On Palestine, Not Too Late for President Obama to Act as a World Statesman

Is it too late for Obama to act as a World Statesman?

By Hasan Afif El-Hasan

The Palestinian issue is a political and humanitarian man-made tragedy where the indigenous Palestinians have been dehumanized and their rights have been delegitimized; and the policy makers of the World’s Superpower created conditions where the afflictions of the Palestinians today is almost beyond a peaceful solution. The Palestinians used to own 95% of Palestine’s land before the creation of Israel. Today, majority of them are refugees, and the rest are struggling under occupation or under siege or in Israeli jails; and they are denied their natural right to live freely under their own government even on one fifth of Palestine. American policies gave Israel the power and diplomatic protection to disregard the international laws and remain intransigent aggressive colonialist state.

The curious contrast between what the conventional wisdom imputes to the US policy makers on the Palestinian conflict and how they operate in practice is not easy to explain without talking about the quality of its leadership. Simply stated, the World’s only-Super-power has been engrossed by the lack of incisive wise statesmen and visionary leaders in dealing with the destabilizing, destructive and injurious Palestinian issue.

Knowing what shape Israel would be militarily, politically and economically without the US backing, the Palestinians rightly perceive the US as the only power that can push Israel in a direction that can lead to a just and peaceful solution to their problem. The Palestinians expected that President Barack Obama, the forty-fourth president of the US and the winner of 2008 Nobel Peace Prize would be more understanding and more sympathetic with their cause than his predecessor. But to the dismay of the Palestinians and peace loving people, the US failed to restrain Israel even under President Obama leadership.

No serious attempt of this nature has ever been made by an American leader except under President Eisenhower in the aftermath of the 1956 Sinai/Suez war. But because there were two World Super-powers, things were different then. The Soviet threat to get involved in that war in support of Egypt and the fear of a nuclear war forced President Eisenhower to call for immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of the armed forces behind the armistice lines. Today, the US is the only global superpower, and Obama has been elected twice to lead it. The Superpower is not an honorary title; it has real power and it comes with global responsibilities that include upholding the international laws, ending colonialism and defending victims of oppression and human rights violations.

Mr. Obama, the son of a Kenyan father and American mother, is one of the most academically educated presidents of the US. Obama’s critics may accuse him of some domestic and foreign policy shortcomings but no one can accuse him of ignorance or lack of intellectual curiosity regarding the world affairs. He is a scholar, who, due to his unique personal experience must have known something about the history of discrimination in the US and the crimes of colonialism in Africa where he has roots and family. He must have been told or read about the cruelty and injustice that his Kenyan ancestors experienced under the British colonialists where the white settlers confiscated fertile Kenyan lands and the indigenous people were not allowed to live or farm where they pleased. And no matter how well the Kenyans performed in their country, they could not aspire to live as equals to the settlers. News media alleged that Mr. Obama removed a bust of the 1940s and 1950s Britain Prime Minister Winston Churchill from the White House and sent it back to the British Embassy because ‘the bust reminds him of the British colonialist history that Obama strongly detests.’

President Obama must have recognized that Israel is a colonial-settler state seeking Palestinian lands pretty much the way the French settlers came to Algeria and the British colonialists came to Kenya in the last two centuries. Mr. Obama has been known as a strong believer in the progressive liberal Americanism basic philosophy of the multi-culture, multi-ethnic, and multi-race of ‘The Melting Pot’. Progressive liberal Americanism based on the belief stated in the Declaration of Independence that ‘[all] men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness’, is not compatible with the ethnic/sectarian race-based Zionism.

In his June 19, 2009 speech at Cairo University, President Obama suggested that he had been familiar with the Palestinians’ sufferings. He said: ‘It is undeniable that the Palestinian people, Muslims and Christians, have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than 60 years, they’ve endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations, large and small, that come with occupation.’ I couldn’t have described the Palestinians’ current conditions better!

But why does not he do something about it?  Why is he supporting Israel’s Gaza siege and starving its people in defiance of international laws and moral rules; why does he endorse keeping Arab Jerusalem under Israeli rule; and why did the leader of the only Superpower join a handful of obscure mini- states in voting against a UN resolution to grant the Palestinians a non-Member Observer State status in the UN? With all his attributes, it is totally implausible why Mr. Obama continues to either support or tolerate outrageous actions that Israel takes against the Palestinians.

President Obama gives eloquent speeches; he is verbally able; he says words and gives interviews that sound good but he seems unwilling to use the powers he already has to leave behind him the legacy of ending the suffering of the Palestinian people. Unfortunately, President Obama has been acting as a typical local American politician. Is it too late for him to act as a World Statesman?

– Hasan Afif El-Hasan is a political analyst. His latest book, Is The Two-State Solution Already Dead? (Algora Publishing, New York), now available on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

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