Obama’s speech was racist — a Palestinian student explains to ‘USA Today’

I remember when USA Today founder Al Neuharth pioneered diversity by insisting that graphs and charts in the newspaper that featured cartoon figures should have dark-skinned figures, too, because USA Today needed to reflect America. Here USA Today reporter Michele Chabin extends that tradition in her report on Obama’s speech in Jerusalem last week, and gets at the racism that characterizes all our politicians’ rhetoric on the Israel Palestine conflict: 

While Randa Sharkiya, an Arab citizen of Israel studying at Al Qaesmi College in the north of the country, said she was gratified that Obama expressed his support for a Palestinian state, she was offended by the lack of any mention or outreach to Israel’s many minorities.

“The entire speech was Jewish country, Jewish, Jewish Jewish,” said Sharkiya, dressed like her classmates in Islamic headscarves. “All I kept thinking was, ‘What about us?’”

How often must we remind readers that a civil rights discourse that we had in this country in the 50s and 60s has not arrived in Israel, and that our politicians are doing nothing to enable such progress.

I see that the New York Times also reflected Sharkiya’s view of the speech, somewhat, in its coverage of student responses.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.
Posted in Israel/Palestine

{ 13 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Talkback says:

    “All I kept thinking was, ‘What about us?’”

    You are just a second-class-citizen, and not part of the “Volksgemeinschaft”.

  2. Citizen says:

    It’s interesting reading the NYT’s selection of opinions of young Israelis, both Arab and Jewish, who were preselected to be in the room for Obama’s speech to the Israeli students. Given the institutional ladder rungs to the steps of power in Israel, which are even more rigid than in the USA, I come away with no hope. The way I see it, there will be no real change in Israel’s trajectory without war on Iran, automatic US participation, and Iran’s response against both forces, which will spread across the Middle East, then, ultimately to America’s heartland. Actually, the contemporary war on Iran has been going on a long time now, via former puppet Iraq, then direct economic sanctions, and now, by US support of Syrian rebel forces doing their best to take down Iran’s best ally, the Assad Regime. Irony there, for our CIA involvement with arming the Syrian rebels indirectly, which has been escalating, appears to be arming Al Quaida there. Well, we’ve done that before. Seems Lewis Carrol’s fantasies have nothing on US diplomacy.

  3. It seems we, those cringing for Palestinians, must always grasp, and settle for, the least and last straws. Sharkiya was no exception…. she was the only Palestinian student quoted and only at the very (bitter) end of the article..

  4. Walker says:

    I see that the New York Times also reflected Sharkiya’s view of the speech, somewhat . . .

    Actually, Phil, the NY Times regularly treats Israel as though it were an all-Jewish country.

    I thought of this a few days ago when I read the following article by Jodi Rudoren:

    Many Israelis Unsure of Obama, but Are Ready to Listen During Visit

    The article starts with “Obama administration officials have made it clear that the top agenda item for the president’s visit here this week is to win the hearts of the Israeli people. He has a lot of work to do. . . “. Rudoren goes on to interview about a dozen Jewish Israelis about their views.

    Clearly Rudoren doesn’t consider Palestinian citizens of Israel to be part of “the people of Israel”. The fact is, neither does anyone else. Whenever the unqualified term “Israeli” is used, whether in Israel or here, by Jews or non-Jews, it doesn’t include the 24% of the population of Israel that’s Palestinian.

    This fact alone gives the lie to the propaganda meme of Israel as a multi-ethnic secular democracy where all citizens are equal.

  5. Mayhem says:

    Racism by omission – a new concept. USA Today reporter Michele Chabin never once mentioned racism.

    Randa Sharkiya …. was offended by the lack of any mention or outreach to Israel’s many minorities.
    “The entire speech was Jewish country, Jewish, Jewish Jewish,” said Sharkiya, dressed like her classmates in Islamic headscarves. “All I kept thinking was, ‘What about us?’”

    The one solitary individual cited in support of this non-article seems to be suffering from dissociative amnesia.

    • Djinn says:

      and yet you and your co-colonists argue that criticism of Israel and particularly the BDS campaign is anti-Semitic unless it comes with criticism of every other nation.

    • gamal says:

      “Racism by omission….a new concept.” wow

      “The one solitary individual cited”… but…. “a Palestinian student explains” again “a”, it has a simple meaning ask gilag when you congregate at the water-cooler, the one single sole solitary only explanation for idiocy of this caliber is a thirty year seconal stupor, boy Zionist argumentation leads to this, i mean er Racism by omission, is one of the oldest concepts known to (black) man, remember when people omitted to mention that the bride was already married, they were correcting racism by omission, when people whine about the MuftiHitler and fail to mention the huge contributions and sacrifies made by Arabs and Muslims generally on behalf of the Allies, well thats racism by omission, its true that you usually prefer it by commission, but each to their own.

    • MK_Ultra says:

      Talk about dissociative amnesia. LOL! No clue on hypocrisy either. However, good example of a Strawman argument…as always.

    • mig says:

      @Mayhem. Did someone claim that it contained word “racism”? Ah, never mind, you didn’t get the message anyway.

  6. Bandolero says:

    Randa Sharkiya pretty much enlights the point I tried to make here a couple of days ago regarding Obama’s speech:

    “I fear that Obama, perhaps with best intentions, makes the situation even worse than it is now. The reason for me thinking this is that I believe that the main peace-preventing problem is the ideology of Zionism itself.”

    “Obama, unfortunately, tries to strengthen liberal Zionism and thereby he strengthens the Zionist ideology as a whole. Obama strengthened in his speeches the historical myths of Zionism. When Obama spoke of a jewish state for a jewish people he strengthened sectarianism. I think the strenghtened Zionism will inevitably lead to more conflict.”

    Randa Sharkiya makes the point shorter, but the essence is the same: the problem is the ideology of zionism itself. The attempt to create of a “jewish” state in western asia is the source of the problem and clinging to a “jewish” state in western asia is the main obstacle to the solution of the conflict. The conflict will be solved when there is a broad understanding, that a jewish state in western asia is inevitably a sectarian monster and what’s needed is that the land is for all the people living there, just like France is for all people living in France regardless what religion they belong to or where their ancestors came from.

  7. MK_Ultra says:

    How often must we remind readers that a civil rights discourse that we had in this country in the 50s and 60s has not arrived in Israel, and that our politicians are doing nothing to enable such progress.

    As often as needed, obviously. Again, a link to Khaled Elgindy’s piece on the Brookings Institute website which should become the anthem of the anti-Zionist movement:

    Palestinian Politics Do Matter

    With President Obama’s visit to Israel and the occupied territories now behind us, attention is likely to turn to how we might restart the peace process. But if the past is any indication, one crucial element will be largely ignored in the discussion: Palestinian politics.

    link to brookings.edu

  8. ”Sharkiya, dressed like her classmates in Islamic headscarves.”

    What the hell does it matter what, if anything, she was wearing on her head? Would USA Today also see fit to tell readers if a Jewish Israeli was wearing a kippah? Are we supposed to take away the message that Sharkiya is not like ‘us’ because of her weird headgear?