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One Year After Cairo

Obama’s Speech: Promises Made; Promises Unkept

by ESAM AL-AMIN

One year ago President Barack Obama addressed the Muslim World from the University of Cairo.  The speech was magnanimous, humble, articulate and well received by most Muslims worldwide. It was strikingly different in rhetoric and tone from any speech ever given by former President George W. Bush. Obama  sought “to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world”, emphatically declaring, “Islam is a part of America” and “is an important part of promoting peace.”

In that speech the President emphasized that one must be judged by his deeds and that “words alone cannot meet the needs of our people.” Some of the pledges he made regarding aid to Pakistan and Afghanistan have indeed been appropriated by Congress. Other commitments he announced with respect to the complete withdrawal from Iraq or cooperation with Muslim communities in the business, trade, and scientific and technological fields are supposedly underway.

But during the speech the US president expressed his frustration and complained that US policies are misunderstood by Muslims around the globe. He begged for more understanding and acceptance and pleaded that the “cycle of suspicion and discord must end.”

So on the anniversary of his most celebrated speech, how does Obama score on his most important declarations?

Part of the answer to the frustration of the American policy makers with regards to the battle to win the hearts and minds of Muslims around the world may be found in the following report card. It lists ten political promises Obama made before the world, half of which directly relate to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, demonstrating whether or not his words matched his policies.

1. Issue Closing Guantanamo.

Obama’s Words

“I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year.”

Promise

Not Kept.

Comment

With mounting pressure from Congress and the extreme right, the administration backed down. 

2. Issue: Israeli Settlements.

Obama’s Words

“This construction (of Israeli settlements) violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.”

Promise

Not Kept.

Comment

Twice last year Obama faced Netanyahu and twice the US president blinked in front of the Israeli prime minister.

3. Issue: Lifting Gaza’s Blockade.

Obama’s Words

“Israel must also live up to its obligations to ensure that Palestinians can live, and work, and develop their society. And just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel’s security.”

Promise

Not Kept.

Comment

The administration even financed the construction of a sixty-foot underground steel barrier along the Egypt-Gaza border in order to tighten the siege on Gaza; it also recently shielded Israel in the UN after the flotilla massacre.

4. Issue: Human Rights and the Goldstone Report.

Obama’s Words

“We reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject:  the killing of innocent men, women, and children.” 

Promise

Not Kept.

Comment

Although the Goldstone Report concluded that Israel committed war crimes and killed 1400 Palestinians during its invasion of Gaza (the overwhelming number of which was non-combatant civilians including hundreds of women and children), the Obama administration defended Israel in all international forums including the UN’s Security Council and Human Rights Commission.

5. Issue: Palestinian Elections Results.

Obama’s Words

"We will welcome all elected, peaceful governments – provided they govern with respect for all their people." 

Promise

Not Kept.

Comment

On the contrary, the US supports the unelected Palestinian Authority imposed on the Palestinian people in part by the US, as well as it trains and finances its security forces (under Gen. Dayton). According to human rights organizations, the PA has tortured hundreds and detained, without trial, over one thousand of its opponents in the last year alone.

6. Issue: Imposition.

Obama’s Words

No system of government can or should be imposed on one nation by any other. 

Promise

Not Kept.

Comment

The Israeli government did not like the results of the Palestinian elections favoring Hamas, and consequently imposed a crippling siege on Gaza, which the US has tacitly supported and defended in their attempt to undo the elections’ results. 

7. Issue: Reconciliation Between the Palestinian Factions.

Obama’s Words

 “We will say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs.” 

Promise

Not Kept.

Comments

In public the administration says that the ongoing dispute between the Palestinian factions is strictly a Palestinian affair; but in private it has vetoed and obstructed any reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, pressured Egypt to continue its siege of Gaza, and threatened the PA with the withdrawal of all financial aid if it reconciles with Hamas.
 

8. Issue: Nuclear Weapons

Obama’s Words

“No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons.”

Promise

Not Kept. 

Comment

While pressuring (NPT signatory) Iran and threatening to use crippling sanctions against it, the US ignores Israel’s nuclear arsenal and its refusal to sign the NPT.

9. Issue: Use of Drone attacks and killing of civilians in violation of the laws of sovereign nations. 

Obama’s Words 

“So America will defend itself respectful of the sovereignty of nations and the rule of law.”

Promise

Not Kept. 

Comment

Despite the countries’ objections against the mounting civilian casualties, the drone attacks under Obama have tripled in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and expanded to other countries such as Yemen and Somalia, even to the point of targeting US citizens for execution (i.e., assassination) without due process of law.

 

10. Issue: Muslim Charities in the US 

Obama’s Words

“In the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation.  That’s why I’m committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill Zakat.” 

Promise

Not Kept.

Comment

No Muslim charity closed during the Bush administration has been re-opened or had its assets returned. The administration even defended the use of Bush’s illegal wiretapping against one charity in Oregon prompting a federal judge to rule against the government. The administration has failed so far to meet with any credible US Muslim group to address the issue of the closed charities or the unjust prosecution of their officers.

Final Score: Promises Made: 10, Promises Kept: 0.

ESAM AL-AMIN can be reached at: alamin1919@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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