Saturday, June 06, 2009

What Obama didn't say in Cairo

I've been pondering how to comment on President Obama's speech this past week in Cairo. He succeeded in mending the U.S. relationship with the Islamic world. But in trying to be even-handed between the Israelis and the Palestinians, he overlooked some background on their conflict.

I hesitate to be critical of Obama because he has brilliantly performed as President in his five months in office. So I will quote from a letter to the editor in today's New York Times by Joel S. Engel to explain what bothered me about Obama's speech.

"To create an appearance of equivalence between the Holocaust and the condition of the Palestinians," Mr. Engel wrote, "[Obama]said of them: 'For more than 60 years, they've endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in 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.'

"The inconvenient truth, which he failed to acknowledge, is that, for the first 19 of those 60 year, the West Bank and Gaza were administered by Jordan and Egypt, respectively, and that it was under the administration of the Arab nations that the Palestinians were confined to refugee camps.

"At any time in those first 19 years, the Arab nations could have provided 'a life of peace and security' by, for example, establishing a Palestinian state or integrating the people into their own countries. Instead, they kept them confined in the camps as pawns in a propaganda war against Israel.

"At the same time, Jewish refugees from Arab countries [and Iran]were forced to flee their homes by the backlash of the establishment of Israel.

"In contrast to the actions of the Arab nations, Israel took them in, sometimes requiring daring rescue missions, and integrated them into their modern, Western-oriented society, just as they did, one might add, for the Arabs who chose to remain as citizens of Israel."

Mr. Engel's eloquent letter suggests that President Obama sees a moral equivalency between the Israeli and Palestinian causes, which I think is a bit of a stretch.


Blogger Kay Dennison said...

Well said, Mort!!!! I couldn't quite put my brain in a mode that eased what nagged at me when I heard Obama's speech. You crystallized my thoughts. Thank you!!!!

Saturday, June 06, 2009 5:44:00 PM  
Blogger Hoots said...

Just so.
And that observation corresponds with remarks I heard a few years ago from a guy who had worked in KSA in some capacity with the State Department. In a low voice he confided that the Arabs had at some level a kind of respect for the Jews for how they dealt with the Palestinians. Palestinians, according to him, were at the bottom of the pecking order in the Arab world, an unruly bunch of nomads who have always caused problems.

As he talked I got the impression that a comparable social standing would be like that of gypsies, urban gangs or hillbillies in Western culture. That may have been the ravings of one misguided person, but when I recall all the ravings I have heard over the years among my own peers in the South, something there rang true.

We know, of course, that bigotry penalizes bigots more than their target group. (Look at the treatment of Chinese expats all over the world. Post-war Japanese, Korean or Vietnamese immigrants upon their arrival in America. Or Jews everywhere.)

Obama's point about the economic potential of Jews and Palestinians working together was a powerful vision.

Sunday, June 07, 2009 5:46:00 AM  
Blogger Darlene said...

I can understand why Obama is trying to be even handed in the hopes of bringing peace to this explosive part of the world, but I agree that he did go too far this time. Sometimes the middle of the road is not the best place to be.

Sunday, June 07, 2009 4:46:00 PM  
Blogger namastenancy said...

I agree with you on President Obama; he's done astonishingly well under very difficult circumstances. But the speech bothered me. I understand that he's trying to set up some sort of dialogue which will ease some of the tensions and that it's a situation fraught with emotion. But, while trying to be sympathetic to the Palestinians, one can't ignore the fact that they were kicked out of Jordan by the late king and would have been kicked out of Lebanon if the country had a strong enough government. The border with Egypt is enforced by the Egyptians because they know better than to let the Palestinians have free access into the country.
They have "elected" a long string of leaders from Arafat onwards who have the total destruction of Israel as their main objective. I also come from a huge Lebanese family (23 million cousins), one of whom worked as a nurse in Gaza. She was shocked at the way that money given for clinics and medical supplies was openly appropriated for guns and ammunition, as well as the corruption at all levels of government.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009 6:42:00 PM  
Blogger Norma said...

I hesitate to be critical of Obama because he has brilliantly performed as President in his five months in office.

Visit my blog. I certainly don't hesitate to criticize how he's damaged the country in such a short time.

Thursday, June 11, 2009 5:11:00 PM  
Blogger R Southern said...

The endless arguments from both sides about "My daddy was more beat up by history than your daddy".

Friday, June 12, 2009 1:48:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Blog Flux Suggest - Find and Search Blogs
Web Traffic Statistics Coupon