By Arab News
THE United States was presented with a historic opportunity this week to demonstrate it believes in what it preaches and it blew it. President Barack Obama’s UN address on Wednesday will go down in history as one of the most disgraceful examples of a US leader’s self-serving groveling before Israel and abdication of leadership.
Addressing a global audience, Obama spoke in defense of Israel and against Palestinian bid for statehood as though he were addressing the annual conference of the AIPAC. Indeed, Netanyahu couldn’t have delivered a more obstinate argument against UN recognition for Palestinian statehood. It was an “I-love-Israel” fest complete with pledges of unwavering support. No wonder a widely grinning Netanyahu profusely thanked Obama afterward, suggesting the US leader’s loyalty to Israel was a true “badge of honor.”
Yet many in the Arab and Islamic world—and elsewhere — believed all these years that this president was different from his predecessors and keen to introduce some semblance of equilibrium in America’s equation with the Arabs and Israel.
If the world community expected better of Obama, after eight years of George W. Bush’s wars and destruction across the Muslim world, he had given it enough reasons to do so. In his own words, Obama sought a “new way forward” with the world’s Muslims, reaffirming the message in his speeches in Ankara and Cairo.
The US leader squandered it all at the United Nations on Wednesday, in the ultimate betrayal and sellout of the cause of Middle East peace. It was a completely different side of Obama that the world saw at UN General Assembly. He talked of the Israeli suffering surrounded by hostile Arab neighbors and suicide bombers. No mention anywhere of the Palestinian dispossession and persecution under Israeli occupation over the past six decades.
Even as he hailed the Arab Spring and people power from Tunisia to Egypt to India and their democratic choices, he lashed out at Palestinians for their audacity to make the same choices. Freedom is welcome in South Sudan but not in occupied Palestine. Could there be a more shameful instance of double standards and hypocrisy?
The question is why? After all, this was the same president who speaking at the same UN forum last year had passionately pitched for a “new member of the UN — an independent, sovereign state of Palestine, living in peace with Israel.”
Clearly, facing his re-election battle just 14 months from now, Obama has realized that he cannot afford to upset the powerful Zionist lobby and moneybags who run the show in Washington D.C. Whatever the cause for Obama’s turnaround, America is going to pay dearly for this political opportunism and historic folly of its president. By undermining the Palestinian aspirations, the US risks turning the whole of Arab and Islamic world against itself and deepening the dangerous gulf between the West and Muslim world. The US has once again proved that it’s incapable of providing leadership and acting as an honest-broker when it comes to Middle East.
So where do we go from here? It’s high time the world community took charge of the Middle East situation initiating bold measures to deliver justice to the Palestinians. There’s merit in French President Sarkozy’s suggestion that Arabs and Europeans work together to resolve this long festering conflict. However, it’s not possible without the involvement of the rest of the world. It’s time to show who stands for justice, freedom and equal rights of all men.