Obama’s Badge of Shame

Abandoning principles for a seat in the White House

The portion of Obama’s speech in the United Nations that referred to the Palestinian bid for membership in the UN earned for him a “badge of honor” from Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (those are the very words used by Netanyahu when he congratulated Obama on his speech!). But, in the eyes of most of the world, it brought shame and disgrace on Obama and the US and made a laughing stock of both.

There are three points he made in his speech. One was that the Palestinian state cannot come into being through resolutions in the UN. He forgets that but for a resolution of the UN, Israel would not be even existing today. And it was a UN resolution that enabled NATO to actively help the Libyan rebels get control of Tripoli and most of Libya. Again, it was UN resolutions that resulted in the formation of the Alliance of the Willing and launching of Desert Storm. Once again, it was a UN resolution that enabled the launching of the war on Iraq purportedly to find and destroy Weapons of Mass Destruction.

In Tunisia the US, along with the rest of the world, cheered the Tunisian rebels when they got rid of their tyrannical government. In Egypt the US supported, slowly, hesitatingly, cautiously and, at times, seemingly reluctantly, the Egyptian people and applauded the departure of dictator Hosni Mubarak, a long time and loyal ally of the US. In Libya the US went one step further. It spent billions of dollars and actively participated, along with NATO forces, in bombing Libya. But for the UN resolution sanctioning NATO intervention, the elected government would still be in power in Libya.

Not so long back, Iraq reclaimed Kuwait, which was once its province and an integral part of Iraq, and would have remained so had not the British, as was their common practice, drawn a line in the sand, carved out from Iraq what is now Kuwait and put a puppet on its throne. There are those who even today believe that Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait was done with a nod and a wink from the then American ambassador to Iraq.
US and the whole civilized world, notwithstanding any “justification” that Iraq may have had, was outraged at this breach of international law by Iraq. The question of sovereignty of lawfully constituted nations was involved. It acted promptly and decisively to end this illegal occupation of Kuwait and, in a reasonably short time, the Iraqi occupying force was not only driven out of Kuwait but chased almost to the gates of Basra.

No one told the Kuwaitis that the only way to end Iraq’s occupation was for them to negotiate with Iraq. There were some negotiations of sorts but not between the occupied and the occupier. Rather, it was with world powers.

In none of the above cases were the desired results obtained through negotiations.

More to the point is the recent prominent example, Kosovo. It was unilaterally recognized by the United States three years ago, even though its statehood did not come about through a negotiated settlement with Serbia

It is ridiculous to ask Palestinians to negotiate with Israel. Israel is the aggressor, the occupier and Palestinians are the victims of this aggression, the occupied. Besides, there is no comparison between them. Israel has the fourth largest army in the world and is heavily armed, its arsenal including nuclear arms. Palestinians have no army at all. They are completely asymmetrical.

Besides, one does not ask the raped to negotiate with the rapist or the robbed to negotiate with the robber as to which of the robbed items s/he is going to return, when s/he is going to do it and on what terms. The keepers of law and order step in and do the needful.

In this case particularly, more than in any other case, it is the duty and responsibility of the international community to step in. It is they who, in 1949, ignoring the strong objections and protests of the indigenous people, the Palestinians, and of all the neighboring Arab states which surround Palestine, carved out a little more than 50% of Palestine as it then exited, and gifted it to the Jewish community, which promptly started its ethnic cleansing activities in the demarcated area and its surroundings.

In the war that followed the attacks launched by the surrounding Arab nations, chiefly to halt the massacre of the Palestinians, Israel went beyond the area granted to it by the international community, and the truce lines at the end of that war added more territory to Israel.
Not satisfied, Israel in 1967 launched an attack on Jordan (which was then in control of the West Bank and East Jerusalem), Egypt (which controlled the Gaza Strip) and Syria (to which belonged the Golan Heights).As a direct result of this aggression Israel gained control of and occupied all the said territory in Palestine, thus fulfilling its objective of establishing Eretz Israel, with Judea and Samaria, in all of the land between the Jordan river and the sea to the west. It continues this illegal occupation to this day, with impunity.

This occupation is the longest occupation in present history, and it is a brutal and tyrannical one. Human rights violations and violations of international law occur regularly in open sight of the whole world. Massive transfer of population by the occupying power into occupied lands, destruction of villages in the occupied territories, building illegal constructions thereon – all violations of international law — go on almost on a daily basis.

That this occupation and the Israeli settlements built on lands beyond what was earmarked for Israel is illegal is recognized and accepted by the whole world, including the USA. The international community, which created the state responsible for these illegal acts, instead of doing its duty and carrying out its obligations and responsibilities, asked the Palestinians to negotiate with the aggressor, Israel!

Having no other alternative, the Palestinians did just that. Arafat even signed, eighteen years back, the disastrous Oslo Accords, believing that under its terms, within five years all the occupied territory would be fully under the control of the Palestinians.

Israel used this agreement to expand exponentially its settlements in the occupied territories. The expected transfer of power after five years never happened. Instead fresh demands and conditions were put forward by Israel. When the Palestinians refused to accede to these preposterous demands, Israel shamelessly alleged that the Palestinians had rejected peace and chosen the path of terrorism!

Notwithstanding all this, the Palestinians have persevered and negotiated and negotiated and negotiated — Madrid (1991), Oslo (1993), Wye River (1997), Camp David (2000), Taba (2001), Quartet’s road map (2002), Annapolis (2007), bilateral negotiations (2008) and on and on. All to no avail. The grabbing of land, demolitions of Palestinian homes and even entire villages,, uprooting of produce, building of illegal Israeli settlements and “for Jews only” roads and highways has continued unabated.

Even the powerful USA and strong ally of Israel could not get Israel to at least cease and desist from further violation of international law by putting a halt to the construction of illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.

All that these “negotiations” got for Palestinians is almost 6500 Palestinian civilians killed since September 2000 alone, over 45,000 Palestinians injured (some maimed for life), over 6,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails, many with no charges (including over 250 females and children under the age of 16), over 650,000 Palestinians detained and imprisoned, over 25,000 Palestinian homes demolished since 1967 – over half since 2003, including over 4300 during the Israeli military assault on Gaza in 2008-2009.

The number of Israeli settlers has more than doubled during the last ten years of “negotiations”, reaching a staggering figure of 650,000. There are 236 illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. These occupy about 43 per cent of the land in the truncated West Bank and East Jerusalem and have displaced thousands of Palestinians. There are over four hundred checkpoints and Jewish-only roads. And, of course, the monstrous separation and land grabbing wall snaking through Palestinian territories.

Clearly the sole beneficiary of these “negotiations” is Israel, which is using the negotiations for this very purpose. The Palestinians have gained nothing. To the contrary. they have lost much from the meager amount they had.

Under these circumstances, to say that the only course for the Palestinians is to negotiate with Israel is, to say the least, cruel.
It is time for the international community to end this farce of direct negotiations between the helpless occupied and the all-powerful occupier. It is time for it to live up to its duty and obligations and take action to end the illegal occupation.

The first step is to approve the Palestinians’ application for full membership.

Regrettably, of all persons, Obama has threatened to veto any resolution granting this request!

Coming from the man who started his presidency by choosing the Palestinians to be the first to be called on phone, who gave the Cairo speech so full of hope and promise to the Arab world, who not so long ago snubbed Netanyahu, this stance by Obama is inexplicable and strange indeed.

But then, the President’s chair has magical powers. It changes men. Its occupant becomes addicted to it. S/he will do anything to retain this seat.

Alas, Obama has obviously chosen this path. From being a world statesman he has sunk to being a contender in the coming general elections in the USA. He used the international forum to speak to the electorate in the USA. Aware of the power of AIPAC, desperate to shore up his sagging popularity back home, he spoke what powerful donors and supporters wanted to hear.

In doing so, he has shown a complete disregard for justice and international law, has diminished himself, tarnished the image of America and, as between Israel and Palestine, has aligned himself with the oppressor against the oppressed.

Gulamhusein A. Abba is an 83-year-old writer with more than 50 years in journalism. Originally from Bombay (now Mumbai), he has been in the USA since 1982. He was co-producer of a weekly TV show Earth Matters and is presently sponsoring another weekly TV show The Struggle. He is chairman of The Danbury Committee for World Peace and of Justice for Palestinians Committee and is a member of the Danbury Alliance, an advocacy group for the rights of immigrants and just and humane treatment of undocumented immigrants. He can be reached at: gaabba2000@yahoo.com. Read other articles by Gulamhusein.

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