International

Palestinians determined to call Obama’s bluff

When the future historians settle down to tracing the causes of the decline and fall of Obama, his duplicity and hypocrisy, vis-à-vis the Palestinians, would figure prominently in their analyses and conclusions.

How would one describe a man, other than calling him a hypocrite, who had entered office with a solemn commitment to redress the harm done by his predecessor, George W. Bush, to US relations with the Muslim world but is now threatening to throttle the Palestinian people’s right to sovereignty-a right he himself has touted on so many occasions-by wielding his veto at the UN Security Council?

Obama’s speech at the UN General Assembly, on the inaugural day of the current session, succinctly reflected the pathetic decline in stature and standing of a president who had entered his office with the hopes and aspirations of a vast section of the under-privileged world riding behind him. It was a pathetic performance from a man who came to acquire global fame for his articulation. The speech was pathetic because he couldn’t articulate in it one good and sound reason why the Palestinians, fed up with Israel’s dilatory tactics and US foot-dragging on the crucial issue of Palestinian statehood, shouldn’t opt for the UN route to seek the world’s approbation for their legitimate right to a sovereign state.

All that Obama could come up with was a sickening rehash of the Israel-friendly American duplicity to insist that the Palestinians talk to the Israelis, based on the US chimera of a two-state solution for the protracted problem. But the Palestinians need no more evidence of Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s blatant intransigence to go on wasting their time over the charade of a US-sponsored dialogue that holds no promise of ever delivering on the Palestinian aspirations. Netanyahu is an incorrigible Zionist whose sole interest is in buying time to complete his diabolical scheme of creating ‘facts’ on ground.

In simple language, these ‘facts’ are illegal Jewish settlements that have never stopped sprouting up and expanding on the occupied Palestinian land. More than half a million Jewish settlers-a pampered community in Israel-have already been settled in these settlements. Two days after Obama’s UN address, Netanyahu announced plans to build another 1100 new houses for Jewish settlers in the disputed East Jerusalem. This is Netanyahu’s way of thumbing his nose at the Palestinians and rubbing salt into Obama’s wounds.

Netanyahu’s government, according to independent western observers and commentators, has also doubled the rate of demolition of Arab homes in the Occupied Land. Olive groves and orchards, which have sustained the Palestinian farmers for generations, are being uprooted indiscriminately, on top of another demonic policy to uproot 30, 000 Bedouins from their ancestral lands to make room for Jewish settlers.

As if all that wasn’t enough to make the Palestinian lives miserable, the current war-mongering and trigger-happy government is now engaged in training the settlers in illegal settlements abetting and encroaching on Palestinian lands in the use of fire-arms and deadly weapons to keep themselves safe against alleged Palestinian ‘intruders and encroachers.’ It was none other than CNN, no friend of the Palestinian and Arabs and an ardent admirer of the Israelis that recently showed film footage of settlers being trained in combat activities and provided arms by the Israeli army.

So disoriented and distraught did Obama look at the podium of the UN General Assembly that, following his address, an outspoken critic of Netanyahu’s expansionism and US backing of it, like Uri Avnery summed it up as á blatant lie: the speaker knew it was a lie, and so did the audience.”

A day after Obama the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas delivered a stirring address from the same podium that captured the essence of the Palestinian quest for statehood and impressed the international community whose ears were plugged to Abbas’ address. It was a measured and resolute speech in which he clearly affirmed his people’s commitment to live side by side with Israel, but not as serfs or slaves of the Zionists and their powerful western friends but as equals sharing the Holy Land.

Abbas’ was a measured and carefully calibrated speech. There were no fireworks in it and it contained no vitriolic of the kind that a war-monger like Netanyahu is so wont to spew in his addresses on the subject. A day after Abbas when Netanyahu spoke from the same podium he pored scorn on Lebanon sitting on one of the non-permanent seats of the Security Council and  ridiculed the Lebanese presence in the Council as “ a terror organization ( Hezbollah) presides over the body entrusted with guaranteeing the world’s security.”

Israel’s Zionist and neo-con friends in US, especially in its so-called ‘intellectual community’ showered praise in droves on Netanyahu’s provocative address in which his punch line was that the Palestinians must recognize the “Jewish State of Israel.”

Netanyahu was, of course, mischievously trying to hoodwink the global community in the hope that its memory was weak. The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) then under the charismatic Yasir Arafat had recognized, way back in 1993, under the Oslo Peace Accord “the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security.” But Israel and its western mentors want the Palestinians to concede the ‘Jewish nature’ of Israel, which will make it a racist state just like South Africa was under apartheid.

On the other hand, Israel hasn’t, to date, recognized a Palestinian State. The closest it came to, in Oslo, was to recognize PLO as “representative of the Palestinian people.”

In contrast, Abbas, while making the pitch for his Palestinian State, categorically stated that “our efforts are not aimed at isolating Israel or de-legitimizing it.”

However, on cue from Netanyahu and his cohorts in the Obama administration, the pundits and gurus manning think tanks across the US landscape immediately got into stride to deconstruct Abbas’ address and denounce it for not being very ‘constructive.’ It was intellectual chicanery at its best, or worst. Richard Hass, Under-Secretary of State under Bill Clinton and now heading the Council on Foreign Relations-a supposedly blue-ribbon think tank-lost not a moment in getting on to television to castigate Abbas’s speech as ‘disappointing.’ He had the audacity to suggest that Abbas’ forthright address would come to haunt the Palestinians one day and they may rue it.

Intellectual dishonesty and deceptive punditry isn’t the only game in town in Washington. The Obama team has also embarked on a huge undertaking to block the Palestinian effort at statehood by all and any means. So much about a president who had come to limelight on the slogan-that turned out to be bogus and thoroughly misleading-that he’d change the direction of US foreign policy in regard to the Muslim world. Here he’s straining at his wits’ end to rob the Palestinians of their chance to gain their own state from the jaws of a monumentally blatant and retrogressive backlash that has some of America’s ardent supporters gawking in wonder.

At the UN, where world’s attention is currently focused to see how this body dedicated to world peace handles this delicate operation, the Obama administration is involved in crass arm-twisting and intimidation of some impressionable non-permanent members of the Security Council Under the rules governing applications of new states for full UN membership, the Council must have at least 9 ‘yes’ votes to recommend the application to the General Assembly. Washington’s effort is to make this count difficult so that it is saved of the embarrassment of casting its negative vote to block the Palestinian request. Countries like Nigeria and Colombia, currently on the Council, are being worked upon to fall in line behind Washington. These and others happen to be dependent on US largesse and can be blackmailed. It’s a test of these countries’ resilience to withstand blackmail and intimidation.

Not to be left behind, the US Congress is getting into the act on the side of Obama to tighten the screws on the hapless Palestinians. Both houses of Congress have a long and shameless track record of Israeli partisanship and take pride in weighing in, whatever the occasion or the call of morality, on the side of the Jewish state.

So in tandem with the Obama team’s blackmail of the Palestinians, Congress has decided to block 200 million dollars in humanitarian assistance to the beleaguered Palestinians. These were funds destined to improve the social network of the Palestinians, like schools and hospitals. Congress may have had no pangs of regret in squeezing a people under oppression and ruthless Israeli occupation. But the Palestinians have come a long way in their struggle for emancipation from these oppressors and can see the ugly faces of their enemies unmasked. Saeb Erekat, chief negotiator of the Palestinians was quick to put the right accent on the vengeful congressional move and debunked it as ‘blackmail.’ The Palestinian Authority’s Planning Minister, Ali Jarbawi, castigating the congressional blackmail affirmed that he and his colleagues were working on action plans to end dependence on foreign aid by 2013. All well-wishers of the Palestinians would hope this target is met as planned.

Arab League Secretary-General, Nabil Al Arabi, has called upon rich Arab states to make up the funds US blackmailing is denying the Palestinians. 200 million dollars may mean a lot to the Palestinians but is just peanuts to the wealthy oil producers, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar or Kuwait. It will be interesting to see if their conscience has taken any lessons from the Arab Spring and how they’d respond to rise to the challenge of not letting down their oppressed ‘brothers’ in Palestine.

Obama is indulging in this immoral crusade against the Palestinians despite an overwhelming majority of his people clearly speaking up in support of Palestinian nationhood, as lately proved by the public opinion polls conducted by the Washington-based Pew Research Centre as well as by BBC. In a world-wide opinion poll of 20, 466 people in 19 countries, including US, UK and Canada, the BBC survey found 46 per cent of the people in favour of a Palestinian State. In the US, the favourable vote was 54 per cent.

In his inaugural address as president, in January 2009, as well as later in his historic address to the Muslim world from Cairo, Obama had exhorted leaders and governments working against the interests of their people to not get caught on the wrong side of history. But now, two years later, he’s in imminent danger of being caught, himself, on the wrong side of history. Strange are the ways of politics of fear and intimidation where the perpetrator often gets enmeshed in the web of his shenanigans and ends up being a pathetic loser. Obama is standing close to being devoured by the chasm of history that has brought many like him to tragic denouements.

The Palestinian march to statehood is inexorable and no trickery or deception by US, Israel and their ilk can thwart its progress. Obama’s legerdemain may only slightly delay it but can’t arrest its momentum from reaching its goal, sooner or later. If impeded in the Security Council, where the US veto-wielded shamelessly nearly 50 times in the past three decades to shield and shelter an errant and lawless Israel from accountability for its wanton violations of international law and convention-hangs like the proverbial sword of Damocles over the heads of the Palestinians, they have the right to go to UN General Assembly for redress. There, an overwhelming number of its 193 member states nurture no grudge like US against them.

In his latest visit to Israel, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, advised his Israeli clients to be conscious of policies that are isolating Israel in the comity of nations. He should be tendering the same advice to his own president. In the wake of the Palestinian move for statehood, US stands more isolated and exposed than ever before in recent times.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 October 2011 on page no. 26

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