Obama and Palestine: Standing for Something, Falling for Anything?
By Alan Sabrosky*
There’s an American country song that goes “You’ve got to stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything.” So far, President Obama’s words show he stands for something. But where Palestine and Israel are concerned, his actions show he’ll apparently fall for anything, at least if there is enough pressure from the Jewish lobby behind it.
Obama’s instincts are good, and intellectually he understands the problem, but emotionally he doesn’t appear to feel it. So I’m going to try to convey the issue’s dynamics differently.
Falling for Anything?
Mr. President, the core issues are visibly Palestinian relief and Jewish settlements. In Cairo, you accurately described the conditions in Gaza as “intolerable.” They are intolerable because of the devastation caused by Israeli military onslaughts and the suffering produced by the illegal Israeli-enforced blockade. You know this.
Within weeks, two private groups made their own effort at their own expense to get humanitarian relief supplies to the people there. “FreeGaza” sent a small boat, The Spirit of Humanity, with 21 volunteers, several of them Americans. “Viva Palestina” assembled some 200 volunteers, almost all Americans, with a convoy to enter Gaza from the Egyptian side. Faced with Israeli piracy and Egyptian obstructionism, you said and did nothing.
Now look at the settlements. They need to go, although “no new settlements” is a beginning. But after weeks of talks, your mediator, George Mitchell, smilingly announced a compromise that allowed Israel to build “only” 2,500 housing units – at least until the next time. I obviously missed something here – “no” means “none,” which Mitchell obviously did not understand – or didn’t it matter?
Think of it, President Obama. Think how it would be for you and your wife and your children to grow up under a regime worse than existed in the old Deep South here, far worse than the one that existed under apartheid in the old South Africa, far worse and far more murderous even than would have existed in the US had a government dominated by the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) come into existence. Think of that, and feel in your bones what Palestinians feel under Israeli oppression.
Or think of the young Palestinian police cadets at two separate graduation ceremonies slaughtered at the onset of the Israeli attack in December 2008. Think of those young people in their fresh uniforms waiting for the ceremonies to begin, with their families and friends and the bands all there. And then the Israeli jets strike, bringing death to hundreds of people – almost all so-called “militants,” according to the Israelis, which by this time must include virtually every living Palestinian out of the cradle. Then look at the pictures of the bodies afterwards, realizing that all of this is “Made in America” – the aircraft, the munitions, and most of all the protection that America has given unreservedly to Israel.
Standing for Something
President Obama, you bravely and directly defined your appreciation of the plight of Palestinians in Gaza and elsewhere in your Cairo speech. You bravely and directly defined your understanding of the issues confronting African-Americans in your speech to the NAACP. Why can you not stand up before AIPAC and tell them the equivalent: that the defining purpose of America is not to support Israeli colonialism in the Occupied Territories and to shield Israel from its just desserts for its crimes.
President Obama, how can you look but not see, listen but not hear, know but do nothing? What would you do if it were apartheid-era South Africa instead of Israel, and the black township of Soweto shattered and suffering in Gaza’s place? Would you sit at home with your family after speaking fine words and then doing nothing because of the pressure of some lobby or another? I think not. And just because the oppressors in this instance are Jews and the victims are Palestinians, your instincts and actions should be the same.
President Obama, how can you describe something as “intolerable” without seeing conditions first-hand? Why do you not go yourself to Gaza, walk its streets and meet its people, and see with your own eyes the devastation and heartbreak wrought by those Israelis you define as our “special allies” – you’ll be safer than if you walked the streets of Chicago, unless, of course, the Israelis attack again, which itself would be a good learning experience for you. Walk the ground of Gaza, Mr. President, walk the ground, look and see, listen and hear, understand in your heart that you can have justice for the Palestinians and an end to their intolerable conditions, or a special relationship with Israel, but you absolutely cannot have both.
You can change things. You have what Theodore Roosevelt called a “bully pulpit” – the very best in the land – and you can go directly to the American people over the Congress and the filters of the mainstream media and all of the propaganda AIPAC and company throw out. You can tell the American people what you have seen, and the truth will more than suffice. You can acknowledge what we have done wrong in the past, and why. You can change things, and if you go directly to the American people they, too, will listen and hear, and while they will not be pleased with what has been done in their name in the past, most will support you as you undo past injustices and strike out on a new course.
So act, with your head and your heart and your instincts in accord. Support UN resolutions and sanctions, break the Israeli blockade, put US forces as part of an international presence on the ground if necessary to stop the assaults, and cut off every penny and bullet heading to Israel. If you don’t do it, no one else will even try, the devastation will remain and the suffering will continue. That wouldn’t be much of a legacy for a president and a man raised in the traditions of Martin Luther King, Jr. and John F. Kennedy.Bookmark and Share
*Alan Sabrosky (Ph.D, University of Michigan) is a ten-year US Marine Corps veteran and a graduate of the US Army War College. He can be contacted at email@example.com .
*To Read other articles by Dr. Sabrosky, click on the link to his Articles Archive on the right-hand-side bar of this page..