It’s up to Obama whether the siege of Gaza continues

After the flotilla massacre committed by Israeli forces, Turkey’s call for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council yesterday was to be expected. Turks are assumed to be among the dead — whose names and nationalities have still not been released. There are now hundreds of Turks being held in detention in Israel and Turkish ships were captured illegally in international waters in an action Turkey’s foreign minister described as “tantamount to banditry and piracy.”

What was equally predictable was that the Obama administration would only offer its support if action from the UN was so weak as to be worthless.

Had events of the last two days not disrupted their agendas, President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu would today have been servicing their individual political needs with smiles and handshakes on the steps of the White House. Absent that much-anticipated saccharine event, Obama was not about to turn around and support a stern rebuke to Israel.

The key Turkish demand presented to the Security Council was that the “blockade of Gaza must be ended immediately and all humanitarian assistance must be allowed in.”

Turkey was not alone. Britain’s new foreign secretary, William Hague, was equally unequivocal:

There can be no better response from the international community to this tragedy than to achieve urgently a durable resolution to the Gaza crisis.

I call on the Government of Israel to open the crossings to allow unfettered access for aid to Gaza, and address the serious concerns about the deterioration in the humanitarian and economic situation and about the effect on a generation of young Palestinians.

Universally there were calls for an inquiry. But the key to whether such an inquiry would be of any real value would be, minimally, its independence, and ideally that it would be international.

The statement finally issued by the Security Council is riddled with language surely crafted in the White House. It “calls for a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards.” Impartial, but not independent. International standards, but not international.

It does not call for an end to the siege but says “the situation in Gaza is not sustainable.” And there’s Obama’s lie.

Whether the siege of Gaza is lifted or sustained is up to Washington. If, when Netanyahu finally meets Obama, the US president was to say the embargo must end, Israel would have no choice. The siege of Gaza can only continue with US support and thus far, Obama refuses to withdraw that support. He says the situation is not sustainable, but through his actions Obama has a direct hand in perpetuating the suffering in Gaza.

“Unsustainable” is the signature of Obama’s self-declared impotence. It’s change over which he would like everyone else to believe he has no control. It’s the deceit through which he tells Americans and the world, I would if I could but I can’t.

Before the Security Council issued its statement and before it became clear that Obama was yet again going to throw away an opportunity to demonstrate his commitment to upholding international law, Stephen Walt wrote:

President Obama likes to talk a lot about our wonderful American values, and his shiny new National Security Strategy says “we must always seek to uphold these values not just when it is easy, but when it is hard.” The same document also talks about a “rule-based international order,” and says “America’s commitment to the rule of law is fundamental to our efforts to build an international order that is capable of confronting the emerging challenges of the 21st century.”

Well if that is true, here is an excellent opportunity for Obama to prove that he means what he says. Attacking a humanitarian aid mission certainly isn’t consistent with American values — even when that aid mission is engaged in the provocative act of challenging a blockade — and doing so in international waters is a direct violation of international law. Of course, it would be politically difficult for the administration to take a principled stand with midterm elections looming, but our values and commitment to the rule of law aren’t worth much if a president will sacrifice them just to win votes.

More importantly, this latest act of misguided belligerence poses a broader threat to U.S. national interests. Because the United States provides Israel with so much material aid and diplomatic protection, and because American politicians from the president on down repeatedly refer to the “unbreakable bonds” between the United States and Israel, people all over the world naturally associate us with most, if not all, of Israel’s actions. Thus, Israel doesn’t just tarnish its own image when it does something outlandish like this; it makes the United States look bad, too. This incident will harm our relations with other Middle Eastern countries, lend additional credence to jihadi narratives about the “Zionist-Crusader alliance,” and complicate efforts to deal with Iran. It will also cost us some moral standing with other friends around the world, especially if we downplay it. This is just more evidence, as if we needed any, that the special relationship with Israel has become a net liability.

In short, unless the Obama administration demonstrates just how angry and appalled it is by this foolish act, and unless the U.S. reaction has some real teeth in it, other states will rightly see Washington as irretrievably weak and hypocritical. And Obama’s Cairo speech — which was entitled “A New Beginning” — will be guaranteed a prominent place in the Hall of Fame of Empty Rhetoric.

Irretrievably weak and hypocritical — unfortunately the evidence was there even before Obama took office. His character, commitments, calculations and cynicism were all on open display as he watched in silence Israel’s war on Gaza.

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4 thoughts on “It’s up to Obama whether the siege of Gaza continues

  1. A Meshiea

    It took 3 and a half days for Israel to go from glorious international winner upon entry into the exclusive club of nations in the OECD, to reviled, violent, international transgressor nation. Irony of ironies, Turkey a founding member of the OECD, and a country that had the opportunity to keep Israel “honest” by withholding membership has now become the most vocally critical nation having its ships boarded and its citizens killed creating a fire-storm of protests at home. But timing is everything, too bad for everyone. Had Turkey kept its bargaining chip, maybe there would be a big party on the beaches of Gaza that no one in the US press would have covered and Israel wouldn’t be facing such a backlash, free to clamp down and colonize the Palestinians some more.

    Now we are a year and a half from the last famous Israeli gunning of civilians and we are once again beholden to the Israeli’s for information as it locks down at the port of Ashdod where Israel is contemplating arresting the activists now that they have been detained.

    I for one, think there is truth to the Israeli claim that they were attacked. Indeed some video footage makes it abundantly clear that the Israeli commandos that shimmied down the ropes like latter day pirates were quickly swarmed by men with clubs chairs and pretty much any object that the passengers could find. The question is: did they have a right to do this? This was international waters and the IDF decided that they are once again above the law, especially if that law is internationally recognized.

    Its not like anyone in the Middle East actually believes anything Obama says anymore, even after the wonderful bit of schmaltz he spewed out at Cairo.

    So enjoy the relentless hasbara coming your way, its all part of the system that sucks America financially, socially and morally dry every day. Next up: Turkey to send a naval escort for another shipment? This could get ugly. Will Obummer wake up? Not likely.

  2. Christopher Hoare

    Quote “it makes the United States look bad, too.”

    It doesn’t make the US look bad, it reveals the rotten core behind the facade. By action or inaction, by complicity or negligence, the US is responsible for more suffering and injustice in the world today than any other two or three world powers combined. If this were not disgusting, to think of the promise betrayed, that the American Century was to achieve it is plainly criminal. The criminality lies in a bought and paid for government, but more particularly in those who buy the favours from those who had pledged to be above bribery.

    There is a solution — the one Jean Chretien introduced (weakly in Canada) in his final period of office — make large corporate and organizational contributions to election campaigns illegal. Only citizens should be allowed to contribute toward the elections of THEIR representatives. Nothing else will free America to recover from its present nadir.

  3. DE Teodoru

    Don’t expect much now from Obama for he never believed that moral outrage is entitled to only a short latency before it acts. Born in a “black” skin and living in a “white” society, I guess teaches you that righteous indignation may be instantaneous but righteous rectification may well take a long time.

    As things stand, watching the Charlie Rose Show on PUBLIC 9sic) TV, I thought myself back in Ceausescu’s Romania watching TV. Tonight Rose had three wise Jewish media monkeys (see, hear, speak no inconvenient truth Haaretz /NYTimes correspondents) and an Israeli official who was like a Commie thug in both the stupidity he exhibited speaking; the imbecility he assumed to characterize the viewers; and the “mensch-hood” he felt he exhibited vomiting s***t constantly, realizing that no one dares stop him because he’s an Israeli official– a feeling Likudniks get walking around Wash DC stealing secrets, pushing around officials and telling American Jews what to think. To his ilk, not only are we Americans dumb goyim but they see as more dumb the Jewish Americans on whom they urinate and then step back to watch them silently empty their pockets, looking like ripe money trees ready to shake-down. To emphasize his exalted position, he even laughed loudly and incessantly when the two non-Jewish panelists sought to make points. The three NYTimes journalists tried hard to sound intelligent, but their twisting of the issue to insure that they only spoke only “the news that’s fit to print,” kind of left you wondering how long will this hasbara last? An Italian-American TIME writer was on the panel but I guess his rag learned its lesson when Sharon sued it for reporting the obvious and won. I had the feeling, watching all these Zionist extremists joyfully splashing in pools of Palestinian blood since Obama became president, that Israel was taken over by Ceausescu’s “Securitate” with Diaspora Jews either hiding out or, if captured, dutifully applauding the bloodbaths as Holocaust in reverse. Fortunately, Roger Rosenblatt was on after this crew and spoke about his book dealing with the death of his daughter. Clearly he’s a mourning Jew but he has always been a caring Jew, just like the mourning Jews that raised me post-WWII; that is, the kind hearted humane Jewish mind ruled by the Jewish ethic of disciplined education so one can interact with fellow humans in a way that brings mutual understanding. Thank God he was not required to comment on events in Gaza.

    We all, Obama included, should know that if we choose silence, these same “Commie-types” now passing themselves off as Zionists will do to America– not to speak of what they’re doing to Israel— what Ceausescu did to Romania. The myopia that killed the Commie Empire (defeated by Muslims—no Israelis— latter claiming to be “neutral”– who fought it alone to the death, armed by we lovers of democracy that left them to die fighting our global battle) is so clear as clinically articulated on behalf of the Israel today. Surely Obama took note and surely he is bidding his time until the day when righteous indignation turns to action. For he was raised as a socially moral man—weakened by few political options, even in power– but eventually he will eventually try to earn his Nobel Prize speaking out as he did today to BP: CLOSE THAT DAMNED HOLE! I hope it won’t be too late for Israel for its survival depends, not on the wealth of Jews mugged by the Israeli dollars seekers, but on the Arabs around it accepting it back into the family as was the case for so long throughout history. So Obama should know that Israel’s survival clock is ticking faster than Obama’s presidential one and if he delays too long, righteousness will have to account as it had to account for the Holocaust.

  4. Dave

    The idea that “it’s up to Obama” misstates the true nature, as defined by facts and actions rather than words, of the position the man holds. “It” is no more up to him than “it” was up to Kennedy with respect to Vietnam. Sadly, dear Pres. Obama is a jimcrow shill for the elite and their corporatist machines. If, by some miraculous celestial intervention, the Pres was to actually obey and enforce the law, even the miserably effaced law we have to-day, his tenure would quickly come to some faintly plausible end. He talks nice and one supposes that he’s a nice man, but he’s a shill pure and simple. How humiliating this is for all Americans – and as the reality dawns – how especially humiliating for American Colored Folks! I voted for him, and given the pathetic choice with which we were faced, I’d vote for him again. But a shill is a shill, and no narrative fantasy can change the fact.

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