Obama on Why the US Has Not Condemned Israel’s Human Rights Violations against the Occupied Palestinian People

by Kim Petersen / February 1st, 2010

question was posed to US president Barack Obama at a town hall meeting
in Tampa, Florida on 28 January. Obama took this as an opportunity to
“talk about the Middle East generally.”

Obama: Israel is one of our strongest allies.

Would one’s strongest allies coax it into the quagmire of aggression
and occupation? The US faces stiff resistance in Iraq; nonetheless,
Israeli hawks encourage military action against Iran.

Obama: It is a vibrant democracy.

For who? Not for all its citizens. This is made clear by Israeli professor Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi.

Obama: It is critical for us and I will never waver from
ensuring Israel’s security and helping them secure themselves in what
is a very hostile region… I make no apologies for that.

… the plight of the Palestinians is something that we have to
pay attention to, because it is not good for our security and it is not
good for Israel’s security if you’ve got millions of individuals who
feel hopeless, who don’t have an opportunity to get an education or get
a job or what have you.

Imagine if a US president (imagine Franklin Roosevelt) had pledged unwavering support for Germany’s security while acknowledging
the requirement to pay attention to the plight of Jews (and — if the
president is a man concerned about all humanity — Roma, homosexuals,
communists, and other victims) during World War II.

Many people would insist that such a scenario is preposterous, and I
would agree. But why is Obama’s statement not preposterous? Everyone
desires security, but the security of the Palestinian people is not
supported or even mentioned.

Furthermore, the reason given for having to pay attention to the
plight of Palestinians is because of security concerns for Israel and
the US. That is a whole lot different than saying one is paying
attention to improve the plight of Palestinians. A simple
deconstruction of Obama’s words reveals that there is no altruistic

Obama: [W]e are seeking a two-state solution in which
Israel and the Palestinians can live side by side in peace and
security. In order to do that both sides are going to have to make

What compromises?

Malcolm X once said, “Don’t stick a knife in me ten inches, pull it
out six, and tell me we’ve made progress.” The corollary here would be:
Don’t steal all of my land, then allow me keep 10%, and call that

Compromise … It sounds already predetermined: a two-state
solution. The land was the co-called Palestine Mandate before British
collaboration with Zionist Jews aided in the killing and dispossession
of Palestinians. Ergo, there is nothing tangible for Israeli Jews to
compromise on. Compromise sounds like a reasonable request in a dispute;1 but compromise on what? For Palestinians, the entitlement of non-Mizrahi Jews in historical Palestine is a huge concession. Obviously, compromise
has a latent perniciousness that Obama does not let on. Obama is
likeliest calling on Palestinians to “compromise” on land forcibly
seized by Israel in 1967. If so, where is the Israeli compromise in

Obama: As a first step, the Palestinians have to unequivocally renounce violence and recognize Israel.

The first step places all the onus on the occupied, oppressed
Palestinians. Again, what kind of “compromise” is this? The intent is
clear; Obama frames the victimized Palestinians as the source of

Obama: And Israel has to acknowledge legitimate grievances and interests of the Palestinians.

Obama makes a nebulous call to “acknowledge” not address
the “legitimate” grievances and interests of the Palestinians. Why the
obfuscation? Who determines what is “legitimate”? Is demanding
Palestinians to unequivocally renounce violence and recognize Israel
legitimate? Why is there no demand for the Israelis to unequivocally
renounce violence and recognize Palestine?

Obama: The Israel government came in based on the support of a lot of folks who don’t want to make a lot of concessions.

Concessions? What can Israel concede to Palestinians? Their human
rights? Their territory? How can a thief make concessions? The land
belongs to the people who have long inhabited that land without freely
selling title to the land: the Palestinians. Return of territory
acquired by violence is repatriation. Yes, there has been the purchase
of a small amount of land, but that land still belongs to the state.
For example, foreigners own land in Canada and the US, but the land
still remains a part of the state.2

Obama: On the other hand, President Abbas of the
Palestinian Authority, who I think genuinely wants peace, has to deal
with Hamas, an organization that has not recognized Israel and has not
disavowed violence.

Obama praises Israel (wrongly) as a “vibrant democracy.” Then he
refers to Mahmoud Abbas as president of the Palestinian Authority. Yes,
he is, but this is deception. Why did Obama not refer to Abbas as
president of the State of Palestine? Could it be because his term
expired a year ago, and he granted himself a one-year extension? How
democratic is that? Hamas is the democratically elected government that
the US refuses to deal with.

Obama renders his own words nugatory.

Obama’s spiel was in response to a question: “Then why have we [the
US] not condemned Israel and Egypt’s human rights violations against
the occupied Palestinian people and yet we continue to support
financially with billions of dollars coming from our tax dollars?”
Obama did not answer this question.

The Obama administration’s efforts are focused on restarting
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. This is the same strategy used by
former US administrations. Obama might instead demand respect for
international law and adherence to all United Nations Security Council
resolutions by the Israeli and Palestinian sides. So-called peace talks
filled with empty words are meaningless, as Oslo and the Roadmap

Obama billed himself as the candidate of change, yet there is no
change in the approach to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Obama
continues unchangingly to support the oppressor over the oppressed.

  1. Granted,
    it is exceedingly euphemistic to refer to a dispossession, occupation,
    slow-motion genocide, and humiliation as a “dispute.” []
  2. Whether
    or not statehood is legitimate is also relevant. Just as Zionist Jews
    have dispossessed Palestinians, nation states such as Canada, the US,
    and throughout the western hemisphere are erected on the dispossession
    and denationalization of the Original Peoples. Activists must oppose
    all oppression. []

Kim Petersen is co-editor of Dissident Voice. He can be reached at:
kim@dissidentvoice.org. Read other articles by Kim, or visit Kim’s website.

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