Sunday, 8 June 2008

change? what change?

for those that might have missed it, i posted on friday night at the hand mirror. i found it a very difficult post to write and don't know that i got across what i really wanted to say. but there you go. by the time i was finished, i didn't have the energy to post here as well.

something else you may want to look at is the inaugural down under feminist carnival, hosted by hoyden about town. it's well worth a read. the writing is always challenging, sometimes a little foul-mouthed, but strong and well-reasoned. i didn't always agree with what was said, some of the posts seemed a little too narrow in their views, yet they all raised important issues that we need to be thinking about and discussing. but mostly, it's great just to have this kind of women's space in the blogosphere.

onto today's topic. i've spent the last couple of days fuming about barack obama's comments to aipac about jerusalem. he basically "endorsed a two-state Israel-Palestine settlement, but also insisted that Jerusalem should remain both the capital of the Jewish nation and undivided". i heard him say it on the news on friday, and almost cried.

here are the thoughts that went through my head. first, whatever happened to democracy? the future of jerusalem is to be decided unilaterally by the president of america, without the residents of that city and the occupied territories getting a say? does mr obama personally own jerusalem, that he can decide this long-standing dispute without caring about the views of hundreds of millions of people around the world?

his comment was authoritarian, dictatorial. it was more than misguided. it was heartless. this was a man who (i'm sure i heard early on in the campaign) argued that since he had been brought up in indonesia and knew a little about islam and muslims, would be much more of an asset when it came to american foreign policy towards the middle east. yet his comments on friday showed that he knew absolutely nothing of the feelings of the arab world and beyond. or even worse, he knew but didn't care.

i've never been to jerusalem. but ever since i completed the hajj two years ago, i've had a strong desire to go there. the masjid al-aqsa is the third holy site for muslims (after mecca and the Prophet's mosque in medina), and has been so ever since the earliest days of islam. it's a mosque steeped in history and has a symbolic significance dating back to the days of solomon. i hope one day to have the chance to walk the streets of jerusalem, to feel it's dust on my feet, to breathe in the air, and to pray in the al-aqsa mosque. it's a city that holds a special place in my heart. i can't bear the thought of someone, even though he might be "the most powerful man on the planet" or "the leader of the free world" or whatever, thinking that he has a right greater than those who have lived for generations on that soil to determine the fate of the city.

more scary though were the implications of his comments. that mr obama would utter this promise to gain the support of the israeli lobby group, without thought of the ethics involved (the denial of human rights and democracy, and of the right to self-determination) and without thought of the suffering it would cause or the global implications, that is a scary thing indeed. it brought me back to the thoughts i expressed in my first ever post on this blog, where i criticised mr obama for his response to claims that he was a terrorist in disguise and the like.

it is possible, in order to totally prove that he's not a terrorist-sympathiser (a label that the republicans will try very hard to pin on him), he will be harsher on middle-east issues than even john mccain might be. that's the danger that frightens me most. that he will choose to go to war with iran simply to show he has the balls to do so.

mr obama has stated clearly that he is a very good friend to israel. if that is the case, if he really has israel's best interests at heart, then he has to be serious about brokering peace with the palestinians. true peace will only come about when there is justice. when all settlement building stops, when existing settlements on the occupied territories are dismantled, when checkpoints are shut down and all people can drive on all the roads, when palestinians are free to farm their own land and harvest their own crops without harassment from settlors, when..., when..., when.... there are so many other issues, please read here (pdf file) if you want to find out more. until mr obama is ready to address these issues and to care about the welfare of both palestinians and israelis, he can be no friend of israel.

mr obama claims to stand for change. but hearing his words to aipac, all i could think was: plus ca change, plus c'est le meme chose. he stands for change for everyone except palestinians. for them there will be no change.

but it turns out that since the aipac meeting, mr obama has retreated somewhat from his original position. after the shock and anger expressed by many arab commentators and palestinian leaders, it seems mr obama now has a new position:

...Obama believes "Jerusalem is a final status issue, which means it has to be negotiated between the two parties" as part of "an agreement that they both can live with."

"Two principles should apply to any outcome," which the adviser gave as: "Jerusalem remains Israel's capital and it's not going to be divided by barbed wire and checkpoints as it was in 1948-1967."

He refused, however, to rule out other configurations, such as the city also serving as the capital of a Palestinian state or Palestinian sovereignty over Arab neighborhoods.

while that certainly is an improvement on his previous statement, it shows how dangerous his lack of experience could be. suddenly, those ads by the clinton camp with the phone call at 3am don't look too far wrong. with his original comment, he pissed off the arab world. his "clarification" has pissed off aipac and some other israeli supporters. it's a lose-lose outcome for him. and if he becomes president, such an outcome could cost lives. many lives.

if this issue concerns you as it does me, i recommend that you sign the petition at jewish voice for peace, aimed at both presidential candidates. please note that i don't support some of the comments made by those who have already signed the petition, but i support the petition itself.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As an Arab
I don't know but i had hope but after that speech at AIPAC. I think he's going to be worst than Bush on the issue. Even Bush couldn't be that PRO-ISRAEL.
But anyway, no white house ever was to just to the palestinians nor to any arab issue.
We now something though, it's not going to last that way. It will CHANGE because a right cause will always win.