Ali Abunimah and Chris Gunness on RT’s CrossTalk discussing the Freedom Flotilla’s mission to break the siege of Gaza.
As David Cronin also puts it in the second clip (over the fold), “The European Union is chastising Israel with one side of its mouth, and kissing Israel with the other.” This London talk by Ali Abunimah and David Cronin was chaired by Oxford academic Dr Karma Nabulsi and hosted by Palestine Solidarity Campaign and KCL Action Palestine.
Barack Obama, the US president, has urged countries in the United Nations to get behind Middle East peace efforts in an address at the UN General Assembly. But Ali Hasan Abunimah, a Palestinian-American journalist and co-founder of Electronic Intifada, an independent web site about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, said Obama’s speech did not represent anything new. “That bodes very ill for the peace process that he’s so invested in,” Abunimah told Al Jazeera’s Shihab Rattansi, speaking from the US state of Indiana.
“Let’s judge him not by what he says, but what he does.”
Rehaviya Berman conducted an interview with Ali Abunimah, for Ha’aretz, a few weeks ago. The Interview was never published. Berman decided to publish it on his blog [Hebrew] and I decided to translate it, for your reading pleasure:
Exclusive: One On One with the Leader of the Electronic Intifada
Meet Ali Abunimah, the son of a Jordanian diplomat, a Palestinian activist, and the man who brings the hottest news of the struggle to thousands of people. His message: Forget two states, one will be tough enough to get it right.
The Interview before you was commissioned by one of the the big newspapers. For a reason that has yet to be clarified, this paper decided not to publish the interview. It’s published here, because it’s the opinion of the editor that it’s important that this be read by the Israeli public.
“First of all, it’s important for me to clarify that I’m not a leader, and I’m not interested in being a leader.” (more…)
The hope invested by many in Barack Obama has dissolved. Dare I sing ‘I told you so’? I do. The audacious hope of Obamamania was always faith-based, founded on the believer’s premise that the handsome candidate didn’t mean what he actually said, that we should read his words esoterically, as code for profound radicalism. Now reality bites, and we discover that his promises to AIPAC and the military were solid and literal.
It’s certainly something that a black man has become president of a country built by African slaves, although we must place this in the context of the fierce racist backlash since his election (would those guardians of the constitution raving about the tree of liberty being watered by the blood of tyrants be quite so eager to wear their guns on their sleeves if the president were white and not a jumped-up negro? I doubt it). But that’s the achievement of Obama’s skin colour, not his policy; in fact it’s the achievement of the people who voted for him. Another achievement is that – in the company of war criminals such as Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin and Henry Kissinger – Obama has already won the Nobel peace prize. Hooray!
Personally, I found it unpleasant to see Obama lecturing the Arabs, and the handpicked audience clapping ecstatically whenever the President (rather like Napoleon in Cairo) made an Islamic allusion. Most depressingly, Obama’s address was heavily influenced by the Bernard Lewis school of Orientalism – Arab and Muslim anger is caused by the cultural trauma of modernity and a “self-defeating focus on the past,” rather than by present realities, such as the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, the destabilisation of Pakistan and Somalia, the unwelcome military bases in the Muslim world, and the support of dictatorial regimes such as Mubarak’s. Obama’s assumptions repeated falsities, such as the notion that Arab regimes focus on Palestine to distract the people from their own failings. In fact the Arab regimes do everything they can to take the focus off Palestine, as the Palestinian tragedy is the key symbol of the bankruptcy of the client regimes. And Obama mocked violent resistance while not saying a word about the 1400 just killed in Gaza or the million slaughtered in Iraq.
The best response I’ve seen to the speech is by Ali Abunimah, posted here at PULSE, who studies Obama’s phrases well: “Suffered in pursuit of a homeland? The pain of dislocation? They already had a homeland. They suffered from being ethnically cleansed and dispossessed of it and prevented from returning on the grounds that they are from the wrong ethno-national group. Why is that still so hard to say?”
Ali Abunimah puts a bit of perspective on Obama’s call for a “new beginning” by taking to task the US President’s reference to “America and Islam”. This is the same old terminology in use by the Americans which refers to the former as a “concrete specific place”, with the latter reducing over a billion people to a “single, coherent entity” (to borrow a phrase from Edward Said).
Once you strip away the mujamalat – the courtesies exchanged between guest and host – the substance of President Obama’s speech in Cairo indicates there is likely to be little real change in US policy. It is not necessary to divine Obama’s intentions – he may be utterly sincere and I believe he is. It is his analysis and prescriptions that in most regards maintain flawed American policies intact.
Though he pledged to “speak the truth as best I can”, there was much the president left out. He spoke of tension between “America and Islam” – the former a concrete specific place, the latter a vague construct subsuming peoples, practices, histories and countries more varied than similar.