The Democrats' Palestine Problem

Sunday, June 8, 2008 10:18 AM

If you are not reading Al-Ahram out of Cairo, you are missing a lot. At least a different perspective. Here from three months ago is an item about Barack Obama and the Washington Democrats. If you had read this item, you would have been prepared for Obama's embarrassing, business-as-usual pandering to AIPAC last Wednesday. Of the 80+ year conflict in Palestine, B. Obama possesses essentially the same outlook as Crackbrain McCain and Cackling Clinton. They have signed up and are complicit in the ongoing military occupation of Palestine with all its atrocious ramifications.

At the end of the day, the Democrats and Republicans remain on the same page, because they all covet the exact same influence, money and votes. The Palestinians are a non-factor, because they have no influence, no money and no votes to offer, and the American people are utterly ignorant and indifferent to their plight, in any case.

Moreover, Americans remain oblivious to the connection between Tel Aviv and the launching of the Iraq war in 2003 and between Tel Aviv and the fake crisis of Iran, now underway. Career politicians, of course, are fully aware of this fact, and act accordingly. File B. Obama away as just another Washington politico on the make, working in tandem with as all the rest. My emphasis in red below.



The Democrats' Palestine problem

[Al-Ahram weekly, March 13-19, 2008, Cairo]

The left may be swooning over Obama, but he and other Democrats parrot conventional US justifications for Israeli crimes against humanity, writes Mohammed Herzallah*

You would think Democrats in the United States would show Palestinians some flicker of sympathy, seeing that their presidential contenders keep talking about human rights, destitute people, and equality; but it goes without saying, American politics doesn't always overlap with common sense.

Personally -- as a Palestinian -- I don't resent Republicans because of their uncritical support of Israel's policies. In fact, I completely understand: such is the circumstance of human affairs, and often when conflict between nations becomes inevitable, you have to pick a side. Considering their belligerent conservative principles and intransigent evangelical base, it is no surprise that Republicans are more inclined to back Israel.

Nevertheless, I do have considerable qualms with Democrats, whose position on Israel's policies in the occupied territories contravenes many of their oft-stated values. Take for instance Barack Obama, who has the audacity to lecture us about his life-long principled career of standing up for dispossessed and victimised people as a "community organiser", and then turn his back on Palestinians, suggesting that they are responsible for their contemporary condition.

The senator from Illinois said "nobody has suffered more than the Palestinian people," because of "the failure of the Palestinian leadership to recognise Israel, to renounce violence and to get serious about negotiating peace and security for the region." Never mind, according to Obama, all that military occupation nonsense, it is the Palestinians who brought all this upon their children.

Sometimes I wonder how Mr Obama's mesmerised supporters would feel if he had hinted that South African Black leaders were responsible for Apartheid, that African American leaders were to blame for discrimination, or that Native American leaders brought the historical injustices they encountered upon themselves. I imagine all that paranormal appeal everyone is attributing to him would abruptly evaporate in minutes if Obama uttered any such nonsense.

But Obama is not alone in his double standards. Other Democrats seem to have seen the light, only to recoil soon after when that position could no longer stand the test of political convenience. Take Hillary Clinton, who, as early as 1998, was the first American official affiliated with the Clinton White House to say that Palestinians have a right for an independent and sovereign state. And then watch -- surprise, surprise -- how Clinton's message and attitude dramatically changed when she ran for senate and began unleashing unremitting attacks against Palestinian "hateful textbooks" and fanatical leaders.

What exactly have the Palestinians done to deserve this one-of-a-kind designation? Are Palestinians so different that they, out of all peoples who aspire to feel home at home, have to -- to borrow Mr Obama's own words -- "pause for a reality check"?

Perhaps I am missing something here. Do Palestinians pose such an inimitable exception because they voted a leadership they deemed corrupt out of office? I thought Democrats were all for transparency and competent leadership. Are Palestinians responsible that the result of their national election -- which, by the way, was organised on demand of the Bush administration -- brought some intransigent and out of control characters into power? Considering the whole Iraq war mess, by the same logic, shouldn't the international community wage a war of attrition against Americans? Or was it an electorate from Neptune that voted Bush and Cheney into office -- twice?

The out-and-out hypocrisy of America's Democratic Party is not that it is not remotely supportive or even understanding of the Palestinian cause, but rather that its leaders are not hesitant to lend a helping hand to Israel's perpetuation of crimes against humanity. Where, for God's sake, are the liberal guardians of political correctness when Israel's Deputy Defence Minister Matan Vilnai threatens Palestinians with a shoah (a word historically used to refer to the Holocaust) if they don't somehow collectively stop militants from volleying homemade rockets at Israel? Do Democrats really mean what they keep telling us they stand for, or is it all just talk?

Following the Gaza events last week, Obama and Clinton were quick to broadcast their support of the mendacious notion that Israel's lethal collective punishment policies somehow constitute a legitimate formula for national self-preservation. Such sentiments not only elude common sense, but also overlook the internationally acknowledged understanding that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is as much about a people's fundamental right for self determination as it is about another people's security.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the Palestinian- Israeli conflict, the Democratic Party's rhetoric and practice suddenly lose touch with each other. Today, none of America's leading Democrats even dares to explore the prospect of making a case for Palestinian rights that does not, by hook or by crook, render it a function of Israel's security. They are so steeped in their own hypocrisy and so indifferent at the material destruction of the very ideals they so tirelessly espouse during election campaigns. Shame on them!

* The writer is former president of the Palestine Solidarity Committee at Harvard University.

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