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Obama, Israel and Liberal Capitulation


We’ve been waiting now for nearly seven years to uncover that progressive streak hidden deep in the heart of President Barack Obama. But one drone strike after another, one dead child piled upon another and any glimmer of hope that Obama would put the breaks on US extremism has finally come to an end.

Not only has Obama refused to alter the bloody foreign policy of his predecessors, he has vowed to continue its most extreme elements. In no other instance has this been more true than with the case of Israel and Palestine.

This reality has likely come as a surprise to many who placed their aspirations in our first black president, a man who at one point early in his career believed Palestinians had a right to not only exist, but to reside in their own country. Yet, time and again President Obama has put his foot down when the global community was ready to honor a Palestinian state, as he did at the UN Security Council in 2011 and again when the US vetoed a UN resolution that would have condemned Israel’s illegal settlement building. Now, as bombs fall on innocent Palestinians, Obama reasserts the US role in defending Israel.

Last week in an op-ed for Haaretz, Israel’s oldest newspaper, Obama wrote that while “restraint” was needed on both sides, the US would continue to provide assistance to Israeli defense, unconditionally. Just as Obama’s piece appeared, the US and Israel were working hard behind the scenes to prevent the UN Security Council from condemning Israel’s air-strikes.

“As I’ve said time and again, neither I nor the United States will ever waver in our commitment to the security of Israel and the Israeli people, and our support for peace will always remain a bedrock foundation of that commitment,” wrote Obama in Haaretz. “Budgets in Washington are tight, but our commitment to Israel’s security remains ironclad. The United States is committed to providing more than $3 billion each year to help finance Israel’s security through 2018.”

Not one dollar for Detroit, but billions for Israel. And what about Palestine’s right to security and peace, which is certainly in far more peril than Israel’s? One need not be an expert on the Middle East to understand Palestinians live in a land prison, surrounded and occupied by Israel. Electricity, water and healthcare essentials are controlled by their oppressor. Indeed, Palestinians are a people without a country, simply fighting to survive.

Living under brutal occupation, decade after decade, has produced elements of extremism, as was the case of the kidnapped and murdered Israeli teens. But what of Israel, a so-called beacon of democracy (even as Israel kills and forces Palestinians off their ancestral homeland), where a Palestinian boy was burned alive in spiteful revenge? Such acts only empower and serve as recruitment tools for Hamas.

The same can be said for the indiscriminate missiles Israel launches into Gaza: the bombing of a Mosque, countless homes destroyed, hundreds injured, nearly two hundred more killed – many of whom have been children. And what for? How many deaths will it take for Israel to stop its bombardment? How many lost lives before Obama tells Israel to stop its assault? Perhaps more importantly, when will the American people say ‘enough is enough’? Sure, Obama has offered up the United States to broker a cease-fire, but how can a true cease-fire be brokered when the mediator supports the military of one side over the civilians of another?

It’s all a farce of course. Obama doesn’t really care to see the violence end – if he did he would pay more than lip-service to Palestinian statehood and support the matter when it counts – on global stage in front of the UN.

We live in a sad and desperate time in the United States, yet fair-minded folks, many who oppose Israeli and US aggression, refuse to break from the strangle of the Democratic Party because Republicans are more blatant in their repulsiveness. It is this cowardly embrace that lets Democrats off the hook (next up Hillary Clinton) and allows Israel to operate and murder with impunity.

JOSHUA FRANK is managing editor of CounterPunch. He is author of Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush (Common Courage Press, 2005), and along with Jeffrey St. Clair, the editor of Red State Rebels: Tales of Grassroots Resistance in the Heartland and Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, both published by AK Press. He can be reached at

JOSHUA FRANK is managing editor of CounterPunch. His most recent book is Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, co-edited with Jeffrey St. Clair and published by AK Press. He can be reached at You can follow him on Twitter @joshua__frank

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