Last month the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, and the U.S. President Obama all spoke at the U.N. While for the first time in years, Abbas behaved and spoke like a leader, taking proactive measures instead of waiting for someone else to call the shots, it is hard to decide whose speech was worse: Netanyahu's or Obama's. Obama's read like an appeal to Jewish voters to finance and reelect him in the next election and Netanyahu's read like a pep rally to the Likud Central Committee.
In the post-Arafat era, President Abbas has more often than not behaved like a yes-man for the U.S., as if too unsure or too uncomfortable about speaking out against the mindless zero-sum activities that seem to be the only things that either the U.S. or the Israeli government cared about. But on Friday, September 23, he found his lost voice and assumed the title the Palestinian people have long waited for. He transformed himself to becoming their leader, their hero, in relaying their voice. It was long overdue.
In the 66th session of the General Assembly, President Abbas said, "It is a moment of truth; and my people are waiting to hear the answer of the world. Will it allow Israel to continue its occupation, the only occupation in the world? Will it allow Israel to remain a State above the law and accountability?" "There are either those that believe that we are not wanted in the Middle East or (those that believe) that there is a missing State that needs to be established immediately."
He thanked the states that had supported the Palestinian struggle and had recognized the State of Palestine, and those that had upgraded Palestine's representation in their capitals. He also thanked the U.N. Secretary-General for stating that the Palestinian State should have been created years ago; such support made the Palestinians feel that they were being listened to and that their tragedy was not being ignored. It also reinforced their hope for justice.
President Abbas then informed the Assembly that he had submitted to the Secretary-General an application for admission of Palestine, on the basis of the 4 June 1967 borders, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif (Jerusalem) as its capital, as a full United Nations member. "I call upon Mr. Secretary-General to expedite transmittal of our request to the Security Council, and I call upon the distinguished members of the Security Council to vote in favor of our full membership. I also appeal to the states that have not yet recognized the State of Palestine to do so," he said. The world's support for that was a "victory for truth, freedom, justice, law and international legitimacy" and was the greatest contribution to peacemaking in the Holy Land. In closing, he said: "I have come here today with a message from a courageous and proud people: Palestine is being reborn." He implored everyone to stand with it.
In his speech, President Obama said that "America's commitment to Israel's security is unshakeable." He also made it crystal clear that Washington will veto any Palestinian application to the U.N. Security Council for statehood. Not once did he refer to illegal Jewish "settlements" on Palestinian lands, nor did he even use the word "occupied" - or any derivative of that word in his long speech. Nor was there a word about the plight of the still besieged population of Gaza, or about the "1967 borders" as being the basis for any eventual two-state solution. Obama is truly becoming a joke of our time!
Honestly speaking, Obama does not surprise me any more. Since becoming the President of the USA, he has largely forgotten what got him elected and put him into the White House. It was to usher in a 'change' for the better from the dark days of GW Bush. To those who voted for Obama, Bush was a villain, an utterly evil man with a crusading zeal, who had deliberately lied and took the country into two unnecessary wars, thereby bankrupting it. Obama was supposed to be the 'good' guy restoring America's honor and dignity. But Bush, whether one either loathes or loves him, was no hypocrite; at least people knew what to expect of him. But the same cannot be said of Obama. The latter has become the greatest disappointment of our time.
As I write, the Obama administration has assassinated Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan -- two of its own citizens, thus behaving like any of the hated authoritarian regimes of our time. By acting as the accuser, prosecutor, judge, jury and (finally now the) executioner - all at the same time - his administration has violated the Fifth Amendment, which forbids the U.S. federal government from depriving any person -- not just American citizens -- of life without due process of law. Commenting on the assassination, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), who is running for the GOP presidential nomination, said, "Al-Awlaki was born here, he is an American citizen. He was never tried or charged for any crimes. No one knows if he killed anybody. We know he might have been associated with the underwear bomber. But if the American people accept this blindly and casually that we now have an accepted practice of the president assassinating people who he thinks are bad guys, I think it's sad." Paul noted the different treatment afforded the Oklahoma bomber. "What would people have said about Timothy McVeigh? We didn't assassinate him, and they were pretty certain he had done it. They went and put him through the courts, and then they executed him. To start assassinating American citizens without charges, we should think very seriously about this."
As is clear from his murderous activities overseas, Obama is not a man of peace! The Nobel Committee should do us all a favor by admitting its mistake and recall its Peace prize which they bestowed to this undeserving person.
In his Cairo speech two years ago, President Obama displayed some awareness of the Palestinian distress; but that was before he was enslaved by the U.S. pro-Israel lobby. Commenting on Obama's speech at the UN, Hanan Ashrawi, a veteran Palestinian stateswoman, told Israel's Haaretz newspaper, "Listening to him, you would think it was the Palestinians who occupy Israel," noting what even The New York Times suggested seemed to be the "hypocritical" nature of Obama's enthusiasm for Arab democracy movements. "He presented a double standard when he disassociated the Arabs' fight for their freedom in the region from the Palestinian freedom fighters, who deal with the occupation for 63 years," she said. "What we heard is precisely why we are going to the U.N.," she added.
By siding so brazenly with Netanyahu and against the Palestinian bid for statehood, Obama has put the final nail in the coffin of America's status as a superpower, thus, forfeiting Washington's 20-year exclusivity as broker of the clearly broken "peace process" between the two parties.
As Uri Avnery has recently observed, "Obama treated the two sides as if they were equal in strength - Israelis and Palestinians, Palestinians and Israelis. But of the two, it is the Israelis - only they - who suffer and have suffered. Persecution. Exile. Holocaust. An Israeli child threatened by rockets. Surrounded by the hatred of Arab children. So sad. No occupation. No settlements. No June 1967 borders. No Naqba. No Palestinian children killed or frightened."
This in spite of the fact that 6,430 Palestinians including 1,463 Palestinian children were killed by the Israelis since September 29, 2000! In the same period, more than 45,000 Palestinians have been injured, 5,554 Palestinians imprisoned and 24,813 Palestinian homes have been destroyed by the Israelis. The tolls on the Israeli side are one prisoner held (by Hamas) and no home destroyed. In the same period, Israel has built 236 Jewish-only settlements and outposts illegally on confiscated land. Obviously, none of these facts mattered to Obama.
The Arab Spring may have been America's last chance to recover its tarnished standing in the Middle East. Obama stayed with Mubarak until it was too late; 'crying Iranian wolves', he sided with the murderous regime in Bahrain; he came to the aid of the rebels in Libya against Gaddafi but chose to ignore the plight of the Syrian people against their murderous tyrant Bashar al-Asad. Now he has blown it, perhaps forever. As Uri Avnery has put it, "No self-respecting Arab will forgive him for plunging his knife into the back of the helpless Palestinians. All the credit the U.S. has tried to gain in the last months in the Arab and the wider Muslim world has been blown away with one puff."
And what a difference a year can make! Last year, Obama in his speech to the United Nations was full of promise and determination to advance Palestinian statehood through negotiations with Israel. He said in the UN General Assembly: "Those of us who are friends of Israel must understand that true security for the Jewish state requires an independent Palestine - one that allows the Palestinian people to live with dignity and opportunity... And we can come back here, next year, as we have for the last sixty, and make long speeches about it. We can read familiar lists of grievances....Or, we can say that this time will be different - that this time we will not let terror, or turbulence, or posturing, or petty politics stand in the way. This time, we will think not of ourselves, but of the young girl in Gaza who wants to have no ceiling on her dreams, or the young boy in Sderot who wants to sleep without the nightmare of rocket fire. This time, we should draw upon the teachings of tolerance that lie at the heart of three great religions that see Jerusalem's soil as sacred. This time we should reach for what's best within ourselves. If we do, when we come back here next year, we can have an agreement that will lead to a new member of the United Nations - an independent, sovereign state of Palestine, living in peace with Israel."
Ironically, in his speech last year, Obama reminded us about one of the first actions of the UN General Assembly, which was to adopt a Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. "That Declaration begins by stating that, "recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world," Obama said.
By promising to deny that very right to the Palestinian people, what message is Obama conveying to the world now? Can one conceive of freedom, justice and peace for the world without beginning with freedom, justice, and peace in the lives of individual human beings? By standing up against universal values, Obama has unmasked the immoral character of his administration. He foolishly thinks that such immoral stands -- and there are plenty to cite -- would get him reelected in 2012. Why would the pro-Israelis vote for him when they would have the likes of Rick Perry and other Christian fundamentalist nuts within the opposition to vote for? What Obama needed was a moral leadership to salvage his pathetic record, and not the deplorable hypocrisy or the pro-Israeli appeasements with which he has come to be associated with. His flip-flop actions have erased the support within the non-partisan center that he needs to get reelected.
Whether or not President Obama wields the butcher's knife with his own hand, no one is under any delusion that his speech at the UN has killed the peace process. With such a support from Washington, it was no surprise that last Tuesday Israel announced 1,100 new housing units in east Jerusalem outside Israel's pre-1967 boundaries.
Israel is a pariah state, a fact once again demonstrated through the thunderous ovation that Abbas enjoyed (compared to Netanyahu) during his historic speech at the UN General Assembly. Its goal has been to expand its borders by swallowing up the West Bank and to make life so miserable for the Palestinian people that they will have no option but to leave. Lack of mobility restricts Palestinian livelihood. And the diversion of water into the Israeli settlements robs them of a basic necessity of their life. These are crimes against humanity. But in this age of information, she has been using endless zero-sum 'peace talks' as covers to complete her illegal annexation policy.
President Obama should reflect upon the fact that if the U.S. government vetoes Palestine's bid for recognition by the U.N., it would be against America's own declaration of independence which says that if people are denied equal rights and representative government, they have the right to resist their oppressors. It is a terrible hypocrisy of the Obama administration when it denies the rights to the Palestinian people that it cherishes at home and preaches abroad.
One can only pity Obama who lost the moral compass of what is right and what is wrong!
Dr Habib Siddiqui has authored 10 books. His latest book - Devotional Stories - is now available from A.S. Noordeen, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.