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Robert Fisk: So far, Obama’s missed the point on Gaza…

Reposted from the Independent Thursday Jan 22nd, 2009

It would have helped if Obama had the courage to talk about what everyone in the Middle East was talking about. No, it wasn’t the US withdrawal from Iraq. They knew about that. They expected the beginning of the end of Guantanamo and the probable appointment of George Mitchell as a Middle East envoy was the least that was expected. Of course, Obama did refer to “slaughtered innocents”, but these were not quite the “slaughtered innocents” the Arabs had in mind.

There was the phone call yesterday to Mahmoud Abbas. Maybe Obama thinks he’s the leader of the Palestinians, but as every Arab knows, except perhaps Mr Abbas, he is the leader of a ghost government, a near-corpse only kept alive with the blood transfusion of international support and the “full partnership” Obama has apparently offered him, whatever “full” means. And it was no surprise to anyone that Obama also made the obligatory call to the Israelis.

But for the people of the Middle East, the absence of the word “Gaza” – indeed, the word “Israel” as well – was the dark shadow over Obama’s inaugural address. Didn’t he care? Was he frightened? Did Obama’s young speech-writer not realise that talking about black rights – why a black man’s father might not have been served in a restaurant 60 years ago – would concentrate Arab minds on the fate of a people who gained the vote only three years ago but were then punished because they voted for the wrong people? It wasn’t a question of the elephant in the china shop. It was the sheer amount of corpses heaped up on the floor of the china shop.

Sure, it’s easy to be cynical. Arab rhetoric has something in common with Obama’s clichés: “hard work and honesty, courage and fair play … loyalty and patriotism”. But however much distance the new President put between himself and the vicious regime he was replacing, 9/11 still hung like a cloud over New York. We had to remember “the firefighter’s courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke”. Indeed, for Arabs, the “our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred” was pure Bush; the one reference to “terror”, the old Bush and Israeli fear word, was a worrying sign that the new White House still hasn’t got the message. Hence we had Obama, apparently talking about Islamist groups such as the Taliban who were “slaughtering innocents” but who “cannot outlast us”. As for those in the speech who are corrupt and who “silence dissent”, presumably intended to be the Iranian government, most Arabs would associate this habit with President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt (who also, of course, received a phone call from Obama yesterday), King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and a host of other autocrats and head-choppers who are supposed to be America’s friends in the Middle East.

Hanan Ashrawi got it right. The changes in the Middle East – justice for the Palestinians, security for the Palestinians as well as for the Israelis, an end to the illegal building of settlements for Jews and Jews only on Arab land, an end to all violence, not just the Arab variety – had to be “immediate” she said, at once. But if the gentle George Mitchell’s appointment was meant to answer this demand, the inaugural speech, a real “B-minus” in the Middle East, did not.

The friendly message to Muslims, “a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect”, simply did not address the pictures of the Gaza bloodbath at which the world has been staring in outrage. Yes, the Arabs and many other Muslim nations, and, of course, most of the world, can rejoice that the awful Bush has gone. So, too, Guantanamo. But will Bush’s torturers and Rumsfeld’s torturers be punished? Or quietly promoted to a job where they don’t have to use water and cloths, and listen to men screaming?

Sure, give the man a chance. Maybe George Mitchell will talk to Hamas – he’s just the man to try – but what will the old failures such as Denis Ross have to say, and Rahm Emanuel and, indeed, Robert Gates and Hillary Clinton? More a sermon than an Obama inaugural, even the Palestinians in Damascus spotted the absence of those two words: Palestine and Israel. So hot to touch they were, and on a freezing Washington day, Obama wasn’t even wearing gloves.

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Discussion

18 Responses to “Robert Fisk: So far, Obama’s missed the point on Gaza…”

  1. Gazan doctor says death toll inflated

    “The number of deceased stands at no more than 500 to 600. Most of them are youths between the ages of 17 to 23 who were recruited to the ranks of Hamas, who sent them to the slaughter,”

    A Tal al-Hawa resident told the newspaper’s reporter, “Armed Hamas men sought out a good position for provoking the Israelis. There were mostly teenagers, aged 16 or 17, and armed. They couldn’t do a thing against a tank or a jet. They knew they are much weaker, but they fired at our houses so that they could blame Israel for war crimes.”

    The reporter for the Italian newspaper also quoted reporters in the Strip who told of Hamas’ exaggerated figures, “We have already said to Hamas commanders – why do you insist on inflating the number of victims?”

    Posted by Anonymous | January 22, 2009, 10:53 am
  2. So Obama didn’t mention Gaza in his inaugural address. So what? In fact, he didn’t mention a single other nation by name. Gaza is not, contrary to the belief amongst many Palestinians, the center of the universe. Most people in the United States have long since stopped giving a damn about either side in this conflict, given that the leaders of Israel and Gaza both seem utterly uninterested in ending it themselves.

    Posted by Emptyman | January 22, 2009, 11:14 am
  3. Emptyman,

    Go fuck your mother…and come back and tell us how you feel about it.

    Posted by Yasser | January 22, 2009, 12:15 pm
  4. So far, Obama's missed the point on Gaza…There was a point?And why are you talking like Obama owes you something, QuiQui? You didn't vote for him. Not only that, you did your best to convince others not to vote for him, right here on this blog. Now you want to act like you're one of his supporters, eh? :D

    Posted by programmer craig | January 22, 2009, 8:32 am
  5. Fisk concludes:

    “Sure, give the man a chance. Maybe George Mitchell will talk to Hamas – he’s just the man to try – but what will the old failures such as Denis Ross have to say, and Rahm Emanuel and, indeed, Robert Gates and Hillary Clinton? More a sermon than an Obama inaugural, even the Palestinians in Damascus spotted the absence of those two words: Palestine and Israel. So hot to touch they were, and on a freezing Washington day, Obama wasn’t even wearing gloves.”

    thereby addressing the issue of ‘missing the point’ – it certainly was too hot to touch in an inaugural speech. I think the appointment of Mitchell is a good sign. As much as I personally agree with Hanan Ashrawi -

    “Hanan Ashrawi got it right. The changes in the Middle East – justice for the Palestinians, security for the Palestinians as well as for the Israelis, an end to the illegal building of settlements for Jews and Jews only on Arab land, an end to all violence, not just the Arab variety – had to be “immediate” she said, at once.”

    it is not even possible to make such an immediate change.

    Posted by alfannaan | January 22, 2009, 12:47 pm
  6. PC,

    Sitck to teabagging, discussing politics or human issues are not your best area. You are all that is bad with the internet.

    Posted by Yasser | January 22, 2009, 1:22 pm
  7. discussing politics or human issues are not your best area.

    So says the terrorist lol.

    Oh, sorry… I meant “peace activist”.

    How long will it take for Arabs to figure out we just don’t give a shit, as a country? Hard to get your head around that, I know. But try… just a little bit…

    And if anyone wants to try to understand why, it isn’t necessary to do anything more than read this blog.

    Posted by programmer craig | January 22, 2009, 1:39 pm
  8. PC,

    You care enough to come on an arab blog. Call me what you want, you still juggle balls in your mouth as a hobby…teabagging bastard. Go swallow some zionuts, you right wing psycho…maybe you can get someone to buy into your “there must be war in Palestine for Jesus to come back”. Good luck with that, you terrorist teabagger.

    Posted by Yasser | January 22, 2009, 1:58 pm
  9. PC,

    You zionut juggling psycho, define “terrorist”.

    Posted by Yasser | January 22, 2009, 2:02 pm
  10. define “terrorist”.

    You.

    but what will the old failures such as Denis Ross have to say, and Rahm Emanuel and, indeed, Robert Gates and Hillary Clinton?

    It’s interesting that Fisk doesn’t include himself on the list of “old failures”, isn’t it? I think it is! And I’m American, so my opinion counts. As long As Arabs are talking the same talk and doing the same shit from the 1970s, there will be no change in the ME. It is the old ideology that got the Arab world to where it is today. How could it ever be the solution to the very problems it has caused? That’s just plain old stupid thinking. And Fisk is the worst. He’s so invested in proving he’s been right all along, that he can’t even consider the possibility he may have been dead wrong all these years.

    And lastly, people who have a genuinely righteous cause don’t have to spend so much time trying to prove it. Nor do they have to spend so much time demonizing anybody who doesn’t agree.

    Posted by programmer craig | January 22, 2009, 2:17 pm
  11. PC,

    That’s not a definition. It’s an “example”…wrong, but an attempt at an example. Try again.

    Posted by yasser | January 22, 2009, 2:24 pm
  12. kaboogers got it wrong again!

    Posted by Anonymous | January 22, 2009, 2:53 pm
  13. PC,

    I’ll help you out. Example of a teabagger: You.

    Definition of a teabagger:
    One who juggless balls in their mouth.

    Posted by yasser | January 22, 2009, 3:05 pm
  14. yasser, give up
    PC can out-think you with his head blown off, which I assume you are plotting to accomplish in a fortnight?

    why are arabs always so angry
    you never see a smiling arab
    they are always with a fist in the air, pledging death to something or other, or burning effigies or flags or consulates
    such a violent people

    Posted by Anonymous | January 22, 2009, 3:23 pm
  15. Yasser – you’re the perfect example of a KEYBOARD WARRIOR!!

    Posted by guppy | January 22, 2009, 3:35 pm
  16. Thanks for understanding.Thanks for basing me. I wish there are many gay people like you. Yes my lifestyle IS funny and yet I am proud of it. I made my mind to become gay as a young man and I never regretted at all..
    I am sorry but everybody talks about israel victims, but what about Palestinian gays and lesbians? Do you know that more then 10 lesbians were killed in Pamallah becvause they were accused of spying? 2 young gays were executed in Gaza during the fighting. How do I know? My husband is a Palestinian from Gaza and he has contacts. This is why I am in tears for my community in Gaza and Ramallah. Thanks to Allah we collected $18000 at our annual nude salsa dance competition. i hope it will help. Also we donated blood and have sent it by UPS.
    I wish all gay and straight can love each other like brothers.

    Posted by Yakub( Yaakov) Sullivan | January 22, 2009, 3:44 pm
  17. “did not address the pictures of the Gaza bloodbath at which the world has been staring”

    It is no comfort to the grieving relatives of the dead, but it is a fact that such pictures convey little information about the extent of Gazan casualties or damages. Statistics are better: fatalities on the order of 0.1% of the population. That isn’t genocide. That isn’t even a “massacre”. As far as a large part of the West is concerned, Arabs’ insistent claims of such are just another reason why Arabs, who elected genocide-seeking Hamas to power, don’t merit so much in the way of pity and charity. But is it really Obama’s duty to explain this?

    Posted by Solomon2 | January 23, 2009, 11:39 am
  18. I suppose when Israelis elected Sharon (a war criminal)or Netanyu (who is opposed to a peace process) they are also guilty of getting whatever they deserve as well right? Or when Israeli ministers and Rabbi’s threaten a “Shoah” (Hebrew word commonly used to refer to the Holocaust) on the Palestinian people its all good right? Its just rhetoric right?

    When will Israel realize that you don’t get to negotiate with your friends, you negotiate with your enemies. If Israelis don’t go for the 2 state solution now, its going to be long gone, and all that will be left are Palestinians demanding Israeli citizenship.

    Say good bye to the Zionist project.

    Posted by Arayus | January 23, 2009, 8:19 pm

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