It is easy to dismiss Obama’s speech, and rightly so. Noam Chomsky points to the substantive trap the U.S. president finds himself in:
A CNN headline, reporting Obama’s plans for his June 4 Cairo address, reads ‘Obama looks to reach the soul of the Muslim world.’ Perhaps that captures his intent, but more significant is the content hidden in the rhetorical stance, or more accurately, omitted.
Keeping just to Israel-Palestine — there was nothing substantive about anything else — Obama called on Arabs and Israelis not to ‘point fingers’ at each other or to ‘see this conflict only from one side or the other.’
There is, however, a third side, that of the United States, which has played a decisive role in sustaining the current conflict. Obama gave no indication that its role should change or even be considered.
Those familiar with the history will rationally conclude, then, that Obama will continue in the path of unilateral US rejectionism.
But there is an edge, especially his criticism of Israel. Ha’aretz points to the problems Obama has with the new Israeli government:
During long, personal conversations with his inner circle over the past week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu admitted that he had no idea what US President Barack Obama would say in his speech in Cairo. “We have no information,” he said. He does now.
Netanyahu now understands what he already knew before the speech: The moment of political reckoning that he so feared is now rapidly approaching.
The thunder he hears in the distance is the sound of the Likud legions and the West Bank settler hordes rolling down the mountains. The light on the horizon is not that of a new day, but of a train coming right at him — a night train from Cairo.
Netanyahu will have to decide over the coming weeks whom he would rather pick a fight with: the powerful US administration, whose president sees himself in an almost messianic role, or his own coalition and members of his party.
In these circumstances it is easy to dismiss Obama’s words as rhetoric, and we know that he faces deep problems reconciling the tensions inside US imperialism with its Arab allies. But tension there is, caused by popular anger over Palestine and hatred of the Arab regimes.
But Obama is not Bush Lite… it is deeper than that. The U.S. hoped that its invasion of Iraq would project its power, instead it has laid bare its weakness.
If you turn the prism you can see the light refracted in a different way. Here is a black man trotting the globe apologizing for what the white men did. This is significant, because it will be the Israelis who will ensure that he fails.
For the record here is Obama’s speech.
Note the reference to the struggle against slavery… he is saying that the Palestinians are like the slaves in the U.S. Anyone familiar with this history will understand that those who helped the slaves are heroes.
Here is the Bush “axis” speech.