Obama, bring an end to the double narrative

Israel/PalestineMiddle EastUS Politics
on 35 Comments

I'm in Cairo, about to walk across town to see my president address the Muslim world. I know there's a lot of cynicism and hopelessness about this speech. Not here. I think my president knows exactly what's going on.
Mr. Obama, end the double narratives of Israel and Palestine. One is a narrative of democracy, one is a narrative of dispossession. They originate here and they both have truth in them. Israelis have brought western institutions, but to Jews only, and Palestinians have been dispossessed and smashed again and again; and the west ignores their situation; and the narrative is all the Palestinians have, and it imprisons them.
Reader, over here I have discovered that I am something of a Tom Friedman or an As'ad AbuKhalil when it comes to the Arab states. Egypt is no democracy, and its glorious monuments are monuments to slavery and the oppressor (the pyramids). This place needs political reform, but the neocon error, which gave rise to this site, was the belief that it could be done by force and exalting Israel. It must be done by example; and of course the greatest example would be for the U.S. to begin to impose international legal standards on Israel's behavior.
A letter to Obama urging the enforcement of international law, written by the deputy foreign minister of Hamas, was carried out from Gaza yesterday by Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin, who had led an international delegation to the blasted territory. She is going to deliver it to the U.S. Embassy today. It invokes Obama's background as a legal scholar and calls on "enlightened" world opinion to bring international legal standards to "our ground zero," as Hamas calls Gaza.
I've been there. It is their ground zero.
It is amazing that a feminist antiwar group should become the intermediaries on such an important outreach– and in fact the letter contains an invitation to come to Gaza from Hamas. But such is the stranglehold  of the Israel lobby on our politics; everyone else is feckless, and so a group of pink-swathed feminists who joke with the Hamas security about their scary beards have become players.
The people in this part of the world are far better informed about the Israel lobby than Americans. Another pity.
The way to end the two narratives is to demonstrate the true greatness of liberal institutions to the Arab world. To bring justice, based on international legal standards, to the Palestinians.
Barack, you know this as well as I do. Open your heart to the Muslim world. I know you are bought and paid for, as any American politician is; but offer them glints of your understanding. It will be transformative.

35 Responses

  1. Michael LeFavour
    June 4, 2009, 9:30 am

    Reader to Mr Weiss,

    Those hags in pink are not players, they are ideological circus freaks. If your president gives them an ounce of credence it would only lend weight to the fact he is the ignorant buffoon his actions and deeds so far have proven him to be.

    There is a double narrative as you say, though. One is a narrative of truth and the other is a narrative of deception. The Arabs have shown intolerance again and again, from their slaughter of the Jews of Medina during Muhammad's day to their ugly war without any moral or humanitarian restraint against the Jews of Israel today. And the false projection is that the Jews have not brought anything of value to the Arabs. What monumental ignorance? It is activist dupes like Phillip Weiss who ignore reality that trap the Arabs in a carefully defended bubble of their own creation. They are imprisoned by a narrative that blames the Jews for the refugee problem while they and the Phillip Weiss' of the world fail to accept that the 7 Arab invading countries created the refugees are ultimately responsible for their just compensation. This begins with the false dichotomy being shilled that there is a "right of return" where the refugees are in their state of affairs because of Israel. They are not. They are a direct result of Arab countries invading Israel with the intention of committing genocide. Without the invasion no refugee would have been formed.

    As to being a Tom Friedman, your ego knows no bounds. Unlike you, Tom Friedman has a powerful intellect that comes through in his writing.

    Your call for the US to impose international standards is self defeating for your cause. To start with, as I mentioned, there is no right of return that is binding on Israel in international law. Even one way population movements such as the Germans refugees created by the ethnic cleansing in Poland after WWII have no mechanism for redress. Second, if we are going to follow international norms the majority of those Arabs claiming to be refugees are not actually refugees under international legal standards. There is no precedent in history for the definition of "refugee" used by the Arabs calling themselves Palestinian refugees. It is used for political purposes only, so a return to international accepted standards will actually benefit Israel, and it would also benefit the world greatly because the bottomless pit called UNWRA devours the majority of the UN budget. If we apply equal standards to this refugee situation very few of Arab refugees will remain labeled as such, which will have the beneficial effect of advancing peace. As it is, the faux refugees are used as a weapon to arm the gullible Phillip Weiss' out there to use as a whining point to uninformed Western audiences. After we apply the legal accepted definition of refugee to the Arabs we can move forward on discussing just compensation and the role 7 Arab states played in causing an internal conflict to become an international conflict and war of survival for the Jews of Israel in the face of a naked attempt at genocide.

    Thanks for your role as errand boy for international terrorists. I wonder which side you are on and why? You obviously have no shame in your blind fanaticism and how foolish you look in a Jane Fonda, point and laugh sort of way. The word stooge comes to mind when I think about name recognition, Mr Weiss. Why didn't you ask your new, oh so informed, friends why the Israel lobby can't get Jonathon Pollard released, can't get the embassy moved to Jerusalem, and can't get the US to recognize Israel's annexation of Jerusalem? Sadly, they are just as hateful and uninformed as the fringe Code Pink wackos and fully discredited ex-professors you pal around with are.

    Disgusted Reader Michael LeFavour

  2. Saleema
    June 4, 2009, 6:49 am

    "Egypt is no democracy,:—True. "and its glorious monuments are monuments of slavery (the pyramids)."–True. "This place needs political reform,"–True. BUT, looking at it that way, then the US was built by slaves, a place much larger than the US, and while the slaves didn't build monuments, they sure did build the USA itself. And US slavery is more recent in history than Egypt's. I think invoking Mubarak's ruthlessness, and his dictatorship, his anti-democratic stranglehold over the country is enough condemnation, and invoking ancient history in this context doesn't make sense. And exactly why I am irked? I don't know. But that just didn't sit well with me. It reminded me of your "burka" comment in your first post about Egypt. Instead of focusing on ancient history, can we focus on today’s ugly realities in Egypt and in Palestine?

  3. Doppler
    June 4, 2009, 7:02 am

    Yes, focus on the nuanced narrative of now! The events and statements and behavior that evoke how it feels to be a Gazan today, how it feels to have a home or a farm in the West Bank and have it taken away, to have your daughter spat upon, or detained by soldiers. And what the settlers are saying and doing, because, if they have enough PR rope, they will hang themselves.

  4. kylebisme
    June 4, 2009, 7:56 am

    Actually, the Idea that the pyramids were built by slaves doesn't even have any basis in reality, see:: Who Built the Pyramids? Not slaves. Archeaologist Mark Lehner, digging deeper, discovers a city of privileged workers. ” target=”_blank”>http://harvardmagazine.com/2003/07/who-built-the-… As for Egypt's current conditions, while it would be convenient for Western conscience to put blame for it on ancient cultural traits, I'd wager they'd be a lot better off if we hadn't been propping up Mubarak while backing Israel's conquest of Palestine over the past few decades.

  5. LeaNder
    June 4, 2009, 8:53 am

    Seems somebody beats me to that. But yes, the stereotype that the pharaoh used slaves to build them has been contested by Egyptologists for quite some time now. ” target=”_blank”>http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/0803… Said Redford, the image most people have of slaves being forced to build the pyramids against their will is incorrect. "The concept of slavery is a very complicated problem in ancient Egypt," he noted, "because the legal aspects of indentured servitude and slavery were very complicated." The peasants who worked on the pyramids were given tax breaks and were taken to 'pyramid cities' where they were given shelter, food and clothing, he noted. But I surely hope it will be a good speech.

  6. Samuel
    June 4, 2009, 9:00 am

    And here's the other side of the narrative: President Obama reassures Israel via e-mail before Muslim speech <url>” target=”_blank”>http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/2009/06/…

  7. RichardWitty
    June 4, 2009, 10:17 am

    It must be extremely exciting to be in Cairo. You stated that you wanted to see with your own eyes, turnings. This is one. What a trip that you've had. Somehow the concept of Hamas suggesting an appeal to international law sounds completely strange to me. I hope it does to you. There are MANY "its our responsibility to do good first" examples that play there.

  8. Richard WittyI
    June 4, 2009, 10:38 am

    For Obama to transform a multiple narrative to a single narrative would require each community to ask the other for forgiveness for the wrongs that they have done. First, to acknowledge the wrongs to themselves (or even the possibility of their human falliblity), then to speak them either privately or publicly (depends on the type of wrongs and if the indivduals effected are available), and then to heal the wrong (by time, service, money, combinations). If your blog can encourage that process and for that process to be mutual, then I am a fan. If your blog instead is oriented to blame, and allowing either Israel or Palestinian or dissenters to hide behind their victimhood of "duty" to shield themselves from self-reflection, then I'll oppose.

  9. Craig
    June 4, 2009, 11:46 am

    Dear Mr. Weiss, Your lies are absolutely disgusting and show that you lack the integrity of a true journalist. Just because you're writing your article in an oppressive nation like Egypt, this does not mean that you should take after their media style of bigotry and deceit. You wrote above: "Israelis have brought western institutions, but to Jews only" Really? Last time I checked, Arab citizens are included in the student bodies at Israeli Universities. In fact some years ago, an Arab-Israeli student at Hebrew University carried out a terrorist attack on his fellow students in a cafeteria. At least 8 were murdered by this Palestinian Arab bomber, including one American girl. Arabs also hold many important offices in Israel's government, get to vote (they don't get that in most Arab/Muslim nations!) and even speak out without being hanged or jailed (like they would in Iran) The power plants that Israelis built, benefit Arabs that are NOT even citizens of Israel! How many countries around the world do this? How about them apples Philly?

  10. Craig
    June 4, 2009, 11:49 am

    Let's focus on Saudi Arabia's monumental problems of oppression and slavery too. They only outlawed slavery in the 1960's but still practice it on large scales across their desert. Sometimes rich Saudis even bring their slaves over to the USA (there have been a few high profile cases over the past decade)

  11. Oscar
    June 4, 2009, 12:02 pm

    Here's some anti-hasbara apples for you, Craig — those power plants and much of Gaza's infrastructure was destroyed during Operation Cast Lead. It is a humanitarian crisis of staggering proportions. Meanwhile, as Obama seeks to re-engage the Muslim community, the Knesset is generating a blizzard of anti-Arab laws, such as the "loyalty oath," the banning of Nabka commemorations. Israel is demolishing Arab homes in Jerusalem with bulldozers at a feverish pitch, stealing land and dispossessing Arabs of everything they have, the IDF is incinerating children with white phosphorus weapons, shooting tear gas cannisters at the heads of peaceful protesters. Your posting is intellectually dishonest and brimming with rage over the fact that things are changing, and not in your Israel-first direction.

  12. Tripwire
    June 4, 2009, 12:03 pm

    Philip Weiss is on a fact-finding mission that the readers of Mondoweiss supported. He's an example of an exceptional individual who cares about finding the truth above all else, no matter how painful or punitive that may be. This post is thrilling — Phil happens to be in precisely the right place at this moment in history. Kudos to him for managing to see our president live. Here's hoping he gets the opportunity to shake his hand and be the first American to congratulate him on this historic speech.

  13. Todd
    June 4, 2009, 12:22 pm

    As someone pointed out above, Americans have supported Mubarak in order that Egypt will make nice to Israel, so Phil's talk of Jews bringing civilization to the region is more of his typical meritocracy bullshit projected on the ME. So far he's worked slaves, feminists and civilizing Jews into the story. I wonder how he missed the opportnity to throw in a freedom rider reference? Surely some ancient Isrelites rode south in their chariots to protest what the Pharoah was doing? I suspect that the Phil's of the world would tear apart and bankrupt the U.S. in order to support two failed-states in the region, and whatever chaos and side deals have to be made in order to make things work as planned.

  14. Todd
    June 4, 2009, 1:39 pm

    Phil, why did you have "to walk across town" to watch the President's speech on TV? Don't they have enough TVs in Egypt?

  15. just asking
    June 4, 2009, 2:09 pm

    Strange? You see no difference between HAMAS or Hezbollah and Al Quaida?(sic) Have you ever read the relevant international law?

  16. Onlooker
    June 4, 2009, 2:22 pm

    Over 20% of total USA foreign aid annually goes to Israel (3 billion sans strings) and Egypt (2 billion, conditional on making nice with Israel–same condition on Jordan), which clearly indicates USA priorities. Mubarak is a tyrant over his fellow Egyptians; Israel is a tyrant over non-Jewish Israeli citizens and the Palestinians in the OT. USA taxpayers support this literally with their tax dollars. Most USA taxpayers are not even aware of these facts. You'd think the hard economic times now might make more of them see some light?

  17. Jake in Jerusalem
    June 4, 2009, 2:24 pm

    Oscar is a knee-jerk antisemitic moron. Consider: Oscar: "power plants and much of Gaza's infrastructure was destroyed during Operation Cast Lead" The power plants are in ISRAEL, several miles north of the Gaza Strip. Israel EXPORTS electricity (and water!!) to the terrorist Hamas government. Oh, Hamas is proud of extending the range of Qassam missiles so that they can hit the electric power stations that supply the electricity to the workshops in Gaza that make those same Qassam missiles! The more they suffer, the more antisemtic supporters of Hamas like you will criticize Israel! Oscar: "the Knesset is generating a blizzard of anti-Arab laws, such as the "loyalty oath"" To get US citizenship, one has to pledge allegiance, too. European countries are now instituting the same requirements and even more in their citizenship programs SPECIFICALLY to address Arab/Islamic integration problems.

  18. Jake in Jerusalem
    June 4, 2009, 2:24 pm

    Oscar: "Israel is demolishing Arab homes in Jerusalem with bulldozers at a feverish pitch" Liar. Can you give us ONE example of an Arab house knocked down in Jerusalem in the past year or two? ONE???? Do you have an address? Maybe I'll go check it out for you… Oscar: "dispossessing Arabs of everything they have" Stolen things (like stolen land) don't BELONG to them. Obama wants people to face the truth. Can you do this?

  19. Jake in Jerusalem
    June 4, 2009, 2:33 pm

    Craig correctly criticizes Weiss. There appear to be more Arab students at Hebrew U than Jewish students. I am there often. And they get a first class education there like they cannot get anywhere in the Arab world. As for western institutions and power plants, I was in Gaza in the 1960's. I saw with my own eyes that Gazans (who hadn't yet begun calling themselves "Palestineans") were BAREFOOT in the dirt, barely had clothing, had no electricity, telephone, fresh water or sewage treatment. Cholera killed them off in large numbers. Infant mortality rates were astronomical! This was the Egyptian legacy. When you see the Gazans today with Nikes, Levis, Nokias, Hummers 14 children and fat bellies, remember that Israel GAVE them all of this. Under Egyptian rule today, they would be vastly worse off – and they know it! Proof: once they got autonomous Arab rule, they got Arafat, then Hamas and now they are suffering more than ever. But Arabs always blame others for their own faults. Listen to Obama. Be honest with yourselves.

  20. Craig
    June 4, 2009, 2:52 pm

    Thanks for the truth Jake. It rarely makes it to print on this blog…

  21. Todd
    June 4, 2009, 3:04 pm

    How are the rest of us to take this? Does 100,000 to 30 seem reasonable to you for the Jewish community as a whole?

  22. Todd
    June 4, 2009, 3:05 pm

    Shouldn't you put numbers behind your name?

  23. Jake in Jerusalem
    June 4, 2009, 4:20 pm

    One thing you have to understand about this is that Congress acts in the interests of the USA, not anyone else. It is simply cheaper (in both dollars and U.S. lives) for the U.S. to pay others NOT to go to war (or to defend themselves from hostilities) than for the U.S. to deal directly with war and instability. Iraq and Afghanistan are prime examples. A good portion of aid to Egypt is swallowed in corruption, but that's how Egypt works. As for US aid to Israel, over 90% of it never leaves the USA. It is almost entirely spent on US goods and services. About 80% stays Stateside by agreement, and Israel exceeds expectations by spending almost all the money inside the USA. Thus Congress supports industry and employment in their local districts under the guise of foreign aid. With jobs disappearing in the USA, don't hold your breath on Congress cutting back on spending that supports jobs in the USA. Antisemites can safely ignore the above; facts have no influence on them, anyways.

  24. Jake in Jerusalem
    June 4, 2009, 4:22 pm

    Ugly realities in "Palestine"…. Yesterday Fatah and Hamas had another shootout, I think it was near Kalkilya. One Fatah militant was killed so Fatah retaliated by DROWNING two Hamas militants. Who is going to make peace with Orcs like that? They murder each OTHER for the sheer fun of it…

  25. antisemitosis
    June 4, 2009, 5:26 pm

    Nobody born in the USA has to take a loyalty oath except those seeking entry in governmental security slots. The bills in the Knesset would apply to all non-Jews born in Israel.

  26. nancy drew
    June 4, 2009, 5:30 pm

    Bottom line, jews stole the land Palestinian families had lived on for generations–everybody knows this but Jake. He also thinks the native Americans stole the land from the Pilgrims.

  27. note
    June 4, 2009, 5:33 pm

    Similarly, African Americans live in the USA better than Africans do anywhere else.

  28. Todd
    June 4, 2009, 5:42 pm

    Be honest with ourselves? I hardly think the Israeli government is going around handing Hummers, Nokia phones, Levis or Nike shoes to Palestinians, and the Egyptians didn't have the chance to do so, because none of those things existed in the 1960s. Are you going to try and make the case that Israel is the Palestinian's best friend? That's creepy at best!

  29. Todd
    June 4, 2009, 6:03 pm

    That's great, Jake! Congress acts in the best interests of the citizens of the United states, and Israel keeps our economy afloat by spending U.S. money on U.S. products. I'm sure that very little U.S. taxpayer money winds up in Israel (where there is no corruption) and that all is dutifully returned to the U.S. economy! Wouln't it just make more sense to give the money as direct subsidies to U.S. citizens and corporations, than to give it to Israel to "buy" American products? And the wars against Israel's enemies, where Israelis never fight alongside U.S. troops are fought purely for America's interests? Nope, it wouldn't make sense to try and make peace with all of the oil producing nations in the region, and trade with them, rather than having senseless wars and giving weapons to Israelis.

  30. Saleema
    June 4, 2009, 6:04 pm

    You are wrong. They outlawed slavery in the 1970s, officially that is. Arabs are so much like their Jewish brothers, full of hubris. It's not just the slaves, it's the issue of treating their non-Arab workers like shit, especially the ones that work in their homes cleaning up after them.

  31. Saleema
    June 4, 2009, 6:50 pm

    Kinda like how Israelis murder Palestinians for the sheer fun of it. Hey Jake, how many kids did you kill during your time serving Israel? Chabad Rabbi: "Kill their children, their women and their cattle." He said if there is no one left then they will be no problem. ” target=”_blank”>http://www.forward.com/articles/107112/

  32. Yoni C.
    June 5, 2009, 4:19 am

    No its nothing at all like it Saleema. it would be similar if it were Israelis murdering Israelis,

  33. H McKeown
    June 5, 2009, 11:10 am

    Characteristic of your many facile and false assumptions and your patronising superiority is your statement that the Pyramids and other monuments were built by slaves (Jewish slaves, perchance?). They were in fact, like the cathedrals of Europe, built by people honoured to be honouring God and His representative the Pharaoh. In short believers, believe it or not. Pharaonic civilisation must have done something right to have survived for 4,000 years! H McKeown, MA Cantab Egyptology

  34. Aprille
    June 7, 2009, 4:19 am

    And you were there? If there was only one person among those being commanded to erect the pyramids, only one……one…..then it was wrong to command such. Believe it or not, there are actually humans who do not believe in a supreme being. I'm sure there was at least one Celtic that was forced (ie; enslaved) to work on building the cathedrals of Europe. Do not forget…."No Irish need apply!"

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