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.

1 comment:

Michael said...

I take no pleasure in analyzing the middle east. The American hotbed of endless war and atrocities. The Israeli government is fulfilling the sick and twisted culture of death upon the ancient holy land. I say holy due to my belief of christianity. The sad intuition is not laid upon the presidents and prime ministers feet, it is mearly the sad truth that the civilians have been targeted. All in the name of American imperial power. The German rise of Adolf Hitler is no different. The irony here is the American government's relentless cause for war and destruction. I seem to be controdicting the motives by looking at the threat of martial law which by the way is real and alive in the world. The Israeli government under Mr. Netanyahu is dangerous and without a doubt the step human kind will take towards incinerating the planet. The palestiane cause from what I understand is ongoing right now. The gaza "conflict" has certainly been at the forefront of the excuse the Israelis have said gives them the right to destroy their homes and towns. To the Israeli government I say it is you who have blood on yourselves. To the American political establishment I say, I will not support you anymore. I cannot due to these policies that are horrifying. Republicans and Democrats have lost my allegiance due to my lack of understanding about the corporate two party system that has funded this Israeli-Palestiane crisis. Did the American government care when they seized the DEMOCRATICALLY elected leader of Iran? 1953 was sad to be sure in most Arab states. So I hear this notion of bringing democracy to the middle east...I say to the American goverment this you had the oppurtunity to have it because it was already there. The indigenous people of the Arab world cannot take this abuse much longer. Instead of dropping bombs we need to lend a hand in the name of Humananity and the name of peace. I am Michael Franco and I approve this message.