Thursday, June 4, 2009

Obama's Speech

My last post commented on some anticipation of Obama's speech. Here's the full text of this speech.

It may be optimism on my part, but if there is action behind those words, something good may come of it. Even a cynic like myself has to find some hope in the "leader of the free world" addressing the ills of the region in this manner.

Okay, it's words for now. But eight years ago, the words (implied) from the man in the same seat were essentially, "hunting season is open -- shoot at will" followed by the blessing of Ariel Sharon as a "man of peace" (which even the Israelis laughed at) and culmination in a letter providing cover for settlement expansion. We've seen what followed.

Dreyfuss in The Nation provides a good analysis of the speech and I make mine his conclusion: "Okay, it's a speech. But it's a good start." I scrolled down and looked at some of the comments on Dreyfuss' text. I found one that is illustrative of the challenges ahead. Here's what that reader wrote:

"This was pure political spin in an art form. Obama ... will even help with the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people if it will draw him acceptance among those who are in greater number (the Muslims) ...Christians and Jews should be concerned about what levels this man will sink to, in selling out to Islam."

I'm not naive about where Islam is at in its history and the diversity of expressions it has found and--let's face it--as other religions have in the past and still do, it is faced with a few monsters it hasn't tamed yet. Yet, to hear/read Obama's speech and come out with the sense that Obama "will help with the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people" shows a degree of paranoia which is dangerous and pathological.

Unfortunately, this paranoia still exists and it drives a pathological action-reaction downward spiral of death and hopelessness. (See past blog entry.) This is why the US has such a role to play as the foremost ally of Israel in forcing change in Palestine and reassuring Israel. But reassuring does not mean enabling or legitimizing every crazy impulse.

For today however I will take this speech as a small possible sign of hope.
And pray that hope becomes reality.

Salaam - Shalom.


A Palestinian shop owner displays mugs for sale with portraits of US President Barack Obama at a souvenir shop in Gaza City on Sunday (AP photo by Hatem Moussa). Source:

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