There’s a lot to talk about in President Obama’s long-awaited Cairo speech (the text and video is here). I’ll stick to the part about Israel and the Palestinians. Start with this:
Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust…
On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people – Muslims and Christians – have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations – large and small – that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable.
The implied equivalence — even the mere comparison — is obscene. Nobody shot and gassed six million Palestinians to death, and European Jews did not start and lose a war against Germany. The fact that the head of the dominant Palestinian clan at the time (and the closest thing to a national leader they had), Haj Amin al-Husseini, was a friend and admirer of Hitler adds to the irony. What was Obama thinking?
Note also the discussion of “sixty years…occupation”. Of course Obama would say that he meant the occupation since 1967…wouldn’t he?
Apparently the theme of the speech is making equivalences. Here’s another:
For decades, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It is easy to point fingers – for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought by Israel’s founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: the only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.
I suppose there’s no hope of getting beyond false symmetries. Politics is the art of saying “both sides, blah, blah”, someone said. But let’s look at these aspirations:
- Israel aspires to live in peace in the Middle East as a Jewish state. Its history of readiness for compromise shows that borders are less important than peace and security.
- Palestinians aspire to rule “from the river to the sea”. A Jewish state of any size in this area is unacceptable to them.
Again there is no comparison. Israel does not deny the principle of Palestinian self-determination (insofar as it can be realized without destroying Israel). But the Palestinians even deny that there is a Jewish people.
This explains why negotiations to produce a two-state solution have so far failed: Palestinians have always demanded conditions that would not allow Israel to exist as a Jewish state.
On the subject of Iranian nuclear ambitions, he said,
…any nation – including Iran – should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That commitment is at the core of the Treaty, and it must be kept for all who fully abide by it. And I am hopeful that all countries in the region can share in this goal.
A hint that he would like to see Israel, too, sign the treaty and give up her nuclear deterrent? Again we see the false equivalence: as if there is any comparison between Israel’s maintaining a true deterrent force in the face of regional hostility, and Iran’s intention to create a nuclear shield for its proxies!
Here’s a final juxtaposition:
To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, and to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel’s right to exist.
At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel’s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine’s. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.
So Hamas refuses to accept Israel’s right to exist, and demonstrates that with suicide bombers and Qassam rockets. “At the same time,” Israel ‘denies Palestine’s right to exist’ by …building homes within existing settlements! And some of these ‘settlements’ are better described as neighborhoods of East Jerusalem.
This is expressed in a somewhat unfortunate way. Read literally — as the Arabs will do — this implies that any Jewish presence in the area of the 19-year Jordanian occupation is illegitimate and must ‘stop’.
But even if we understand it to refer to construction, then an addition to an existing building inside an East Jerusalem neighborhood is not distinguished from establishing a hilltop outpost in Samaria. Both must stop, according to the President.
As an aside, this is absurd. Jews lived in East Jerusalem until they were killed or expelled by the Jordanians in 1948, as part of a war of aggression and conquest waged by Jordan. After Israel retook the territory in the defensive 1967 war, Jews moved back. Now they are “illegitimate?”
Throughout, Obama struggles to equate Israel with ‘Palestine’, so he can justify taking from one to give to the other. Of course, ‘Palestine’ will never be satisfied until there is nothing left of Israel — but apparently he is unable to see this.