Inheriting Bush's Blinkers

Obama and American liberals readily adopt positions on Israel that they would deem extremist and racist in any other context

"I would like to ask
President-elect Obama to say something please about the humanitarian
crisis that is being experienced right now by the people of Gaza."
Former Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney made her plea after
disembarking from the badly damaged SS Dignity that had limped to the
Lebanese port of Tyre while taking on water.

The small boat,
carrying McKinney, the Green Party's recent presidential candidate,
other volunteers, and several tons of donated medical supplies, had
been trying to reach the coast of Gaza when it was rammed by an Israeli gunboat in international waters.

as more than 2,400 Palestinians have been killed or injured - the
majority civilians - since Israel began its savage bombardment of Gaza
on 27 December, Obama has maintained his silence. "There is only one
president at a time," his spokesmen tell the media. This convenient
excuse has not applied, say, to Obama's detailed interventions on the
economy, or his condemnation of the "coordinated attacks on innocent
civilians" in Mumbai in November.

The Mumbai attacks were a
clear-cut case of innocent people being slaughtered. The situation in
the Middle East however is seen as more "complicated" and so polite
opinion accepts Obama's silence not as the approval for Israel's
actions that it certainly is, but as responsible statesmanship.

It ought not to be difficult to condemn Israel's murder of civilians
and bombing of civilian infrastructure including hundreds of private
homes, universities, schools, mosques, civil police stations and
ministries, and the building housing the only freely-elected Arab

It ought not to be risky or disruptive to US foreign
policy to say that Israel has an unconditional obligation under the
Fourth Geneva Convention to lift its lethal, months-old blockade
preventing adequate food, fuel, surgical supplies, medications and
other basic necessities from reaching Gaza.

But in the
looking-glass world of American politics, Israel, with its powerful
first-world army, is the victim, and Gaza - the besieged and blockaded
home to 1.5 million immiserated people, half of them children and
eighty percent refugees - is the aggressor against whom no cruelty is
apparently too extreme.

While feigning restraint, Obama has
telegraphed where he really stands; senior adviser David Axelrod told
CBS on 28 December that Obama understood Israel's urge to "respond" to
attacks on its citizens. Axelrod claimed that "this situation has
become even more complicated in the last couple of days and weeks as
Hamas began its shelling [and] Israel responded".

The truce Hamas
had meticulously upheld was shattered when Israel attacked Gaza,
killing six Palestinians, as The Guardian itself reported on 5 November. A blatant disregard for the facts, it seems, will not leave the White House with George Bush on 20 January.

Axelrod also recalled Obama's visit to Israel last July when he ignored Palestinians and visited the Israeli town of Sderot. There, Obama declared:
"If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters
sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that. I
would expect Israelis to do the same thing."

This should not
surprise anyone. Despite pervasive wishful thinking that Obama would
abandon America's pro-Israel bias, his approach has been almost
indistinguishable from the Bush administration's (as I showed in a longer analysis.

with Tony Blair and George Bush, Obama staunchly supported Israel's war
against Lebanon in July-August 2006, where it used cluster bombs on
civilian areas, killing more than 1,000 people.

Obama's comments
in Sderot echoed what he said in a speech to the powerful pro-Israel
lobby, AIPAC, in March 2007. He recalled an earlier visit to the
Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona near the border with Lebanon which he
said reminded him of an American suburb. There, he could imagine the
sounds of Israeli children at "joyful play just like my own daughters".
He saw a home the Israelis told him was damaged by a Hizbullah rocket
(no one had been hurt in the incident).

Obama has identified his
daughters repeatedly with Israeli children, while never having uttered
a word about the thousands - thousands - of Palestinian and Lebanese
children killed and permanently maimed by Israeli attacks just since
2006. This allegedly post-racial president appears fully invested in
the racist worldview that considers Arab lives to be worth less than
those of Israelis and in which Arabs are always "terrorists".

problem is much wider than Obama: American liberals in general see no
contradiction in espousing positions supporting Israel that they would
deem extremist and racist in any other context. The cream of America's
allegedly "progressive" Democratic party vanguard - House Speaker Nancy
Pelosi, House Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Howard Berman, New
York Senator Charles Schumer, among others - have all offered
unequivocal support for Israel's massacres in Gaza, describing them as

And then there's Hillary Clinton, the incoming
secretary of state and self-styled champion of women and the working
classes, who won't let anyone outbid her anti-Palestinian positions.

are not simply indifferent to Palestinians. In the recent presidential
election, their efforts to win swing states like Florida often involved
espousing positions dehumanising to Palestinians in particular and
Arabs and Muslims in general. Many liberals know this is wrong but
tolerate it silently as a price worth paying (though not to be paid by
them) to see a Democrat in office.

Even those further to the left implicitly accept Israel's logic. Matthew Rothschild, editor of The Progressive, criticised
Israel's attacks on Gaza as a "reckless" and "disproportionate
response" to Hamas rocket attacks that he deemed "immoral". There are
many others who do nothing to support nonviolent resistance to Israeli
occupation and colonisation, such as boycott, divestment and sanctions
but who are quick to condemn any desperate Palestinian effort - no
matter how ineffectual and symbolic - to resist Israel's relentless

Similarly, we can expect that the American university
professors who have publicly opposed the academic boycott of Israel on
grounds of protecting "academic freedom" will remain just as silent
about Israel's bombing of the Islamic University of Gaza as they have
about Israel's other attacks on Palestinian academic institutions.

is no silver lining to Israel's slaughter in Gaza, but the reactions to
it should at least serve as a wake-up call: when it comes to the
struggle for peace and justice in Palestine, the American liberal
elites who are about to assume power present as formidable an obstacle
as the outgoing Bush administration and its neoconservative backers.

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