27 May 2011

Obama and the Middle East—time for the Yankee to go home?

I realize that U.S. President Barack Obama is now campaigning for the 2012 election. And I realize also the importance of Jewish support to his campaign. And I recognize the need for politicians to pander to important constituencies. But did he have to stoop, in the words of an Al Jazeera correspondent, to such a "scandalously obsequious pleading tone" in his speech to the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee?

Pandering is usually fine—no harm done—but pandering to Israel via its zealous American supporters involves victims. Specifically, the Palestinians. Promising unconditional support for Israel, as he did, is nothing less than abandoning Israel's victims. After all, unless the U.S. holds Israel to account, nobody will, and the Palestinians are left to their mercy.

He got, by some reports, 50 standing ovations, and 50 standing ovations from an AIPEC crowd is very bad news for the Palestinians. The crowd knew what he was saying, they can read between the lines: "We really want Israel to do this, but if they do something entirely different, we will support them anyway, and we will support them unconditionally." He reiterated what the Americans have been saying for 50 years.

His speech simply underlines something that is becoming increasingly clear—the Americans are now irrelevant in the Middle East. They won't help the Palestinians rid themselves of their oppressor. They are scrambling to keep up with the Arab people generally as dictators are swept out of power, dictators that were often good friends of the United States. As for peace, they are more the ally of war, currently involved in the largest arms sale in U.S. history to their favourite dictators in the region, the misogynistic Sauds. The Americans are capable of causing trouble while seemingly incapable of causing peace.

Obama is even irrelevant to Israel. Netanyahu scorns him, simply dismissing his blah, blah, blah about 1967 borders, knowing he has more clout with the U.S. Congress than Obama does. The Congress's fawning response to Netanyahu when he spoke to them early this week attests to that. And while Obama has to genuflect to AIPEC, Netanyahu owns it. The dog will be wagged and the tail will do as it damn well pleases. The status quo will continue: Israel will steal more land, the Palestinians will be more intensely segregated, and the victims of this land theft and segregation will continue to suffer poverty and humiliation.

But not forever, despite Israeli and American intransigence. They are taking their future into their own hands. Hamas and Fatah are reconciling—hugely important to the Palestinians who are sick and tired of their feuding. And in unity comes strength. The Palestinians will push for recognition as a state in the UN General Assembly in September. Needless, to say, the Americans, aping Israel, oppose both of these measures, but the Palestinians, supported by the Arab world, will persist. And young Palestinians are learning from their colleagues in Tunisia and Egypt about rising up against an oppressor. Earlier this month, thousands of Palestinian refugees and their supporters marched on Israel's borders with Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, and more marches are planned.

Help also increases from outside. Support for the Palestinian people grows in the international community, and support will increase particularly from Arab countries should they truly become democratic. Already, Egypt has stated it will permanently open its Rafah border crossing with Gaza.

Where is the U.S. in all this? Increasingly in the background. History is passing them by. Maybe it's time for them to leave the Middle East to the Middle Easterners, and try just minding their own business. They clearly have enough problems in their own house to keep themselves busy. Time, perhaps, for the Yankee to go home.

1 comment:

  1. Fight terrorism. Support a free Palestine.