Palestine, Bahrain and US Hyprocrisy

Brazen hypocrisy most often deeply damages the reputation, whether of a person or of a country.

President Barack Obama appears to have thought that he could go to the UN with a liberation of Libya and a further postponement of Palestinian rights to boast of, and that these stances would make him popular in the global south. But in fact he just looked inconsistent and hypocritical and self-interested.

The United States was not at the forefront of the changes sweeping the Middle East in the past year, and its instinct as a Great Power is to support the status quo. Thus, the Obama administration had almost nothing to say about Tunisia until after the populace had forced their president out. President Barack Obama appears to have been on the fence about what to do about Egypt after January 25, but his instinct certainly wasn’t to support the revolutionaries against their own government. Only about a week before it was all over did Obama join the chorus of those saying that Hosni Mubarak had to go.

It was Saudi Arabia, France and Britain who decided that Muammar Qaddafi would have to go. Obama reluctantly went along.

In the meantime, the US has done little but say tsk, tsk over the crushing of the street movement for reform in Bahrain. Geopolitics there trumped human rights concerns. The Sunni monarchy in Bahrain leases to the US the naval base that serves as HQ of the Fifth Fleet.

Now it turns out that the Obama administration even wants to more or less reward the Bahrain government for its repression by resuming arms sales to it. It is like a week-old widow deciding to go dancing.

But the biggest hypocrisy in Washington was reserved for the Palestinians, who labor under a repressive military occupation in the West Bank and are besieged and blockaded in Gaza. If anything they are far more deprived of basic political rights than the people in Egypt or Tunisia last year this time.

But the Obama administration’s response to the bid of the Palestinians for membership in the United Nations has been to seek to forestall it, to strong-arm Mahmoud “Abu Mazen” Abbas, and to twist the arms of countries like Nigeria and Gabon to get them to vote against it.

Obama’s argument, which simply echoes that of the Likud government in Israel is that the Palestine Authority is sidestepping the peace process by going to the UN. But that is a ridiculous proposition. There is no peace process. Obama failed to provide one. Thus, the Palestinians are wise to make an end run around the US in the region, since American policy toward the Palestinians has been since the time of Harry Truman to sacrifice them at the altar of US domestic politics (Truman pointed out that he had Jewish constituents, but no Palestinian ones to speak of). The Israel lobbies in the US are so powerful and successful that 81 congressmen spent some of their August recess in Israel!

The Palestinians are stateless. They have no citizenship in anything. That is why the Oslo process could be short-circuited by Binyamin Netanyahu and why Israel could renege at will from all the commitments it had made to the Palestinians. It is why Palestinian land can be usurped at will by Israeli squatters on the West Bank.

Obama made fine speeches about the Arab Spring, about the will of the people and the idealism and activism of the youth. He even did so with regard to countries such as Egypt, where the Mubarak dictatorship had faithfully served US purposes.

But apparently he feels that the Palestinians of Gaza, who are not even allowed by the Israelis to export their made goods, deserve only further occupation via blockade until such time as the far right Israeli government deigns unilaterally to revoke its punitive policies toward the stateless Palestinians, who were made stateless by the Zionist ethnic cleansing campaign of 1947-1948 (40% of the people of Gaza, their families expelled from their homes by Israelis, still live in refugee camps).

Obama gives a good speech and can invoke high ideals, but when, in Bahrain and Palestine, Washington pursues massive hypocrisy, it completely undermines the good will it might have otherwise gained by at least not standing in the way of change in Tunisia and Egypt, and by intervening to prevent a Qaddafi massacre in Libya.

Foreign policy victories are rare. Obama has squandered the positives by pandering to the right wing forces in Manama and Tel Aviv. This is change that Arab youth won’t be able to believe in.

50 Responses

  1. The last US President was hated around the world and the election of Obama was greeted with such relief he was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for no obvious reason.

    As the same old line om Israel, Palestine and the domination of the Middle East is followed, the rest of the world is starting to realize the problem was not and is not the President of the United States, it is the US itself that is the problem. The situation where the ‘honest broker’ and ‘leader of the peace process’ stands against the international community to deny statehood to Palestine shows the hypocrisy of the leader of the twentieth century.

    Abbas stood up against “warnings” from the US. Let us hope a few more countries show the same courage.

  2. Israeli government, the one the US sends billions to every year, makes the macabe claim that they are not starving the Gazans. They snicker and say they have determined an adult can live on eight hundred calories a day. They then multiply the population of Gaza by eight hundred (calories)and that is the amount of food they will allow into Gaza.

    One Israeli official giggled and said, “We have only put everyone in Gaza on a diet!”

    This is a policy you might from an African dictator.

  3. Well said. The Arabs approve of our role in Libya. But in spite of that, the US has a low approval rating among Arabs. We are not engaging the Arab world with this inconsistent approach.

  4. “Cowardliness” is a word that comes to mind to describe Obama. Jimmy Carter never did and never would put electorial politics ahead of the best interest of America as Obama has cetainly done. I have always felt that Obama was a complete novice in foreign policy, lacking education, or experience, and lacking any very deep feeling on foreign policy issues. I have never seen any indication that he understands the history of he formation of Israel or of the Israeli-Palesinian conflict. His knowledge of the history of this conflict comes from Leon Uris.

    • This is nonsense; he went to Iran and called the Shah a great leader, when it was impossible for him not to have known the Shah was a murderous, despotic dictator. He also went to Romania and called Nicolae Ceaușescu a great man when it was impossible for Carter to not know Caeausescu was worse than the Shah. All his claims to be a Christian are patently obvious lies, and he is extremely self-centered and egotistical. Such a man would only put electoral politics ahead of authentic interests of Americans. Such a man would be structurally incapable of considering the best interests of a single other person than himself.

  5. Dear Juan,

    What evidence is there that Saudi Arabia wanted Gadhafi to go? To this day, Saudi Arabia has not issued one official or unofficial word against Gadhafi and has not yet recognized the TNC. The most that can be said about Saudi Arabia is that allowed the Arab League and GCC to proceed against Gadhafi during the Bahrain crisis, but that is hardly evidence of any pro-rebel sympathies on their part.

  6. What can be said, Juan, you made all the relevant points. But I feel as if you are letting Obama off too easy. Each person has an inner moral meter, a sense in each activity that he is on track, doing well; or that he is off track, headed for a disaster. And the only way that Obama, who unlike most politicians explicitly stated that we must bring morality back into the equation, can do these explicitly immoral actions (Palestine and Bahrain, and others) is if he has killed his moral meter; not so much killed the meter delivering messages, but killed his desire for morality, so he never listens. He is truly a despicable man. And since I know that the universe never leaves such irresponsibility unpunished, I am sure he is a very miserable man.

    Further, he couldn’t get away with this if most of Congress was not behind him. And that those people also act in this manner indicates we have a very sick country.

  7. I think you get some of your history wrong, Professor.

    American policy toward the Palestinians has been since the time of Harry Truman to sacrifice them at the altar of US domestic politics (Truman pointed out that he had Jewish constituents, but no Palestinian ones to speak of).

    Truman made that remark not as an affirmative argument for recognizing Israel, but to refute an argument that doing so would be bad domestic politics.

    Also, the U.S. was working to undermine Mubarak’s control of his military – and thus, his ability to keep himself in power – long before Obama made his public statement that Mubarak had to go.

    Anyway, I don’t see the absence of early American intervention into Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya’s internal politics – the decision to wait and see how things played out, rather than being the driving force behind events – as a bad thing. Quite the opposite, I see it as a welcome bit of humility.

    • I disagree with your reading of Truman

      There is a difference between the US staying in the background and the US sending signals it supports Mubarak.

      • And there is also a difference between “sending signals it supports Mubarak” and working for a negotiated solution to avoid bloodshed.

        I’ve seen what it looks like when the United States supports a dictator when the people of his country rise up against him. One need only think about Bush’s response to the lawyers’ protests in Pakistan, or Reagan’s actions in Central America during the Cold War.

        Publicly sympathizing with the uprising and saying it’s time for a change isn’t how that particular movie goes.

        • Yours, Joe from Laurel, is typical of the lies and half truths made up by Zionists. Truman was under intense presure from the Zionists, and well as people within his own administration, like Clark Clifford to recognize the Jewish state. Prof Cole aludes to only one of many, many pieces of evidence of the Zionists pressure place on the shoulders of Truman, and Clifford made it absolutely clear, and repeatedly so, that Truman and the Democrats would loose the election if they did not recognize Israel. Truman well understood that he had acted against his better judgement in recognizing Israel, and he lashed out against the Zionists and his Jewish tormentors. (You can find that expressed in considerable detail in alfred Lienthau’s book “What Price Israel”, also see Alan Hart, ‘Zionism’..

    • Wrong, Joe. Truman worked very hard to get the UN General Assembly to pass a 2/3 resolution to recognize Israel. When it became apparent that there would not be a 2/3 vote, the US got the Gen. Assembly to delay the vote. Three countries, Liberia, Philippines and Haiti, had previously voted against the resolution. The US and Truman got busy to work especially those three countries. Later, some delegations complained of “diplomatic intimidation”.

      As an editorial in the Christian Century later said: Without “terrific pressure” from the US on “governments which cannot afford to risk American reprisals,” the resolution would never have passed.
      LawrenceofCyberia.blogspot has the overview.

  8. As I said in another forum, what we’re basically doing to the Palestinians is having them tied with rope, duct tapping guns to their hands, crazy-gluing their index fingers to the triggers having installed computer chips in these guns for remote shooting.

    To the consternation of many of his constituents, Abbas could not have been more of a lapdog for Israel for a decade and how he was rewarded nothing less than appalling.. all for Hamas for the taking & to underscore its philosophy of violence to appeal to the reluctant hardliners, the moderates and to the pacifists on the Palestinian side

  9. It is extremely disheartening to realize that America, or more accurately, conservative controlled America has never in my 60 years of life been an honest participant in the Israeli/Palestinian peace process. The evangelicles in collusion with American Jewish conservatives have brought shame to the American people with their support of the Jewish theft of the Palestinian lands and the persecution of the Palestinian people.

  10. “The United States was not at the forefront of the changes sweeping the Middle East in the past year, and its instinct as a Great Power is to support the status quo.”
    Please refer to Obama’s 2009 speech in Cairo where he sat 30 feet from Mubarak and advocated for an end to dictatorship and repression and a turn to democracy in the Arab world. Can’t some of the motivation for the Arab Spring be attributed to that encouragement from the President of the United States?

    “It was Saudi Arabia, France and Britain who decided that Muammar Qaddafi would have to go. Obama reluctantly went along.”
    I would say that contributing air and missile strikes is a bit more than reluctantly going along. It was certainly taken that way by the many in the US, particularly on the Left, who disagreed.

    “The Israel lobbies in the US are so powerful and successful that 81 congressmen spent some of their August recess in Israel! ”
    Is everybody who goes to Israel necessarily a tool of Likud? (You’ve been there, haven’t you?) Is it possible that some of these visitors wanted to see for themselves and make their own decisions?

  11. So the US once again backs Israel over human rights and loses another chance to show Arabs and Muslims that “extreme Islamists” are wrong in their condemnation of US bigotry. What has Israel given the US in the last 40 years but grief, oh and the chance to sell them weapons at our tax payer expense.

  12. Yours, Joe from Laurel, is typical of the lies and half truths made up by Zionists. Truman was under intense presure from the Zionists, and well as people within his own administration, like Clark Clifford to recognize the Jewish state. Prof Cole aludes to only one of many, many pieces of evidence of the Zionists pressure place on the shoulders of Truman, and Clifford made it absolutely clear, and repeatedly so, that Truman and the Democrats would loose the election if they did not recognize Israel. Truman well understood that he had acted against his better judgement in recognizing Israel, and he lashed out against the Zionists and his Jewish tormentors. (You can find that expressed in considerable detail in alfred Lienthau’s book “What Price Israel”, as well as a fewother sources.)

  13. Israel is an illegal occupier of Palestinian land-all of premandate Palestine-.

    It is the aggressor.

    It is backed by the USA which has its own history of displacing indigenous peoples for its own manifest destiny ends.

    Israel should be lucky to get away with keeping what it had pre-1967. All the rest is garbage

    • Israel did not begin as the aggressor. In 1948, a bunch of Arab countries INVADED/ATTACKED Israel in a concerted effort to destroy the state of Israel and forcefully create a state of Palestine.

      As for US policy, The US was not a strong backer of Israel at the start of the Israeli State. But during the 60’s a metamorphosis happened, and now the US is a lap dog for the Israel and the US foreign policy regarding Israel is largely dictated but the desires (regradless of how realistic the desires are) of whomever is in power in Israel.

      What this shows is that the USA is no longer a superpower. Bush extensive use of the military has gutted our coffers and our morality. What Obama has demonstrated is that he is a not a leader but an articulate and educated apologist.

      All in all, I am very depressed about where the USA is headed. I do not see any solutions coming out of Israel and I am pretty convinced that the Israeli’s are willing to believe the garbage their government is spewing and I do not see them negotiating with the Palestinians anytime in the near future

      • You need to read some recent books on 1948, including Benny Morris (who, however, vitiates his strong historical findings by taking the stance that ethnic cleansing of Palestinians did not go far enough!) Your notion of what happened in 1948 is just popular mythology.

      • That is a big lie, Peter, which Israel and its supporters have perpetuated for 60 years. The ethnic cleansing of Palestine by Israel began in Dec of 1947, six months before the first regular Arab soldier set foot in Palestine on May 15, 1948. It began with the bombardment of Jaffa, in Dec 1947, and, in fact, drove many of Jaffa’s residents into the harbor and some to drown in the sea. The Deir Yassin occurred on April 9, 1948. You needn’t take my word for this, just check the dates. Even after May 15, only two Arab armies entered the 55% of Palestine recommended for the Jewish state by UNSC Res 181. Several thousand largely defenseless Palestinians were masssacred and 3/4 of a million Palestinian were driven from their land and homes into sqalid refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza and in the surrounding states while Jews from Europe took over thier homes, slept in their beds and pick fuit from thier orchards.

        If you have an once of morality, Peter, you will check the dates and stop perpetuating this lie, which, like all Israeli propaganda contains the the theme that Israel is always innocent. In fact, Israel had never been innocent, even for a second, because it has always been in the process of ethnically cleanisng the Arabs of Palestine, and that is what it is doing even as I wrtite this.

        • I forgot to add: By May 15, when the first regular Arab soldier entered Palestine,all of the major cities of Palestine had allready been cleansed of Arabs, and about half of the 3/4 of a million Palestinians to be expelled had been expelled and their land and property taken. Israel proceeded to bulldoze and destroy 531 Arab villages mostly to prevent the return of the inhabitants.

          Read your history, Peter, before you go repeating made up propaganda.

  14. Agreed, not Obama’s finest hour. But given the power of the Israel lobby, a different stand would likely give us one President Rick Perry.

    • Good point, and I’m sure Obama made this point during his meeting with Abbas: if I go too far in supporting (or even not opposing) Palestinian statehood, it will contribute to the election next November of somebody far worse–any of the Republican candidates.

  15. No one in Washington cares about Palestinians (and how could they be expected to, given their attitude toward Americans?). However, Egyptians are preparing for a vote. I wonder how all those Congressmen who kowtow to Israeli expansionists (ignoring the views of Israelis concerned about the long-term survival of their democracy) will view a Muslim Brotherhood victory in Egypt!

  16. The US was working towards preventing of Mubarak’s son, Gamal, becoming president of Egypt. The US wanted Omar Sulieman to take over as President of Egypt.

    Juan, Perhaps you’re judging President Truman’s 1945 remark from the vantage point of 2011. I understand that David Ben-Gurion said the following at about the same time:-

    [I am } satisfied with part of the country, but on … the assumption that after we build up a strong force following the established of the sate, we will abolish partition the partition of the country and we will expand to the whole of Land of Israel

    Despite what Resolution 181 might say, I would argue that is the “bargain” to which the UN SC agreed to in May 1948. I don’t think Israel’s position has changed – “we will expand to the whole of Land of Israel”. That doesn’t include Gaza because historically Gaza’s the Land of Philistines.

    Obama talks too much and does too little. Obama may know of many things, but he knows nothing about any thing – economics, politics, foreign affairs, even how to vote, judging by his record as a legislator. Obama, the first man to get the Nobel Prize for Nothing, I think they filled in the wrong form, they intended to nominate him for an Oscar – after all what is acting but deception. He should have been in Sorkin’s West Wing rather than in the real one.

  17. Brazen hypocrisy most often deeply damages the reputation, whether of a person or of a country.

    Does that include certain academics who seek and support Western military intervention in Libya, while claiming it’s unfeasible in US client states who engage in similar repression such as Bahrain?

    Just wanted to point that out so that any such academics won’t appear too inconsistent and hypocritical and self-interested.

    • I don’t think *military* intervention is warranted in Bahrain because the repression there involved the deaths of some 34 persons. It is unclear how many Qaddafi killed in Libya, but certainly thousands (and it would have been tens of thousands more if he hadn’t been stopped at Benghazi).

      I called for the US to close its naval base in Manama and to cease business as usual with that government as long as they are going to crack down so hard on mere peaceful protests.

      That isn’t hypocritical. The two situations are not the same, and I am entirely consistent in advocating for the democratic and progressive aspirations of workers and middle class people versus their authoritarian governments in both places. It is just that a different sort of response is required toward massive crimes against humanity than toward a disruption of protests.

      You do understand that there are 6.5 million Libyans and something like 550,000 Bahrain citizens? I have long suspected that people who make incorrect analogies like yours do so because they have no sense of scale for the region.

      • The repression began in March. On April 25, you said, “…Washington’s hands appear to be tied by it’s need for the naval base it leases from Bahrain…”. On June 1, you called for the US to move it’s naval base from Bahrain. This delayed response may have been because there were more pressing issues. Or maybe there’s just too much news to digest.

        • I did several postings critical of the crackdown at the time, and dismissed the Iran conspiracy theorists, and was slammed for it by Bahrain apologists. I don’t usually prescribe policy so much as offer analysis. In any case, I still can’t see hypocrisy on my part here. The two situations were different and require different responses. But the right response is not arms sales to the Bahrain government!

  18. Obama is a cringe inducing fraud. He approved the sale of bunker buster (Muslim killing) bombs to the Jewish state. Not even Bush did that.

    War against Iran is coming.

  19. It is time for all Europeans to leave Palestine. Palestine is everything between the Jordan and the Mediterranean.

      • Yes, quite ironic…the descendants of the Biblical peoples of Palestine are asked to leave because they are “European.”

        • The Palestinians are also the descendents of the people who lived in Palestine during biblical times.

          But could we please not have a race-based (& therefore racist) argument about all this? The question is not who should leave or how they got there, the question is whether Palestinians get to have the rights that come with being citizens of their own state.

    • Please define “European.” Are you using it as a synonym for “Jew?” It would of course include the three generations of Jews who were born in Israel and have lived their whole lives there. How about the hundreds of thousands of Jews whose ancestors lived in Arab countries and Iran for centuries and were expelled in the 1960s and 1970s (Israel accepted every one of those refugees)–neither they nor any of their ancestors ever lived in Europe.

  20. Lucidamente, THIS “stand,” plus Obama’s coddling of banksters, is going to give us a Republican President–probably named “Romney” or “Christie.” The “progressives” and the “doves” who worked so hard against Clinton to nominate him are going to stay home, and the liberal Jews of America, who understand that he, in collusion with Netanyahu, are contributing to the creation of a racist, apartheid Zionist state, are also going to stay home. Half the “gays” who remember his cowardice over DOMA and, earlier “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” will forget recent developments and also stay home. The only part of his “base” that he will be able to count on will be the blacks, and even they recognise that he hasn’t done a damned thing to moderate the increasing socio-economic stratification of the society (only achievable through jobs programs, single-payer national health insurance, sterner bank regulation and radical restructuring of the lunatic Ameican tax system).
    You Americans will have a Republican President in Janurary, 2013–one who will have run a national election as a “moderate,” but will be the closest thing to a neo-fascist that your country has ever seen, and it will be “Obomber’s” fault, for not having seized the chance to make progressive politics work, in the first hundred days of his lacklustre Presidency.

  21. Can you, hopefully, provide documentation of how the 91 congressmen’s expenses to/from/in Israel were paid for… THAT would be incredibly effective journalism… good hunting!

  22. Juan writes:
    “The Palestinians are also the descendents of the people who lived in Palestine during biblical times.
    But could we please not have a race-based (& therefore racist) argument about all this? The question is not who should leave or how they got there, the question is whether Palestinians get to have the rights that come with being citizens of their own state.”

    I couldn’t agree more. Israelis and Arabs have a right to live there as neighbors and in peace. Both are entitled to the “secure and recognized borders” called out in UN Resolution 242. Let’s bring the debate back to what is the best way to get there.

  23. I voted for this guy. I even watched his speech last year at UN where he promised a Palestinian state within one year. When a friend told me today that he reneged on his promise, it made me sick. I have lost all respect for him and will not vote for either party in the coming election. I am ashamed to call this person as our President. I think the UN Security Council is a disgrace and countries must revoke their membership. Why participate in this sham and legitimize their oppression of a whole nation?

  24. I would like to make a suggestion. All situations exist based on a real context, which can often be different from the preferred context everyone likes. Israel is being given a huge double standard, which is that it is irrational to talk about an illegitimate state deserving to exist. A legitimate state is only one that has free elections to elect its political leaders, ensures that all human rights are received by every one of its residents, and prohibits any one ethnicity, religion, or culture from being given favor over others. This make a “Jewish” state by definition not a legitimate state; and a lot of other “states” as well (think China and Japan). All illegitimates states in the past eventually became fascist horrors, which is exactly where Israel is today.

    But until Palestinians get the guts to require elections so they can have an elected president, an elected parliament, and operate based on system of rational laws (a justice and police system that is honest and not corrupt), because this is something they could create one their own in their current territories; and every Palestinian any where in the world; who was born in Palestine (between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, and between Lebanon and the Red Sea) or is a child or grandchild of such a person, is declared a citizen of Palestine, the Palestinians do not deserve to be recognizing by the UN.

    • Holding elections is not something entirely in the control of the Palestinians. The US and Israel get a lot of say in these matters, including on whether the results will be recognized or actively punished and overturned.

  25. @ william james martin
    Thanks for the lucid timeline!
    Nice to see a civilized, not totally polarized discussion forming, that is more reasoned as in TNR and not the ‘he said, she said’ of HAARETZ.

    @ Juan
    Thanks for the forum, on-line feed-back notices *** and the active participation!

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