Barack Hussein Obama, almost certain to be the nominee of the Democratic party for President, confounded pro-Arab supporters and right wing Zionist critics alike with a speech
to the AIPAC Zionist lobby group that could have been written by Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Obama victory over Hillary Clinton was greeted with undisguised joy by most Arab opinion. The editors of the Saudi Arab News wrote
, "From the point of view of the Middle East, Obama looks to be good news." However, they warned that the nefarious Jew
s were lurking in ambush:
He is committed to a phased withdrawal of US forces from Iraq but, more importantly, he is likely to start over with a clean sheet on the plight of the Palestinians. Therein lies his greatest political danger. If he is overexplicit in the degree to which he is prepared to require essential concessions from Israel, he will find the powerful US Zionist lobby against him and dyed-in-the-wool Democratic American Zionists will swing their support behind Republican neocons and their fundamentalist Christian right backers.
The Saudis know all about fundamentalism of course, being the home of the Muwahidun (AKA Wahhabis).
It didn't take long for those Jews to catch up with Obama at AIPAC. His speech left Arabs "shocked" according to Al-Jazeera.
Al Jazeera quotes Obama as saying "Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided." Since the United States doesn't currently recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, that's pretty shocking in a way. How do we explain the miraculous change in candidate Obama, if there was one? For the last few months there were rumors that Obama is a secret Muslim. Perhaps the truth is that he is a secret Jew, or a sleeper agent planted by the Mossad and the international Zionist conspiracy. Another theory, is that he is a politician who wants votes.
As might be predicted, Obama's campaign was quick to backpedal on his support for "united Jerusalem," which was the only really "hard" new commitment in his address:
But a campaign adviser clarified Thursday that Obama believes "Jerusalem is a final status issue, which means it has to be negotiated between the two parties" as part of "an agreement that they both can live with."
"Two principles should apply to any outcome," which the adviser gave as: "Jerusalem remains Israel's capital and it's not going to be divided by barbed wire and checkpoints as it was in 1948-1967."
He refused, however, to rule out other configurations, such as the city also serving as the capital of a Palestinian state or Palestinian sovereignty over Arab neighborhoods.
"Beyond those principles, all other aspects are for the two parties to agree at final status negotiations," the Obama adviser said.
You can choose between the above "one size fits all" policy, which could mean anything, given by the anonymous adviser, and the statement by Obama.
Another promise in Obama's speech which was hardly surprising was the commitment to extend US aid to Israel in a $30 billion package over the next ten years. Continued military aid given in this form is a popular AIPAC cause and "achievement." However, it is used to tie Israel to United States policies as well as providing, in effect, a government subsidy to the United States defense industry. The exceptional size of the aid grant makes US support for Israel exceptionally vulnerable to attacks by anti-Zionists.
Arabs needn't be alarmed. It is a cultural thing. For example, Muslims say "Jihad" quite a bit, but don't always mean by that a holy war to exterminate infidels, or so they claim. The protestations of loyalty to Israel are a quaint part of Americana. The AIPAC speech is part of the rite of the presidential elections that is observed in the United States every four years. The pilgrimage to AIPAC may be in some ways comparable to the Hajj - a profession of faith. It is a golden opportunity for every political candidate. Support for Israel wins votes, and not just the tiny "Jewish vote." As Gerard Baker points out, in the USA, you don't have to be Jewish to love Israel. Americans identify with Israeli society and values. Waving the blue Zionist flag is almost as important for American politicians as waving the Stars and Stripes.
Rival candidate John McCain made a strong speech too, though the ritual promise about Jerusalem was conspicuous by its absence.
Of course, "undivided" Jerusalem does not preclude "shared Jerusalem" for example. It is not unknown too, that presidential candidates vowed absolute support for Israel on the Jerusalem issue, and then reneged on their pledge. This tradition has been honored by Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, but it was apparently established by Richard Nixon, whose private opinions on the Jewish question were similar to those of the Saudis. Eitan Haber relates:
As a presidential candidate, Nixon pledged to transfer the United States embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
As president, when then-Ambassador Yitzhak Rabin reminded him of this pledge, Nixon provided the following reply: Things look different from the Oval Office in the White House.
This is reminiscent of Ariel Sharon's famous, "From here [as Prime Minister], it doesn't look the same as it did from there.[opposition]"
The Zionist movement has "been in this movie" many times. In 1944, the British Labour party platform promised support for a Jewish state in Palestine, even going so far as to advocate transfer of Arabs out of Palestine. Once in power in the following year, the promises went up in smoke. The Labour party began a campaign to persecute the Jews of Palestine. The Labour government, far from promoting a Jewish state, seemed almost determined to wipe out any European Jews who managed to escape Hitler. The RAF, freed from duty against the Wehrmacht, was sent to patrol the Mediterranean and pick out immigrant ships, which were followed and boarded and forcibly prevented from reaching Palestine by all means, including murder of crewman and ramming of the ships.
Promises of undying love and support, support for united Jerusalem and any other campaign rhetoric, are all words for the wind that can be banished by the pronouncement of an anonymous adviser or "interpreted" according to circumstances.
It's all part of the show. What matters is not what they say, but what we will do.
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