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New Style, Same Substance

Obama’s Non-Starter

by STANLEY HELLER

Courageous Egyptian journalist Hossam el-Hamalawy put it straight in of all places the New York Times, “President Obama should not have decided to come to Egypt. The visit is a clear endorsement of President Hosni Mubarak, the ailing 81-year-old dictator who has ruled with martial law, secret police and torture chambers. No words that Mr. Obama will say can change this perception that Americans are supporting a dictator with their more than $1 billion in annual aid.”

Not only is Mubarak a dictator, he’s an active collaborator in the strangulation of the Gaza Strip. Desperate Palestinians attempted to flee Israel’s Gaza Massacre, but were almost all turned away. Six months later humanitarian missions to bring Gaza supplies only get through if they include world renowned personalities or if they go on hunger strikes.

I suppose going to Cairo was no worse than Obama’s last stop, Saudi Arabia. There he saluted the absolute monarchy, with its head chopping executioners and its police on the lookout for women drivers.

If he really was going to make a new start of things he should have spoken in Lebanon, where popular demonstrations drove out the Syrians, where a guerrilla war expelled the Israelis and where sectors of Christian and Shi’a are working together in the coming elections.

His speech in Cairo was the usual glittering generalities, the dropping of an Arabic word here and there, a sophisticated tone, and the pledge to tell “the truth”.

But look what he said about Iraq: “Iraq was a war of choice that provoked strong differences in my country and around the world. Although I believe that the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, I also believe that events in Iraq have reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build international consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible.” Though the war was controversial the Iraqis are “better off”. Over a million dead from sanctions, invasion, and civil war, and Obama had the utter gall to declare the Iraqis “better off”. Our only problem was not recruiting enough flunkies to join the effort. Some on the Left immediately declared that Obama remarks were a “denunciation” of the Iraq war. Keep on dreaming.

He repeatedly denounced “violent extremists”. Fair enough. The al-Qaeda continues to commit terrible crimes. But what about the “violent extremists” that are our allies, principally the government of Israel? Its spokespersons threatened huge massacres of Palestinians all last year and lo and behold that’s just what they did.

Obama did mention the dire situation in Gaza. I suppose we should be endlessly thankful. But what did he say? He said the “continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel’s security”. What’s important here is Israel’s security. The hideous suffering of Ghada Abu Halima who died in March twelve weeks after being burned by white phosphorus or seven month old Zein Ad-Din Mohammed Zu’rob who died June 3rd after Israelis wouldn’t let him go to a Jerusalem hospital to get proper treatment for his lung infection, that isn’t an issue. Anyway what’s going on in Gaza is not a “humanitarian crisis”. Those are caused by tsunamis or hurricanes. The disaster in Gaza is entirely man-made, an Israeli-U.S.-European-Egyptian medieval siege. If Obama really wanted a new start he could have given a Ronald Regan “tear down this wall” speech and demanded the Israeli let goods and people flow freely into and out of Gaza. Of course, he gave nothing of the kind.

He lectured Muslims about Holocaust denial. “Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust.” Denial is “baseless, ignorant and hateful.” He reports his next stop is to the remains of Buchenwald death camp. Holocaust denial is idiocy, but what about the idiocy of Nakba denial, denial that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were deliberately driven from their homes in 1948 and 1967 to make it easier to establish a Jewish superiority state? When will he or any U.S. President make a visit to Deir Yassin, the site of one of the 1948 Israeli massacres?

He lectures the Palestinians. “Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights.” I wonder if Obama has heard of the U.S. Civil War. It completely abolished slavery and won (for a time) full and equal rights for blacks. But, hey, non-violence is cool. If he wanted to be helpful why not talk about the many Palestinian campaigns of non-violent resistance. Why couldn’t Obama hail the courageous people of Bil’in who go out every Friday peacefully and in return get shot at and tear-gassed and in the case of Bassem abu-Rahme get murdered?

At one point Obama says, “We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security. Because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women, and children.” That’s a shameless untruth. When did Obama reject the mass murder of 400 Gaza children during the massacre? When did he even remark about the scores of Gaza Palestinians who lost one, two or even three limbs? What was Olmert if not a “violent extremist” Why doesn’t Obama call for Israelis to abandon violence or even to come clean about the greatest fear Muslims have about Israel, that it will attack them with nuclear bombs?

Obama does bring up the nuclear issue, but only in connection with Iran. He piously says he wants to avoid a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, but this “truth-teller” cannot admit the race began long ago, with Israel gathering a huge nuclear arsenal and the ability to launch via land, sea and air. He graciously says Iran can have nuclear power when it abides by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (which it does), but can’t even mention that Israel has never signed the NPT.

He’s committed to “governments that reflect the will of the people.” within each country’s traditions. “America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election.” Tell that to the Palestinians who had a completely fair legislative election, gave Hamas a victory and saw their government boycotted and their living standards devastated. Tell it to that the Lebanese people whom Joe Biden threatened that the U.S. would stop their foreign aid if they elected the wrong people.

Face it. It wasn’t a new start. It was just a new style. The sooner the Left realizes it, the better.

STANLEY HELLER is host of “The Struggle” TV news magazine Contact him at mail@TheStruggle.org