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Saturday, June 13, 2009, A. Faizur Rahman

 

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The Muslim world is entitled to question the glaring contradictions in Barack Obama’s speech.

 

Unquestionably Mr. Obama’s Cairo speech was a breathtaking exhibition of oratorical eloquence. Watching it live on a big screen at the U.S. Consulate in Chennai this author was in a good position to evaluate the emotions and the body language of the charismatic speaker and it must be said that not a trace of pretence or dishonesty could be detected. The President was speaking straight from his heart. But not many Muslims across the globe share these perceptions.

 

They feel that Mr. Obama was not exactly forthright when it came to the aspirations of the Palestinians. He wanted the Palestinians to abandon violence citing the example of the black Americans who according to him “suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation” and yet did not resort to violence to win “full and equal rights.” He also counselled them that it was not a sign of courage or power “to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or blow up old women on a bus” because, through such acts, moral authority is not claimed but surrendered.

 

Such an advice would have found acceptance among the Muslims had Mr. Obama also talked about the state terrorism of Israel, particularly the recent massacre of nearly 1,500 people in Gaza using weapons procured from the United States. In comparison (according to The Israel Project (TIP), an international non-profit organisation, which provides information about the Middle East) since Nov 24, 2001 Hamas mortar attacks killed 25 people within Israel. Yet Mr. Obama chose not to say word about the disproportionate use of violence by Israel. May be he did not want to antagonise the dreaded Zionist lobby in his country. But it is also possible he was not aware of these statistics. Nevertheless, he should have at least recognised the “surrender of moral authority” by his own country when it decimated Afghanistan and Iraq by shooting missiles at sleeping children, old women and innocent men who had done nothing to harm anybody and, later on dismissed their deaths as “collateral damage.” The Muslim world is certainly entitled to question these glaring contradictions in Mr. Obama’s speech.

 

Having said this, Mr. Obama must be congratulated for his boldness to equate the sufferings of the Palestinians under occupation with the Holocaust. But it must be remembered that the Palestinians were not responsible for the persecution of the Jews. On the contrary, in March 1492 when Ferdinand and Isabella issued the ‘Edict of Expulsion’ against the Jews of Spain, the Muslims nations welcomed them. According to the French-Jewish scholar Isidore Loeb there were about 235,000 Jews in Spain in 1492 out of which 50,000 were forcibly converted to Christianity and the rest were expelled. They migrated to various parts of the world including Europe and America with 20,000 dying en route. Loeb writes that a total of 122,000 Jews were given refuge by the Muslims of Algiers, Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Turkey. And even now the Palestinians have accepted the U.N. Partition Resolution of 1947 which gave away more than half their country to the Jews although the U.N. had no right to do so. And in all fairness it must be acknowledged that the “Jewish homeland” the U.S. so eagerly recognises has been carved out of the land belonging to a people who were totally innocent of the Holocaust.

 

But the Muslims have no reason to doubt the intentions of Mr. Obama, particularly after his Cairo speech which, along with expressing his honest desire of putting the Muslim community on the road to “education and innovation,” emphasised the need “to work for the day” when the Jews, Christians and Muslims prayed together in Jerusalem. It is hoped that Mr. Obama would realise that this would be possible only when Israel stops building settlements, hands over to the Palestinians the existing settlements, recognises the right to return of Palestinian refugees and restores the pre-June 1967 borders by withdrawing from all occupied territories. And how can Israel be expected to comply if the U.S. vetoes all U.N. resolutions against it, and continues to give billions of dollars in the form of military and economic aid which is being used to violently subjugate the Palestinians? Therefore, as Mr. Obama is serious about finding a solution to the Israel-Palestine dispute his primary concern must be to roll back the unabashedly pro-Israel Middle-East policy of his country. This is the key to the peaceful establishment of a Palestinian state.

 

(The author is an executive committee member of Harmony India, an organisation dedicated to communal amity and secularism.

He may be reached at faizz@rocketmail.com )

 

 

 

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