[THS] Prof Lawrence Davidson: President Obamas Ahistorical World
The Harder Stuff in news and commentary
ths at psalience.org
Wed Sep 29 13:19:34 CEST 2010
President Obamas Ahistorical World
By Professor Lawrence Davidson
September 25, 2010 "Information Clearing House" -- On September 23, 2010 it was
President Obamas turn to take the podium at the United Nations. There was a world
of problems for him to draw on but, not unexpectedly, he chose to concentrate on
the Middle East. Thus, as has been the case with almost every President since John
Kennedy, Mr. Obama is also trying his hand at cutting the Gordian Knot and drinking
the sea dry. That is he is trying his hand at making peace between Israel and
Palestine. Will he succeed where all others have failed? Not likely, and his speech at
the UN points to one reason why. His approach is ahistorical and, at least publically,
ignores the context from which all this strife has emerged.
This is not unusual for President Obama. From the beginning of his administration he
has ignored history. His most notable early example was when he refused to
investigate the prima facie war crimes of his predecessors, crimes which the
Nuremberg prosecutors would have easily recognized. Instead he proclaimed a new
day. We will look forward he said, and not backward. It was a foolish statement for
such a reportedly bright man, for where does he think the new day and the fresh
future come from? The present and the future are built on the past. With all due
respect, only the very near sighted can suppose that they can defy historical gravity
and float above it all, sublimely free of all roots.
So now President Obama takes the podium in New York and tells us the following:
1. Obama: Make no mistake: the courage of a man like President Abbaswho stands
up for his people in front of the worldis far greater than those who fire rockets at
innocent women and children.
A. Historical Context: President Abbas is a heartily disliked fellow who helped usurp
power from the legally elected government of Palestine. The United States under
George Bush Jr. helped him do so. Thus, the Abbass regime, internally supported by
little else than the remnants of Fatah, is now in control of the West Bank and
cooperates with the Israeli occupation army. Given such an historical record Abbas
cannot stand for his people in front of the world except in the propaganda picture
painted by his American ally. Abbass regime is wholly dependent on U.S. and
European money and American weapons and military training.
We can surmise two probable reasons why Abbas is presently sitting at the table with
* The Obama administration has twisted his arm, perhaps by threatening to
abandon him if he does not negotiate. They probably hope they can pressure him
into signing a peace deal that no other Palestinian leader would ever touch. What
courage Abbas has, at least to this point, does not go so far as to stand up to the
Americans on whom he is so dependent.
* The Obama administration has promised him support, whatever that might
mean. This same level of dependency means Abbas must conveniently forget
historythat such promises coming from Washington have always been worthless.
Obama: If an agreement is not reached, Palestinians will never know the pride and
dignity that come with their own state [and] Israelis will never know the certainty and
security that come with sovereign and stable neighbors who are committed to
A. Historical Context: The Palestinians have been struggling for a state of their own
for at least 75 years. They have been betrayed by outsiders so often that it defies
reasons to believe that any American President truly cares about their pride and
dignity. After so many years of struggle facing a foe who, by the way, has never
cared a fig about stable neighbors or coexistence or even about security (which
Israel equates with being armed to the teeth by the U.S.) the Palestinians have been
able to find pride and dignity in one thing onlyresistance.
3. Does President Obama know any of this? If so does he understand it? It is
questionable for him next tells us that killing Israelis is not resistance and it will do
nothing to help the Palestinian people? Oh. Well then, what will? What has? What
A. Historical Context: Only someone devoid of historical knowledge and context
concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can possibly believe that it is the
Palestinians who presently, as a strategy, go out of their way to target innocent
women and children. What isolated incidents of this sort you can find pale in
comparison with the behavior of the ally Washington arms and protects. There is a
recent BTselem report entitled, Void of Responsibility: Israeli Military Policy Not to
Investigate killings of Palestinians by Soldiers. It demonstrates that the Israelis have
been killing innocent Palestinians with impunity. Historically, they have been doing so
from a time before President Obama was born. Against this tireless brutality,
Palestinian attacks on imperialist settlers and firing rockets devoid of warheads from
that open air prison of Gaza that Israel has created, are tragic expressions of despair.
And, sadly, historically, they are the only source of pride and dignity Israel and the
United States have left to the Palestinians. Finally, it would take enormous hypocrisy
for Obama, or any American leader whosoever, to point a moral finger at the
Palestinians. Their hands are much too bloody to stomach anything like that.
4. Obama: It should be clear to all that efforts to chip away at Israels legitimacy will
only be met by the unshakable opposition of the United States.
A. Historical Context: Well, speak for yourself Mr. President. You certainly do not
speak for a fast-growing number of people worldwide whose efforts in this regard
you cannot stop. And it is this effort, this movement of civil society both within and
without the U.S., that has the best chance of bringing down the racist regime to
which you pledge such solidarity. Ideally, what will it be replaced with? Well, U.S.
leaders are always saying they want to see more democracy in this world. And that is
what Israel needs. It needs the Zionist government to be replaced with something
truly democratic that will support real civil and political rights for all Israelis,
regardless of religion. So, one can only hope that standing against those chipping
away at Zionist racism puts President Obama on the wrong side of history.
It was Oscar Wilde, a man who had his own confrontation with a viciously
discriminatory social system, who once said, A set of assumptions committing suicide
is always a depressing spectacle. And so it was on September 23 in New York. After
so many years of tragedy we still witness our political leaders working from
assumptions that are suicidal. That destroy justice and prolong oppression.
Lawrence Davidson is a Professor of Middle East History at West Chester University in
West ChesterPennsylvania. He is the author of Americas Palestine: Popular and
Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood (University Press of Florida,
2001), Islamic Fundamentalism (Greenwood Press, 2003), and, co-author with Arthur
Goldschmidt of the Concise History of the Middle East, 8th and 9th Editions (Westview
Press, 2006 and 2009). His latest book is entitled Foreign Policy, Inc.: Privatizing
American National Interest (University of Kentucky Press, 2009). Professor Davidson
travels often and widely in the Middle East. He also has taken on the role of public
intellectual in order to explain to American audiences the impact of U.S. foreign policy
in the Middle East.
This item was first posted at Opinion Maker.
More information about the THS