There are so many reasons I’m happy to be in Palestine and not in the U.S. right now. Having to endure only a minimal amount of election coverage is one of those reasons–especially during convention season. But it is really frustrating to be an American abroad during this time, too. Because people are constantly coming up to me trying to tell me why they like Barack Obama and why they think that he will be good for Palestine. The complexity with which I need to respond to such a question, unfortunately, is beyond my Arabic skills. For the moment anyway. I don’t know how to tell them about the soul-less nature of Obama’s hypocrisy. I don’t know how to explain how dreadfully he betrayed not only the Palestinians in Illinois with whom he supposedly has deep relations, but also Palestinians here when he chose to visit the 1948 destroyed village of Najd (known to Americans as the Israeli colony of Sderot) and not go to Gaza. And that’s only the beginning. I’m not sure if he has or not, but I would love Ali Abunimah to translate one or more of his articles on Obama’s betrayal of Palestinians and publish it/them in Arabic. I’ve talked about these pieces here before, but it is worth citing them again for new readers:
Ensure a Strong U.S.-Israel Partnership: Barack Obama strongly supports the U.S.-Israel relationship, believes that our first and incontrovertible commitment in the Middle East must be to the security of Israel, America’s strongest ally in the Middle East. Obama supports this closeness, stating that that the United States would never distance itself from Israel.
Support Israel’s Right to Self Defense: During the July 2006 Lebanon war, Barack Obama stood up strongly for Israel’s right to defend itself from Hezbollah raids and rocket attacks, cosponsoring a Senate resolution against Iran and Syria’s involvement in the war, and insisting that Israel should not be pressured into a ceasefire that did not deal with the threat of Hezbollah missiles. He believes strongly in Israel’s right to protect its citizens.
Support Foreign Assistance to Israel: Barack Obama has consistently supported foreign assistance to Israel. He defends and supports the annual foreign aid package that involves both military and economic assistance to Israel and has advocated increased foreign aid budgets to ensure that these funding priorities are met. He has called for continuing U.S. cooperation with Israel in the development of missile defense systems.
It is more of the same. As with his recent visit to Palestine (occupied 48 and 67 territories), Obama is clearly only interested in the “security” of Israeli colonists, not of Palestinians. Palestinians clearly have no right to defend themselves against Israeli state terrorism, but Israelis will continue to receive generous aid packages under an Obama administration to inflict the terrorism on Palestinians, Syrians, Lebanese, and maybe even Iranians. I don’t see how any Palestinian in their right mind could read such a policy statement and think that Obama will mean change with respect to their conditions. Instead, it will continue to worsen. It is not just Palestine that is the issue. It’s also the way he is unwilling to take on comments about his middle name–Islamophobic references that are racist. Why can’t he just say, “I am Christian, but what would be so wrong if I were Muslim?” Or what of the way in which the people of Kenya seem to be elated about one of their own possibly inhabiting the White House and yet he’s never said a word about Kenya–even when it was spiraling into violence several months ago? Don’t get me wrong: I don’t support John McCain at all (for me it’s a tough choice between Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney), but I much prefer someone who is honest–you know where they stand and it’s clear. Unlike Obama who seemed to be genuinely invested in Palestinian human rights and then turned his back on a community that had befriended him. Oh, and if anyone has any doubts remaining, I encourage you to listen to Obama’s Vice Presidential candidate, Joe Biden, speaking about his love for Zion:
In any case, with respect to Palestine I suspect that either McCain or Obama will bring more of the same. The settlements will not only remain, they will increase as they have been increasing since the nightmare that is Oslo. Peace Now released a report, cited on IMEMC today,(alternately you could read the New York Times report on this) with these horrifying statistics:
According to the report, Israel is accelerating the construction process in several West Bank settlements, including isolated ones, in order to create geographical contiguity between them and to encircle the Palestinian cities and villages.
Peace Now added that the number of tenders for settlement construction had increased by 550% in 2008. In simple figures, Israel built 65 units in 2007 comparing to 417 in 2008.
Of course, it is not just the illegal settlements either. It is also the routine, nightly invasions of kidnapping that the Israeli Terrorist Forces (ITF) use to lay siege to Palestinian refugee camps, cities, and villages. Last night it was Bethlehem and Jenin. It is also the raiding of and continual theft of Palestinian NGOs, private homes, and land. In the past couple of weeks they have been targeting Muslim charities–charities that have specific knowledge about the ways in which the Zionist state is working to undermine Al Aqsa in Al Quds. It is also home demolitions. In other words, creating “facts on the ground” to use the phrase in common parlance here.
It doesn’t matter if it is Obama, McCain, or Rice coming here to try to feign as if they are going to bring “peace” to Palestine or to Afghanistan or to Iraq (and let me just add here: whatever it is you think you hear Obama saying about American troops pulling out–I promise you that those some odd 16 American military bases, the Green Zone, and the mercenaries will not be part of the pull out bargain). Rice weakly tried to suggest that settlements were not conducive to “peace,” but American officials have said it before. I’m sure they will say it again. But they will never do anything about it. And that is why the stranglehold here in the West Bank continues every day.
As far as I know there have only been two groups protesting her visit to Palestine: PFLP released a statement and a grassroots group working for a one-state solution. Both made it clear that Rice is not welcome in Palestine.
What is welcome in Palestine is ACTION that can lead to real change here in people’s lives. There are a couple of pieces of things to do that came to my attention in the last 24 hours. The first is a report on Gaza from Amnesty International, one that, of course, refutes every word that came out of that lunatic’s mouth on Al Jazeera the other night. The second is a petition that people are being asked to sign to open up the Rafah crossing to end this siege on the open-air prison that is Gaza. It’s not much. It’s not nearly enough. I don’t know at this point what would be enough.