Public First Program


Shane Elson


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July 2008 # 3

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Back to Editorials 2008

Obama: Danger to the Middle East

Any of us who have attempted to speak ‘off the cuff’ in a public setting know just how dangerous it can be. We can muddle our words, prattle on incoherently and ‘mis-speak’ important facts. So when it comes to politicians delivering speeches we can rest assured that the words we hear were carefully planned and scripted. Not only do the words have to make some kind of sense, they have to fit the established narrative they are creating based on the historic record that precedes them. Of course some people are better in delivering their words (think Rudd or Howard) than others (think Bush II). 

In the last couple of weeks US Presidential candidate, Barak Obama, toured the European and Middle Eastern region spruiking himself as the candidate who would deliver a new United States to them. Outside his public appearances he met with many ‘movers and shakers’ in order to deliver to them his personal guarantees on what he would deliver should he win office. While we, the ordinary people, may never find out what he said in these closed meetings we do have records of many of his public utterances. It is these and those utterances on the Israeli / Palestinian conflict that I want to examine. I want to begin with a speech he made prior to leaving for his jaunt through the East. 

On July 4th he gave an address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. This organisation is the loudest, most cashed up and most connected pro-Israel lobby group in the US. They are the eyes and ears to the words and deeds in high places. Obama began his address by saying that the Zionist lobby in the US “shared values and shared stories” that bound them together and that as “President [he] will work with [them] to ensure that this bond [is] strengthened”. 

He waxed lyrical on how the bible stories of Israel had created within him a desire to find his “homeland”. He told of his horror at the Holocaust stories and that he subscribed to the “never again” philosophy. He then turned the history of the little town now known as Sderot (Stay-Rote) on its head. 

This little town is one of the ones we read about as being under attack from Palestinian rockets. What we don’t hear is how this town came to be in Israel’s possession. Like many of the occupied towns, Sderot was stolen from its inhabitants who were forced, at gun point, to vacate their houses and land for the Zionist dream. When you read the Zionist history it says that Sderot was “first inhabited in 1951”. The farmers and their families who lived there prior to then were forced out and their farms destroyed. The Zionist history that Obama’s speech writers obviously used fails to acknowledge the ethnic cleansing of this town. Indeed the Zionist history shows that there is “no significant Arab population” in the town. How could there be? The Israeli army keeps them away. Obama went on to say how bad it was for the settlers and soldiers who now live on that stolen land. 

Further into his speech Obama said he would strengthen the US / Israel alliance and that, as President, he would provide up to $US30 billion dollars in military aid so that Israel could maintain its “military advantage” in the region. He also said that, as President, he would ensure the steady flow of weapons to Israel would continue and he would campaign for Israel’s right to “defend itself”. Just after uttering this he proclaimed that the “Palestinian people must understand” that “Israel’s security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable”. In other words, Arabs can go jump if they challenge Israel’s crushing power. While he says pressure must be put on the Arab nations to back off, he went on to say that, “we must never force Israel to the negotiating table.” Towards the end of his address he said, “I will always keep the threat of military action on the table to defend our security and our ally Israel.” 

Obama is a great orator and commands respect when he speaks. He doesn’t mince his words and on the campaign trail he has rarely stumbled in his rhetoric or the narrative he is creating. However, like so many who crave power he is a fully paid up member of the “memory hole” club. A club whose members refuse to acknowledge anything that might undermine their thin veneer of respectability, credibility and sincerity. Any inconvenient truth that stands in the way must be flushed down the “memory hole” immediately. 

After his Zionist sponsored free dinner he flew off to tour the Middle East and Europe. While he briefly met with Palestinian leaders in the West Bank his rhetoric and promise to defend Israel never waivered. He did not once get ‘off script’. When he held his most spectacular media event at the ethnically cleansed village of Sderot he made no reference to its pre-occupation history which, I suppose, would have revealed an inconvenient truth to the rapturous media pack.  

While he took time to dress up as a Jew and ‘worship’ at the Wailing Wall, he did make sure his Christian commitment did not surface and decry the injustice meted out by the Israeli government and his own on the Palestinians. Like a true statesman he did not have to negotiate the so called ‘security fence’ that renders his hope for a “contiguous Palestinian territory” impossible. In fact by the time he made it to Germany he had totally forgotten the 10 metre high cement fortress that encases many Palestinians and separates them from their livelihoods. 

When he got up to speak in Berlin a few days later Barak Obama had conveniently ignored the facts on the ground pertaining to the real plight of Palestinians and launched into a speech that contained so much irony I can only deduce it was written by someone like comedian John Stewart of “The Daily Show” rather than a seasoned, steeped in history speech writer. His call to solidarity and shared suffering must have warmed the hearts of some of the crowd there. Of course he didn’t mention the bombing of Dresden by the US ally, Britain. Nor did he mention the US role in supplying engineering expertise and machinery that assisted in Hitler’s rise. Nor did he mention the way the US prevaricated in the final days of the push into Berlin and how it allowed the Russian forces to occupy West Berlin. But I suppose that would have been inconvenient given his audience. 

A few days prior to this speech he had again declared that when it comes to Israel / Palestinian relations a two state solution is the only way out. However when it came to the “brave” Berliners he said, “People of the world - look at Berlin, where a wall came down, a continent came together, and history proved that there is no challenge too great for a world that stands as one.” He went on to say, “the German people, tore down that wall - a wall that divided East and West; freedom and tyranny; fear and hope - walls came tumbling down around the world. From Kiev to Cape Town, prison camps were closed, and the doors of democracy were opened”.  

The greatest irony in his speech was uttered when he declared, with a straight face and no sense of shame, “That is why the greatest danger of all is to allow new walls to divide us from one another. … The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down.” 

Barak Obama is no friend of the Palestinian people. Zionists here and in the US do have reservations about him and his commitment to their cause. Yet, as far as his public utterances go and I have only quoted a few, it seems that he will carry their banner high when developing US foreign policy. Like Blair after Thatcher and Major, like Rudd after Howard, Obama after Bush will pretty much be “more of the same”. Nothing will change. There will be tinkering around the edges and some cosmetic changes. There will be new forms of rhetoric but in essence, nothing will change. Palestinians, during this occupation, will continue to die at a rate of 3 or 5 to 1 compared to Israelis.  

Should he become President, during Obama’s reign, the wall will not be pulled down and Israel will not be forced to adhere to the numerous UN Resolutions calling for it to desist and return to the 1948 borders. So long as US foreign policy is not geared towards undoing the terrible wrongs of Israel and its bloody occupation, the underlying causes of the mess in the Middle East will not be resolved. Perhaps even more disturbing, Obama might just be the President who increases the power of the military industrial complex rather than rein it in as many hope. 

Obama doesn’t have the luxury of being able to speak ‘off the cuff’. As the potential next President of the USA, he has to ensure that all his words are carefully crafted and delivered. He has to surround himself with people who will not challenge the narrative he is creating nor raise the history he is ignoring. If Barak Obama is not able to speak ‘off the cuff’ then we can only presume his public utterances are the considered and approved versions of how he views the world. We can also presume that he repeats the words of his speech writers verbatim because they are the words and thoughts he agrees with. If this is the case then Barak Obama might just be an even more dangerous President that George Bush ever was.

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