Obama challenges the Zionists on Palestine?

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The way political speeches go it was a flawless performance. Obama was articulate to a fault and spoke with great aplomb and authority.

The venue-the sanctum of US State Department-selected for the occasion was also befitting. The chief executive of the world’s only superpower was there, on May 19, to address a fresh batch of US Foreign Service officers trained, primed and ready to serve their country in the extension and application of its global policies.

Two years ago, not too long after entering the Oval Office, Obama had addressed the Arab and Muslim worlds from Cairo University’s hallowed precincts. That was an evocative speech that many thought conveyed his sense of what democratic progress was needed in the Arab world, in particular. Many have, perhaps unjustly and undeservedly, credited that speech for having inspired the Arab youth and presaged the current Arab Spring.

But, curiously for many, Obama hadn’t spoken at length on the great stirring in the Arab world, sweeping and igniting its panorama from one end to the other, and lighting trails in many an Arab country. Two formidable dictators-Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and Ben Ali of Tunisia, are already on the dump heap of history and quite a few seem deserving cases to join them there. So there was expectation in the building for Obama to speak up and let the world know-in particular the Arabs-of what he thinks of Arab uprisings and demonstrated yearning for a change in the status quo.

In that broad context, therefore, Obama didn’t, perhaps consciously, disappoint anyone in his 40-minute-long address punctuated with the rhetorical flourish for which Obama has already acquired a world-wide fame. He had something to say about every Arab country currently convulsed with popular agitation and ferment.

In his broader message beamed at the Arab camp, Obama even likened the Arab upsurge for fundamental freedoms to the birth of United States as a free country that had thrown off the yoke of monarchic excesses. He, at last, even mentioned the Bahraini people’s hankering for their freedom, which is being brutally suppressed by the ruling Al-Khalifas with a lot of overt assistance from Saudi Arabi. Obama and all other top leaders of US hadn’t said a word of condemnation of the Bahraini elite’s brutality out of obvious concern for Saudi sensitivities on the subject, and also with an eye on the ground reality that Bahrain is home to the US 5th Fleet that lords over the Gulf.

Obama still walked a tight rope on Bahrain in his discourse. He didn’t, even once, mention Saudi Arabia by name or its military intrusion into the fray. Saudi Arabia is not only the largest supplier of oil to US and its western allies but also happens to be the number one client for American and other western military weapons and hardware. However, Obama did speak of respect for the legitimate democratic aspiration of the Bahraini people and hoped the rulers-representing the tiny island’s minority-would honour these aspirations. He also insisted respect for the sanctity of Shiia mosques in Bahrain. Independent observers have been highlighting the fact that dozens of Shiia mosques have been destroyed and razed to ground in a deliberate policy of suppression and subjugation of the Shiia majority populace.

But Obama still couldn’t resist the temptation to accuse Iran-out of sheer cussedness-of taking ‘advantage’ of the situation in Bahrain, without, of course, elaboration as to what was the nature of the Iranian ‘advantage taking.’ His diatribe against Iran flies in the face of Saudi Arabia’s open and unbridled interference in the Bahraini uprising.

For Syria’s Bashar Al Assad, Obama had a clear message-his first since the Syrian Spring began seven weeks ago. He asked Assad to lead his country to democracy or “get out of the way.” Although he didn’t ask for a regime change in Syria-at least not yet-in the manner that the call for regime change in Libya is being backed up with American fire-power, the message between the lines wasn’t that vague either.

However, there’s still a fine line, akin to tight-rope-walking, that Obama has been treading with regard to Basher Al Assad, who has been credited in Washington for keeping the border with Israel quiet in the ten years that he has been in power in Syria.

But it was on the Palestinian issue, no doubt, that Obama came closest to rekindling his original image of the 2008 presidential campaign and the hope he inspired-not just among the Americans with a clear and un-blinkered vision of the world but also among the international community in spades-for a meaningful change in the blatantly partisan American predilection on behalf of Israel.

Obama seemed to be taking a huge gamble-and an equally tall risk for his political future-when he categorically called for the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state based on Israel’s pre-1967 borders.

It wasn’t simply the venue or the pulpit-of the US State Department and not the Pentagon or the US Congress where patronage and support for a belligerent and expansionist Israel has been rock-solid over the decades since it occupied the Palestinian land-that stood out as a deliberate choice. The timing of Barack Obama’s clarion call for a sovereign, secure and contiguous State of Palestine was equally important and sensitive.

It came just a day before Israel’s war-mongering PM Benjamin Netanyahu was due to meet him in the White House. Netanyahu is a known Zionist and his entire track-record as a war-monger is studded with the quest to create ‘facts’ on ground, just the way the now-comatose Ariel Sharon did on his watch. If Sharon was the principal architect of the Israeli and Zionist policy of sizing as much Palestinian lands as possible and build illegal Israeli settlements on them, it’s Netanyahu that has been putting teeth into that policy with relentless exuberance. The result of this expansionism is that, today, nearly half-a-million Jewish settlers are living, and thriving because of Israeli government’s patronage, in hundreds of illegal settlements provocatively created in defiance of UN and the international community. The UN Security Council Resolution 465 categorically demands the dismantling of all these illegal settlements, which are an affront to international law.

Obama’s logic for the recognition of the Palestinian people’s right to a state of their own has its fountainhead in the Arab Spring now holding the region in its thrall. And he articulated the need for rising up to the Palestinian expectations in a jargon that can’t be refuted as he said: “At a time when the people of the Middle East and North Africa are casting off the burdens of the past, the drive for a lasting peace…is more urgent than ever.”

Another Obama bombshell-for the Israelis arrogantly adamant to allow no Palestinian refugees to return to the ancestral homes from which they had been expelled by the Zionists-was Obama’s inclusion of the ‘right of return’ of the Palestinians in a peace settlement package.

The thrust of Obama’s speech registered instantly with the bellicose Netanyahu, as well as with Israeli sympathizers and unabashed partisans in the US political culture. Before even Netanyahu, Mitt Romney, a leading Republican hopeful to run against Obama in 2012 decried Obama for having “thrown our ally Israel under the bus.”

But, of course, it was none other than a belligerent and insanely provocative Netanyahu who took the fight right to the Oval Office within 24 hours of Obama launching his salvo.

The meeting in the Oval Office between Obama and Netanyahu, on May 20, was, to put it most diplomatically, frosty. Those who saw its photo-op live from the Oval Office couldn’t have mistaken the combative and insulting posture and demeanour of the Israeli leader. He came at Obama with arrogance and hubris writ large on his face. His body language exuded an almost incontinent urge to tear Obama to pieces with his bare hands. He glowered and stared down hard at Obama with eyes glowing with fury. It was the visage of an irate parent who had had enough of his errant child and was ready to spank him hard if he uttered one more errant word or made one more wrong move.

So provocative and disgusting was Netanyahu in his meeting with Obama that an Israeli votary and ‘friend’ Jeffrey Goldberg was forced to write a special piece in the Atlantic of which the posting proclaimed: “Dear Mr. Netanyahu, please don’t speak to My President That Way.” He caustically denounced Netanyahu for having had ‘something of a hissy fit.”

Netanyahu told Obama, to his face, that his call for Israel’s return to 1967 borders was “indefensible” because it didn’t take into account the demographic ‘facts’ he and other intransigent Israelis, such as Ariel Sharon, have created on the Palestinian land.

Netanyahu, heaping insult over Obama’s injury-who sat meekly beside him and looked thoroughly pathetic and brow-beaten-wagged his finger at him and said, in reference to the Palestinian right of return, that that was “not going to happen” and insisted, repeatedly, that “everybody knows it’s not going to happen.” Likewise, he made a mockery of Obama’s suggestion for Israel pulling back from the Jordan River. This, to Netanyahu, was “non-negotiable.”

Netanyahu brazenly heaped scorn, publicly, on Obama despite the fact that Obama in his address had pointedly repeated all those mantras in support of Israel that have been staple to every American President since Lyndon Johnson: Washington’s ‘unshakable commitment’ to Israel’s security.

To sweeten the pot even further for Netanyahu, Obama referred to Hamas as a body given to ‘terrorism’ and demanded of it to recognize Israel. He also trashed the Palestinian plan to seek international recognition for their statehood at the forthcoming UN General Assembly session in September and dismissed the idea as unlikely to bring independence to the Palestinians. In other words, he was telling them that their best chance was to accept whatever crumbs the Americans and their Israeli cohorts and ‘firm allies’ may be prepared to throw at them.

Why Netanyahu behaved in the manner he did is obvious: he’s dead certain of support for Israel being rock-solid in Congress, which is going to bestow on him the rare honour of addressing a joint sitting of the House and the Senate on May 24. he knows that his American friends in high places would pounce on Obama on their own and trim his sails to the winds of their choice.

The sheet-anchor Israeli lobbies in US, as powerful and influential as ever, are also humming with confidence to call Obama’s bluff and puncture the balloon he has tried to send up before it gains any traction or height. Obama is set to address the annual session of AIPAC-the most powerful of Jewish lobbies-on May 22, with Netanyahu following suit the next day. That speech may test Obama’s resolve and commitment to his trial balloon long before anybody else in the pro-Israeli corridors of power gets down to the task.

US presidents have a history of paying lip service to the Palestinian cause and then quietly and meekly reverting to the status quo, of standing four squares behind whatever Israel may choose to do, without further ado. ‘Israel can do no wrong’ is a mantra that seems to have cast a permanent spell on the White House and its denizens.

Obama has made an effort, howsoever effete, to look different. The sheer timing of his initiative breaks a new trend: he has come up with it a year and a half ahead of his bid for a second term in office, while his predecessors, like Clinton, for instance, embarked on this trail in the twilight days of his presidency.

But Obama, no doubt, must be fully conscious of, and alive to, the trap doors ready to devour him if he breaks too far from the dotted lines dictated by the Zionists and their American partisans for everyone occupying the Oval Office.

Obama may run out of steam long before the UN GA session-with the Palestinian statehood as its principal focus-gets convened. That will be a litmus test of how genuine, or just plain pretentious, he is about the Palestinians regaining their lost freedom from the clutches of the Zionists ruling the roost in Israel and US.

It’s a foregone thing that the UNGA will accord, by a thumping two-thirds majority, the right of statehood to the Palestinians. But its membership of the world body could run into the wall of a US veto in the Security Council If Obama chooses to veto the Palestinian membership of UN as a sovereign entity and thumbs his nose at the international community, it will prove to the world, for all times to come, of Washington being an enemy of the Palestinians as much as Israel under Netanyahu is and complicit in all the crimes committed against the Palestinian fundamental human rights. If that comes to pass, history may not treat Obama any differently than George W. Bush, the most implacable foe of the Arabs and Muslims in living memory.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 June 2011 on page no. 26

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