For Palestinians, Obama’s Message is Crystal Clear

When former President George W. Bush departed for his final trip home, that very moment represented an end of a long and unbearable nightmare, one that Bush epitomized until his last day in office.

Americans may decry what we can finally dub as the ‘Bush legacy,’ for it brought economic ruin, but also pushed the country into avoidable, if not completely preventable wars, disgracing the collective history of a nation that for long imposed its sense of moral authority on the world.

But the new president is set to change all of that. True, Barack Obama is duly warning of hyped expectations, but, frankly, he can only blame himself for the eagerness and hope, realistic or otherwise, that has engulfed the nation, even the world over. During his presidential campaign he made many promises, the gist of which is that an Obama administration would be everything that the Bush administration was not. That was enough for ‘Obamaniacs’ to sing and dance the world over.

One cannot expect that Obama has a magic solution for everyone’s problems, everywhere. In fact one must be realistic and simply ask Obama to remedy the problems and conflicts that were introduced or provoked, financed and sustained by his own country.

Regarding the Middle East, Obama seems to have hit the ground running, or so we are told. Shortly after his inauguration, he appointed former Senator George Mitchell as special envoy to the region. Mitchell “will bring a wealth of experience and credibility to the job,” said CNN.

Once again, Obama is clearly attempting to delineate an early policy that differs from Bush’s. The latter was affiliated with the infamous Guantanamo Bay, the ‘gulag of our times’ — according to Amnesty International — thus Obama ordered it closed, a year from now that is. Bush was blamed for his late arrival to the Middle East peace process scene, thus Obama makes it clear that the peace process is a priority for his administration.

But the question is how different will Obama truly be when his administration is done carrying out a few symbolic gestures to appease the ever-eager public?

Naturally a new administration, promising a new era, requires a new language. Although inundated with lofty terminology, the outlines of Obama’s new administration seem, in some instances, a mirror image of Bush.

These are remarks made by Obama (not Bush), on January 22, and seen as the first major statement by his administration regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict: “Let me be clear: America is committed to Israel’s security. And we will always support Israel’s right to defend itself against legitimate threats. . . . Hamas must meet clear conditions: recognize Israel’s right to exist; renounce violence; and abide by past agreements. Going forward, the outline for a durable cease-fire is clear: Hamas must end its rocket fire; Israel will complete the withdrawal of its forces from Gaza; the United States and our partners will support a credible anti-smuggling and interdiction regime, so that Hamas cannot rearm.”

Funny how Obama started his statement with “let me be clear.” He cannot possibly be any clearer as he spent endless hours for many months assuring Israel and its supporters, while condemning Palestinians without any reservation or remorse.

Those who counted on Obama to bring a just peace to the Middle East must’ve had their hearts broken watching the man charging against Hamas’ terror, as thousands of Gazans were killed and wounded, including 430 children in the matter of three weeks as a result of Israel’s barbarous attacks, using mostly American weapons (and full, unqualified US backing.)

And yet, Obama found it fitting to explain that his administration’s foreign policy is not only “critical in terms of projecting . . . America’s power, but also America’s values and America’s ideals.” Of course, it was Palestinian trust in those ideals that led them in droves to the polls in January 2006, and subsequently to their starvation and carnage in Gaza. It is no wonder that Palestinians are unimpressed.

Aside from Obama’s unparalleled clarity, thus far, on his utter and “unconditional” commitment to Israel, he, along with his officials, continue to borrow similar vague slogans that were used enthusiastically by the Bush administrations: national security, national interests, spreading of American ideals, values, and all the rest.

Commenting on such sloganeering, Howard Zinn, one of America’s most celebrated historians, said, ‘We have to think about these words and phrases that are thrown at us without giving us a time to think. And . . . we have to redefine these words, like “national security.” What is national security? . . . having military bases all over the world (or) . . . having healthcare, having jobs.”

Americans will have four years to determine how Obama and his administration define these tired slogans, ones that also include democracy and “terrorism” (is the latter an exclusively Arab tendency, never an Israeli, no matter how many the latter kills?)

Meanwhile, Palestinians in Gaza hardly have the leverage of time as tens of thousands remain homeless and destitute. More, they have little hope and expectations on Obama or even Mitchell, despite his “wealth of experience and credibility.”

“Obama won’t bring my husband back to life,” Leila Khalil, a Gazan woman, whose husband was killed during Israel’s bloody offensive, told AFP. “He was martyred and left me with six children to feed on my own.”

Obama’s also made himself “clear” regarding the fate of Leila’s husband, and thousands like him: “For years, Hamas has launched thousands of rockets at innocent Israeli citizens. No democracy can tolerate such danger to its people, nor should the international community, and neither should the Palestinian people themselves, whose interests are only set back by acts of terror.”

Luckily, Leila no longer has a TV set to listen to Obama’s remarks. It was, along with her home pulverized by Israeli missiles, courtesy of the United States. For Gazans, and most Palestinians, things cannot be any clearer.

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons (Clarity Press). Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs, Istanbul Zaim University (IZU). Read other articles by Ramzy, or visit Ramzy's website.

9 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozh said on January 29th, 2009 at 12:10pm #

    is there a people that are as deluded as amers? and not because they are stupid! amers are more cultish, exception being ‘jews’, than any other folk i know of.

    they love their stars; elevating them to near godlike status. in movies, it is often one person who saves a town, city, and even US.
    obama had also been elevated to such a stardom (almost as big as john waine) because media and obama were telling amers that he is a new savior.
    but espying the obvious that all clero-political ‘promises’ are lies wld have awakened many and wld make them run over to nader or mckinney.
    but media, clergy, or schooling will never tell amers this truth. so, in ten yrs, a new star will rise; the same story repeated for 45th time.
    how long Lord? thnx

  2. Ugly Deaf Muslim Punk Gurl! said on January 29th, 2009 at 12:13pm #

    well said, Ramzy. I am utterly embarrassed and appalled by people’s blind optimism and hope in Obama… nothing will change! Not as long as the US remains a staunch supporter of Israel’s security!

  3. Michael Kenny said on January 29th, 2009 at 1:10pm #

    Is Obama’s message as clear as all that? Nobody expected him to embrace the Palestinian cause but while the fighting was going on, he was very lukewarm in his adoration for Israel. I can’t ever remember a US politician being so evasive. The important point in that is that Obama is bought and paid for by the Israel Lobby, so whatever he said is what they wanted him to say. I conclude from that the Lobby itself is starting to see that Israel is an impossible dream and Mitchell’s role is to try to get the Palestinians to agree to an “Israel-friendly” solution before they catch their breath, so to speak, and realise that Israel is militarily defeated, politically bankrupt and morally discredited. And that they, the Palestinians, have won!

  4. Suthiano said on January 29th, 2009 at 1:10pm #

    Americans will be forced to reengage reality eventually. It will not be a pleasant sight when they do: millions of obese people rolling around in their tears.

  5. Max Shields said on January 29th, 2009 at 7:22pm #

    You’re living a fantacy. You have not read US history and certainly have no understanding of empire and the US imperial empire that now is the greatest world threat.

    Moral authority? When and how, prey tell. Tell me a moment in US history when the US was not expanding, killing, committing genocide, toppling governments, occupying foreign lands and on and on.

    The only “moral authority” the US has provided is the shelter it gives to his off-spring – Israel to do the same thing to the local indigenous people that the conquering Europeans did here in the US.

    You cannot begin to speak to a problem you do not understand.

    There is a small thing called reality and it’s crashing down on your little fantacy and it’s fring liberalism that is the other evil form of ruling that was represented by Bush.

  6. Jack said on January 29th, 2009 at 7:35pm #


    I think Ramzy’s “imposed” illustrates his point.



  7. giorgio said on January 29th, 2009 at 7:44pm #

    Is Israel running out of chutzpah ?
    I just saw the PM of Turkey giving a severe dressing down to Israel’s Simon Peres regarding the massacre of Gazians during a meeting at the World Economic Forum. Then Turkey’s PM walks out of the meeting in a huff and flew back home and a huge popular acclaim, leaving Peres whinning about Israel’s right to self-defence…What a jerk!
    It’s in Israel’s interests to have good relations with Turquey. This Gaza killing spree may turn out to be Israel’s worse shot in the foot ever and the beginnings of worldwide condemnation of its blatant policy of exterminating Palestinians and Arabs.

    Even if Obama is in Israel’s pocket today, he will be sensitive to any outcry both in the world and in America. Being a consumate politician, if the tide turns against Israel, he will most likely find that he will have to run with it…

  8. Max Shields said on January 29th, 2009 at 8:00pm #

    You are right. I stand corrected.

  9. Michael Hureaux said on January 31st, 2009 at 2:56pm #

    Obama’s description of Israel as a “democracy”, when it is nothing of the kind, demonstrates as loud as anything can that even though he is a “consummate” politician, his savvy only extends as far as the interests of the firepower he represents will allow him to travel. I’m not sure what he expects to gain negotiating with Palestine with the completely discredited Abbas and Palestinian authority, or working with Livny and the Israeli “left” to move settlers out of the West Bank using whatever firepower they need to, but the paths of boojwah politics are always murky and machiavellian. Whatever comes of it, I doubt it will be any good for Palestine, despite the sunny glow commentators like Alex Cockburn are putting on Obamian strategy this morning.