Free Palestine: Not on Obama’s watch

Published in Blueprint recently:

Free Palestine: Not on Obama’s watch

Come Friday, President Mahmoud Abbas is going to table a formal request to the U.N. for the recognition of Palestine as an independent nation. In a televised address three days ago, he declared: “We are going to the United Nations to request our legitimate right, obtaining full membership for Palestine in this organisation.”

This historic moment comes at an odd time for many in the two sides of the divide. Abbas is relying on the goodwill of some nations around the globe – including Britain – that regard the Palestinian Question as an anathema in a fast democratising world.

Israel was created in 1948 following the Nazi extermination of six million Jews during the Holocaust.

As a result, millions of Palestinians were forced out of their land to live in the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and in exile. For over six decades, Israel has occupied most of the land, using brute force and
snubbing all entreaties and U.N. resolutions.

In arriving at this week’s milestone, much of the world believes that Palestine has a legitimate right to full statehood based on the borders of June 4, 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital. The talk of an Arab spring and whatever promise it holds for the region rings hollow in the face of the gargantuan injustice being suffered by the Palestinians.

In his TV address Friday, Abbas pricked the conscience of the world when he said: “The United Nations was set up to protect the rights of the people, and to help people’s self-determination and to prevent occupation of others with force… As a Palestinian delegation, we take with us all the suffering and hope of our people to achieve this objective and to end the historic grievances so that we can enjoy freedom and independence inside a Palestinian state.”

The President’s going to New York is not the same thing as getting his wish, though. Already, the United States’ legendary foreign policy hypocrisy vis-à-vis the Palestinian Question is emerging. Uncle Sam is acting true to type, vowing to veto the Palestinian bid in the Security Council.

President Barack Obama has since caved in to the influence of the powerful Jewish lobby, making it clear that there shall be no statehood for Palestine now.

Those who recall Obama’s antecedent without matching it with America’s basic interest in the Middle East would be excused for getting surprised. In Cairo two years ago, the President enchanted the Muslim world when he stated emphatically, in that wondrous watershed speech, that the U.S. was going to enter into a new epoch of understanding and mutual respect with the Muslims wherever they live. Also last year, Obama stated that he hoped to see a sovereign state of Palestine join the U.N. by September 2011.

Though his stance is that Palestinian statehood should be achieved through direct talks, rather than through the U.N. bid, his comment did open a big window of hope for the beleaguered people. That window is going to be banged shut by the same leader of the free world when Abbas takes his case to the world body.

Doubting Thomases like me should not be surprised at this crude volte-face. In Cairo, Obama’s head was in the clouds about what it means to be a U.S. President, hence the lurid promises he made on peace. Two years down the line, he has woken up to the reality of what the Jewish lobby is capable of doing to an American presidency. The lobby has succeeded in arm-twisting him by portraying him as a near-enemy right from when he began to articulate his Middle East vision. At a time when the Republicans are gnawing at his hithero soar-away popularity and even snatching key Democratic enclaves in the run-up to the U.S. general elections, the President is proving his commitment to defending larger Israeli interests – principal of which is the denial of statehood to Palestine and preventing it from becoming the U.N.’s 194th member nation. Obama knows that the two-state solution cannot be achieved through direct negotiations, yet he insists on playing Prime Minister Netanyahu’s card of sticking to that unworkable formula. It is in line with America’s one-sided foreign policy of supporting the Jewish state and keeping the Palestinians in perpetual servitude.

As such, this week is bound to become just another of the many letdowns the Palestinians had seen in sixty years, including the aftermath of the now-foundering landmark 1993 Oslo peace accords. But for the Obama administration, this veto will expose the hollowness of the rhetoric about a new clime of understanding with the Muslim world. Already, many reversals have been witnessed. The veto will simply hit the final nail on the coffin of such deceptive rhetoric. One cringes to think that the world is getting back to square one.

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