|On the road to Bethlehem, a very symbolic tag on the wall made on the Palestinian side ("I am a Berliner") (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
|President Barack Obama speaks at Cairo University in Cairo, Thursday, June 4, 2009. In his speech, President Obama called for a 'new beginning between the United States and Muslims', declaring that 'this cycle of suspicion and discord must end'. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
With the best will in the world I find it hard not to believe that Barack Obama is schizophrenic.
On the one hand he makes these inspiring, eloquent, hopeful speeches. But as one person in the West Bank who was interviewed after his recent visit remarked, “These speeches are one thing, but when it comes to what he is going to do to implement them…..”
In other words, actions speak louder than words. And there is something really strange about this man, who is able to lift the hopes even of people who seem to be buried irrevocably in the world’s most intractable problems --- his great speech in Cairo, promising a new relationship between the United States and the Moslem world is the perfect. But then, when the time for action arrives, he simply acts as if he is dealing with an entirely different situation than the one that actually exists on the ground.
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that in its relation with the Palestinian people, Israel has become a deeply repressive state, and not only that, but that it has for many years been pursuing a policy designed to create conditions on the ground which will make its annexation of the West Bank more or less inevitable.
Recently I have seen a number of films which spell this out so clearly that even Barack Obama should be able to understand it. Illegally, according to international law, Israel has covered the territory it occupies in the West Bank with settlements which now house some 540,000 settlers. These settlements have replaced Palestinian farms, olive groves, and apparently hundreds of villages have disappeared. The bulldozing of houses has become a regular feature of West Bank existence, the occupants having been turned out, with their possessions, before their house comes crumbling around their ears.
This is the sort of cruelty it is hard to imagine, especially since it is administered by a people who have themselves suffered from similar pograms historically.
Not only this, but a network of splendid highways has been built connecting up these settlements, but these are roads on which only Jewish people are allowed to travel.
The film Five Broken Cameras, recorded by videotape by a settler of one insignificant Palestinian village, shows the pain of this from the point of view of the dispossessed. As far as they are concerned, they have been turned out of the lands their family has occupied from time immemorial, and handed over to people who have recently arrived from elsewhere and who now claim to have been the traditional owners of this land.
The film Road Map to Apartheid, made by a combined team of Jewish and Palestinian filmmakers, reveals that the hated South African system of apartheid has already been transferred to Greater Israel, as the settlers like to call it, in many of its worst aspects.
In addition to the endless delays at Israeli checkposts that dominate the occupied territories, the displaced people now have to cope with the monstrous, recently-built wall that is designed to keep the two peoples apart. With this wall Israel has joined the former East Germany, the United States (which has a similar wall to try to keep Mexicans out), and North Korea, as a nation that hopes to withdraw behind a wall separating it from the outside world. None of these has really worked, and the Israeli wall is unlikely to work either.
However, when Barack Obama during his recent trip to Israel and Palestine tried to influence events, he acted as if none of this had actually happened. He said, stubbornly, that he still believed in the two-state solution, and agreed with the Israel Prime Minister that only face-to-face negotiations between these two (presumably) equal partners, could solve the problems between them. He said the building of the settlements was not helpful to this peace process, but he urged the Palestinians to enter negotiations without insisting that the building of settlements should be ended before the negotiations can begin, although several years ago he said the settlement-building should stop.
This is simply a recipe for rewarding the Israelis for defying the rule of international law. Mind you, there’s nothing surprising about this, because the United States, with its following of tiny, insignificant nations like Micronesia, Palau (is there such a country?) and Canada have voted against every attempt in the United Nations to reel Israel in.
It is not surprising for another reason in that the so-called Road Map established by the Quartet, which laid down the cessation of the building of settlements as a signpost on the Road Map, has simply defied their own prescriptions, and have allowed Israel to go ahead and build what they wanted to build.
This isn’t the most glaring example of the double standard applied to Israel by the Western world: it has been a nuclear power, without a word of protest from the United States or any other power, states which are nevertheless threatening to destroy Iran for planning to generate electricity with nuclear power. “We will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons,” says Obama, who has never been heard to mention even the fact that Israel has a formidable nuclear arsenal.
Truly our world is mad.