A Citizen’s File On President Obama’s One Hundred DaysBy Shakeel Syed
While appreciating the first one hundred days of President Obama’s term, let us examine one of his key foreign relations issue, i.e. Palestine and ask of him to match his rhetoric with actions.
1. Dec ’08 / Jan ‘09: Israeli massacre of Gaza started on Dec 27, ’08 and stopped three days before Obama’s inauguration on Jan 17, ‘09. President Obama chose to remain silent saying, “there’s only one President at one time.” Unlike his silence toward the Israeli massacre in Gaza, he was quite vocal during a similar but relatively less violence in Mumbai.
2. Jan ’09: At his inauguration, although President Obama talked about poor people of the world and the nations with plenty but did not speak of the abject poverty under occupation and their prospects and our promise for peace in Middle East.
3. Jan ’09: Iran’s attempt to make itself energy independent is routinely condemned by the President but he failed to answer the question of Helen Thomas (ABC) – “if he knows of any State in the Middle East region who does have nuclear arms,” and the President answered – “I do not like to speculate.” President Obama clearly lacked the courage to acknowledge the Nuclear Israel and its arsenal.
4. Jan / Feb ’09: President Obama rightfully advocated speaking with all known and perceived adversaries (Iran & North Korea) except Hamas. Even John McCain at one point expressed the importance of speaking to Hamas for peace in Middle East.
5. Feb ’09: In spite of the recent Gaza massacre (arguably war crimes by Israel) and continued Israeli occupation of Palestine, President Obama grants more than $3 billion financial aid (not counting the military aid) to Israel and $900 million to the Palestinians. This is clearly an ethical disparity worth of reconciliation.
6. March ‘09: President Obama deserves to be commended for his stated policy of diplomacy and dialog (Iraq, Iran, Korea, Venezuela, etc) over his predecessor’s preferences. However his administration chose to completely boycott the Durban-II conference (in Geneva) on racism unlike George W. Bush who at least sent a delegation (2001) even though they had walked out.
As the first African-American President one would have expected Obama to champion the discussions on racism even if this conference were to question Israel’s (alleged) apartheid policies.
7. March ’09: The Obama administrations pick to become the nation’s top intelligence analyst has withdrawn his nomination after an intense lobbying campaign by backers of Israeli government policies. Former US Ambassador Charles “Chas” Freeman had come under Republican-led opposition over his comments criticizing Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land. Freeman has years of diplomatic experience, including stints as US ambassador to Saudi Arabia and assistant secretary of defense. Some Democrats joined in on the opposition to Freeman’s appointment.
Democratic Senator Charles Schumer took credit for Freeman’s withdrawal, saying, “I repeatedly urged the White House to reject him, and I am glad they did the right thing.”
Chas Freeman blasted lobby groups, lawmakers and pundits who support Israeli government policies for forcing his withdrawal. Freeman wrote, “The tactics of the Israel Lobby plumb the depths of dishonor and indecency…The aim of this Lobby is control of the policy process through the exercise of a veto over the appointment of people who dispute the wisdom of its views, the substitution of political correctness for analysis, and the exclusion of any and all options for decision by Americans and our government other than those that it favors.” Freeman continued, “I regret that my willingness to serve the new administration has ended by casting doubt on its ability to consider, let alone decide what policies might best serve the interests of the United States rather than those of a Lobby intent on enforcing the will and interests of a foreign government.”
One ought to question President Obama what happened to his objectivity and transparency and fairness?
8. March ’09: The same month President Obama appoints Dennis Ross (Israel firster) as a special adviser for Iran and Persian Gulf issues. Ross had already served and failed as Bush Sr. and Bill Clinton’s peace negotiator for Middle East (1980 – 2000) without peace in Middle East. It is paradoxical that Obama, who campaigned on dialoging with everyone, including Iran, would hand the Iran file to Ross, a cog in the machine of Israel's Washington lobby.
9. March ’09: Netanyahu gives his first interview to The Atlantic, in which he threatens to attack Iran to wipe out its nuclear facilities. Following day, President Obama calls Netanyahu and reassures 100% commitment to Israel's defense. One wonders about the anti-war candidate Obama versus the President Obama who is instead of asking Netanyahu to rethink his bombing rhetoric, reassures him.
10. March ’09: Israel attacks Sudan. US media reports that Israel has conducted three military strikes against targets in Sudan. President Obama chooses silence over Israel’s attack on Sudan. Juxtapose his silence toward Israel attacking Sudan versus his vocal demands on Russia to respect Georgia’s territorial sanctity.
11. April ’09: Avigdor Lieberman, a Soviet-born Jew turned Israeli citizen becomes Israeli Foreign Minister. Lieberman, the immigrant/settler Jew from Soviet Union won the Israeli elections, because of, among other rants - “no loyalty, no citizenship,” for Israeli-Arab citizens – who are born and brought up on their Palestinian land occupied by Israel. A fascist demand by any standard but President Obama is quiet to the America’s largest recipient of aid.
These are but few disparities of the US double standards in its dealing with the issue of Israel toward Palestine. So long as the US does not give up these blatant double standards it cannot be an honest broker for peace, neither in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict nor in any other. We must remind President Obama that unless his rhetoric for change is matched by action, peace in Palestine is not possible and without which peace in Israel is impossible.