert to guide policy making (this is party the obituary of the Arabists in Robert Kaplan’s book by that name). You no more had a William Quandt at the White House: somebody who is a trained Middle East scholar who is truly balanced in his views of the Middle East. By the Reagan administration, that was killed. Reagan’s White House had Geoffrey Kemp (who is now at the Nixon Center) and it went down hill from there. I met Kemp a few times and he is a nice guy but he is no William Quandt. Kemp looked at the Middle East from the standpoint of Cold War calculations and from the standpoint of what is best for American-Israeli relations. The George H.W. Bush’s White House had Richard Haas he was no expert on the Middle East. Clinton selected Martin Indyk and that set the stage for the appointment of Zionist activists (with no Middle East expertise like Elliott Abrams) to take over Middle East policy making. This coincided–what a coincidence–with the change in Middle East programs at Washington, DC thank tanks. I mean, when I first came to the city, you could find non-Zionists at DC-based think tanks, including at the American Enterprise Institute. It is ironic that the political culture of the capital became more Zionist after the end of the Cold War when much of the support for Israel and its aggression was predicated–according to advocates–on Cold War arguments. So you can argue that Bill Clinton established a precedent of hiring (non-American) Zionist lobbyists/activists as Middle East advisers. So when I woke up and read the transcript of the speech I started thinking about the process of drafting the speech. It was compiled together from various different elements that were contained in speeches of US presidents before, including speeches by none other than George W. Bush. He begins the speech by attributing the reasons for Muslim hostility to the West to colonialism, Cold War and then modernity–kid you not. By the introduction, I knew that he is and will be missing the point. And his talk about Muslim dignity and the lack of incompatibility between Islam and human rights have been contained in speeches–many of them indeed–by George W. Bush. And these quotations from the Qur’an are really old: they started with Jimmy Carter and in order to justify US support for Camp David. Remember that this began even earlier in the declaration to the Egyptian people by Napoleon’s expedition (and at least he had at his disposal real Orientalist, Silvestre de Sacy, and not Jeffrey Feltman or Daniel Shapiro: and there is very little on the latter. He works as the Middle East expert at the National Security Council of Obama’s White House. He did not study the Middle East and worked on the staff of various Zionist members of congress including Diane Feinstein. His resume include bragging about his work on the hill: he spearheaded work to ban Al-Manar from the US and to push for the Syria Accountability Act, meaning he implemented orders from AIPAC–not more and no less). Obama is not a man of courage: if he was politically courageous, he would have said that Al-Azhar under the rule of Nasser was a force of progressive thought, enlightenment, state feminism support, and quasi-secularism. Under American puppets, Sadat and Mubarak, Al-Azhar became a force of obscurantism, fanaticism, misogyny, religious intolerance, and violence. Al-Azhar does not deserve any praise whatsoever. The Copts, Freethinkers, and women all sufferes because of rulings from Al-Azhar. Ideas of Al-Qa`idah and religious fanaticism’s in general should be blamed on that obsolete institution which serves as a tool of the dictators in Egypt. His reference to the early roots of Islam in America is so disingenuous: he has one bland quote from John Adams and leave out various expressions of bigotry against Muslims by founding fathers. And he then condemns (unspecified) Western stereotypes of Muslims and then matches them with what he calls Muslim stereotypes of America as empire. But those two are not symmetrical: American stereotypes of Muslims are racist and essentialist, and the notion that the US is a war mongering Empire is shared by none Muslims and Muslims alike around the world. The literature about the US as Empire is written largely by Westerners. So Obama is asking for a bargain: to end Western racism (but not wars) against Muslims, Muslims need to stop attacking US foreign policy and wars. This is chicanery–don’t you like those old fashioned words? He talks about the US as a force of “progress.” How untrue for Obama’s audience: the US has consistently opposed forces of progress and advancement in the Middle East: in every conflict between an oil Sheikh or a polygamous prince against progressive socialists or Arab nationalist secularists, the US has always sided with the polygamous princes who have been in alliance with religious kooks and advocates of “holy wars.” Hell, he just came from Saudi Arabia where he praised the wisdom of the Saudi king and he wants to talk to me about “force of progress”? Maybe if you can bring up the issue of Wahhabi fanaticism I would believe you. He said that his personal story as an African American (with an African Muslim name) who was elected president is not unique. Yes, it is: and it was not easy: and his name was mocked during his campaign, and he made his best to distance himself from anything Muslims. So here, Obama is assuming that his Cairo audience are a bunch of idiots who did not follow his campaign and the reactions that it generated. He adds that Muslims in America enjoy education and income above average Americans. Yes, that is true, and I hate when people say that: the reasons is due to the racist/cl assist rules for the immigrants from Muslims/Middle East countries: only those who high degrees are allowed into the country, while poor people from other countries are allowed. If you are in the Middle East, your chances of being allowed into the US are related to the high degrees you hold. He said that there are mosques in the US but does not mention that many communities fight tooth and nail against those mosques. His references to Iraq and Afghanistan are largely apologetic: and he does not mention that his past critiques of the invasion of Iraq was asking to the criticisms of the Israeli occupation of West Bank and Gaza in Tikkun: that it is based on what is good or bad for Israel, and not for what it does to the victims. He talks about Taliban and Al-Qa`idah’s killing of Muslims (and Muslims know that they have killed Muslims) but he does not mention that Bush administration and Obama administration have also been killing innocent Muslims: if anything, the rate of bombing from the air may have increased over Afghanistan under Obama: the advocate of the surge in Afghanistan versus Bush, the advocate of surge in Iraq. What a difference. I was offended by his lecturing to Muslims about Jewish suffering: as if the audience is entirely anti-Semitic. There are anti-Semites in the US and he does not lecture to them. He spoke about the repugnant practice of Holocaust denial but did not mention that the literature is entirely Western in that regard. And he then moves from a discussion of the Nazism to the Arab-Israeli conflict. What is his point here: that because of Nazi crimes, the Palestinians need to accommodate Zionist crimes on their lands? This is the most offensive section of course: he talks about the Palestinians without identifying who was doing those bad things to them. Look at this sentence: “have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation.” So their suffering is due to their pursuit of a homeland: so they should stop the pursuit and the suffering will go away. He then mention the “pain of dislocation.” What is that o Obama? Is that like a shoulder dislocation? He refers to Palestinian reference to “for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought by Israel’s founding” but never mentions Israeli wars, attacks, and invasions and yet he makes specific references to Palestinian violence thereby making it clear that adheres to White Man standards: that only Israeli lives matter. I mean, if you compare the killing and terrorism between the two sides, the Israeli side clearly comes out on top in terrorism, wars, and aggression. He then lectures the Palestinians: “Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed.” I read that and thought: wait. Did you not in the early part of the speech bragged about how the US fought (non-violently, I may add) against British Empire? I should lecture Obama here: why didn’t the US resort to non-violent resistance against the British Empire? How could he speak about nuclear weapons without even mentioning the Israeli arsenal? That was another insult to the intelligence of the audience: maybe Jeffrey Feltman and Daniel Shapiro told him that Arabs don’t know that Israel has nuclear weapons. His words about democracy are just as empty as they were under Bush: he just returned from Saudi Arabia, for potato’s sake, and he has just refused to label Egyptian dictator as…autocrat. One of the most offensive part of the speech was his reference to religious freedom: he concludes that section by praising the Saudi imitative for inter-faith dialogue. So Obama takes Wahhabi doctrine as the model for religious freedoms. I understand you, now Obama. I understand you very well.

Obama’s speech, who cares?!

I didn’t hear Obama’s speech in full. So I think it would be unfair for me to comment on all the content so instead I posted good analysis on the blog from others on the issue.

The reason I didn’t hear the speech in full even though I’m an Arab and a Muslim is because I wasn’t slightly interested or had the time for that matter to sit and listen to a person who represented nothing to me other than one of the passing US presidents. I find it patronizing that I should care what the man thinks or plans for the region. What do I care? The people of this region should be the planners and not someone who from the snippets of the speech I heard could not get himself to state things as they are and dances around some issues with pretty words. The Palestinians were ethnically cleansed not dislocated. They already had a homeland that was still stolen by this man’s allies.

I simply can’t get over the audacity of it all, why is the man telling us what he wants to do in this region?! Who the heck is he? The US president, so what? Should I beg for mercy? Or for his understanding? He is dictating the future of this region that was the point of the speech. Seriously saying nice words to people who have suffered gravely from his country’s “plans” for this region doesn’t make things ok. Even if the man had good intentions he can’t do anything with them. If he wants change then let him go back to his country and make a real change there that is what he should care about.

Simply patronizing…

A Bush in sheep’s clothing: Obama’s speech shows little real change

Obama’s speech shows little real change. In most regards his analysis maintains flawed American policies

by Ali Abunimah, guardian.co.uk, Thursday 4 June 2009

Once you strip away the mujamalat – the courtesies exchanged between guest and host – the substance of President Obama’s speech in Cairo indicates there is likely to be little real change in US policy. It is not necessary to divine Obama’s intentions – he may be utterly sincere and I believe he is. It is his analysis and prescriptions that in most regards maintain flawed American policies intact.

Though he pledged to “speak the truth as best I can”, there was much the president left out. He spoke of tension between “America and Islam” – the former a concrete specific place, the latter a vague construct subsuming peoples, practices, histories and countries more varied than similar.

Labelling America’s “other” as a nebulous and all-encompassing “Islam” (even while professing rapprochement and respect) is a way to avoid acknowledging what does in fact unite and mobilise people across many Muslim-majority countries: overwhelming popular opposition to increasingly intrusive and violent American military, political and economic interventions in many of those countries. This opposition – and the resistance it generates – has now become for supporters of those interventions, synonymous with “Islam”.

It was disappointing that Obama recycled his predecessor’s notion that “violent extremism” exists in a vacuum, unrelated to America’s (and its proxies’) exponentially greater use of violence before and after September 11, 2001. He dwelled on the “enormous trauma” done to the US when almost 3,000 people were killed that day, but spoke not one word about the hundreds of thousands of orphans and widows left in Iraq – those whom Muntazer al-Zaidi’s flying shoe forced Americans to remember only for a few seconds last year. He ignored the dozens of civilians who die each week in the “necessary” war in Afghanistan, or the millions of refugees fleeing the US-invoked escalation in Pakistan.

As President George Bush often did, Obama affirmed that it is only a violent minority that besmirches the name of a vast and “peaceful” Muslim majority. But he seemed once again to implicate all Muslims as suspect when he warned, “The sooner the extremists are isolated and unwelcome in Muslim communities, the sooner we will all be safer.”

Nowhere were these blindspots more apparent than his statements about Palestine/Israel. He gave his audience a detailed lesson on the Holocaust and explicitly used it as a justification for the creation of Israel. “It is also undeniable,” the president said, “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.”

Suffered in pursuit of a homeland? The pain of dislocation? They already had a homeland. They suffered from being ethnically cleansed and dispossessed of it and prevented from returning on the grounds that they are from the wrong ethno-national group. Why is that still so hard to say?

He lectured Palestinians that “resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed”. He warned them that “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.” (Note: the last suicide attack targeting civilians by a Palestinian occurred in 2004)

Fair enough, but did Obama really imagine that such words would impress an Arab public that watched in horror as Israel slaughtered 1,400 people in Gaza last winter, including hundreds of sleeping, fleeing or terrified children, with American-supplied weapons? Did he think his listeners would not remember that the number of Palestinian and Lebanese civilians targeted and killed by Israel has always far exceeded by orders of magnitude the number of Israelis killed by Arabs precisely because of the American arms he has pledged to continue giving Israel with no accountability? Amnesty International recently confirmed what Palestinians long knew: Israel broke the negotiated ceasefire when it attacked Gaza last November 4, prompting retaliatory rockets that killed no Israelis until after Israel launched its much bigger attack on Gaza. That he continues to remain silent about what happened in Gaza, and refuses to hold Israel accountable demonstrates anything but a commitment to full truth-telling.

Some people are prepared to give Obama a pass for all this because he is at last talking tough on Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. In Cairo, he said: “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.”

These carefully chosen words focus only on continued construction, not on the existence of the settlements themselves; they are entirely compatible with the peace process industry consensus that existing settlements will remain where they are for ever. This raises the question of where Obama thinks he is going. He summarised Palestinians’ “legitimate aspirations” as being the establishment of a “state”. This has become a convenient slogan to that is supposed to replace for Palestinians their pursuit of rights and justice that the proposed state actually denies. Obama is already on record opposing Palestinian refugees’ right to return home, and has never supported the right of Palestinian citizens of Israel to live free from racist and religious incitement, persecution and practices fanned by Israel’s highest office holders and written into its laws.

He may have more determination than his predecessor but he remains committed to an unworkable two-state “vision” aimed not at restoring Palestinian rights, but preserving Israel as an enclave of Israeli Jewish privilege. It is a dead end.

There was one sentence in his speech I cheered for and which he should heed: “Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail.”

Ali Abunimah is co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of One Country, A Bold Proposal to end the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse.

Obama’s speech to Muslims and Arabs in Egypt

{Obamas speech} by Ala Al Laqta-Palestine newspaper-Palestine

{Obama's speech} by Ala' Al Laqta-Palestine newspaper-Palestine

Obama from Cairo Vows New Beginning with Muslims

by Hanan Awarekeh, almanar

04/06/2009 Offering the Arabic greeting of Assalaamu Alaykum, or “peace be unto you”, in the early part of his speech and quoting a passage from the Holy Koran and cited his father’s Muslim background in a bid to highlight his sensitivity to Islamic grievances against the West, US President Barack Obama addressed the Muslim world from Cairo in the second leg of his 5-Day tour to the Middle East.

“America is not and never will be at war with Islam,” Obama said. “We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security. The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of co-existence and cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars. Violent extremists have exploited these tensions in a small but potent minority of Muslims.”

Obama’s long-awaited speech fulfilled a campaign promise and came after he held talks in Saudi Arabia Wednesday with King Abdullah and Thursday with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak aimed at reviving Middle East peace moves.

The US president, laying out an ambitious foreign policy, to match the audacity of his domestic program, spoke directly to Muslims on their arguments with America calling for a “new beginning between the United States and Muslims.”

In so doing, he was attempting to cleanse the soiled US image in the Muslim world, including in over the Iraq war, the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal and the Guantanamo Bay war on so-called “terror camp”.

Specifically targeting young Muslims, Obama said “I know there are many – Muslim and non Muslim – who question whether we can forge this new beginning. Some are eager to stoke the flames of division, and to stand in the way of progress. Some suggest that it isn’t worth the effort – that we are fated to disagree, and civilizations are doomed to clash. There is so much fear, so much mistrust. But if we choose to be bound by the past, we will never move forward.”

In a gesture, Obama conceded at the beginning of his remarks that tension “has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations.” “And I consider it part of my responsibility as president of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear,” he said.

At the same time, he said the same principle must apply in reverse. “Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire.”

On the issue of Iran Obama said the US will proceed with courage, rectitude and resolve. He acknowledged the United States’ role in overthrowing the democratically elected Iranian government during the last century. He said it was going to be difficult to overcome decades of mistrust, adding that the US was willing to move forward with mutual respect and without preconditions.

The US President said that no single nation should decide which countries have nuclear weapons adding that Iran had the right to peaceful nuclear energy, but added that the US would not hesitate to be tough in upcoming talks with the Islamic Republic.

Speaking at Cairo University, Obama reaffirmed Washington’s strong backing for a Palestinian state, using the term “Palestine” numerous times to highlight his administration’s commitment to follow through on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

While reaffirming Washington’s “unbreakable bond” with Israel, Obama said that there can be no denying of the right of “Palestine” to exist, and that he would “personally pursue” the realization of a Palestinian state “with all the patience that the task requires.”

“Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel’s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine’s,” Obama said.

The US president also issued a blunt repudiation of Israel’s settlement enterprise in the occupied West Bank, an issue that has strained Washington’s ties with Tel Aviv. “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements,” Obama said. “This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.”

“The obligations that the parties have agreed to under the Road Map are clear,” Obama said, referring to the multi-stage peace plan agreed to by Israel and the Palestinians during the Bush presidency.

“If we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth,” Obama said. “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. That is in Israel’s interest, Palestine’s interest, America’s interest, and the world’s interest,” he added.

ISRAELI MINISTER: OBAMA MUSTN’T PRESSURE US

Speaking shortly before Obama’s historic “reconciliation speech” to the Muslim world in Cairo, Israeli Information and Diaspora Minister Yuli Edelstein said that the United States should direct its pressure at the Palestinians rather than at the Israeli side.

Edelstein told Ynet that “Israel is not the right side to pressure. I believe the pressure should be directed at the other side. The United States has no other ally like Israel – from Washington to Africa.”

“I also think that some Congress members from his own party told President Obama what I wish to say to him a moment before the speech. The paradox here is that we know the moderate Arab countries Obama is appealing to are actually interested in bolstering Israel, and fear Iran and elements like Hezbollah and Hamas,” the Israeli minister added.

Edelstein went on to call for a direct dialogue with the Americans in order to clarify the differences of opinion, including on the outpost issue. “I have personally never suggested doing something in the middle of the night. With the Americans it’s very important to say things in a clear language and in the same way as the president and the prime minister are talking now. They are both telling the truth – that life in Judea and Samaria cannot be halted and frozen.”

Mixed Int’l Reactions on Obama’s Address; Israel Split over Speech

by Hanan Awarekeh, almanar

04/06/2009 Mixed reactions on US President Barack Obama’s “historic speech” have been released worldwide as soon as the President finished delivering his speech from Cairo addressing the Muslim World at a time Israel seems to be split over his speech.

Hamas resistance movement said that Obama’s long-awaited speech to the Muslim world on Thursday contained “tangible change,” but also contradictions. “It had many contradictions, all the while reflecting tangible change,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum said. “It is a speech that plays on sentiment and is filled with civilities, which leads us to believe that he aimed to embellish America’s image in the world.”

However, the Palestinian Authority hailed as a “good beginning” Obama’s speech in which he reiterated his support of a Palestinian state. “It is a clear and frank speech,” President Mahmud Abbas’s spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina told AFP. “It is an innovative political step and a good beginning on which one must build.”

The speech broke with the “preceding partial American policy” in favor of Israel, he said. “The comments on the intolerable Palestinian situation are a message that Israel should understand well.”

Moreover, Egyptians across the social spectrum hailed the US President ‘s “historic” speech, while looking forward to assertive actions in the Middle East. Former Islamic Jihad leader in Egypt Kamal Habib echoed the words Obama used during his speech at Cairo University, describing the address as “truly a new beginning.” “This was a historic speech that laid the foundation for a relationship based on mutual respect, it’s truly a new beginning,” he said.

“It’s a great speech, it’s going to be historic actually,” the editor of Egypt’s independent Al-Badil newspaper, Mohamed El-Sayyed Said, said. “It has significance much beyond the present situation. It will be one of the masterpieces of political speeches.”

“Nonetheless, while Obama tried to establish a balance between the general abstract principles and the specific measures to be taken, generally it was very weak when it comes to the practical dimension, particularly on relations with the Arab-Israeli conflict. The settlement issue is part of the borders issue, part of the framework for negotiations between Arabs and Israelis. He should have mentioned all the United Nations resolutions against Israel, he failed to mention them and so made it wide open and generalized.”

Obama had faced a tough sell in Egypt for his call for reconciliation. A new poll by US-based WorldPublicOpinion.org found 67 percent of Egyptians believe the United States plays a negative role in the world and 76 percent believe Washington is out to weaken and divide the Islamic world.

ISRAELI MINISTERS SPLIT OVER OBAMA’S SPEECH

Meanwhile, echoes of Obama’s speech resonated through Tel Aviv’s corridors Thursday, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a special consultation immediately after it was over.

“(Obama) was right to say that extremism is the world’s enemy,” said Israeli Minister of Minority Affairs Avishay Braverman (Labor). “The Israeli society – Jews and Arabs, religious and seculars – must find a way to embrace this sentiment and mirror it to the Palestinians. Two-states for two people is the solution we are committed to.”

Israeli Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz (Habayit Hayehudi), who tuned into the speech while touring the communities adjacent to Mount Hebron, was not as pleased: “Obama completely overlooked that fact that the Palestinians have yet to abandon terror. The Israeli government is not some overlapping excess of the US administration.”

Meretz Chairman Chaim Oron said that the Israeli government should be very satisfied with the speech, “which was laced with the kind of optimism we haven’t seen in a long time.”

Opposition fellow Kadima was quick to slam Netanyahu “for failing to see that the two-state solution is the only one that can guarantee Israel’s existence as a Jewish state,” as stated by Knesset Member Ze’ev Boim.

“The American president introduced a new approach. His leveled commitment to both the Israelis and the Palestinian was evident and he will have to take pragmatic moves to prove his words,” said MK Ahmad Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al).

As expected, the harshest criticism came from the settlers: “The State of Israel is paying the price for its leaders’ defeatism,” the Samaria and Binyamin Settlement Committee said in a statement. “Hussein Obama chose to affirm the brazen lies of the Arabs over the stammered Jewish truth. “It is time for Netanyahu, like (former prime ministers) Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, to stand as a proud right-wing leader and reject the doctored version of history Obama tried to dictate today.”

TURKISH PRESIDENT SAYS OBAMA GOOD PARTNER FOR MUSLIM WORLD

Turkish President Abdullah Gul said that Obama’s “realistic” speech proves he is a good partner for Muslim nations trying to work for peace in the Middle East. “I find his position on regional peace very appropriate,” Gul told Anatolia news agency.

“With the messages and assurances he gave today, the US president showed that he is a constructive leader with whom Muslim countries can engage in partnership for peace and stability in the region,” he said.

Obama’s speech was “sincere, honest and realistic,” Gul said. “The fact that President Obama sincerely shares and personally expresses the feelings and thoughts of many citizens in Muslim countries is extremely promising,” he added.

SOLANA: OBAMA SPEECH OPEN NEW PAGE IN MUSLIM TIES

Moreover, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said that Obama’s speech in Cairo Thursday opens a “new page” in relations with the Arab-Muslim world and resolving the Middle East conflict. “It was a remarkable speech, a speech that without any doubt is going to open a new page in the relation with the Arab-Muslim world and I hope in the problems we have in so many theatres in the region,” Solana told reporters in Brussels.

Imam Khamenei: US Ought to Act Instead of Talk, almanar

04/06/2009 Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei lashed out at the United States on Thursday, saying it is deeply hated in the Middle East.

“The nations in the region hate the United States from the bottom of their hearts because they have seen violence, military intervention and discrimination,” Imam Khamenei said. “The new US government seeks to transform this image. I say firmly, that this will not be achieved by words, speeches and slogans,” he said on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the death of the Islamic republic’s revolutionary founder Ayatollah Sayyed Ruhollah Khomeini.

“They have done things that have deeply hurt the nations in the region… things are not going to be changed by speeches. He (Obama) has to do it in practice. Even if he delivers hundreds of speeches and talks very sweetly, there will not be a change in how the Islamic countries perceive the United States.”

Imam Khamenei also accused the United States of “lying” about Tehran’s nuclear program. “They lied about our intention; they concealed the truth about it. They stood against the legitimate rights of our nation,” his eminence said.

“We have said several times that we want the nuclear energy for industrial and peaceful purposes. But they continuously say that Iran is seeking nuclear bombs. By doing this, they are hated by our nation.

“For many years, our nation and its officials have repeatedly said that we do not want nuclear weapon, it is haram (forbidden) in Islam. Even if they pay us to have it, we do not want it,” the Imam said.

“But in order to justify their allegations they continue accusing us,” he said as the crowd chanted “Nuclear energy is our undeniable right!”

Imam Khamenei also accused the US military of “bombing innocent civilians in Afghanistan. What is the difference between this killing and killing by terrorists?”

He said in Iraq, the United States was “supporting the Baathist elements”, in reference to members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath party, many of whom are returning to government jobs in the new regime of Iraq.
“He (Obama) has to change these things,” said his eminence.

His speech to tens of thousands of Iranians and several foreigners at the Khomeini mausoleum on the southern outskirts of Tehran, came just over a week before Iran goes to the polls on June 12 to choose a new president.

It also come a few hours before Obama makes his speech in Cairo to address the Muslim world.

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