Obama's flip-flops

Ali Abunimah, the Palestinian-American whose work I greatly admire (and whose daily press round-up on Palestine, Iraq and the Middle East is a must-read), has written a great editorial on the implications for the Middle East that Bush's victory has. While I encourage you to read the whole thing, one of the most interesting parts of the article is about Barack Obama, the new superstar of Democrat politics, and how he has (like so many others before him) abandoned a nuanced stance on the peace process to endorse the Israeli position:

Against this background, Bush has shifted the goal posts of the Palestine-Israel debate such that Likudist thinking is now viewed as centrist. This was demonstrated by Kerry's campaign which warmly endorsed Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's policies. But the bankruptcy of the discourse was brought home in a most personally disappointing way.


Illinois swept Barack Obama, a rising star in the Democratic party, into the United States Senate with a stunning 70 percent of the vote - a rare Democratic gain. Obama, whom I've met many times, has served as my local state senator in the Illinois legislature. I found him to be an inspiring politician, not least because he appeared to understand Middle East issues and take progressive views supporting Palestinian rights and opposing militarism. He participated in many events in the Chicago-area Arab community including a 1998 fundraiser with Edward Said as the keynote speaker. I even made contributions to his campaigns.


But following Obama's nationally-televised address at the Democratic National Convention everything seemed to change. In the campaign's final weeks, Obama proclaimed his support for tough sanctions and military strikes against Iran if it refused U.S. demands to give up its nuclear programs. According to the Chicago Tribune, Obama now says that the onus of peace in the Middle East "is on the Palestinian leadership, which ... must cease violence against Israelis and work 'to end the incitement against Israel in the Arab world." The unique fact about Obama's campaign is that he did not need to parrot the pro-Israel lobby's standard line to get elected. He ran effectively unopposed. Such a capable and ambitious man must have calculated that any hope of higher office requires that he not offend when it comes to Israel and its interests. This begs the question: If a man like Obama will not speak frankly when it comes to Israel, what hope is there for a change in U.S. policy coming from within the establishment?


As they say in right-wing blogs, indeed.


Comment

Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.