Friday, May 20, 2011

THREE of our writers appear in today's "The Hill" on Pres. Obama's speech yesterday

Just as well that Obama had no details about Middle East peace

By Nadia Hijab, US Campaign Advisory Board Member
May 19, 2011

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict – temporarily pushed off the front pages by the killing of Osama bin Laden – is squarely back in the news as the Obama administration and Israel try to set the agenda in advance of the Palestinian plan to request full membership at the United Nations this September.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is sure to grab the lion’s share of the spotlight with speeches scheduled at a joint session of Congress and at AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) and a meeting with President Barack Obama.

But in the world beyond the Beltway, Netanyahu is seen as the main stumbling block to peace, and his expected media blitz won’t help him spin his vision of a greater Israel dominating most of the land and resources between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, with a Palestinian statelet under its control. Nor will the pre-visit announcement that Israel is planning to construct even more illegal settler homes in occupied East Jerusalem.


The two speeches of Barack Obama

By Josh Ruebner, US Campaign's National Advocacy Director
May 20, 2011

During his speech today at the State Department, President Obama rightfully noted the “hypocrisy of the Iranian regime, which says it stands for the rights of protesters abroad, yet suppresses its people at home.”

But President Obama’s bifurcated speech—the greater part of which centered on the human rights of people throughout the Middle East and North Africa, the lesser part of which re-trod perfunctorily on the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process” — points to an additional double standard that the United States must overcome if it is to have a coherent response to the Arab Spring.

The United States cannot continue to decry violent repression by governments against individuals acting to assert their fundamental human rights while continuing to provide Israel with the means—both weapons and diplomatic support — to continue its human rights abuses of Palestinians without mocking the values it claims to support universally.


Obama's changes don't match changes of the Arab Spring

By Phyllis Bennis, US Campaign Steering Committee Member
May 20, 2011

The Obama administration faced a huge challenge in trying to craft a speech describing a new U.S. policy for the Middle East in the midst of the Arab Spring. They were trying to position the U.S. as friend and supporter of the newly democratizing forces, while at the same time maintaining longstanding support for those on top. For more than half a century, Washington’s allies and partners have been those who have imposed dictatorships and occupations across the Middle East. Their role, in return for massive economic and military aid and protection, was to safeguard U.S. interests in oil, Israel, and strategic stability.

Now that it is the people of the region who are creating those new democracies from below, where peoples' needs and not oil, Israel and U.S. interests are at stake, what is that real policy change?
A transformed U.S. role in the region would have to go beyond soaring words and even additional economic assistance. It would require an entirely different policy based on the interests of the peoples of the Middle East above U.S. interests in oil, Israel and the “global war on terror.”

That would mean real support for popular, bottom-up democracy, while ending the pattern of continuing military and economic alliances with repressive governments while issuing occasional mild scoldings to improve America's image in the region. It would mean accepting Middle Eastern definitions of social and economic justice, and respect for local decision-making – even when reality doesn’t match Washington’s illusions of what the “new Middle East” should look like.