Ed Note:Ã‚Â See comments below to follow developments.
A good piece by an Egyptian writer — Alaa Al Aswany, author of the 2007 novel Chicago — in the Times:Ã‚Â “Why the Muslim World Can’t Hear Obama.”
“We saw Mr. Obama as a symbol of this justice. We welcomed him with almost total enthusiasm until he underwent his first real test: Gaza. Even before he officially took office, we expected him to take a stand against IsraelÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s war on Gaza. We still hope that he will condemn, if only with simple words, this massacre that killed more than 1,300 Palestinians, many of them civilians. (I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know what you call it in other languages, but in Egypt we call this a massacre.)
“We expected him to address the reports that the Israeli military illegally used white phosphorus against the people of Gaza. We also wanted Mr. Obama, who studied law and political science at the greatest American universities, to recognize what we see as a simple, essential truth: the right of people in an occupied territory to resist military occupation.
“But Mr. Obama has been silent. So his brilliantly written Inaugural Speech did not leave a big impression on Egyptians. We had already begun to tune out.
“We were beginning to recognize how far the distance is between the great American values that Mr. Obama embodies, and what can actually be accomplished in a country where support for Israel seems to transcend human rights and international law.”
The new president, as a wet-behind-the-ears senator in 2006, loudly supported Israel’s attack on Lebanon. This, recall, was sold as an attack on the Army of God (Hezballah), but in fact on its first day destroyed the power plant supplying Beirut, and within days had destroyed every bridge into Beirut.
It was an attack on the heart of the new Lebanon, which has been spiralling back toward the chaos of 70s and 80s since, after years of painful but productive rebuilding.
The assault on Gaza City has been similarly sold and miscast in the press as an attack on terrorists.Ã‚Â Over a thousand people have been killed, and it seems the Likud under Benjamin Netanyahu will now carry the Israeli elections next week — and that the even farther-right party of Avigdor Lieberman will overtake the leading Leftist party (Labor) in the Knesset, on a tide of youthful Israeli pride.
This attack on Gaza comes at the end of a policy pursued from day one of Bush-Cheney that has (i) undermined the centrist Fatah Palestinian party, leaving Hamas in the driver’s seat, (ii) junked the notion of curbing West Bank settlement (Netanyahu is pledging more) and (iii) shed a new generation of blood that leaves a permanent political solution again a distant dream.
A friend who follows these matters suggests that the militant Israeli right considers it a condition of Israel’s existence not only that the lands conquered in 1967 be permanently possessed, but also that an Arab democracy — a self-sustaining state that the US would support — never takes shape in the Levant.Ã‚Â Hence the attacks on Beirut and Gaza City.
The new US administration’s plate is certainly full, and Obama’s words and acts so far in general re the mideast have been positive.
But is his silence on Gaza the significant detail that tells?
Dunno. For now, his silence here gets thrown into the basket of all the other odd,Ã‚Â unproductive and anti-political things he has done and not done since taking office.
Maybe he just wants Israelis and Palestinians to be friends. And considers their bickering one of those “childish things” that he urged us all to leave behind during his inaugural address.
Maybe he truly is above politics, and, like Silent Cal Coolidge, will wind upÃ‚Â doing pretty much nothing in the White House.