Obama and the Israel/Palestine Question

On Wednesday, The Grand Rapids Press ran an Associated Press article about Democratic Party presidential candidate Barack Obama’s trip to the Middle East. In the article, the Press accepts many standard–and flawed–assumptions about US foreign policy as it relates to Israel and Palestine.

On Wednesday, the Grand Rapids Press ran an AP story about Democratic Party Senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama’s visit to Israel. The story began with the sentence, “Is there anything new a presidential candidate can say about the absence of peace in the fragile Middle East?” This sentence is a perfect example of how the mainstream news media in this country have internalized the values of the government. It is saying is that US presidents have said and done everything possible to bring about a peaceful settlement between Israel and Palestine.

Nasser Aruri’s book Dishonest Broker: The Role of the US in Palestine and Israel dispels the notion that the US has done everything possible to bring about peace in the Middle East. Aruri documents that the US has provided more military aid to Israel than any other country since the mid-1970s and has vetoed dozens of United Nations votes that called for an immediate withdraw of Israel from Palestinian lands. But, the idea that the US provides diplomatic support to the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian land is almost unheard of in US mainstream media, including in The Grand Rapids Press. A study documenting its exclusion in The Press was documented in a 2003 study by the Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy (GRIID).

Senator Barrack Obama perpetuates the notion that the United States is an honest broker of peace between Israel and Palestine when he says, “It is unrealistic to expect that a US president alone can suddenly snap his fingers and bring about peace in this region.” What this statement suggests is that the US does not really have much influence when it comes to the relationship between Israel and Palestine. However, if you look at where the Democratic presidential candidate visited while in Israel and Palestine, you get an idea of whom he supports in this conflict. Arab-American media critic Ali Abunimah wrote of the Senator’s trip:

“Every aspect of Obama’s visit to Palestine-Israel this week has seemed designed to further appease pro-Israel groups. Typically for an American aspirant to high office, he visited the Israeli Holocaust memorial and the Western Wall. He met the full spectrum of Israeli Jewish (though not Israeli Arab) political leaders. He travelled to the Israeli Jewish town of Sderot, which until last month’s ceasefire, frequently experienced rockets from the Gaza Strip. At every step, Obama warmly professed his support for Israel and condemned Palestinian violence.

Other than a cursory 45-minute visit to occupied Ramallah to meet with Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinians got little. According to an Abbas aide, Obama provided assurances that he would be “a constructive partner in the peace process.” Some observers took comfort in his promise that he would get engaged “starting from the minute I’m sworn into office”. Obama remained silent on the issue of Jerusalem, after boldly promising the “undivided” city to Israel as its capital in a speech to AIPAC last month, and then appearing to backtrack amid a wave of outrage across the Arab world. But Obama missed the opportunity to visit Palestinian refugee camps, schools and even shopping malls to witness first-hand the devastation caused by the Israeli army and settlers, or to see how Palestinians cope under what many call “apartheid”. This year alone, almost 500 Palestinians, including over 70 children, have been killed by the Israeli army – exceeding the total for 2007 and dwarfing the two-dozen Israelis killed in conflict-related violence. Obama said nothing about Israel’s relentless expansion of colonies on occupied land. Nor did he follow the courageous lead of former President Jimmy Carter and meet with the democratically elected Hamas leaders, even though Israel negotiated a ceasefire with them. That such steps are inconceivable shows how off-balance is the US debate on Palestine.”

With McCain already committed to supporting Israel, it appears that no matter who wins the election in November, the US will continue its nearly four decade support of an illegal occupation.

Author: mediamouse

Grand Rapids independent media // mediamouse.org