By Aijaz Zaka Syed in Dubai
There’s a great deal that separates the United States from us — two continents, two oceans and a distance of thousands of miles. But millions of ordinary people in the Middle East joined Americans in celebrations when Obama crossed the nomination milestone last week.
In fact, even though the whole world appears to be in the grip of Obamamania, perhaps nowhere else is it as feverish as it’s been in this part of the world. Some of our American friends find this unprecedented interest by the outsiders in their election rather intriguing. But then they haven’t experienced the consequences of a ‘wrong’ man in the White House as we have.
You would understand the importance of a President Obama if you have been anywhere close to the mess that the current occupant has visited on the Middle East. No wonder the rest of the world, especially the Muslim world, has been far more excited than the American voters about the next US president.
This is why Obama’s address to the Aipac (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) soon after his nomination win came as such a shock to all his admirers around the world, especially those in the Middle East. Our hero bent over backwards to woo the Israeli lobby assuring it time and again of his fidelity to Israel. I sat there in stunned silence as Obama tied himself in knots to ingratiate himself to the Lobby by promising everything that it wanted to hear.
From swearing to protect Israel to threatening Iran’s Ayatollahs with dire consequences, and from promising never to talk with "Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists" to recognising Jerusalem ‘as the undivided capital of Israel,’ Obama said everything that is ‘politically correct’ in Washington.
In fact, in his desperation to prove his credentials as a friend of Israel, our hero painted himself as "more Israeli than the Israelis," as Palestinian spokesperson Saeb Erekat put it.
This is most unfortunate. Because his own rise from a humble background to the heights of power suggests that the US voters and America indeed want a meaningful and real change, as he keeps insisting. Obama won against Hillary precisely because she represented the white, pro-Israel and pro-rich establishment and had come to represent all that is wrong with the US today. America wants to move on from backroom operators, manipulators and lobbyists like Aipac.
But perhaps Obama had no alternative but seek the support of the Israeli lobby. It’s hardly a secret that you can’t win any US election, let alone the most powerful job on the planet, without the blessings of the Lobby.
As John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt prove in their amazing book on the subject, the Israeli lobby with its stranglehold over the US financial institutions, the media and numerous think tanks and government agencies not only dictates the US foreign policy but also determines who gets to rule America.
This was probably necessary after the insidious campaign that had been going on in the media and on the Net suggesting Obama is a closet Muslim out on the jihad to take over the White House and the US. Even his reasonable argument for talking with everyone including Iran, Hamas and Cuba was twisted to suggest he is in cahoots with "the terrorists". This is why Obama had to reach out to the Lobby to neutralise this vicious campaign.
And notwithstanding all that he said before the Aipac, I still believe that this charismatic man, if elected, would not tread the beaten track in the US engagement with the world, especially with the Muslim world. Go over his Aipac speech once again. He might have reiterated his support for Israel and threatened Iran but all his statements are qualified and highly nuanced.
On the Palestinians, he said no talks with the Hamas as long as it does not recognise Israel. Even though he talked tough on Iran, he also said he’d try diplomacy before taking any action against Teheran. In fact, the whole speech is very nuanced and needs to be read between the lines.
That said, why are the Arabs and Muslims surprised if the Democratic candidate is wooing the Lobby? A day before Obama addressed the Aipac, Republican candidate John McCain was genuflecting before the Lobby. And Hillary followed Obama in her demonstration of love for Israel.
This is part of the annual ritual of wooing the lobby by presidential candidates. In fact, no politician worth his/her salt can ignore the lobby and hope to qualify for high office. No wonder from McCain to Obama to Hillary, everyone has been queuing up to worship at the Temple of Zion.
And what have the Arabs done so far to check this malignant influence of the Israeli lobby that is at the heart of the Middle East’s never-ending woes? Nothing. The US politicians dance to the tunes of Israeli lobby because it has infinite power of the media and money at its disposal and knows how to use this awesome power to protect its interests — and those of Israel.
In contrast, the Arab and Muslim countries neither have a lobby nor any clout in places where it matters most. The US calls itself an ally and friend of the Arabs but by way of its actions it has always been on the Israeli side.
From repeatedly defending Israel’s crimes against humanity to targeting countries like Iraq and Iran, the US goes to incredible lengths to propitiate the Lobby. If America as the lone superpower rules the world, the Jewish lobby rules America. And the Arabs and Muslims have no business complaining about the US "double standards and unjust policies". Power only understands the language of power. And Israel speaks the language that America understands — the discourse of power and the dialect of manipulation.
Is it America’s fault if the Arabs and Muslims with their coffers bursting with oil money do not speak — or do not choose to speak — the language that big powers understand?
What is the point of this ritual breast-beating over the Western ‘bias’ for Israel when all we do is talk, talk and attend those endless conferences condemning ‘Zionist conspiracies’ and offering regulation lip service to the Palestinians?
Why should we complain if Obama, just like the rest of ’em, is licking the Lobby’s boots? Does he have a choice? He has to win this election. Can he do that with the Arab and Muslim support?
In any case, what have the Arabs and Muslims done so far to reach out to the Americans and rest of the world to tell their side of the story? Compared to the infinite power of the Lobby with its myriad think tanks, the media, Hollywood movie houses and endlessly deep pockets, what does the Muslim world have? Nothing.
And remember the Jewish population in the US is not more than that of the Muslims, less than 5 per cent. In fact, the total Jewish population in the world is 14 million. Which means with their population of 1.6 billion, for every Jew there are 100 Muslims on the planet. But look at the all-pervasive Jewish clout and utter weightlessness of Muslims!
If the Arabs and Muslims had used even a thousandth part of their time, resources and all those mounds of petrodollars in foreign banks to change this state of affairs, would they be in this mess?
If instead of running after those impossible trillion dollar mirages in concrete, the Arabs and Muslims put their oil money to better use building real institutions and intellectual infrastructure, another Obama wouldn’t be prostrating before the Aipac. He’d be making friends and influencing people in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi and, who knows, even in Teheran.
-Aijaz Zaka Syed is a senior editor and columnist of Khaleej Times. The views expressed here are his own. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: email@example.com.