FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Obama’s Missteps

On his first day as the presumptive Democratic candidate for president earlier this month, Barack Obama committed a serious foreign policy blunder. Reciting a litany of pro-Israeli positions at the annual meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), he avowed: “Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.”

In promising U.S. support of Israel’s claims to all of Jerusalem, Obama couldn’t have picked a better way to offend the world’s 325 million Arabs and 1.5 billion Muslims. Israel’s 41-year stewardship of the Holy City has alarmed Muslims from Morocco to Malaysia. Upon seizing East Jerusalem in 1967, Israel razed the ancient Muslim Maghribi quarter to make room for Jewish worshipers at the Western Wall. Since 1991, Israel has steadily ratcheted down Palestinians’ access to Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem. Most West Bank Palestinians can no longer worship there.

Obama’s unnecessary promise deviates from nearly six decades of U.S. foreign policy that held Jerusalem to be occupied territory under international law. This long tradition was first broken in 2004 when President Bush acknowledged Israel’s demands to keep its illegal West Bank settlements in a final peace agreement, including those around Jerusalem. Thus Obama, a Harvard-trained lawyer, would both scorn the international legal system’s foundational principle – the inadmissibility of territorial acquisition by war – and echo President Bush, whose failed Middle East policies he has rightly deplored.

If Sen. Obama’s Philadelphia speech on race was a model of courage and nuance, his AIPAC talk was brimming with the pro-Israel orthodoxy that typifies this year’s presidential campaign. Like presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain, Obama also backed Israel’s so-called right to exist as a Jewish state.

How has it become an article of faith for U.S. politicians to support a state’s privileging of one ethno-religious group over others? For what Israel seeks in recognition as a Jewish state is permission to permanently discriminate against Palestinians. Israel is, by law, a Jewish state. Its declaration of independence and basic law declare it to be so. But its population, excluding the West Bank and Gaza Strip, is not exclusively Jewish: 20 percent of Israel’s citizens are native Palestinians, and another 4 percent are mostly immigrant non-Jews. Moreover, Jewish demographic predominance was achieved through the expulsion by force or fear of about 750,000 Palestinians in 1948. Israel denies Palestinians refugees – with their offspring, about 5.5 million persons – their internationally recognized right to return to their homes and homeland in order to maintain a strong Jewish majority.

According to Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, 20 Israeli laws explicitly favor Jews. Israel’s law of return, for example, grants rights of automatic citizenship to Jews no matter where they are from, while Palestinian exiles still holding keys to their family homes in Israel are denied this right. Religious parties play pivotal roles in Israeli politics, and Orthodox Jewish rabbinical courts govern matters of family law there.

Why should any American presidential aspirant promote ethno-religious supremacy in Israel? Don’t we see a “Christian state” or a “Muslim state” as inherently discriminatory? Why don’t we recognize the same in Israel’s quest to be ordained a “Jewish state?”

Like Israel, we are a nation that combines a sincere commitment to democracy and a history that includes injustices. While we have never fully atoned for our dispossession of Native Americans, in facing the legacy of slavery, we have made an unyielding pledge to equal rights. A truly visionary American president might respectfully press a similar commitment on Israel, not endorse its urges for ethno-religious privilege. The terrible suffering inflicted on European Jews in the Nazi holocaust does not entitle Israel to subjugate Palestinians.

Barack Obama whiffed in his first major foreign policy speech as the Democratic candidate. He may believe it necessary to pander to Israel’s U.S. supporters in order to gain office. But he narrowed future policy options to those that would undermine international law, offend core American values and diminish our standing in the vital Middle East.

GEORGE BISHARAT is a professor of law at Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, and writes frequently on law and politics in the Middle East.

 

 

 

Your Ad Here
 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:
bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
February 21, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Election Con 2020: Exposing Trump’s Deception on the Opioid Epidemic
Joshua Frank
Bloomberg is a Climate Change Con Man
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Billion Dollar Babies
Paul Street
More Real-Time Reflections from Your Friendly South Loop Marxist
Jonathan Latham
Extensive Chemical Safety Fraud Uncovered at German Testing Laboratory
Ramzy Baroud
‘The Donald Trump I know’: Abbas’ UN Speech and the Breakdown of Palestinian Politics
Martha Rosenberg
A Trump Sentence Commutation Attorneys Generals Liked
Ted Rall
Bernie Should Own the Socialist Label
Louis Proyect
Encountering Malcolm X
Kathleen Wallace
The Debate Question That Really Mattered
Jonathan Cook
UN List of Firms Aiding Israel’s Settlements was Dead on Arrival
George Wuerthner
‘Extremists,’ Not Collaborators, Have Kept Wilderness Whole
Colin Todhunter
Apocalypse Now! Insects, Pesticide and a Public Health Crisis  
Stephen Reyna
A Paradoxical Colonel: He Doesn’t Know What He is Talking About, Because He Knows What He is Talking About.
Evaggelos Vallianatos
A New Solar Power Deal From California
Richard Moser
One Winning Way to Build the Peace Movement and One Losing Way
Laiken Jordahl
Trump’s Wall is Destroying the Environment We Worked to Protect
Walden Bello
Duterte Does the Right Thing for a Change
Jefferson Morley
On JFK, Tulsi Gabbard Keeps Very Respectable Company
Vijay Prashad
Standing Up for Left Literature: In India, It Can Cost You Your Life
Gary Leupp
Bloomberg Versus Bernie: The Upcoming Battle?
Ron Jacobs
The Young Lords: Luchadores Para La Gente
Richard Klin
Loss Leaders
Gaither Stewart
Roma: How Romans Differ From Europeans
Kerron Ó Luain
The Soviet Century
Mike Garrity
We Can Fireproof Homes But Not Forests
Fred Baumgarten
Gaslighting Bernie and His Supporters
Joseph Essertier
Our First Amendment or Our Empire, But Not Both
Peter Linebaugh
A Story for the Anthropocene
Danny Sjursen
Where Have You Gone Smedley Butler?
Jill Richardson
A Broken Promise to Teachers and Nonprofit Workers
Binoy Kampmark
“Leave Our Bloke Alone”: A Little Mission for Julian Assange
Wade Sikorski
Oil or Food? Notes From a Farmer Who Doesn’t Think Pipelines are Worth It
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of Vengeance
Hilary Moore – James Tracy
No Fascist USA! Lessons From a History of Anti-Klan Organizing
Linn Washington Jr.
Ridiculing MLK’s Historic Garden State ‘Firsts’
L. Michael Hager
Evaluating the Democratic Candidates: the Importance of Integrity
Jim Goodman
Bloomberg Won’t, as They Say, Play Well in Peoria, But Then Neither Should Trump
Olivia Alperstein
We Need to Treat Nuclear War Like the Emergency It Is
Jesse Jackson
Kerner Report Set Standard for What a Serious Presidential Candidate Should Champion
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Home Sweet Home: District Campaign Financing
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Latest BLM Hoodwinkery: “Fuel Breaks” in the Great Basin
Wendell Griffen
Grace and Gullibility
Nicky Reid
Hillary, Donald & Bernie: Three Who Would Make a Catastrophe
David Yearsley
Dresden 75
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail