Diminishing Hope: A Leading Palestinian Responds to Barack Obama

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Mustafa Barghouti is one of Palestine’s real gems — a former doctor turned political leader who previously ran for the presidency of Palestine. He now heads the Palestinian National Initiative and is an advocate of non-violent resistance against Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.
I interviewed Barghouti in my office yesterday, July 24, and found that while he was and remains an enthusiast for Barack Obama — his hope is being replaced by ‘disappointment.’
This for me was an incredible five minute exchange — but particularly disturbing was his comment that road blocks and barriers to movement before the Annapolis process started number 521. Today, there are 607. Settlements are growing at a faster pace after Annapolis than before. This is wrong.
These trends are destroying the possibilities of peace in the Middle East — and they are undermining America’s national interests as well as Israel’s own security situation.
For those interested, this morning I shared some of my own reactions to Barack Obama’s hugely attended Berlin speech and fascinating and important trip to Europe and the Middle East with Democracy Now‘s Amy Goodman.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

39 comments on “Diminishing Hope: A Leading Palestinian Responds to Barack Obama

  1. bruce says:

    The West Bank and Gaza Ghetto are Occupied Territories according to international law and countless UN resoultions Israel has continuously ignored.Only “disputed” in The minds
    of Israel and her supporters.
    It is important to note that these illegal settlements are exclusively Jewish,and are connected by roads that are also exclusive.The IDF supports the whole ROTTEN system and is let loose on the Non Jewish captive Palistinian populace corralled in Israel designed Ghettos.The Aim is to make the lives of these Non Jews so insuferable as to drive them off their lands and bring in Jewish Israelis.
    Now if you build an Apartheid society not too many would argue it’s not wrong,but the Israeli model is Funded buy things like tax free Israel Bonds and other slippery financial intsruments with origins MOSTLY in these United States.
    Furthermore,Israel receives over $10 million a day in US DOLLARS that we know of.Unique in the annals of US foriegn aid:US “CASH” is deposited in the Israeli treasury at the begining of each year,and the US tapayer pays the interest on that Borrowed money.Israel invests in turn that New money and collects interest.How sweet ’tis.
    According to the Christian Science Monitor,the cost of Israel to the American TAXpayer has been over $1.3 TRILLION since 1973.

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  2. ConradH says:

    The video attached to this article seems to have disappeared. Would it be possible to repost it so that we could view it for a while longer? Thank you.

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  3. WigWag says:

    Puns heinous, indeed! (LOL)

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  4. questions says:

    Well, I tried brushing up on Shakespeare, but gave up for fear of puns heinous. So I guess you could kick me in the Coriolanus.

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  5. WigWag says:

    And yes, Cole Porter could be hot too!

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  6. WigWag says:

    Well, now Sweetness is taking things to a whole new level. Yes that Shakespeare was hot! I could mention some lines from Midsummers Night Dream, Romeo and Juliet and even King Lear that are scorching. But my guess is that Steve would like to keep his blog’s PG rating. And who knows, there could be kids reading.
    Sweetness, if you haven’t read Canterbury Tales, I highly recommend it. A contemporary translation is fine. Chaucer could make Shakespeare blush!

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  7. Sweetness says:

    How about this line. Whom is this one for?
    “When your baby is pleading for pleasure
    Let her sample your Measure for Measure”

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  8. questions says:

    Nice passages! Actually I had in mind Isabella’s forgiving Angelo and the Duke for their complicity in Claudio’s “death” at the request of Mariana. How can she forgive? How can she not?
    Also, look at Angelo’s failure to forgive and the problems that causes; and to complicate things, consider the Duke’s failure NOT to forgive and thus to let the city go down the tubes.
    Every character has a set of flaws that demands both forgiveness and correction, not death. Even Barnardine ought not die until he’s ready. And yes, Lucio has to marry the woman who is pregnant with his child.
    So responsibility, David S’s point, and forgiveness, my point, need to come together somehow for there to be peace, at least if this particular play has any insight.

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  9. WigWag says:

    Or did you mean this about the Israelis?
    “O! it is excellent
    To have a giant’s strength, but it is tyrannous
    To use it like a giant.” (Measure for Measure: 2.2.107)
    Or did you mean this about the Palestinians?
    “I am a kind of burr; I shall stick.” (Measure for Measure: 4.3.193)

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  10. WigWag says:

    Measure for Measure, 5. 1
    “They say, best men are moulded out of faults,
    And, for the most, become much more the better
    For being a little bad.”
    Let’s hope so!

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  11. questions says:

    I have occasionally thought that what really needs to happen is for one side or the other to become totally irrational — to refuse to take action after attack, to forgive the unforgiveable (a theme in Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure). But because there are so many individuals who are not controlled by a government (on both sides), it seems likely that the tit-for-tat attacks will go on. And when individuals don’t seem to be doing much, groups can take over, and even the governments take part. (This latest round of settlement building is a bit much even for me.)
    Or if “rationality” stays put, how do you make it so expensive for a suicide bomber that he or she chooses not to bomb? Israel has tried this with the bulldozer, and it looks like a couple of Palestinians have tried as well. Cost doesn’t seem to be an issue, and so actions that appeal to cost/benefit calculations will fail. This may be the singular failure of Israel’s strategy.
    Maybe we should all bone up on Measure for Measure. It’s a wall against hopelessness.

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  12. David S says:

    Thank you “questions.” I am neither advocating any prospective move/strategy by the Palestinians only to say that they hold quite a bit of power, too.
    I will say that a terrorist option that indiscriminately kills helps no one. Israeli sympathy extends as far as its security. And after decades of violence and wars–including when Jordan “occupied” (that must be accurate if that is what Israel is purportedly doing) the West Bank from 1948-67–Israel cannot be blamed for taking such a hardline position. Its citizens and Jews around the world are always being targeted by terrorists.
    Call it a “chicken and egg” conundrum if you wish. Call it hopeless? I sure hope not.

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  13. questions says:

    Nice point David S. I think the reason that your points are not as widely discussed is that a lot of people can identify with the absolutely desperate straits the Palestinians live with, can understand how an individual could so easily be motivated to become violent in such a situation. Non-violent resistance a la King and Gandhi would certainly be an interesting option to think about, but this kind of resistance works better when there’s an audience primed to be sympathetic, when the protesters can organize and have a really disciplined leadership. I’m not sure that non-violence would work for the Palestinians, but I do think resistance is really called for.
    For your point to hold, you have to deny occupation and the strangle-hold Israel has on the Palestinians’ chances for any kind of well-being. This is a hard position to maintain. Your only argument, then, would have to be that the Palestinians ought to engage in non-violent protest. Perhaps.

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  14. David S says:

    What amazes me throughout this string of notes is that suggestion that the Palestinians and their allies play no role in the outcome of their destiny.
    No one mentions the attacks in Jerusalem by the construction workers out to kill people intentionally. Doesn’t Palestinian acts of evil (terrorism, etc.) or good (economic collaboration, etc.) play a role in the process? What about the foreign funding for Palestinian terrorism? What about the Hamas charter that calls for the destruction of Israel?
    So when we all talk about Obama, the peace process, and related issues the assumption that Israel or “American Jews” could resolve this with the snap of a finger needs to be tamped down. Otherwise, this is similar to general scapegoating of Jews who have superpowers to have a disproportionate effect on the outcome of events.

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  15. Sweetness says:

    I don’t want to disagree with Dan Kervick too strenuously…more
    like bat the ball around a bit.
    You are correct that most of the president’s job is probably
    directing the sprawling administration. On this point, I’m
    confident Obama will appoint much better people to the various
    posts than Bush did, and the problems with political cronyism
    leading to extreme incompetence and illegality (in the case of
    DOJ) will be gone (hopefully). Moreover, much of the illegality
    relating to supposed presidential powers will be rolled back. I
    have complete, though perhaps unfounded, confidence that this
    will happen when Obama is sworn in.
    However, I have no doubt that any of the Democratic candidates
    would have done the same on this score, or better. Certainly
    Biden or Dodd knows his way around these corridors and knows
    whom to call on better than Obama. Even Hillary, I have to say,
    probably surpasses Obama on this score.
    Though I admit that Obama has helmed a superb, almost
    flawless as these things go, campaign, I’m not sure he’s the one
    I’d pick as a chief administrator. And I have to say that there are
    obvious differences between a campaign and the executive
    branch of government. For one thing, on a campaign, the
    candidate is, more or less, king. What he says, goes. At least he
    has the right to pursue that course. When you get to the
    executive branch, there are many vested interests, and the
    public is constantly weighing in on the issues the departments
    decide. So Obama’s outstanding campaign leadership may or
    may not be transferrable to the task of governing. To the task
    of getting something done. But yes, a very good start.
    As to the risks he took, I would quibble. All the candidates took
    risks in running, and some, I believe, have run more than once.
    The irony here is that, I believe Obama felt/intuited/was told he
    had a REAL chance of winning (as opposed to Kucinich who had
    no chance of winning) and thus might have blown it by running
    (as you suggest). So he had to think carefully about whether this
    was the right time. Jesse Jackson, I believe, also made the point
    that he ran a big risk in NOT running now. That this was indeed
    “his time,” and if he didn’t run, his moment would have passed,
    and 8 years from now, he’d be confronting an entirely different
    electorate. So he took a risk in running; but not running would
    also have been a risk in his eyes.
    The unity message was “test-marketed” with a vengeance in his
    2004 convention speech. I still believe that was the most
    important speech of his life (to date). That speech made him a
    star in the Democratic party. It also had the big advantage of
    being exactly what Obama believes to be true, IMO. So while the
    netroots scream every time Obama moves to the middle, this is
    EXACTLY what his position has ALWAYS been since he first
    appeared on the national scene. He is not a down the line
    progressive; at least that is not how he operates. That may be
    his general direction (I believe it is), but he doesn’t stake out a
    straight line of positions and moves.
    But consider this: This is why the netroots scream, but this is
    also why the centrist Democrats and some Republicans and
    Independents find him palatable and even admirable. The last
    time the netroots made something happen was when Lamont
    lost to Lieberman who was running as an independent. So
    Obama might have calculated (rightly) that it was better to piss
    off the roots and pick up the centrists, Republicans, and
    Independents IF he wanted to WIN, which he did.
    So, in fact, it would have been a bigger risk to have pleased the
    folks who post on this blog and TPM–probably.
    I agree with you wholeheartedly about Obama’s trip, but note
    that this falls into the bully pulpit category. Words. Defining
    the debate. Setting out a big vision and clear direction.
    Inspiring people to think and act differently.
    So this is my main point, and you’ve written about this
    elsewhere. The big issues that confront us: nuclear proliferation;
    the Middle East in all its forms; global warming; dwindling
    resources; healthcare for all…all exacerbated by a mushrooming
    population and economies coming into their own…all get
    tangled up in dialectical arguments in which one side gets pitted
    against the other side and neither side can prevail. Busting
    through the old categories, the old ways of thinking about
    issues, and then following up with actions that implement this
    new way of thinking may be the most important service he can
    render the country and the world.
    This goes beyond legislation. But when you think about it, many
    of these issues have been stalled at the legislative stage, so I’m
    not sure I’d agree with your division of labor after all.

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  16. Mr.Murder says:

    To bring walls down in Jericho, you marched there and blew the trumpet there.
    Doesn’t mention anything about Berlin…

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  17. PacificCoastRon says:

    I have no time, so I’m just going to give a huge thanks to Dan K for his lesson in creation and distribution of political influence, while noting that I have tried, and will try harder in my future organizing efforts in this area, to maintain a narrative that can contribute to, as Dan put it, “the ability to build a disciplined grass roots organization that could effect these changes without becoming at the same time a refuge and platform for every two-bit anti-semite and conspiracy theorist in the country.”
    Our propaganda will be best based on the golden rule: American foreign policy should not demand any other nation to perform actions or take positions America herself would not be willing to perform. The best consensus under FDR and early Truman tried to a least keep a pretense of this, but the path was lost somewhere around ’49-51 and we have long trodden the path of empire, which eventually requires a heavy price on the freedom and prosperity of the citizens of the imperial regime.
    Anyway, I just have to remind wigwag of our previous discussion probably in May, that judging as a person who’s been involved in numerous non-funded organizing efforts, Obama definitely knows how to organize AND HE ORGANIZED A POLITICAL VEHICLE THAT BEAT THE CLINTON/DEM ESTABLISHMENT MACHINE.
    In my narrative, based on my trademarked brand of scientific analysis, Obama is the guy who independently discovered, and internalized, all the true wisdom of the science of management, just to get to the point that he could be considered to be a candidate to be the editor of the Harvard Law Review. This is one case where our challenge is to trust our judgment of character (while keeping in mind Dan K’s analysis of the power dynamics of the situation) I’d certainly rather have a beer with Obama than McCain, AND to really organize a true countervailing political movement. I’ve had much to say on this in my previous posts, and hope to have positive announcements to make in the future.

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  18. Dan Kervick says:

    I disagree somewhat with the notion that the president’s main role is to be a sort of national salesman or motivational coach charged with convincing others to pursue a particular national direction or agenda. Those bully pulpit functions are certainly very important, but they relate mainly to the president’s role as an initiator and shepherd of a legislative agenda. My estimation is that the legislative role is only about a quarter to a third of the president’s job. The president role is primarily to head of the executive branch of the federal government, a governmental operation that has become a vast and sprawling enterprise, touching almost every aspect of our daily lives. That chief executive job includes being the commander and chief of the most powerful armed forces in the world, as well as of all the many federal departments and agencies charged with implementing and enforcing the myriad of laws that are already on the books.
    So selecting a president means selecting a chief for the executive branch, which carries massively important responsibilities that would exist even if the president never had to submit any legislation to Congress, or work it through. My guess is that the bulk of a president’s day is devoted to executive branch responsibilities, not legislation. Certainly a large part of the public’s dissatisfaction with Bush is related to his abject failure to manage the executive branch of the federal government competently. The event that broke the back of his administration, in my opinion, was not the Iraq war, but Hurricane Katrina. Katrina revealed Bush’s fundamental incompetence in all its undeniable glory. After Katrina, the left’s message that Bush was bungling and our national security policy finally got traction and broke out of its partisan corner, and became the opinion of the majority of the country.
    One reason was that I have been attracted to Obama as a candidate is that he has stuck me as a person with natural leadership abilities, who knows how to manage and direct a large governmental operation. Obama’s campaign has been smartly run and well-organized, and he has impressed me with his ability to keep calm and on an even keel, to stay focused on long-range goals and a consistent agenda, and to resist the temptations to run erratically here and there in response to the crisis of the day. Obama seems to be a good listener, with good judgment and confidence in his judgment, who thinks carefully about decisions, but once having made them sticks to them and sees them through. He is also a solid “people person”. One think that worried me about Edwards was that he struck me as a bit of a loner, who saw himself as a voice in the wilderness railing against the corrupt powers that be. That’s a good trait for a class action lawyer, no doubt, but not for a chief executive.
    McCain does not impress me as a man with a presidential temperament. He seems hot-tempered and disorganized, and somewhat undisciplined. McCain’s campaign has seemed to be a bit of a mess. His message is erratic. He seems disinterested in his staff and their behavior outside his campaign. His “maverick” tendencies seem more suited to a man who likes to be his own guy in the legislative arena, who likes to shoot from the hip, and who doesn’t really like the responsibilities of managing people or disciplining his message. He also strikes me as an impulsive and imprudent man, with a vindictive streak, who can’t be trusted to be a sober overseer of our national security, but is likely to get drawn into dangerous pissing contests with foreign leaders he doesn’t like.
    On the topic of Obama’s political courage, it strikes me that Obama has taken several notable risks. One risk was just running for president. The Democratic Party is notoriously unforgiving of losers, and ever since they moved away from the smoke-filled room days into a primary system, their candidates only seem to get one shot. Obama was a rising star in the party, but many felt it was not yet his time. It was also widely believed that Clinton was the unbeatable front-runner. It was quite ballsy of Obama to roll the dice on this election season. And his victory over the Clinton machine, a machine forged during a two-term presidency, and that was virtually identical to the institutional Democratic Party, is really quite amazing. Obama didn’t win by being a firebrand insurgent, but by building almost from a scratch an entirely new political machine that conducted a well-organized ground game across the entire country.
    Another risk Obama took was with his message. The national unity message that turned out to have such great appeal was not at all very popular among Democrats in 2006 and 2007. Activist Democrats were much more inclined to go with a vigorously partisan message driven by angry-as-hell bloggers. Obama pissed off large sections of the activist left blogosphere, which regarded itself as “the movement”, by his failure to turn to them and ingratiate himself with them. He kept those folks at arms length, and largely relied on his own internet operation. This turned out to be a very smart move, but it was not at all the obvious move for a Democratic candidate to make back in early 2007.
    The decision not to endorse health care mandates was also risky. Mandates are very popular with Democrats, but I suspect would have been a general election burden. I think Obama showed a lot of discipline and foresight in resisting building them into his plan, and it hurt him a bit in the primary campaign.
    The willingness to discuss long-term issues with the Social Security trust fund, and to propose extending the payroll tax to deal with them, was also risky. I had several heated arguments with Democrats who thought that even to mention Social Security was to play into Republican hands, and flirt with the notion that there is a Social Security crisis. Obama took much heat for this position during the primary season. As far as I can tell, the reason Obama brought this up was not to pander to Democratic primary voters, since it was not very popular with them. He brought it up because he sincerely believes there is a long-term problem here that must be dealt with. Whether you agree with him or not, you can’t say he just took the safest path of least resistance for winning the nomination. The above two moves earned Obama the wrath of some very influential figures on the democratic side, like Paul Krugman. They weren’t politically easy moves to make for a guy trying to win a nomination battle.
    This recent trip abroad also carried a number of risks. It offered abundant opportunities for unpredictable events and gaffes. It was also quite risky in that Obama knew this trip could be seen as a premature self-arrogation of a properly presidential role, even before he is elected, and could thus play into the “arrogance” charge (i.e. uppity charge) that McCain is trying to use against him. So, the trip was quite an “audacious” move. This impresses me. Leadership doesn’t just fall into a person’s lap. A leader is a person who steps into a vacuum of organizational or popular direction, seizes the day and the opportunities, and is willing to accept the responsibilities that go with them. Not everyone is willing to step out onto the world stage, with two continents watching, and make a bold play for a global leadership role. The trip could have backfired severely in any number of ways, and Obama knew it. But he took that risk anyway.
    He also didn’t pander to the Europeans while there, but expended some political capital by asking Europeans to step up and contribute more to the Afghanistan effort. The Afghanistan operation is deeply unpopular in Europe, especially on the left. So the call wasn’t going to win him a lot of friends over there, and probably put a little dent in his left-wing darling staus. But refocusing attention on Afghanistan is part of his campaign agenda, and he stuck with it before an audience likely to be hostile to it. He also faced some tricky political challenges in meeting with center-right leaders in Germany and France, and establishing good relationships with them that will hopefully carry over into his presidency, while at the same time maintaining his popularity with the left. He handled the whole thing with great aplomb, and a deft touch.

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  19. Sweetness says:

    Wig,
    Well, I wrote you a long response and then hit the wrong button
    and “poof!” But questions is saying basically the same thing I was
    saying, but much more concisely, so that’s good enough.
    My view is that a president is largely a super salesperson for ideas
    and a direction for the country. His primary qualification must be
    his ability to convince others–move them–and Obama has that
    ability more abundantly than any of the other candidates.
    But I fully recognize that I may rue the day I voted for him. But I’m
    not going to vote for McCain, and I’m not going to sit out (which is
    basically the same thing).

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  20. questions says:

    Discourse-changing is precisely “presidenting” (sorry, I make up words like that as I see fit…)
    Given that Obama has said in the past that the treatment of the Palestinians matters, and he has said that justice matters, and he has said that governmental transparency matters, and that disclosure works well as a basis for public policy, I think there’s enough evidence to suggest that indeed he’ll be competent at changing discourse in ways that I, personally, like. The Europe speech was so nicely counter to the “freedom fries” crap and the “go it alone” crap that has dominated our discourse for the last 7+ years that, again, I assume Obama will carry through with policies that don’t assume the US is the only country on the planet. (And before any president has a record of being president, all we can ever do is “assume”.)
    (On China, I hesitated on that one, put it in parentheses and added a qualifier!)
    It’s not worth going on about this forever, so I’ll let you get the last word in on the next go!

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  21. WigWag says:

    Questions, I agree with what you have said about Israel and J street.
    I disagree with you about China and about Senator Obama.
    China may be many things, but it has not been genuinely left wing for a long, long time.
    Senator Obama may be good at changing the narrative; but as far as I can tell, we have no evidence that he is good at anything other than talking (which, after all, is what “changing the narrative” is all about). Reagan was a good talker too. He changed the narrative about the Cold War from that articulated by Jimmy Carter. It didn’t make Reagan a good president and it doesn’t mean Obama will be a good president either.
    We also know that Obama is a good enough politician to secure his party’s nomination. But so were the current George Bush and the previous George Bush. That didn’t make either of them good presidents and it’s not a reason for us to think that Obama will be a good president.
    I still don’t see any evidence to suggest that Obama is capable of doing a good job. And I just don’t get the “intuition” thing whether it comes from the left about Obama or the right about Bush (or Putin).

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  22. questions says:

    WigWag,
    What Obama does that is utterly useful is to change narratives. A president has a fair amount of power to shape how we talk and think about issues. No one in the public, prior to Reagan, cared about deficits, and suddenly 3/4 of the country is walking around saying “Hey, I have to balance my budget EVERY month. Uncle Sam should too.” Similarly, Bush has us all “War on Terror”ing.
    When Obama says that, yes there’s an individual right to gun ownership, and yes there’s an urban interest in restricting guns, he’s working on changing the discourse. If the democratic party can be made safe for at least a percentage of the NRA membership, then the dems have a real chance of gaining power. And further, there really is a deep gun culture in part of the country and a deep anti-gun culture in another part. We live together and our language has to reflect that.
    The JStreet people have already shown that there is a large constituency of Jewish people in this country who support the Palestinian cause. Finding a non-threatening discourse to allow this sentiment to become standard without threatening the other side is THE task. And since Obama is actually fairly talented at finding ways to say things between postitions, it makes sense to think that he might actually be able to shift US discourse and therefore US policy. Of course, it means supporting the LEFT in Israel rather than the right, and I’m not sure we’ve ever deeply supported a leftist government (perhaps excepting China.)
    I’m not at all convinced that aiding the Palestinians will lessen the terrorism issue, though. I think there is little deep pan-Arabism or pan-Islamism motivating attacks. My money is on instigators who are happy to benefit from any issue they find, and they will always find an issue. But just for humanity’s sake, the Palestinians need stability to rebuild viable economic, educational, industrial and agricultural institutions.

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  23. WigWag says:

    The comments made by Dan Kervick and Sweetness are really very smart, but one comment made by Sweetness really jumped out at me.
    “I take him at his word that he will work for a just solution from the moment he enters office. I sense he has the acumen, sensitivity and perseverance to keep tacking, and keep the
    parties tacking and talking, until a solution is reached.”
    I can’t help but wonder why Sweetness would take Senator Obama at his word. Has Obama done anything in partiuclar in his career to suggest he is trustworthy? Is there some particular incident that can be sited, where despite the political perils, Obama actually did something brave (not said something brave, but did something brave)? What exactly has the Senator ever done to earn this trust? And if he’s never done anything to earn his supporter’s trust, why is he, unlike every other politician, entitled to it based on faith alone?
    Sweetness says s/he senses the Senator’s acumen, sensitivity and perseverence. Didn’t most of us sneer when George Bush made a similar comment? This is what President Bush said on June 16, 2001, (speaking of Putin)
    “I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straight forward and trustworthy…I was able to get a sense of his soul.”
    Sweetness, I am not attempting to belittle your comment, but this perfectly exemplifies what Obama detractors don’t get. Why is he any more entitled to trust based on your intuition than any other candidate? And why does this comment of yours make any more sense than the comment that President Bush made about Vladimir Putin? Or did you not sneer when Bush made this comment like many of the rest of us?

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  24. Sweetness says:

    Dan, your post is exceptional on many levels.
    The key thing about Obama is…he isn’t president yet. He has no
    power to do anything about this situation. A vibrantly correct
    speech on this issue would not contribute to a just solution for
    the Palestinians and would not help him gain the presidency
    where he has a chance of doing something about this issue.
    My sense about Obama is that he straddles the middle on a
    number of issues because he sees that straddling is the best way
    to move forward in a liberal direction. He also sees that simply
    joining one side doesn’t help that side win the day. It does no
    good to adopt one side of the debate because it merely hardens
    the dichotomous nature of the debate and the conflict.
    On many of issues of this sort, he tacks in order to avoid getting
    trapped on one side of intransigent arguments. This disappoints
    many of his supporters because, from time to time, he takes “the
    wrong” position. But his goal, as I see it, is to avoid getting
    trapped in a dialectic from which there is no escape. Were there
    an escape to a just solution, it would have been taken by now.
    Basketball is a useful metaphor here. It is seldom that a player
    simply goes directly at the basket. He tacks; he weaves; he
    passes; he feints…and eventually he gets close enough to dunk
    the ball. There is the occasional three pointer when the
    opposition is caught flat-footed; but this happens more often in
    basketball than in real life.
    I take him at his word that he will work for a just solution from
    the moment he enters office. I sense he has the acumen,
    sensitivity and perseverance to keep tacking, and keep the
    parties tacking and talking, until a solution is reached.
    He has the ability to talk over the heads of the Jewish
    establishment to the larger Jewish community to build (or
    support) a consensus among American Jews about the justness
    of this cause and the need for a broad Jewish consensus on the
    need or a just, two-state solution. He can appeal correctly to
    their historic and abiding love of justice and commitment to
    pursuing it. He can also show, again rightly, how it is the right
    way to truly support Israel and dissolve this false dichotomy.
    I would disagree with Dan in a more general way. Steve doesn’t
    have to get down in the grassroots to build or support public
    opinion for a two-state solutions. He can influence opinion
    leaders (many non-elected) and encourage them to speak out.
    The common man often looks to leaders to shape his own views.
    If he reads about this or that notable saying the US must do
    more to discourage Israel from expanding settlements and
    encourage them to take down the checkpoints–after all, we do
    give them billions in aid–and in general work toward a two-
    state solution, public opinion will shift.

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  25. Dan Kervick says:

    Yes, this business-as-usual approach from Obama to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.is all very dispiriting and disappointing, and I sympathize heartily with the frustrations voiced in some of the criticism. And yet, I am confused about precisely what courses of action the critics are recommending.
    The critics must have one of two beliefs: Either they believe Obama can win an election for the presidency while taking the harder line position against the settlements, or they believe he cannot.win an election for the presidency while taking that harder line position.
    If the critic thinks Obama cannot win the election while taking this harder line position, but wants him to take that harder line position anyway, then the critic’s position lacks political realism and is self-indulgent. Such critics would seem to be suggesting that Obama should crash and burn his campaign so that they can at least enjoy the temporary pleasure of hearing some candidate take a tougher position against Israeli policy.
    If however, some critics think that Obama can win the election while taking the harder line position, then I think they owe us some sort of account of exactly what sort of statement they think Obama should make, exactly what alternative policy he should endorse, and how he can make these changes in such a way as not to destroy his candidacy.
    Steve speaks obliquely of a “game-changing” speech That sounds suspiciously much to me like a “Hail Mary pass”. The idea seems to be that Obama could marshall his amazing rhetorical powers and give some magical speech that will shift large masses of the American public to a position of passionate sympathy with the Palestinian plight, or at least committed pragmatic opposition to Israel’s settlement policy, and at the same time effectively overturn the nearly unanimous and uniform media dominance of the opposing narrative.
    There is something remarkably unrealistic and unsophisticated, almost primitive, about this mindset: it reflects the hope for a miracle from above that will change everything. But politicians are not messiahs. They are public servants who achieve power by responding, by and large, to the preferences of powerful constituencies that have the power to deliver that office to them. Obama doesn’t have some magic, miracle speech up his sleeve – at least not one with the massive social power that is being imagined here. America in 2008 is characterized by widespread anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment, in many cases approaching genocidal hatred; widespread pro-Israel sentiment buttressed by a spiritual affinity among biblically-minded American Christians with the Jewish people, in turn grounded in a shared body of scripture and the historical prominence and special position of Jews in the Christian story; and an intensely committed and spectacularly well-organized movement of pro-Israel lobbying and activism that has the power to make sure the current levels of public, media and political support stay just where they are.
    We can’t look to politicians to be saviors. Politicians will, however, respond to large changes in the alignment of political forces, changes that organized activism is sometimes able to achieve. Until those who support a significant change in US policy toward Israel are able to build a sizeable constituency of sufficient political power to counter the influence of Israel’s lobbyists and powerful supporters, then these changes in US policy are simply not going to occur
    I think Steve is well aware of the price the US pays for its intransigent, unquestioning support for Israeli behavior in the West Bank, and for US policies that range from benign tolerance to enthusiastic support for Israeli actions that are deeply unpopular in the Middle East, and in most other places in the world outside of Israel and the US. And I think Steve also has a humane appreciation for those aspects of the Palestinian cause that are intrinsically worthy of moral support. Nevertheless, it appears to me that Steve really confines his work to discussions among elites, and has no interest in participating in the kind of grass roots activism and long-term ground game that would be necessary to shift the views of sizeable portions of the US public in the way that would have to occur to provide a counterweight to the powerful groups who are working the other side. I would note that it is not enough simply to shift those views. Nothing will change if 55% of Americans adopt the policy views that Steve and others are recommending, but if for 90% of that 55% the issue ranks about thirtieth on their list of concerns. That won’t cut it when there is a powerful lobby working the other side whose members rank the issue number one on their lists.
    In the middle of a very closely fought primary campaign this year, Barack Obama became the victim of a viral email campaign among American Jews and non-Jewish Zionists. He was suddenly confronted with a barrage of rumors about his alleged Muslim background and heritage, and his secret adherence to Islam. He was also attacked in less extreme terms as simply being bad for Israel. In city after city, he was increasingly faced with statements from prominent Jewish leaders about their concerns, and had to meet with those leaders and reassure them in a high-profile way. This, of course, stood in contrast to the pro-Israel bona fides of Hillary Clinton. Earlier in the campaign, when seven or eight candidates were still viable, Ha’aretz readers had been asked to rate the candidates in terms of how good they would be for Israel, and Obama came in near the bottom. There was a real chance that Obama’s campaign was about to go the way of Howard Dean’s. And it appears that as a result of these threatening developments, the pro-Israel machine was successful in getting Obama to knuckle under. The very day after he clinched the nomination, he gave a speech at the Aipac conference and prostrated himself thoroughly. It was rather embarrassing to watch this undignified and humiliating groveling. But that’s life in American politics. And can Steve really say with assurance that Obama calculated incorrectly, and that he could have gotten away with not pursuing this course?
    Those of us who hang around reading blogs have heard the alternative and dissenting messages about America’s Israel policy. But that message has not getting out there in the broader world. It can be found in some blogs, and in a few low-circulation magazines, and in a few academic departments, and in a few think tanks. But it is virtually invisible in the major print and televised media. An outside of a few liberal Christian churches, it is not heard from the pulpit.
    Someone like Steve, perhaps, could try to form a group with the aim of effecting the necessary changes in public opinion, through a massive campaign of public education and propaganda. Perhaps he and some big money backers with deep pockets could find some way of building and funding the alternative media machine that would have to be built to advance the dissenting message and actually make it both popular and passionately held. Does he want to do this? Does he have the fortitude to face the full-force barrage of smears, vituperation and attacks on his person and livelihood this would entail? Does he have the inclination to become Alan Dershowitz’s or Abe Foxman’s public enemy #1? Because make no mistake: that’s what we’re talking about. Look what happened to Jimmy Carter. And he is a former president!
    And by the way, does Steve or anybody else have the ability to build a disciplined grass roots organization that could effect these changes without becoming at the same time a refuge and platform for every two-bit anti-semite and conspiracy theorist in the country, which would thus discredit itself on a daily basis?
    It appears to me that the unpleasant and inconvenient truth is this: the people invested in supporting and extending the current policy of unflagging support for Israeli state decisions have the country by the balls. And as much as we can complain and get “pissed off”, and vent our anger among those who already agree with us, those folks really have us by the balls too. They now have Obama by the balls now as well. Very embarrassing. But what’s the solution?
    Some of these criticisms of Obama strike me as similar to the kind of phenomenon that old leftists referred to as “false consciousness”. In the hierarchical and authoritarian system of employment under capitalism, for example, the son sometimes hates his father. The son sees his father humiliated on a daily basis. His father is forced by his boss, and the conditions of his employment, to grovel and bootlick and submit. Why doesn’t he stand up to him? Why doesn’t he fight back? Why is he so weak? Well, one reason is that his father is trying to keep his job so that he can keep bringing home a paycheck for his son. The son is right to be angry, but his anger is directed at the wrong source. Maybe Obama could be stronger here; maybe not. But directing the bulk of the anger at Obama misses the point.

    Reply

  26. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Rather you like Ron Paul or not, his story certainly underscores what happens to a candidate that campaigns from a platform of unwavering conviction.
    The posturing we see from Obama is simply the result of a process that long ago ceased to be about integrity, honesty, or “change”. The character flaws that should disqualify a candidate are the very flaws that are required for ascendency to high office.

    Reply

  27. ... says:

    i like obama, but he has been sinking fast in my view on him too.. cave in on fisa was a big turning point.. his attitude towards the mideast is more of the same bullshit for the most part… he might get in, but he already is looking like a disappointment, perhaps a really big one…

    Reply

  28. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Carroll, I doubt the report will be released in its entirety. More likely, Jones will be retired.
    But even should the report be released, or leaked, it will have no effect on United States policy towards Israel. It is not as though we need further evidence with which to indict Israel, or the corrosive effect of Israel’s power over American foreign policy. This “report” can be compared to the constant “revelations” we are drowned in about Bush’s malfeasance and criminality. There are always those that jump on each additional bit of “evidence” and revelation as if it is the final straw that will bring down these criminals. The Downing Street Memo was the beginning of a long line of incriminating “revelations” that should have prompted our “representatives” to action. More recently, we have McClellon’s belated attempt to salvage his legacy, heralded here as a major development. (Pfffft). Even as we “speak”, Rove is ignoring a congressional subpoena, and is now accused of actually threatening witnesses in the investigation of the 2004 electoral fraud hearings. And of course, we have this constant barrage of books, allegedly exposing new information that is not new at all, many lauded here as if they are actually telling us that that we didn’t already know.
    Such too is the case with Israel. Only the very ignorant, or the despicably rascist and dishonest, can still deny Israel’s wanton crimes against Lebanon and the Palestinians. Shouldn’t the illegal and inhumane use of cluster munitions in Lebanon have told us all we need to know about Israel, and its ability to escape accountability for its grave and ongoing international crimes against humanity? Don’t we already have ample “evidence” and reports from a myriad of human rights organizations, as well as the Red Cross, and the UN, to draw conclusuions about Israel’s actions, crimes, abuses, and the complicity of the government of the United States?
    The report means nothing, Carroll. Just throw it in the same dustbin the rest of the evidence has been thrown.

    Reply

  29. Carroll says:

    If this report isn’t published it will be leaked.
    The people responsible for the continuing agression of Israel and their occupation of Palestine are our own corrupt government and the assorted zionist/jewish orgs in the US. Talking about this as simply “politics” belittles the situtation…this is about real people and children. This is a illegal occupation, collective punishment, war crimes and a slow motion genocide. Made in the USA and paid for by US taxpayers.
    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1004143.html
    Last update – 18:55 22/07/2008
    Israel fears scathing U.S. report on its West Bank policies
    By Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff
    Tags: Israel, West Bank, IDF
    The United States security coordinator for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, retired general James Jones, is preparing an extremely critical report of Israel’s policies in the territories and its attitude toward the Palestinian Authority’s security services.
    A few copies of the report’s executive summary (or, according to some sources, a draft of it) have been given to senior Bush Administration officials, and it is reportedly arousing considerable discomfort. In recent weeks, the administration has been debating whether to allow Jones to publish his full report, or whether to tell him to shelve it and make do with the summary, given the approaching end of President George Bush’s term.
    Jones was appointed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice following the Annapolis peace conference last November. His assignment was to draft a strategic plan to facilitate stabilization of the security situation, as a necessary accompaniment to Israeli-Palestinian final-status negotiations. In this context, he assessed the PA security forces in the West Bank, whose reform is being overseen by another American general, Keith Dayton. Jones has visited the region several times and met with senior Israeli government officials and army officers.
    Advertisement
    According to both Israeli and American sources, the envoy’s conclusions about Israel are scathing. Israelis who met with Jones on his most recent visit here a few weeks ago, including Israel Defense Forces officers, said their impression was that the report would be “very harsh, and make Israel look very bad.”
    Jones is apparently critical of Israel on two key issues. One is its fairly broad definition of its security interests in the West Bank under any final-status agreement. The other is its attitude toward the PA security services.
    However, the sources said, Jones also had some criticism for Washington: He said its efforts to reform the PA security services fell short and complained that U.S. government agencies are not coordinating their assistance for these forces. In addition, he reportedly concluded that the PA forces are not yet capable of effectively enforcing the law in the West Bank.
    The harsh criticisms contained in the executive summary are reportedly upsetting the Bush administration. Some senior U.S. officials are demanding that the full report not be published, so as not to create a storm in advance of the presidential elections in November. Jones, however, is apparently insisting that his full report be published,
    just as the report he issued last year on the Iraqi security forces was.
    Officials at the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv declined to comment

    Reply

  30. Zathras says:

    While I agree with most recent posters on this topic as to the things a Democratic Presidential candidate might be expected to say on a trip of this kind, this is a good example of the heavy lifting that Sen. Obama would have to do if he is actually elected President.
    I am not especially sympathetic to the Palestinian cause; it is highly unlikely that I would ever consider a Palestinian interest worthy of being considered before an American one. But Israeli settlements on the West Bank are not an American interest. Truth be told, they aren’t even an Israeli interest. They represent instead a cause sacred to one faction in Israeli politics that is able, due to the defective structure of Israel’s parliamentary system of government, to exercise outsized influence on a critical element of the Jewish state’s policy.
    Israel’s government is Israel’s problem; we can’t always help it when other governments, even friendly ones, are forced by domestic political infirmities to present a face of bad faith in their relations with others. But the West Bank settlements have repeatedly put American administrations in the position of making statements against them while making clear that we can’t do anything when Israel decides it wants to expand them. And, by the way, that the United States still supports a Palestinian state. Also, that the considerable aid America still sends to Israel is not an endorsement of settlements.
    This is absurd, and suggests just how heavy is the lifting an Obama administration would need to do in this area. We can’t expect any Mideast peace, ever, as long as Israeli settlements on the West Bank continue to expand, and none of these settlements serve any American interest whatever. Yet, to date, no American administration has been willing to risk a major confrontation with those Americans willing to subordinate the interests of their own country to those of an Israeli political faction on this issue (granted that some have had much more urgent issues to deal with, but settlements are the most urgent issue now).
    Does Barack Obama have it in him to be the first? I’m not that interested in the degree of his personal sympathy for one side or the other in the Mideast’s interminable quarrel, and I don’t want to hear any more stories about how the remarkable story of his upbringing shaped his sense of justice. What I want to know is whether Obama has the belly for a fight of this kind when the stake is something other than the political advancement of Barack Obama. Why should I believe he is up for insisting on the primacy of American interests in a place where doing so may earn him enemies abroad and provoke bitter controversy at home?

    Reply

  31. Al from NJ says:

    Free Concert by Popular Band Preceded Obama’s Big Rally
    By Robert Knight (Bio | Archive)
    May 20, 2008 – 17:16 ET
    News busters.org
    From CNN to the New York Times, the media hyped Barack Obama’s Portland, Oregon rally on Sunday, some comparing him to a rock star.
    Unmentioned in national reporting was the fact that Obama was preceded by a rare, 45-minute free concert by actual rock stars The Decemberists.
    There’s nothing wrong with a candidate using celebrity power to draw a crowd, but the media have a responsibility to report their presence. By ignoring the free concert, the Times and other outlets made it appear that 75,000 people were drawn only by Sen. Obama’s considerable charisma.

    Reply

  32. Alecki says:

    The reason many Democratic supporters will not vote for Obama is because they are embarrassed of him, his life, his unfair tactics and his beliefs. And they still don’t know all about him.
    1. They don’t want a candidate that has been in a twenty year relationship with Reverend Wright and the Trinity United Church of Christ.
    2. They don’t’ want a candidate that has a twenty year relationship with Father Pflaeger as his compass in life
    3. They don’t want a candidate that went to a church that supports Louis Farrakhan, an anti Semitic racist.
    4. They don’t want to defend Black Liberation theology.
    5. They don’t want a candidate that lies about his relationship with Tony Rezko, the Syrian Criminal that sold his property to Obama and supported his campaign.
    6. They don’t want a candidate that could work with a domestic terrorist, William Ayers.
    7. They don’t want a candidate that Hamas supports.
    8. They don’t want a candidate that Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam support
    9. They don’t want a candidate that has a wife that has just now realized she was proud of our country.
    10. They don’t want a candidate that denies Florida and Michigan their voices
    11. They don’t want a candidate that mentions 57 states in his speeches. 50 states in the USA and 57 states in the Nation of Islam (IOC website)
    12. They don’t want a candidate that fights unfair and steals Michigan delegate votes from his opponent.
    13. They don’t want a candidate that is inexperienced, especially dealing with military issues.
    14. They don’t want a candidate that considers it a loss to not to be able to attend his anti American, racist Church.
    15. They don’t want a candidate that has a “non practicing” Muslim father, but avoids the entire discussion of his father.
    16. They don’t’ want a candidate that won’t debate
    17. They don’t’ want a candidate that misleads the youth with an ‘Obama girl and her behind in their face”
    18. They don’t want a candidate that says he’s an African American and missed the MLK Remembrance Day and the Louisiana Black Caucus meeting
    19. They don’t want a candidate that enjoys laughing at sexism
    20. They don’t want a candidate that switches his position on gun control, FISA, the war in Iraq, religion and government….
    21. They don’t want a candidate that showcases his daughters on TV shows.
    22. They don’t’ want a candidate that has poor judgment.
    23. They don’t’ want a candidate named; Barack Hussein Obama
    24. He is embarrassing.
    25. He scares them to death.

    Reply

  33. Al from NJ says:

    He spoke more favorably about McCain.
    What do we expect this man to say about Americans.
    Obama not President.
    He’s an embarrassment acting like one.

    Reply

  34. Jim says:

    Israel’s rulers remain paranoid, feisty, and expansionist. Coinciding with Obama’s obsequious visit, Israel’s Defense Ministry revived plans to allow a new settlement at Maskiot, in the Jordan Valley.
    In conjunction with last November’s Annapolis summit, General James Jones agreed to serve as a special envoy. There are rumors that the Administration may have censored or suppressed his follow-up report.
    On the same day you interviewed Barghouti, the following discussion occurred at a Department of State briefing:
    _________________
    QUESTION: There’s a report in the Middle East that General James Jones presented a report to Secretary Rice about the security situation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, and it was very critical to Israel. Do you have anything about this?
    MR. GALLEGOS: Yeah. My understanding is that he is yet to publish a report. There are stories about drafts that have been released. The bottom line is the general has been there. He’s taken a look at the situation. He has the full support of the Secretary. We’re going to continue working through him and with him and we’ll see – ultimately see what is published.
    QUESTION: Does the President have a decision made on whether the full report will be published and public?
    MR. GALLEGOS: I don’t have any information on that (inaudible).
    SOURCE: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/mideastdigest/2008/107435.htm

    Reply

  35. Joe Klein's conscience says:

    Metteyya Brahmana:
    I’ll never understand why candidates of both parties have to bow to the lunatic fringe(which is what AIPAC is).
    Chris:
    You and I both know why they talk like Obama is president. Because absent some severe gaffe(What can knock him down if Rev. Wright didn’t?), Obama will win in November. McCain is a horrendous candidate. McCain has only had two challenging elections in his life. When he was elected to the House and then 2000. We know how that one went. This year wasn’t hard for McCain. Heck, he finished like 6th in Iowa(Which led Mike Allen of The Politico to label McCain, “The Comeback Kid”). The Republican field stunk this year.

    Reply

  36. lurker says:

    This was a powerful, candid interview Steve. Very powerful. And while it raised issues, it remained positive and respectful about Obama. You know your craft.

    Reply

  37. Metteyya Brahmana says:

    I think the illegal Israeli settlements issue was not addressed by either candidate, and it is peculiar that they haven’t been questioned on this important roadblock to peace by any journalist.
    From the Berlin speech, it is clear that Obama does not favor erecting more walls and barriers to peace and reconciliation, and favors compliance with international law. I would therefore suspect that he would oppose continued illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.
    On the Hamas question, Obama has made it clear that he opposes negotiating with Hamas, but this seems to contradict his consistent approach throughout his life of brining ALL interested parties to the bargaining table that have a stake in the outcome. He has also said that he will negotiate with “any” leader if he felt it would advance US interests. Hamas has already indicated that they would recognize the state of Israel within the 1967 borders, so if they can manage to actually maintain a ceasefire of rocket launches into Israeli territory, it would seem that Obama would be inclined to include them in the process.
    On Jerusalem, Obama favors a “united” Jerusalem, and this does not preclude a joint-capitol that is shared by both Israelis and Palestinians. With the common history and ancestry of Jews and Arabs as captured in the Biblical story of Abraham (Ibrahim in the Quran), at some point it is hoped that both Muslim and Jew will embrace their common heritage as brothers and live peacefully with each other.
    During a national US election, however, it is difficult to speak openly about these matters and get at the root of the issue, as the Israeli Lobby is still quite a powerful force in funding the elections of members of Congress in the US, and they continue to have strong allies in control positions in the mainstream American press.

    Reply

  38. Joe M. says:

    Chris,
    The reason your analysis is wrong is because we are not talking about mere policy differences, but war crimes and collective punishment. If Obama the way Israel treated the Palestinians was a normal policy debate, then i would agree with you. His duty would only be to take in information and clarify his policy positions. But Israel is a criminal state that is illegally occupying the Palestinians, and Obama systematically ignores that. It is obvious at this point that it is no accident he is ignoring the situation of the Palestinians. What he is doing is the equivalent of his going to Sudan and praising Sudan, while ignoring the situation in Darfur (or worse, cause the Israel/Palestine conflict is 60 years old).
    This is not a matter of policy at this point, but a matter of basic decency, basic humanity. Obama went to Sderot and condemned the rocket attacks, but he ignored the collective punishment of 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza, just a few meters away! This is a vial and disgusting act, not a mere policy that is to be utilized for political posturing.
    So when Barghouthi talks about Obama’s failures, he is doing so from a position of being a victim in crimes that Obama seems to be purposely ignoring or defending or supporting. It is not simply a matter of policy, but basic humanity.
    And honestly, even though I find myself generally supportive of Obama, acts like this, and his increasing belligerence toward Afghanistan are moving me into the Nader camp. If he doesn’t have the guts to stand up to these issues now, I don’t trust he will later.

    Reply

  39. Chris says:

    While I am sympathetic the fundamental problem with Barghouti’s comments is that, like others with similar criticisms that Obama didn’t make the “game changing leap,” he’s treating Obama as if he were already president. He isn’t the president! He’s a U.S. senator in the middle of a presidential campaign. I think what Obama did this week is truly remarkable and might even change the way future campaigns are run — it certainly can help the U.S. image abroad and could reap dividends should Obama actually become president — but the fundamental flaw here is that others are expecting Obama to do what it would really only be appropriate for a U.S. president to do. For Obama to give a major speech in Israel and spend an enormous amount of time in Palestine suggesting an end to conflict would have been the height of hubris. He is a U.S. Senator. He is not the president.

    Reply

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