Time to earn that No­bel, Mr Pres­i­dent!

The Pak Banker - - Front Page - Aijaz Zaka Syed

SOME of the loud­est cheers over Barack Obama’s re-elec­tion orig­i­nated in the Mid­dle East. Although the Arabs and Mus­lims didn’t have much to cel­e­brate dur­ing his first term, they still prayed for Obama, per­haps a lit­tle more than the rest of the world, hop­ing the fu­ture would prove bet­ter than the past.

In­deed, a col­lec­tive sigh of re­lief was heard across the globe that the world had been spared an­other Bush and an­other four years of lu­nacy. The in­di­rect in­ter­na­tional vote was for the prom­ise and hope that the first African-Amer­i­can leader seemed to rep­re­sent.

So it’s rather nice to see Obama re­pay and jus­tify all that trust by stand­ing up for Is­rael once again, as it bravely rains death and de­struc­tion on a de­fence­less peo­ple locked out in the largest prison on the planet for the umpteenth time.

On the day when an Is­raeli strike on a Gaza apart­ment block killed 10 mem­bers of a fam­ily, in­clud­ing a mother her four chil­dren – Obama de­fended Is­rael’s right to kill even as he lec­tured Asian na­tions on the bless­ings of democ­racy, hu­man rights and a peo­ple’s right to choose their own des­tiny. So what if Ne­tanyahu and the Is­raeli lobby ac­tively can­vassed for and bankrolled Rom­ney nearly un­seat­ing the in­cum­bent. Shrug­ging off the deep­en­ing mess in the Mid­dle East, he is spread­ing sweet­ness and light in the dis­tant Far East.

Ev­i­dently, the more things change in Washington, the more they re­main the same – at least as far as the Is­raeli stran­gle­hold over the US po­lit­i­cal class and for­eign pol­icy is con­cerned. The US Se­nate and House have lost lit­tle time in pass­ing res­o­lu­tions re­it­er­at­ing their fealty to Is­rael.

The US politi­cians’ wil­ful ig­no­rance of the Mid­dle East’s re­al­i­ties and hor­ror of what has been go­ing on in Gaza in full view of the world, with all its fine in­sti­tu­tions, is breath­tak­ing. Lis­ten­ing to US law­mak­ers and po­lit­i­cal pun­dits on US TV chan­nels is noth­ing short of a sur­real ex­pe­ri­ence. You don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Are we liv­ing on the same planet? Ap­par­ently, the poor, peace­ful and demo­cratic Is­rael faces a clear and present dan­ger from the Is­lamic ter­ror­ists – Pales­tini­ans, Arabs, Ha­mas, Hezbol­lah and Iran, you name it – all over again.

So what’s new? We have been here be­fore – again and again and again. It seems noth­ing will ever change for the Pales­tini­ans, no mat­ter who calls the shots in Washington and in Tel Aviv. In­deed, as Glenn Green­wald ar­gues in the Guardian, the US is as much re­spon­si­ble for the con­tin­u­ing crimes and per­se­cu­tion of Pales­tini­ans as Is­rael: “The cen­tral en­abling fact in Is­raeli law­less­ness and ag­gres­sion is the blind US sup­port, and that con­tin­ues to be the case un­der the pres­i­dency of the 2009 No­bel Peace Prize win­ner.” The blessed world com­mu­nity, on the other hand, isn’t any less com­plicit with much of the hor­ror in the Holy Land by the ‘cho­sen peo­ple’ hap­pen­ing on its silent watch. The mys­te­ri­ous head­less won­der comes to life only in the hands of the mighty. Might is still right. With the right friends in the right places, you can get away with mur­der, lit­er­ally, as Is­rael al­ways has. You can go on cry­ing about in­ter­na­tional apathy and du­plic­ity till king­dom come but it makes no dif­fer­ence to an un­car­ing world.

The agony and dis­tress calls of a per­pet­u­ally per­se­cuted peo­ple would raise the dead but fail to stir the sleepy con­science of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity.

The only ray of hope in this dark, op­pres­sive night of end­less ter­ror is the per­cep­ti­ble change that has come about in Is­rael’s neigh­bour­hood. The wave of awak­en­ing that swept the Arab world a year and half ago has trans­formed the geopo­lit­i­cal dy­nam­ics of the re­gion. All th­ese years, Is­rael col­luded and worked with pli­able friends and al­lies like Mubarak to do what it pleased with the Pales­tini­ans. Of course, the $2 bil­lion an­nual US aid to Egypt’s gen­er­als did help. But it’s not the same Egypt any­more. Change has at last come to the Mid­dle East even if Is­rael and Amer­ica choose to re­main stuck in a time warp, with their heads deep in the sand. The swift and stout re­sponse of Pres­i­dent Mo­hammed Mursi to the Is­raeli out­rage and his de­ci­sion to dis­patch his prime min­is­ter to Gaza even as the mis­siles and bombs pounded the densely pop­u­lated en­clave shows that the world has moved on.

And it’s not just Egypt; the newly lib­er­ated Tu­nisia has been equally scathing in its crit­i­cism of Is­rael even if it re­mains a mar­ginal player in the neigh­bour­hood for now. As jour­nal­ist Rami Khouri ar­gues, the new en­vi­ron­ment of the Arab pub­lic opin­ion, with new lead­er­ships rep­re­sent­ing and re­flect­ing the sen­ti­ments and as­pi­ra­tions of their peo­ple, has changed the whole game. An­other close ally and friend Turkey has re­acted fu­ri­ously to the Gaza of­fen­sive de­mand­ing Is­rael be “held to ac­count” for its crimes against civil­ians.

Prime Min­is­ter Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan, a key US ally and only Mus­lim mem­ber of the Nato, has been press­ing Obama to take a more as­sertive line. Th­ese are changes that Is­rael and its al­lies can ig­nore at their peril. Be­sides, the emer­gence of groups like Is­lamic Ji­had and Salafists and their abil­ity to strike deep within Is­rael, in­clud­ing Tel Aviv, has in­tro­duced a new el­e­ment in the con­flict. They may not cause much dam­age but they are get­ting bet­ter by the day. More im­por­tantly, they have man­aged to put the fear of God into the en­emy giv­ing it a taste of its own medicine. It was Is­rael’s in­tran­si­gence and re­fusal to en­gage the ‘mod­er­ate’ Pales­tinian lead­er­ship led by the inim­itable Yasser Arafat that gave birth to the phe­nom­e­non called Ha­mas. His­tory ap­pears to be re­peat­ing it­self as more hard-nosed groups like the Is­lamic Ji­had and Salafists look to snatch the Pales­tinian lead­er­ship from Ha­mas. Thus the small win­dow of op­por­tu­nity for peace and res­o­lu­tion is fast clos­ing for Is­rael, if it hasn’t al­ready. If the Zion­ists think they can sub­ju­gate the Pales­tini­ans at gun­point for­ever, they couldn’t be more wrong.

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