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Is Obama a man of action as well as words?

  by: : Khalid Issa Taha

Is Obama a man of action as well as words?

It seems almost compulsory for American Presidential candidates to make a pilgrimage to Israel. Obama and McCain have both been photographed visiting Yad Vashem, the memorial to Holocaust victims. Obama made a speech equating Israel’s security with America’s security, stating that any attack on Israel would be viewed as an assault on America too. There can be no stronger pact than this between two countries.

America’s consistent practical and moral support for Israel has to be set in the context of the conflict with the Palestinians. Recently the embargo against Gaza has caused untold suffering as people die through lack of medicines and children are condemned to a life of malnutrition which will surely stunt their physical and psychological growth.

How can Obama re-orientate America’s foreign policy to take account of Palestinian suffering and frustration whilst maintaining a deep moral commitment to the Jewish state?

In the past America has been too keen to portray Arabs as violent and irrational – impossible ‘partners for peace.’ Successive American governments have ignored any Arab behaviour which does not fit this stereotype and have played on the image of Israel as the only democratic, ‘civilised’ state in the Middle East. This bias means that any overtures for peace from Arab governments or citizens are routinely overlooked or dismissed.

In reality advocates of a just peace between Israel and the Palestinians can be found both in Israel and the Arab world. Obama needs to reach out to these groups and individuals and open a dialogue with them wherever they are. All negotiations must be based upon the principle of land for peace.

Israelis citizens who crave both peace and a just settlement for the Palestinians were sidelined by the Bush administration – now Obama must bring them in from the cold and listen to their ideas and experience. These ‘peaceniks’ can provide a counter-weight to right-wingers such as Netanyahu and the vociferous Christian Zionist movement in America.

It also vital for Obama to talk with Hamas. The Hamas government was democratically elected and it makes a mockery of the West’s so-called commitment to democracy if such regimes are rejected just because their viewpoint does not fit that of America and European Union.

Obama as a black man has first hand knowledge of injustice and prejudice. He must take the passion for fairness and justice this has engendered in him and apply it to Israel and Palestine, a part of the world that has been denied justice for far too long.

People in the Middle East are hoping Obama is a man of action as well as words so that peace in the region can become a reality. Let us hope…

London 20.08.2008
Khalid Issa Taha
Chairman: Lawyers Beyond Borders Organization
Attorney at Law & Legal Consultant
Tel: +44 208 4642639 Fax: +44 208 3131241 Mobile: +44 798 9950640
26A, Letchworth Drive, Bromley South, Kent BR2 9BE ENGLAND