Everyone is talking about Obama’s meltdown in Tampa yesterday
when a student who had worked for his campaign asked him about Palestinian human-rights. There is the president’s inane temporizing as he tried to collect his thoughts–turning to another youth and asking if he had gotten those beads in New Orleans–and then a phrase that George W. Bush could have come up with, "The Middle East is obviously an issue that has plagued the region for centuries…" Till finally Obama had mentally assembled a few hollow phrases that did not answer Laila Abdelaziz’s question. Adam Horowitz says that it is the first real gotcha moment he has seen with Obama, and it came at the hands of a young Arab-American.
This follows the State of the Union speech in which Obama never talked about Israel/Palestine, thereby walking away from the Cairo promise of last June. As well as the solidification of his neoliberal braintrust around essentially the same policy that the neoconservative braintrust of his predecessor had: we support the Israeli occupation.
I try to be optimistic, and the answer to the Establishment’s political collapse is stirring all around us. In the nonviolent movement inside the West Bank, in Judge Goldstone’s championing of Palestinian dignity, in the BDS movement on college campuses (which I keep saying that even "liberal Zionists" will have to sign on to in some way), in the Nation’s description of the West Bank as "apartheid," in the rise of firm realist opposition to Obama’s policy, and also in this 54-member Congressional letter to Obama demanding an end to "the de facto collective punishment of the Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip." Collective punishment! 54 members of Congress finally spoke of collective punishment of Palestinians.
Yes these are all just stirrings. But the political diversity of this gathering, of those who regard the Israeli occupation as brutal and central, is remarkable. In the words of William James that Pete Seeger has painted on his barn, that’s how movements work: "I am… with the invisible molecular moral forces that work from individual to individual, stealing in through the crannies of the world like so many soft rootlets, or like the capillary oozing of water, and yet rending the hardest monuments of mans pride, if you give them time."