Monday, March 25, 2013

Obama vs. Obama in Jerusalem

My last blog was written before Obama’s speech to students in Jerusalem. The two aspects of Obama, often so frustrating on our political home turf, were on full display.

Obama did everything he could to indicate that he and Netanyahu were in lock-step on Iran, including the option of military action; he went even further than previous administrations in increasing the enormous US investment in Israel’s military superiority in the region; he reaffirmed the blockade against Gaza and opposition to UN recognition of Palestine; he backed off from demanding that the aggressive settlement push be stopped. In sum, Obama renewed the blessings of the United States on the occupation that most of the world condemns.

On the other hand, he chose to give his main speech to the youth, not to the Knesset. He asked them to put themselves in the shoes of Palestinian youth, who deserve to be free in a state of their own, not living under an occupying army. As students interviewed by the NY Times remarked, he spoke of justice, settler violence, and occupation, words “that Netanyahu doesn’t want to hear.” He urged them to devote themselves to peace, to make their leaders change direction, to insist on renewed efforts toward “two states”. It was Obama inspiration at its best, and the students responded with enthusiasm.

Actually, the students the Times interviewed recognized both sides of Obama in Jerusalem.  Among the eight interviewed, two were Palestinian. I wish I could reproduce their comments here, because, while differing one from the other, they were generally insightful and refreshing. But I can’t give you a link to the Times article because of frustrating restrictions that limit access to subscribers — another small reminder of the “haves and have-nots” of the digital age. Nor will it help to give you the date of the article, because it appeared in an Internet version, not in any print edition as far as I can tell. The only way I can get this to you is to have the Times email the link; so, if you want it, click on comments (below this post) and include your email address.

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A couple of thoughts more before I leave “Israel and Palestine”, for a while at least — 

1) As discouraging as “two state” prospects may now seem, it's worth asking what is meant by a “one state solution.” That idea comes from very different sources with very divergent motivations and goals. Some mean one integrated state with guarantees for full equality and human rights for all. Some mean state power in the hands of one ethnic or fundamentalist religious group, whether it be a majority or, in the case of the settlers, a minority “chosen” to rule over “biblical lands.” In any case, can anyone conceive of a “one state solution” at this stage of history coming about other than by war and conquest?

2) Netanyahu and his think-alike advocates in the United States say that Israel’s security takes precedence over every other concern, including the risks of war against Iran and the consequences of the expanding occupation. But history shows that there never can be an occupation that doesn’t evoke resistance; there never has been a movement of resistance to occupation that didn’t lead some to acts of violence against the occupiers.

What we come back to again is the central imperative, mounting pressure worldwide to end the occupation and to prevent a new war.

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