On his second day as president of the United States, for the first time since the disaster began in the Gaza Strip, Barack Obama finally spoke. He said that he was 'deeply concerned' about the loss of life in Gaza and also reiterated the US view that Israel had a right to defend itself from Palestinian rocket attacks. He added that ``it will be the policy of [his] administration to actively and aggressively seek a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as Israel and its Arab neighbors. Now [they] must extend a hand of opportunity to those who seek peace. As part of a lasting ceasefire, Gaza's border crossings should be open to allow the flow of aid and commerce?. Amongst others, he thanked the roles of Egypt and Jordan in their efforts to achieve the cease fire and will continue to speak to PA President Mahmoud Abbas to maintain this cease fire. He then named ex-Senator George Mitchell as Middle East special envoy.When terrorists struck Mumbai back in November, Transition Chief National Security Spokesperson Brooke Anderson condemned the terrorist attacks on behalf of the president-elect, saying: ``President-Elect Obama strongly condemns today's terrorist attacks in Mumbai, and his thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families, and the people of India. These coordinated attacks on innocent civilians demonstrate the grave and urgent threat of terrorism. The United States must continue to strengthen our partnerships with India and nations around the world to root out and destroy terrorist networks. We stand with the people of India, whose democracy will prove far more resilient than the hateful ideology that led to these attacks''. Rightfully so.
Quite the difference when compared to the rather vague and carefully selected sentencing he made to the press on Gaza. The question is why his response couldn't be more like this: ``I strongly condemn the Israeli attacks on Gaza, and my thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families, and the people of Gaza. These coordinated attacks on innocent civilians demonstrate the grave and urgent threat of state terrorism. The United States must continue to strengthen our partnerships with the Palestinian people and nations around the world to root out and destroy Israeli Apartheid. We stand with the people of Gaza, whose democracy will prove far more resilient than the hateful ideology that led to these attacks''. Maybe in Obama's mind life in India is worth far more than life in Gaza.Now thanking the Egyptian government would have been a fine token of appreciation, had Egypt supported the ravaged Strip and opened the Rafah crossing. Instead, he thanked an authoritarian ruler that had in fact met with the Israeli foreign minister the very day before the deadly attacks. He thanked a government that refused to listen to the will of the Streets, demanding the opening of the crossing in order to allow food and medical supplies to reach the stricken territory. He thanked a regime that, according to the International Middle East Media Centre, is setting up tents on the Egyptian side of Rafah to accommodate more Palestinian refugees. Despite officially not commenting on these tents, which were apparently ``set up after secret negotiations with Israel just prior to the Israeli ceasefire in Gaza'', and despite the current ceasefire, ``Egyptian officials continue to make it extremely difficult for foreign nationals, including doctors and journalists, from entering Gaza through the Rafah border crossing''. So what exactly is Obama thanking Egypt for?
Similarly, he continues the Bush policy of wanting to only deal with deposed PA leader Mahmoud Abbas; an illegitimate, un-democratically self-appointed, business-hungry, ruler of the West Bank. He is prepared to continue talks with a leader who has systematically de-patriotized and disenfranchised the Palestinian cause. As according to Professor Abdul Sattar Qassem of Najah National University in Nablus, the PA is ``effectively a tool to liquidate the Palestinian cause in exchange for some money from the United States''. In his inaugural speech on January 20th, President Obama did say: ``To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist''. Maybe a nice treat is in hand for Mahmoud Abbas, whose self-given term -- by the way -- ended on January 9th.
The appointment of Senator George Mitchell is slightly more intriguing. Mitchell, who received international acclaim for brokering the Good Friday agreement that ended sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, is widely regarded as a respected politician, known for his patience and even-handedness. Yet while the Zionist establishment fears a non-Jewish envoy, such an appointment could be interpreted as a way of holding action, no matter whom the special envoy is. As Shoshana Bryen, senior director for security policy for the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) says: ``The appointment may be meant to keep people in the region quiet''. James Besser, correspondent for New York's The Jewish Week writes that observers in Washington noted that ``with the Palestinian leadership divided between Hamas and Fatah, the chances for any major breakthroughs on the Israel-Palestinian front are remote. The appointment of a high-level envoy like Mitchell may be intended to create the impression of intense administration activity when, in reality, the new president hopes to just keep the conflict from boiling over while focusing on more immediate problems like the tanking economy and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan''.
More importantly, one should take a closer look at Obama's chosen cabinet to realize the similarities to Bush's administrative team. Take for example Rahm Israel Emanuel, appointed Chief of Staff, whose father Benjamin was active in the Irgun - the underground Zionist organization that in 1947 terrorized the Palestinians and the British in Palestine prior to the founding of the Israeli state. Emanuel himself volunteered in the IDF in 1991 during the first Gulf War. Al Jazeera English (AJE) carried an interesting discussion entitled ``Empire'' hosted their senior political analyst Marwan Bishara. One of they key points of the show argued that ``the most powerful man in the world may be new to the job but he has surrounded himself with establishment stalwarts''. Indeed, the cabinet has an old look to it with the hawks greatly outnumbering the doves in the new administration. Examples include Bush-appointed Defense Secretary Robert Gates; McCain-friend National Security Advisor James Jones; and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who fiercely criticized her new boss during the campaign trail for being too weak on Israel's interests. But maybe Obama is just trying to toughen up his image with the ``War on Terrorism''. A war that by subjective definition could go on forever.
More worryingly, during the campaign, the Jewish Council for Education ? Research released a video in which prominent ex-IDF and Mossad generals were interviewed. The video shows them supporting a Barack Obama presidency as he would be the ``best partner for Israel in the White House''. Six Israeli Generals endorsed then-Senator Obama describing him as a better President for the State of Israel's long term goals in the region. The video had apparently caused controversy in Israel. The Jerusalem Post does report that former head of the Mossad Ephraim Halevy and former IDF deputy chief of staff Maj.-Gen. Uzi Dayan cried foul over the pro-Obama video, and accused the group of ``taking their words out of context, saying that when filmed they had been told that the issue at hand was the challenges facing the next man in the White House, and not that the film was aimed at endorsing Obama for president''. Interestingly, none of these two generals even appeared in the video. And in any case, why would a New York-based Zionist lobby even use the words of ex-Mossad/IDF generals and ``manipulate'' them to endorse Obama?
A December 6th interview on the BBC may clarify the answer. On the 11th day of Israel's massacre in Gaza, Former Captain of the Israeli Air Force Yonatan Shapira laid out the bottom line. If President Obama continues to abide by the Zionist groups such as the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and their interests, and not expose the crimes against humanity that Israel conducted in the Gaza Strip, then nothing will change. Yonatan Shapira, of course, was then attempted to be dismissed as a traitor to the Israeli nation. Without raining on anyone's parade of ``hope and change'' so early on in the new President's term, Obama's policies towards the Apartheid State will render nothing different than Clinton's failed legacy. He will restore a form confidence to American foreign policy and relations in the region. He definitely has the charisma to move people in their millions. And he may mean well. But he is imprisoned by the political system that is undeniably, overwhelmingly, pro-Zionist. And ultimately, it is the keys to this prison that will set American policy vis-?-vis Israel on a just course, and give real freedom to Palestinians and Israelis alike.
For as Marwan Bishara said in the opening line of Empire, quoting a famous Swahili proverb: ``When Elephants fight, the grass gets crushed. And when Elephants make love, the grass gets crushed''. As for Obama's Middle East policy, and his specific treatment of Israeli Apartheid, I suppose ``change'' will only occur when the Elephants finally decide to keep away from the grass.- Mohannad El-Khairy is a Palestinian who moved to Dubai after living in Canada for 18 years. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.