Sunday, March 29, 2009
Obama Rides the Same Old Policies (column reprinted from The Arab American News)
A r a b A m e r i c a n N e w s
Obama rides the same old policies in Palestine
By Rayfield A. Waller
Saturday, 03.21.2009, 01:19am
President Obama has ridden in on the winds of change, promising diplomacy rather than belligerence as U.S. foreign policy; but he has yet to speak clearly against the policy of underdevelopment and "removal" Israel deploys against Palestinians living under occupation.
Unfortunately, Obama's voice overseas, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is mouthing policies nearly identical to those of the Bush White House; so much so that the Palestinian newspaper, Al Quds, has editorialized against her, calling her "‘Condoleezza Clinton," a reference to Bush's Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice. In her recent trip to the Middle East Clinton offered Israel only words of appeasement even as the ominous figure of an incoming Israeli prime minister who loudly opposes Palestinian statehood — Bebe Netanyahu — is making it clear that more conflict and less diplomacy will likely be Israel'’s course. What are we to call Israel's policy? We ought to call it what it is: Palestinian Removal.
The violence carried out by Israeli forces against Gaza in December has yet to be condemned by the Obama administration. Meanwhile, Israel has stepped up the frequency of evictions carried out against Palestinian families and the razing of Arab homes in occupied East Jerusalem while building new settlements there.
Clinton's clear message at a Gaza reconstruction conference in Sharm el Shiek, Egypt, on March 12, was not a repudiation of Palestinian Removal, but an announcement that the U.S. will withhold recognition and support for the democratically elected Hamas. In the face of Israel's continued strangulation of Arab civilian society by encroachment in Jerusalem, by embargo against Gaza, and by the use of bulldozers and tanks rather than diplomacy to settle Arab/Israeli conflict, Clinton clarified American foreign policy in the Middle East now that Obama is in the saddle: a promise of $900 million, "not a dime" of which will go to Hamas, so as to ensure the eventual creation of a Palestinian state that will be "peaceful and responsible."
Is this Orwellian doublespeak Obama's "change we can believe in?"
Even as Gaza's survivors digest the devastation of, in approximate numbers, 22,000 buildings destroyed, 1,300 dead, 500 or more injured, and 300 or more Palestinian children killed by Israel's planned, mechanized, and targeted attack in December upon civilians and upon civil infrastructure, it seems that yet another American administration rears up in the White House and in Congress to turn a blind eye toward huge sums of our tax dollars funding Israel's Removal Program against Arabs in the West Bank, Golan, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. With Netanyahu's ascension to power, increased Israeli hostility against Lebanon and Syria seems likely, despite Clinton's overtures toward dialogue with Syria. Netanyahu's track record as a hawk doesn't suggest he will support the U.S. in unilateral dialogue with his Arab neighbors.
Does Obama plan to continue the U.S. policy of supporting Israel's "security" through direct weapons sales, huge subsidies and favored nation trade status, and by providing billions of U.S. dollars in aid to Israel? In 2008, Israel received $2.4 billion in military financing, according to The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (WRMEA), which dwarfs the $900 million promised to Palestine on March 12. The Congress has averaged the (comparatively paltry) figure of 100 million U.S. dollars annually in aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA); the new pledge of money to rebuild Gaza and cover budget shortfalls for the PA will be controlled by the U.S. Agency for International Development, earmarked for what Clinton called "institutional reforms and economic development."
Such a statement seems outlandish; as if American foreign policy is, as it has always been where Palestine is concerned, detached from reality: infrastructure projects, the meat and bread of any "economic development" and now necessary to rebuild Gaza, funded by the U.S. while far more USAID dollars continue to go to funding Israeli destruction of that same infrastructure, is not the diplomacy Obama promised but merely the continuation of the mendacity that U.S. policy toward Arab-Israeli peace has always shown itself to be.
Unless Obama changes irrational expenditures of monies said to "secure" Israel, and favors instead a sane, diplomatic approach to peace that includes rather than excludes parties at ground level, not only will Israel continue to be less secure, but Palestinian lives will continue to be sacrificed. Destruction of cohesive Palestinian daily life and culture is Israeli policy. Israeli bulldozers wreck homes rather than building this "economic development" Clinton speaks of. The Removal Policy will only pick up speed and funding from soon-to-be Prime Minister Netanyahu. The reigns of American foreign policy now belong to Obama.
If he chooses to ride the same old nag of Bush's policies, he will be riding not the winds of change but a whirlwind into continued conflict and bloodshed, and the blood will now be on his hands.
Professor Waller is on the adjunct faculty of the department of Africana Studies at Wayne State University. He is a freelance journalist, and contributing writer to Progreso Weekly and The Michigan Citizen.