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.