FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Obama and the Palestinians

Pondering Osama Bin Laden’s killing on 1 May, I found myself linking that event to another that took place 63 years ago in Palestine. It was not that Palestinians ever supported Bin Laden significantly, although some of his messages resonated with them. For example, in October 2010, he wrote to French citizens, “how is it right for you to occupy our countries and kill our women and children and expect to live in peace and security?”

Any oppressed Palestinian suffering under Israel’s occupation in the West Bank or Gaza could have written that too without ever endorsing any of Bin Laden’s crimes. Bin Laden took on the cause of Palestine in the 1980s, but especially after the 1991 Gulf War. However, it was not this but rather the parallels I saw between the two situations that struck a chord.

For those in New York and Washington who were jubilantly celebrating in the wake of Bin Laden’s killing, the issue had nothing to do with Palestine. For them, a man who had masterminded the attacks of 11 September 2001 — that came to be known simply as 9/11 — and caused such pain and suffering had received his just desserts. None of the revellers paused to ask whether this was a legal action commensurate with the much-vaunted US promotion of democracy and the rule of law.

It was not. The killing was no less than a summary execution in which the US played judge, jury, executioner and funeral director, with no accountability to anyone. The hasty disposal of Bin Laden’s body in the sea before anyone could see it or verify what had really happened was neither Islamic nor lawful. Pakistan, which was the theatre where America’s battle with Bin Laden was played out, and which should have been the main actor, was relegated to the role of incompetent bystander instead, unable to resist American demands.

For many Arabs, who neither supported nor approved of Bin Laden, the operation nevertheless came across as a shocking display of US arrogance and high-handedness, no matter how understandable the history behind it. From the start, it had been American imperatives alone that drove the campaign against Bin Laden, irrespective of the cost to the countries alleged to be implicated in his activities. After 11 September 2001 the US fixation with him launched devastating wars on Afghanistan and Iraq from which those countries may never recover.

Thanks to this policy, three major Islamic states have now been destabilised and the lives of their citizens lost or blighted. In Pakistan, terrorism-linked fatalities shot up from 200 in 2003 to a current 35,000, and in Iraq hundreds of thousands have died since the US-led invasion of 2003 and more are still dying. No citizen of these shattered countries if asked would consider this a price worth paying for a US-inspired “war on terror.” Nor is it likely that US President Barack Obama’s patronising assertion in his 1 May speech after announcing Bin Laden’s death that the fight was not with Islam did anything to reassure Muslims.

Killing Bin Laden might have been sweet revenge and given a boost to Obama’s re-election chances, but when the glow is over its after-effects in terrorist retaliation will likely strike many countries, including the US itself. Yet none of this deflected America from its obsession with Bin Laden and its thirst for retribution. And it is precisely this assertion of primacy, where Western needs have precedence over anyone else’s, in total disregard for the consequences to others that recalls the Palestinian example to mind.

A Western decision to resolve Europe’s problem with its Jews led in 1948 to the creation of Israel in my homeland, Palestine. We were never consulted or involved, but we paid an exorbitant price for Israel’s establishment in lost lives, land, property and even history. The underlying premise for this act was truly astounding: that another party, the Jews, no matter how tragic their sufferings, had a superior claim to my country than I did, that Jews had primary rights over my homeland because of their history in Europe which I, a native, could not challenge.

The effects of this on me and the millions of other exiles apparently counted for nothing. That is the basis of Israel’s rejection of the right to Palestinian return from an exile caused by Israel itself. Growing up in England, I was shocked at how my story was consistently ignored or denied, as if I were lying or hallucinating. In America, where blind support for Israel is de rigeur this rejection of my story was even more extreme.

How refreshing it would be if, after all this bloodshed, America were to turn over a new leaf: to study the causes of conflicts, not just their effects on the US and its allies. Following 11 September 2001, Obama, then an obscure senator, commented presciently about the need to raise the hopes of “embittered children” around the globe. As a powerful president today, he must revisit that sentiment and introduce a new paradigm: that injustice is the basis of conflict, especially in Palestine, and to address it is the only way to world peace.

This plea will probably fall on inattentive ears, but if he can help me and my fellow Palestinians go home, he will have ended the bitterest conflict of all.

Ghada Karmi is co-director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies, University of Exeter, UK.

 

 

More articles by:

Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
Victor Grossman
Red Flowers for Rosa and Karl
Cesar Chelala
President Donald Trump’s “Magical Realism”
Christopher Brauchli
An Education in Fraud
Paul Bentley
The Death Penalty for Canada’s Foreign Policy?
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO
Louis Proyect
Breaking the Left’s Gay Taboo
Kani Xulam
A Saudi Teen and Freedom’s Shining Moment
Ralph Nader
Bar Barr or Regret this Dictatorial Attorney General
Jessicah Pierre
A Dream Deferred: MLK’s Dream of Economic Justice is Far From Reality
Edward J. Martin
Glossip v. Gross, the Eighth Amendment and the Torture Court of the United States
Chuck Collins
Shutdown Expands the Ranks of the “Underwater Nation”
Paul Edwards
War Whores
Peter Crowley
Outsourcing Still Affects Us: This and AI Worker Displacement Need Not be Inevitable
Alycee Lane
Trump’s Federal Government Shutdown and Unpaid Dishwashers
Martha Rosenberg
New Questions About Ritual Slaughter as Belgium Bans the Practice
Nicky Reid
Panarchy as Full Spectrum Intersectionality
Jill Richardson
Hollywood’s Fat Shaming is Getting Old
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Wide Sphere of Influence Within Folklore and Social Practices
Richard Klin
Dial Israel: Amos Oz, 1939-2018
David Rovics
Of Triggers and Bullets
David Yearsley
Bass on Top: the Genius of Paul Chambers
Elliot Sperber
Eddie Spaghetti’s Alphabet
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail