One of the most telling lines in the coverage of the Israeli assault on the Gaza flotilla was this, from the New York Times:
But Mr. Obama, some aides say, has expressed strong frustration privately with the humanitarian situation in Gaza.
Strong frustration, privately expressed! What does our president say, in private, that he doesn’t dare to say in public? Gaza, after all, would seem to be a no-brainer for an administration set on revising America’s Mideast policy. The DC size strip of land has been blockaded, with American support, since 2007 because the majority of its people voted for the wrong candidates in a free election. Apparently the Palestinians were not informed that though they were permitted a vote in 2006, they were only allowed to vote for the Palestinian Authority, which they viewed as corrupt as wrapped up in a peace process that was clearly going nowhere. So a majority voted for Hamas, and since then
Hamas ruled Gaza has been gradually starved to death, attacked by the Israeli military, and starved some more—all in an effort to make the Palestinians regret their choice at the polls.
Of the many efforts to break the blockade, the freedom flotilla was the most public and most daring. International and interfaith, it was motivated by the simple idea that the people of Gaza should not be starved into submission. And it is a simple fact is that whatever happened as the Israeli “commandos” descended from their helicopter, Israel has no right under international law to be blockading Gaza at all, much less seizing vessels carrying humanitarian aid in international waters.
One suspects that Obama knows this—as evidenced by the aforementioned leak from an aide. One also suspects that that he knows that his good friend Rashid Khalidi from the University of Chicago is not, as Norman Podhoretz recently claimed in Commentary magazine, a vicious anti-semite. But our emasculated president cannot let evidence of his knowledge seep out. Under Obama, US policy has hardly changed since George W. Bush. As under Bush, there have been speeches made about the need for Palestinian statehood, and many (myself included) assumed that Obama understood and believed what he has been saying. But the follow-up has been a craven submission to the Israel lobby. Last month, it seemed not a day went by without a high administration official conveying his administrations’s undying love for Israel. The cherry on top was a “private” visit to the occupied Golan Heights by Rahm Emanuel, unprecendented for an official American representative. It was a way of signaling the Israel, its lobby in the United States, and the entire rest of the world that American policy is not changing, will not change, cannot change. Washington will support the occupation no matter what.
The United States, according to the State Department “regrets” the loss of life caused by Israel’s piracy. The tepid language no doubt foreshadows further American protection of Israel in the security council. Why? Israeli newspapers –which operate in a more robust manner than American ones, attribute Obama’s submission to the Israel lobby campaign contributions, which the Democratic party desperately needs. Campaign finance reform,a key plank of the Reform Party in 2000, is more necessary than ever.
One wonders whether there is anything, anything, that Israel can do which would force America to say no, that’s enough. Bar Noam Chomsky from speaking at Bir Zeit University, check. Blast out an eye of an American girl peacefully protesting the flotilla assault, no problem. Start a war with Iran and endanger America’s troops throughout the region, on the agenda.
Obama, those who know him attest, “gets it”—knows that the occupation is wrong, knows the blockade of Gaza is wrong. The blockade could not last for two days if the United States wanted to end it. And yet Obama says and does nothing. In the core strategic area of the Mideast, America now acts like a middling power with limited sovereignty.