Former State Dep’t official says Obama calls for human rights and democracy are ‘undercut’ by position on Palestinians

Israel/Palestine
on 29 Comments
Anee Marie Slaughter
Anne-Marie Slaughter

Anne-Marie Slaughter served as director of Policy Planning at the State Department under Obama/Clinton until last year. Now she’s at Princeton. A week ago she spoke at J Street. Some of her comments:

I spent a lot of time on twitter. I have about 27,000 followers around the world. Because it connects me to people of many different countries and many different beliefs certainly beyond my community in this town, but also the global academic communities. I spend a lot of time following articles and messages, and videos and personal testimonies about Syria, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, and Libya. Whenever I send out a message about the suffering, the detention without trial, civilian deaths by armed force in all these countries, I now get messages back that say to me, What about the Palestinians?

I am not for a minute going to say that there are no differences between what’s happening in Syria, in Libya, in Yemen, in Egypt. There are many differences between those circumstances and what is happening between Israel and the Palestinians. There are many differences. But there are some similarities.

And when I hear back from voices that I can shut out here in Washington– I can shut them out in Princeton– but I can’t shut them out in an open forum where I reach out to the world, and the world answers me….

[The U.S. failure on the peace process] undercuts what we say everywhere else in the region. I am the first to know that perfect consistency or even primary consistency is impossible. We treat Bahrain differently than we acted in Libya… There are obviously different circumstances in all these case, but we cannot say as we have been saying for over a year, that we stand for democracy and human rights and basic justice for the people of the Middle East—President Obama and Secy Clinton and every representative of the administration have given speeches on democracy and human rights and justice across the middle east– we cannot be saying that unless we’re doing everything we can to bring democracy and human rights and justice to the Palestinians….

I grew up in non democratic America. Virginia in the 1960s. All people were not able to vote, and we did not deliver on the promise of our values….

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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29 Responses

  1. Cliff
    April 2, 2012, 9:20 am

    Awesome.

    She’s right. US policy and ‘values’ are contradictory when it comes to the ME, but especially in relation to Israel and the Palestinians.

    The one-sided, mindless support for Israel’s colonial project and apartheid policies are not in line w/ the values which America exemplifies (as a slogan though, since all of these ‘values’ are never absolute and come from un-democratic beginnings).

    That tension and that conflict created these values. It is who we are when we’re at our best. A standard we want to rise to continually. In that sense, Israel does not have anything in common with us.

    Their standard is low and will always be low. They want to maintain a fixed Arab minority that will always be institutionally and socially discriminated against. To elevate the status of the Israeli Arabs to that of the Israeli Jews would be to end the Zionist project of a country club for Jews in the heart of the Arab world.

  2. pabelmont
    April 2, 2012, 9:44 am

    Great quote. Some J-Street conventioneers heard a good speech. Will the broader J-Street membership hear of this speech from J-Street, or will they have to read it here? Will J-Street be calling for/demanding — anytime soon, as they say — removal of settlers and wall, ending of siege, removal of internal roadblocks and checkpoints, ending house demolition, etc., etc., and, ultimately, ending the occupation and its occupier’s law and occupier’s apartheid and occupier’s injustices?

    • Theo
      April 2, 2012, 12:48 pm

      Do not hold your breath, even if you are able to swim a mile underwater.
      Netanyahu and his gang are set to have an Erez Israel one way or another, or go down in flames trying.
      All this speeches by different neo-con individuals are nothing, but a smoke screen, I will be a believer when Israel start moving back behing the 1967 lines.
      I am not holding my breath, either.

      • lysias
        April 2, 2012, 2:01 pm

        George Wallace in his Inaugural Address as governor of Alabama in 1963:

        n the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.

        I think the segregationists too were determined to go down in flames if they couldn’t preserve segregation.

        And, if you question the segregationists’ determination, there are other examples, like the pieds noirs European settlers in French Algeria.

      • Theo
        April 4, 2012, 9:23 am

        lysias

        I doubt a court trial would work out very well for a murderer if he bases his defense on “other did it, too”.
        Other nations did progress toward a better democracy during the past 50 years, Israel goes the other way. Less democracy, more fascism and apartheid!

  3. Steve Macklevore
    April 2, 2012, 10:37 am

    It’s irritating that people such as Anne-Marie Slaughter always make their pro-Palestinian comments when safely out of office, never when in power.

    • Krauss
      April 2, 2012, 11:02 am

      But it doesn’t work like that. Dennis Ross operated in silence, and so must the opposition. I think people generally overestimate the amount of power you have in office, even as president.

      Beinart will be able to move the discourse much more than Obama can – because Beinart isn’t looking for re-election. Of course, Walt/Mearsheimer were the true trailblazers, especially since they wrote what they wrote without them being Jewish – their biggest crime.

      Beinart to this day uses them as a punching bag, last time in his response in Tablet to Bret Stephens’ vitriolic attack. I hope someday he will apologize for his brazen opportunism. We owe more to the new discourse to Walt/Mearsheimer than we do to Beinart or anything else.

      But what can you do in office? There’s a pecking order. And even a President has to obey his donor base. So who hold the real power?

      People always underestimate the power of the media. In a real and free democracy, media power usually beats political power. That’s why the left won on the cultural issues, because it dominated the universities and it filled up the media over time. The neoliberals won the economic argument because those policies help the rich and powerful(and thus those who can donate cash). Rich guys don’t tend to care about cultural arguments, all they care about is money.

      I think Ms. Slaughter will be able to exert more influence on policy debate over the long term out of office if she is skilful enough. Certainly more than inside the Washington bubble.

      • Les
        April 2, 2012, 12:24 pm

        There is nothing unique about Dennis Ross. Israel has a history of having its agents in Federal positions which are hardly secret to whomever the President happens to be.

        Consider:
        Dr. Lani Kass — US Air Force
        Stuart Levey — US Treasury
        US Congresswoman Jane Harman versus Shamai Leibowitz

      • lysias
        April 2, 2012, 2:04 pm

        A president does not have to obey his donor base. Not, that is, if he puts doing the right thing above being re-elected.

      • Miss Costello
        April 3, 2012, 8:00 am

        Well said.

      • Scott
        April 2, 2012, 5:42 pm

        This is smart comment. One one of its side points, I was curious and went and looked up what Beinart said using W&M as a punching bag while defending himself from Bret Stephens. What he said I thought was not that terrible, under the circumstances, and given his audience : he denied using them as a source for one of his quotes, mentioned that he had publicly criticized them before (I’m not sure where) and mentioned that their book is widely loathed among Jews (regrettably true, a success of the Lobby’s review tactics but not so in the broader intellectual culture).
        Actually Beinart and W&M’s perspective on the I/P problem strike me as more or less identical . . . I’m sure anyone reading the two books would conclude that, and I’m quite certain Beinart realizes it. Of course the two profs were directing their argument to Americans in general, and Beinart to American Jews and Zionists, but their take in the situation is the same. What Beinart said is quite not like Jeremy Ben Ami, who really did slur the two great ground-breaking professors.

      • eGuard
        June 24, 2012, 7:12 am

        Beinart was never in office, so he has been outspoken all his life. So we know how he works. And with all this freedom of thinking, all he comes up with are late-adjusted arguments. Tomorrow he’ll have his position right about todays issues.

        Do not put him in the same league as W&M.

  4. seafoid
    April 2, 2012, 11:35 am

    Obama is such a fraud.

  5. American
    April 2, 2012, 11:59 am

    Good for Slaughter. My opinion of her has gone up.
    I’ve been so sick of our US hypocrisy and been so ashamed of this country for so long I’ve grown barnacles on it.

  6. Theo
    April 2, 2012, 1:04 pm

    What happened?? As soon as I submitted my comment all others disapperead, remaining only “+ Show content”.
    The question is; how do you do it?

    • Annie Robbins
      April 2, 2012, 1:18 pm

      i have no idea but i hope someone fills us in, i am having the same problem. i can open them by clicking on the ‘show content’ but i have to do it for every comment. it’s very strange. maybe they are experimenting.

    • Danaa
      April 2, 2012, 2:03 pm

      I think they have been playing with the software for a few days now. I noticed a few days ago that some comments came with new color highlights when clicked. Others not. Now this comment disappearing business. They should put up a notice, let people know what’s happening.

    • Keith
      April 2, 2012, 7:53 pm

      THEO- I had the same question and tried playing around. On the left at the bottom of the little blocks it says “show all comments.” You need to click on that to see the “old” comments and to comment on them, which I just did to answer you. I have some reservations about this new “benefit.”

  7. Justice Please
    April 2, 2012, 1:21 pm

    Welcome to the real world, Anne-Marie.

    Her point should be a no-brainer. The fact that she had to wake up to it after years of government service speals volumes about the bubble Washington lives in.

  8. lysias
    April 2, 2012, 1:55 pm

    Speaking of Jim Crow Virginia, the reason segregation ended in this country was that it became a liability to America’s position in the world during the Cold War.

    Sounds like Israeli apartheid has become a liability to America’s position in the world today.

  9. Erasmus
    April 2, 2012, 2:17 pm

    Re Anne-Marie Slaughter statement at J-Street conference

    ….but we cannot say as we have been saying for over a year, that we stand for democracy and human rights and basic justice for the people of the Middle East….
    unless we’re doing everything we can to bring democracy and human rights and justice to the Palestinians….

    This is the very K E Y for any US and European ME-policy of the future. Without JUSTICE for the Palestinian People no other door will open up the entire ME-region as effectively.
    So far everything has been done to let Israeli occupation and settlement continue with impunity – 41 (?) US-Israel-protection VETOES are ample proof for the hollowness and totally cynic double standard policies of the west wrt to international and human rights.

    Doing everything we can…. Who is “WE”?
    As long as our governments and their representatives remain in their ethically and morally spineless position, and continue with their hollow “democracy and HR”-garbage,

    We, the 99%, can do one thing above all:
    MAKE a GENERAL BOYCOTT of Israel as strong as possible.

    Politicians hardly ever lead – all they do is follow like vanes in the wind……

  10. ToivoS
    April 2, 2012, 4:44 pm

    Anne-Marie Slaughter has been a despicable hawk for many years. She supported the wars against Serbia, Afghanistan and Iraq as “humanitarian wars”. She was completely silent about the Palestinians and supportive of Israel from her perch at Princeton before her state dept job. How do you think she got it in the first place. While in government she supported the Nato led war against Libya.

    I would take what she is saying today with considerable skepticism but we can hope that she will come out more clearly for justice for the Palestinians. Beinhart and Sullivan came from even more reactionary positions and have been sounding OK recently so we shall see. Her words here at this J Street meeting are not that good if you parse them carefully.

  11. Nevada Ned
    April 2, 2012, 5:44 pm

    Anne-Marie Slaughter exhibits the usual hypocrisies: the repressive measures of the current Iranian government are “unacceptable”, but of course the Shah was perfectly OK. After all, the Shah was installed by a CIA coup in 1953, so he must be good. He ruled as a military dictator until he was eventually overthrown by a revolution in 1979.

    So it’s “what about the Palestinians?” Good question.

    And also, “what about Mubarak?” A dictator that the US supported for some 30 years.

    And “what about Saddam Hussein?” Supported by the US for a decade (1980-1990). He later fell from favor (invaded Kuwait), but he was supported in his war with iran.

    As if that were not enough, “what about Saudi Arabia?” where there is not even the pretense of democracy. Ditto the Gulf oil principalities including Bahrein. No democracy there either.

    And you can add “what about Lebanon?” because in Lebanon, the Christians have rigged the election process to maintain power, even though the Christians are a minority of 20-30%. The exact numbers are uncertain because the Lebanese government has refused to conduct census for many decades.

    Anyone who knows the history, and knows the score, should roar with laughter whenever any US representative claims that the US stands for democracy and human rights.

  12. piotr
    April 3, 2012, 1:54 am

    “We treat Bahrain differently than we acted in Libya… There are obviously different circumstances in all these case, …”

    I grew up in a “mild Communism” where various discussions were possible (after all, it was a mild version) but some key phrases were flatly forbidden (say, in press). Form that point of view, AMS showed a bit of candor. Democracy in Bahrain would mean a point for Iran, in Syria — for Saudis and perhaps USA. A while ago quite massive slaughter was tolerated in Algeria (much more than now in Syria), again, the opposition was deemed unworthy of Western aid or pressure on the government.

    “And when I hear back from voices that I can shut out here in Washington– I can shut them out in Princeton– but I can’t shut them out in an open forum where I reach out to the world, and the world answers me….”

    It really sounds sincere. “I tried to shut them out, you know, the standard procedure, but it seems that we have to prepare plan B”.

    The good news is that AMS is, as they would say in my old days “aparatchitsa”. This is a circuit, think tank, university, government. Her views are conventional for that circuit, and if she notices Palestinians, that means that conventions in that circuit are evolving. Some say “live by the sword, die by the sword”. Shakespeare had a better observation: with superior force, you rule until something impossible happens, say, until Great Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane Hill. AMS cannot shut out questions about Palestinians? I think that the roots of the Great Wood are twitching.

  13. Kathleen
    April 3, 2012, 11:02 am

    Slaughter “And when I hear back from voices that I can shut out here in Washington– I can shut them out in Princeton– but I can’t shut them out in an open forum where I reach out to the world, and the world answers me….

    [The U.S. failure on the peace process] undercuts what we say everywhere else in the region. I am the first to know that perfect consistency or even primary consistency is impossible. We treat Bahrain differently than we acted in Libya… There are obviously different circumstances in all these case, but we cannot say as we have been saying for over a year, that we stand for democracy and human rights and basic justice for the people of the Middle East—President Obama and Secy Clinton and every representative of the administration have given speeches on democracy and human rights and justice across the middle east– we cannot be saying that unless we’re doing everything we can to bring democracy and human rights and justice to the Palestinians….”

    Duh….Is Slaughter really just realizing what Queen Noor, King of Jordan, many other leaders in that neighborhood, Former President Jimmy Carter, Edward Said, Archbishop Tutu, Norman Finkelstein, and many others have been saying for decades. Or is it now personally and politically expedient for her to be saying what other incredibly knowledgeable people have been saying forever? Pathetic really

    Is Slaughter

  14. yourstruly
    April 3, 2012, 5:18 pm

    obama’s calls for human rights and democracy are undercut not only by his position on palestine but on jordan, bahrain, yemen, saudi arabia and morocco (among other arab nations) not to mention honduras and columbia here in the americas, indonesia and china in asia. then there’s our government’s efforts to undermine venezuela’s democratically elected government, a policy which obama inherited but shows no signs of abandoning.

    • Theo
      April 4, 2012, 9:18 am

      Not to forget Cuba.

      Since 50 years we have an embargo against that nation that doesn´t work, as embargos never do.
      Did we welcome Cuba into a free american society, then most likely the Castro brothers were now a history. Every time we embargo a nation, see Cuba, Iraq, Iran, we punish the people, not the upper 10%, that always find a way for their special privileges, and install a high anti-american sentiment.
      When those 500,000 iraqi children died because of shortage of medicine, the parents did not hate Saddam, but us, as we caused that mayhem!

  15. eljay
    April 4, 2012, 10:37 am

    >> When those 500,000 iraqi children died because of shortage of medicine, the parents did not hate Saddam, but us, as we caused that mayhem!

    Yeah, but, y’know, the price was “worth it”. ;-)

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