I guess I just can’t win without losing. Anytime I write anything about Barack Obama, the e-mails and phone calls come in trickles. Whether I write something good or bad doesn’t matter. The man has his sycophants and they are relentless.
In my last column I gave him credit for what I deemed a gutsy call on the Arab-Israeli impasse. Since then he has elaborated on his position(s) via three significant speeches, one intriguing press conference (with England’s PM) in London, and through a few communiqués to the press.
To me, there were many gutsy aspects to what Obama has enunciated recently; including his apparent willingness to take on all parties concerned in this non-ending imbroglio: not only our Israeli brothers and sisters. He seems ready to go after the militant group called Hamas -and its many Palestinian followers- for their intractable position relative to Israel’s right to exist. He also appears ready to go after the many neighboring Arab nations, for not doing more to help resolve this crisis; and also for not doing more to liberalize and democratize their own societies; and for the way(s) they generally treat their citizens (shades of George Bush). He even seems willing to chide some of his European allies for their wishy-washiness on this and other ancillary issues.
These are rather interesting position-takes for a US president to publicly articulate; especially since this area of Western-Asia (you can call it “the Middle-East”) is fraught with complications bewildering to most scholars. You see, what lies buried behind the Arab-Israeli impasse are historical half-secrets that many conveniently choose not to uncover; and some of these -plus one or two intellectual absurdities- help perpetuate the “straight-jacket”, of which I told you about in part one of this column.
Maybe it is time for someone to challenge the brutal history of Arab militarism: and their spreading of Islam. Maybe, for too long, our Arab brothers and sisters have been given a free-pass on what their past actions have wrought in the international political arena. There comes a point when you have to look at what white-European settlers in Israel have done there, through the lens of African History. Let’s do that briefly, and you will see that relative to the Arabs, the wheels of Karma are grinding mercilessly here.
Off the top of my head, I believe Arabs now occupy Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Mauritania and Sudan -all on the African continent. They achieved this over 1400 years of brutality and terror. With wanton rapacity, they callously conquered many areas in Africa. In 632AD, they finally conquered Egypt. There are over 200 million Arabs worldwide: over two-thirds of them live in Africa.
Arabs ran the vicious and inhumane African-centered slave trade for almost 1000 years, and then the Europeans showed up to further develop and extend it. Arab scholars have been relatively sheepish in terms of acknowledging this.
Arabs see their conquests of African lands as something heroic and glorious; and yet, they see European conquests of Arab lands as “colonial enterprises”. The fact that Israelis have defeated them in more than a few battles, appear to be lost in their analysis, given their awkward but consistent demands for Palestinian statehood; and also for land give-backs to Syria, Lebanon and others: especially when Arabs had been the aggressors lately.
Arabs will tell you that their ancestors “shed blood” for victories in Egypt and other parts of Africa; and as such they are morally entitled to their war booty. That’s fair enough until you analyze their position on Israel, and the results of all the wars fought against them since 1948. As I have written many times: in the arena of international politics, the final arbiter is generally force. And by force I mean military and/or economic power, muscle and might. It doesn’t always come down to guns and bombs; sometimes intimidation is enough.
It is probably true that around the time the British Lord Arthur James Balfour wrote his famous declaration in 1917, the population of the area in dispute was about four to one Arabs over Jews. The ratio could have even been higher. And yes, many Jews - like Arabs, with the similar umbilical and biblical attachments to this area- had gone off to distant lands (mainly in Europe). It is probably also true, that Zionists were moved to terrorist actions in their fervor to achieve their nationalistic goals for Israel. So yes, there have been demographic shifts in this region, and some of these shifts were brought on by terroristic militarism: not only by nature and pragmatism
The lesson from this however, is that the heroes of one group (Ben Gurion, Sharon, Begin, Meir, Dayan, Peres,Rabin and others) are often viewed as terrorists (and/or criminals) by another group. It all depends on your perspective. It often depends on what side you choose to back. And as it relates to the Israeli-Arab imbroglio, the USA has chosen the side of Israel; which is probably why this nation has survived the last 63 years of sheer Arab-hostility.
Historical analysis becomes quite interesting when you consider how virtuous Arabs are while making their moral arguments about others stealing their lands; at the same time, they stay awfully silent on the question of their history of mass murder, slavery and African land-grabs.
And yet, many like me would love to see a Palestinian nation someday soon. Why? Simply because (as I said before), these people do have an umbilical and biblical link to this land; and yes, also because many of their ancestors were terrorized and forced out. So when Israel’s Prime Minister (Netanyahu) publicly says that the Palestinian “right of return” is a “fantasy”, we can only hope that Obama sets him straight on the question of repatriation. This is the pickle in the dish.
Look, it’s hard to ameliorate a situation when many on one side believes that God gave them this land, while many on the other side refuses to even recognize the other’s right to exist. It’s even harder to mediate when some on one side truly believe that they are God’s chosen people, while their adversaries only see them as infidels. Absurdities like this these (consistent with organized religion all over the world) are what fuel this impasse. They only lead to further exasperation for those seeing a situation fraught with international danger and cataclysmic implications.
Maybe it is ironically fitting that a slender half-Caucasian, half-Negro, bad-boy from the new world is now stepping to the plate, hoping to take this one downtown. I wish him well in this endeavor. It’s time for some movement on this issue anyway.
Look, I am not trying to simplify a rather complex issue in these two columns. I am very aware of the difficulties inherent. To some extent President Obama has only scratched the surface. There are areas here that he is yet to speak on, and there will be challenges in getting folks to the bargaining table anytime soon. What we need to do is ignore the many exaggerated protests against Obama’s clear positions, which have emanated from Israel’s supporters in the USA: nothing much ever seems to please that crowd. (Ask former president Jimmy Carter about them). They are more of a hindrance than a help in resolving all this.
The USA has stubbornly committed itself to Israel’s long-term security; this had been etched in stone long before 1948. We have paid some heavy tolls because of this. Every US president since Israel’s independence has reiterated this strong and unwavering commitment. Barack Obama is no different. His positions aren’t some radical departure from the norm; on the contrary. The idea of two independent nations -Israel and Palestine- existing peacefully side by side, has been around for eons. However, it was gutsy, since Obama didn’t have to be so strong, consistent and forceful with his points: given that re-election is looming in less than eighteen months. It’s not like his support-base (votes and finances) is laden with Jews and pro-Israel supporters. I guess Bin Laden’s demise has shaken him to the core. We shall see: this will be continued at a future date.
Stay tuned-in folks.