Caught in the Crossfire

“You have responsibilities if you become part of the government to adhere to the agreements that government has laid out, to adhere to the rule of law and to the constitution and to adhere to nonviolence.”

— Robert Gibbs speaking for the President, CNN Politics, Feb. 7, 2011.

Caught in the crossfire of contradictions between this government’s stated principles of adherence to the rule of law, the Constitution and nonviolence and its absolute, unquestioned support for the state of Israel, forces President Obama to confront allegiance to our founding principles or allegiance to a state that accepts no responsibilities to international law as determined by the International Declaration of Human Rights or the United Nations Conventions regarding Genocide and Torture. (see The Plight of the Palestinians, Macmillan, 2010).

The crossfire exists because the Egyptian people have risen against their government’s oppression, demanding that the world recognize the legitimacy of their demands and aid them in the accomplishment of a democratic process that will address them. For almost two weeks now they have stood against the Mubarak government’s attempts to silence them, including the silencing of the journalists reporting on the events. As these events unfold, it becomes apparent that Obama’s stated views and the needs of Israel are antithetical and literally force Obama to decide to defend the Egyptian people or side with Israel. Both nations have signed the UN Charter and agreed that it is “essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law.” (Preamble, UN UDHR).

Obama has declared before the world his administration’s beliefs: “We have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things…confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and free of corruption; and the freedom to live as you choose. These are human rights, and we support them everywhere.” These beliefs confirm America’s acceptance of the UN Declaration.

Consider the alternatives now facing Obama: if he joins the Israeli government’s desire to compel the President to accept Mubarak’s design, to create a transition to a new government under the auspices of his selected VP, Omar Suleiman, he creates as well a wall between his expressed principles and the protestors; he becomes to them a hypocrite, allowing a hangman to become the leader of the Egyptian people, a man trusted by our CIA to continue our rendition program that allows for torture while it stigmatizes the Egyptians as accomplices to America’s cruelty. Alternatively, if Mubarak snubs the President’s demand to address the honest demands of the protestors, Obama both accepts his rebuke and swallows the shame, accepting in the process Israel’s desires to retain the status quo, or he must confront both Mubarak and Israel by providing a process that will allow for transition to a stable democratic election.

Such a process would require an immediate acceptance of negotiations between appropriate groups including the Muslim Brotherhood, Muhammed el Baradei, and leaders of the protest, and require an acceptance of such a transition by Egypt’s military, a group that has excellent relations with America’s military. Moving in this direction would separate Obama from Netanyahu and the AIPAC controlled Congress. But if Obama intends to assert America’s foundational principles as a means of altering America’s image in the Arab world, and indeed in the eyes of many European, Near Eastern and South American nations, he will have to confront Israel head on.

How can this be accomplished? To return to the status quo means that America accepts without question the on-going policies of the Israeli state: occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people made possible by a “peace” agreement fashioned in 1979 by Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat, an agreement that forced the Egyptian people to accept Israel’s dominance of their nation through an elitist inner circle while the people suffered in poverty and humiliation. Needless to say, that agreement meant that Israel could count on Sadat and then Mubarak to control the Palestinians in Gaza while the United States accepted in silence the destruction of the Palestinians and theft of their land.

Under Israeli dominance  the people of Palestine have no recourse to these articles of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Article 1, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”; Article 3, “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person”; Article 5, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”; Article 7, “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.” These are seven of thirty articles denied to the indigenous people of Palestine by their occupiers.

But Israeli dominance did more than that. It required that America become an accomplice of Israel’s illegal policies against the Palestinians and complicit with the Mubarak regime in the suppression of the Egyptian people. It required as well a blind American financial support in the billions of dollars to Israel allowing it to become a militaristic and apartheid state that invaded Syrian and Lebanese territory, even as it continued to defy UN resolutions demanding that it cease and desist. The U.S. became in the process a rogue state whose policies were in direct conflict with its foundational principles.

How then does Obama get out of the crosshairs? Fortunately, the UN is now dealing with two issues that offer the administration an opportunity to align itself with its expressed morals and principles. To do this it must ignore the demands made by Netanyahu’s government that requires the U.S. to veto any attempt by the nations of the world to bring a vote before the Security Council that condemns Israel’s settlement activity and demands that it “immediately and completely” cease all settlement activities “in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.”

The draft resolution, sponsored by 120 countries, was introduced by Lebanon on Wednesday, to place the issue before the Security Council’s jurisdiction. However, it was not brought to a vote. (Jordana Horn, AP, 01/19/2011 20:42). This action follows yet another demand made by the Israeli state that appeared as House Resolution 1765, December 15, 2010, “condemning unilateral measures to declare or recognize a Palestinian state.” (Josh Ruebner, Mondoweiss, Dec. 16, 2011). Both of these demands by Israel and its American lobby AIPAC defy Article 30 of the UN UDHR: “Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right, to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.”

Both of these measures require that the United Nations Security Council act. This can be done if the U.S. abstains or votes yes on the resolutions. With virtually all the nations of the UN voting to censure Israel and force it to comply with its agreements as a member of the UN to recognize its responsibilities to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Conventions on Genocide and Torture, the United States would be released from its unquestioned support of a state that defies the international agreements it has signed. That in turn would release America to realign its policies in accordance with international law and make it once again a nation of laws accepting of its responsibilities before all nations on the earth.

WILLIAM A. COOK is a Professor of English at the University of La Verne in southern California. His latest book, The Plight of the Palestinians, was published by Macmillan this past August. He can be reached at www.drwilliamacook.com or wcook@laverne.edu.



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William A. Cook’s latest book is Decade of Deceit.

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