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Obama’s speech, Palestinians & African Americans

Published Jun 29, 2009 6:52 AM

On June 4 President Barack Obama addressed the Muslim world while visiting Cairo, Egypt. His speech covered seven major sources of tension between the U.S. and Muslims worldwide. He stated that “we should not ignore sources of tension,” but “we must face these tensions squarely.” Overall, however, Obama’s speech contained a good deal of rhetoric, contradiction and hypocrisy.

Dolores Cox, with scarf,
June 18, NYC.
WW photo: Monica Moorehead

Obama referred to the U.S. as being a country possessing “principles of justice, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.” He quoted the Holy Koran as telling us to “Be conscious of God and speak always the truth.” He mentioned that “there must be sustained effort to listen to each other, learn from each other, respect one another and seek a common ground.” Yet the U.S. turned a deaf ear and boycotted the U.N. World Conference Against Racism-Durban Review. This boycott was a lost opportunity for the U.S. government to hear about the need forreparations for African-American descendants of the transatlantic slave trade and slavery (the Black holocaust).

In addressing the issue of confronting violent extremism, Obama stated that the U.S. “rejects the killing of innocent men, women and children who’ve done nothing to harm anybody.” He condemned Al-Qaeda for choosing to “ruthlessly murder them” and who “state their determination to kill on a massive scale.” And that “when innocents are slaughtered, that is a stain on our collective conscience.” Why haven’t the massive killing of innocent Indigenous peoples and enslaved Africans also been considered ruthless and a stain on our collective conscience?

Obama acknowledged the displacement of the Palestinians, yet the U.S. has never spoken to the displacement of Native peoples or of Hurricane Katrina survivors and their right to return. And when the U.S. bombs, invades,occupies and kills innocent people in other countries, isn’t it acting without conscience? Aren’t Palestinian civilians also innocent victims who’ve done nothing to harm anybody? So why hasn’t the U.S. condemned Israeli extremists, violence and terrorism? The U.S. continuing to militarily arm Israel and aid that economy as the Israeli military kill innocent Palestinians and ruthlessly murder them on a massive scale should also be viewed as a stain.

“America’s strong bonds with Israel are unbreakable,” said Obama. They’re “based upon cultural and historical ties and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.” Aren’t these ties of white European supremacists’ control and domination of non-whites rooted in privilege, entitlement, and the right to occupy, colonize and enslave?

In stating that “Palestinians must abandon violence” and that “resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed,” Obama made reference to the Black experience in the U.S. including slavery and segregation. He said “it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of its [U.S.] founding.”

Whether everyone agrees with this premise or not, to this day, Black folks have not won “full and equal rights” They’re still struggling to obtain their civil and human rights. Blacks are still being oppressed and fighting for equal opportunity, liberation, true democracy as well as political, economic and social justice. The U.S. has yet to meet the stated “ideals at the center of itsfounding.”

Obama seemed to overlook the fact that while peacefully protesting and resisting, Blacks were constantly being terrorized, be they lynched, bombed, imprisoned, beaten or murdered. Martin Luther King Jr., himself, who preached non-violence, was assassinated in the midst of peaceful resistance. The safety of Blacks in the U.S. is still not ensured, as hateful racist attitudes and actions still persist. There is still no equal protection under the law, still racial discrimination and still no fully integrated society.

“So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, and who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity,” Obama said. “Any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail,” he said. Well, this should apply not only to the Middle East but to dominant white supremacist ideology in the U.S.

Obama stated he intends to personally pursue what’s in Israeli and Palestinian interests “with all the patience that the task requires.” Hopefully, this “patience” is not synonymous with the enforcement of the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education ruling declaring “separate but equal” as unconstitutional and ordering school desegregation “with all deliberate speed,” which in reality proceeded at a snail’s pace.

Did the U.S. and Israel expect that Palestinians would just quietly agree to be victimized, and not object or rebel against constant aggression, encroachment and occupation? Palestinians, like Blacks, will continue to resist injustice and oppression; will speak truth to power; will continue to fight back for their dignity and human rights. Palestinians will continue to fight for the right to return home; for their land and for their right to exist. The true victims of the conflict are the Palestinians, not the Israelis.

Obama made several references to God in his speech. Yet morality and ethics are the last considerations of any imperialist. Whether there will be a true shift in the U.S.’s longstanding policy toward the Middle East is doubtful. The U.S.’s plan seems to be to further colonize the Middle East, with Israel being important to this plan, as are the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the end, we must remember that as president of the U.S., Obama, in reality, took an oath to, first and foremost, uphold, protect and advance capitalist and imperialist interests, not necessarily to promote peace, justice or real change for Black or any other oppressed peoples.

Cox is an International Action Center volunteer in New York City.