Sunday, December 16, 2012

I Wish Obama were listening

To tell you the truth, I am disappointed in Barak Obama's anemic response to the Israel/Palestine crisis. I remember well his beautiful declaration in Cairo in 2009.

It is undeniable that the Palestinian people, Muslims and Christians, have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than 60 years, they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in the refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations, large and small, that come with occupation.

So, let there be no doubt, the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. And America will not turn our backs on the legitimate aspirations for dignity, opportunity and a state of their own.

Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, recognize Israel's right to exist. At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestinian's [right to exist]. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.

These was the most encouraging words spoken by a president in my life time, and millions of people dedicated to peace through justice around the world remember them well. I wish that Obama also remembered them. But it seems that he is choosing to wash his hands of the whole Israeli/Palestinian mess. Peter Beinart in Newsweek writes, “Even though E1 has long been an American red line.(1) And even though the Israelis alerted the White House mere hours before they announced the decision, the Obama administration's response was pro forma and bland. Publicly, Obama said nothing. It was the first sign of what senior administration officials predict may be a new approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Obama's second term: benign neglect. (2)

In what terms can the silence of Obama be described other than that he has in fact “turned his back on the Palestinian people?” He obviously knows that the United States is up to its ears in supporting Israel's illegal activity with our money, weapons and UN Security vetoes.

Roger Waters, addressing the United Nations on November 29, 2012, spelled out Israel's guilt of international crimes in five terms: apartheid, ethnic cleansing, collective punishment, violation of Geneva Convention and use of illegal weapons. At risk of diminishing the power of his full address I will summarize his presentation.

APARTHEID – to establish on a racial basis the domination of any one group of persons over any other group of persons and systematically oppressing them, as has been the policy of Israel towards the Palestinians since 1948.

ETHNIC CLEANSING - as in the systematic expulsions of Palestinians from their homes in 1948 and 1967.

COLLECTIVE PUNISHMENT – as in the punishment of an entire civilian population, explicitly prohibited by the Geneva Convention. Israel has violated its obligation as an occupying power by the virtual imprisonment and blockade of the entire population of Gaza.

VIOLATION OF GENEVA CONVENTION - which prohibits an occupying power from transferring citizens from its own territory to the occupied territory.

USE OF ILLEGAL WEAPONS – such as dropping white phosphorus on civilians, which sticks to the skin like jelly and burns at 1500 degrees, declared to be a war crime.

To those who say, “But, Hamas started it all.” Roger Waters responds. How we understand history is shaped by when we start the clock. Start the clock in the afternoon with rockets flying into Israel and Hamas looks guilty. Israel is simply defending itself. But, start the clock earlier that same morning when a 13 year old boy was shot dead by an Israeli soldier as he played soccer, and history looks a little different. Start the clock even earlier, like in 2009 and 271 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli soldiers and settlers. During that same time, not a single Israeli was killed.  In fact, Waters, said, “IT” actually started in 1967 with the occupation of Gaza and West Bank. The crisis of rockets is rooted in occupation.

Obviously the rest of the world takes these facts into consideration. I only hope Obama is listen.

Thomas Are
December 17, 2012

1 – The geographical area of Palestine between the West Bank and Jerusalem.
2 – Peter Beinart, Why Obama Will Ignore Israel, Newsweek, December 17, 2012. p.22

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