Thursday, January 22, 2009

Obama is asked to go to Gaza--now

Haroon Siddiqui writes for the Toronto Star; he has written a good analysis of Obama's inaugural speech, regarding how it can be read through justice for Gaza.
I've excerpted it below, but you can read the whole text here. He calls it "Obama should go to Gaza -- Now."

"to Muslims – arguably his most important foreign audience – Obama had multiple, and mixed, messages.

He was resolute, as he needed to be, in warning terrorists: "You cannot outlast us; we will defeat you."

He did well to say, albeit indirectly, that Muslims are Americans, too: "We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus and non-believers." During the campaign, he had avoided Muslims.

To the larger Muslim world, he issued a clarion call: "We seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect."

But he followed that with a passage that was crisp in its generalities but confusing, or deliberately vague, in context:

"To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West – know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy.

"To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist."

Which Muslims was he talking about? Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah and other non-state actors?

Or the leaders of Iran and Syria, who also blame "the West"?

Or such close American allies as Hosni Mubarak who rules Egypt with a clenched fist?

Or the pro-American oil sheikhs, many of whom are corrupt and almost all of whom squelch domestic dissent?

Something else was jarring.

Obama's assertion ("we can no longer afford indifference to the suffering outside our borders"), along with one of Senator Dianne Feinstein's ("the freedom of a people to choose its leaders is the root of liberty") and Rev. Rick Warren's prayer ("for every one of our freely elected leaders") must have sounded hypocritical to Gazans.

They have been starved for electing Hamas in a free and fair election. They have seen official American indifference to their plight, even after the 23-day Israeli onslaught. About 1,300 are dead and 5,000 wounded, a majority of them civilians by some counts.

To dramatize his new approach to Muslims, Obama should consider going to Gaza as soon as possible.

Without having to meet Hamas, he could witness decomposed bodies still being pulled from the rubble of 5,000 homes reportedly destroyed. He could attend some of the funerals and hear the cries of Palestinians. He could sample the foul water from the broken mains.

His visit would balance out his trip last July to Sderot, the Israeli town where he, quite rightly, shared the agony of Israelis traumatized by Hamas rockets.

A trip to Gaza would signal the end of American double standards.

It would certainly be far better received than Obama phoning Mubarak, Jordan's King Abdullah and the Palestinian Authority's Mahmoud Abbas, the three most discredited Arab leaders at the moment.

At about the same time as the president was talking to them yesterday, Human Rights Watch of New York was condemning the three, along with the governments of Israel and Saudi Arabia, as well as the ruling mullahs of Iran, for banning or cracking down on public demonstrations in solidarity with the people of Gaza.

Obama will need more than words to meet the challenge he has so eloquently set for himself and the United States."

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