Bad news in the first days
Starry-eyed Obama-worshippers promise an exceptionally long honeymoon for the new administration. As far as foreign policy and Mideast affairs are concerned, the honeymoon ended yesterday, on Day Two of the Obama presidency. At best the new President's report card reads Good, But Not Good Enough. To shut down Guantanamo right away is admirable. But why must it take a year? And as Helen Thomas (allowed to speak again) asked in the first press conference, why no announcement about shutting down Bagram and other foreign prisons? Obama may have indirectly promised to end "extraordinary rendition," but he hasn't done so. Nor has he promised that "extraordinary" methods will never be used on "extraordinary" prisoners. He has avoided the words "war on terror," but his use of the word "twilight" hints ominously of Cheney's "dark side," where an angry enemy justifies any tactics. The perpetual war for perpetual peace is not at an end. And despite the drama of declaring an end to Guantanamo, his actions to restore the rule of law are actually being meted out cautiously, in dribs and drabs.
Most depressing of all was Obama's statement about Israel and Gaza. Israel must "defend itself," he declared, lodging himself firmly in the Orwellian world of the absolute defenders of Zionism and anything Israel chooses to do in its long slow progress toward the eradication of the unwanted indigenous people on whose land the Zionists have built their nation. The truth is not always hidden. At least one Israel deputy minister, Matan Vilnai, has promised a holocaust of the Palestinians, as John Pilger points out
in a recent piece in The New Statesman.
Noam Chomsky's most devastating comment on Obama's Gaza statement is his opening phrase on Democracy Now. Obama's stance, Chomsky said,
is "approximately the Bush position." That isn't just Not Good Enough. It's bad. Very bad.In thrall to AIPAC
Up to now all of us who were thrilled to have the disastrous Bush out of the way at first somewhat deluded ourselves that there might be some truth in Obama's repeated assertions that despite his right-wing or Clinton appointees, he would be "in charge" so that his previous liberal positions would prevail. But you looked at choices like Dennis Ross and Rahm Emmanuel to key posts, and you saw the handwriting on the wall. One can still hope that Obama's departures from Bush won't be merely cosmetic, but his love of realpolitik appears to dominate. This means blind support for Israel. Opposing Israel frightens American politicians. It makes them scurry away. The reason for this is the power of the Israel lobby, AIPAC, to drive a supporter of the Palestinians out of office if need be, as it did with Congressmen Cynthia McKinney and Earl Hilliard. Both were black leaders guilty of the crime of advocating an independent Palestinian state. Such a state was not mentioned by Obama in his statement, though the Palestinians' right to self government has been acknowledged by international bodies, including the United Nations, and even Bush has, however insincerely, called for it.
The US is the unique and essential support of the State of Israel's illegal acts and war crimes and nowhere, not even in Israel itself, is criticism of Israeli actions so taboo as in Washington. American politicians' timidity about Israel was highlighted last week when two members of the House of Commons delivered ringing denunciations of Israeli atrocities and their western supporters. Rage in Parliament
Sir Gerald Kaufman, a veteran Labor MP raised by Holocaust survivors as an orthodox Jew and a Zionist, used his unique authority as one who has known all Israel's prime ministers, to speak out
in the House of Commons on January 15, 2009 against Israel's actions in Gaza. Sir Gerald did not mince words. He concluded that the Israelis responsible for the siege "are not simply war criminals. They are fools."
The leading leftist activist MP George Galloway gave a passionate speech
in Parliament condemning Israel and Britain's support, tracing the ultimate responsibility for the Palestinian tragedy to the English government: "This started in this building when Arthur Balfour on behalf of one people promised a second people the land which belonged to a third people. We are the authors of this tragedy. Everything has [followed from] that declaration [of 1917]." He called for immediate action by the British government to block the further arming of Israel.
Can we imagine anyone in Congress giving such speeches, and with such authority, with such passion? No, but AIPAC does not run the Houses of Parliament.Lies and omissions
Many Jews worldwide and even in America have been sickened by Israel's assault on Gaza's civilian population and its children and has said so, and Israel is turning into more and more a pariah state, with policies Bishop Tutu declared "worse than apartheid." In today's Democracy Now interview, Chomsky addressed the South African analogy, the Israeli creation of increasingly unviable "Bantustans" (he cites Sharon as using this word), internationally recognized as criminal, but ignored by Obama in his statement.
Above all Chomsky pointed out Obama's faulty logic in calling Israel's assault on Gaza's civilian population "defense." As he said, Israel has the right to make itself safe by "stopping its crimes," by removing the sources of conflict in the blockades and the occupation. Chomsky's irrefutable logic exposes Obama's Gaza statement as worse than merely disappointing. It is a tissue of lies by omission. And the primary omission is that Israel is the initial wrongdoer, and the Hamas militants firing rockets, the feeblest of opponents.
John Pilger's writing routinely pulsates with rage. In his New Statesma
n essay, he calls the "continuity" between the Bush and Obama administrations with respect to Israel "seamless." And he specially vilifies journalists who perpetuate the Orwellian falsehoods that make the David the frightening, dangerous Goliath. Americans are brainwashed into believing that Israelis are "unsafe," justifying 1400 Gazan deaths in exchange for 14 Israelis, justifying the destruction of an infrastructure, a blow falling upon the wound of the crippled, starving open air prison that is the Gaza strip, primarily to "protect" a few settlements at Siderot built on the ruins of former Palestinian houses. Pilger points out how cruelly absurd it is to call the Gaza assaults a "conflict," or speak of a "war" when all the fire power is on one side, or to talk of a "unilateral ceasefire" when Israel has cynically halted its attacks just before Barack Obama's inauguration.
The Obama administration offers no hope from the top for Palestinians. Moreover the appointments make this look like the most pro-Zionist US government man for man in a generation.
The only ray of light emerges from the fact that world public opinion and even international Jewish sentiment is shifting further and further away from Israel. But how that will affect US lawmakers capable of of cutting funds and ending weapon shipments is hard to see.