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
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
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
“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
“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
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