Obama's Speech and the Arab Reaction

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In the immediate aftermath of President Obama’s speech today in Cairo, the heavy web traffic of discussion among Arab activists was divided essentially into two camps.  One person claimed that the speech could have been given by George W. Bush.  Another compared it to Sadat’s historic trip to Jerusalem.

It’s not that either opinion is wrong – either may be proved right – but it was the nature of this talk from the very beginning that its meaning won’t be known for years down the road.  For what will make it historic (or not) is not the rhetoric of the speech but the policies that follow it (or don’t).

For one, I don’t believe this was a talk that George W. could have given, although it did share much of the same language on democracy that Bush stubbornly adhered to long after his own policies made shreds of any hope for it.

Midway through Obama’s speech, he digressed to condemn the belief in “a world order that elevates one nation or group of people.”  That is something that the worldview of American exceptionalism held by Bush and many of his presidential predecessors would never agree to.  I hope that this radically different worldview may result in a new path of policies.

And it was promising that Obama addressed a broad range of issues – democracy, women’s rights, Israel and Palestine and economic development – with an understanding that they all affect the human rights situation and all have to be addressed.

One thing that stood out was when it came to economic development, Obama announced a long line of initiatives that hold promise.  But in each of the other areas, particularly on Israel and on democracy, the rhetoric wasn’t matched by specifics.  I hope that doesn’t imply that he thinks that action on economic development is more important than in the other areas.

Amnesty International welcomes Obama’s comments, but we now expect him to follow up with policies to match the rhetoric.  He should begin with ending all practices that make the U.S. complicit in the various abuses that he denounced, such as extraordinary renditions and secret detention.  He should insist that Israel and the PNA to cooperate with the UN’s fact-finding mission looking into violations of international law during the recent Gaza war.  And he provide a public and independent report of America’s war on terror practices, a step he has opposed to date.

These would be just a first step, but an important step.  It would start us on a path that could turn his speech today from a remarkable moment into an historic event.

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18 thoughts on “Obama's Speech and the Arab Reaction

  1. Dont give a damn for either Obama's talk or the Arab reaction. Have nothing to say to those who can still talk of Sadat as if he wasn't the start of Egypt's fall from "nationalism" into dictatorship & its collaboration with the Western camp. Those who like to sift thru webs of illusion all day, welcome to your dusty beds. For me a single new word coined by obama's gang in dc is the only illuminating key to what's already here & now : "Afpak".

  2. We must put pressure on Obama to end/prosecute/examine all forms of our torture policies and end them now! Go Amnesty, go!

  3. Dont give a damn for either Obama’s talk or the Arab reaction. Have nothing to say to those who can still talk of Sadat as if he wasn’t the start of Egypt’s fall from “nationalism” into dictatorship & its collaboration with the Western camp. Those who like to sift thru webs of illusion all day, welcome to your dusty beds. For me a single new word coined by obama’s gang in dc is the only illuminating key to what’s already here & now : “Afpak”.

  4. We must put pressure on Obama to end/prosecute/examine all forms of our torture policies and end them now! Go Amnesty, go!

  5. I am hopeful. At least he is someone who will talk about human rights issues openly; women's rights, torture, Dalfur, Sudan, rights of Palestinians and Israelies. The speech is a start. Human beings have to do the work of peace and human rights. Most politicians in my opinion could care less. For now, I believe he and Michelle care about changing the world for the better. I just hope they can keep up the pace they are working.

  6. the reaction result from what Obama represent for the arab people who fight a long time for the change.the people is despraite and oppressed by dictature.President Obama and the demorat party, even obligated politicaly to deal with the corupte govrments and dictatres will never let the progressive issues and his ideological brother down.
    so the speesh is only a speesh we are waiting for what he shall do ,and the change must be from the people but with or without help of our friends .

  7. I am hopeful. At least he is someone who will talk about human rights issues openly; women’s rights, torture, Dalfur, Sudan, rights of Palestinians and Israelies. The speech is a start. Human beings have to do the work of peace and human rights. Most politicians in my opinion could care less. For now, I believe he and Michelle care about changing the world for the better. I just hope they can keep up the pace they are working.

  8. John,
    I agree, Obama has his handlers, and they seem to have made the decision that the time is right to create client nations out of Middle Eastern countries. After all wasn't it Israel which was selling mortgages to home owners in the occupied territories just as soon as they were done demolishing them. That being said the symbolism has to be worth something.

  9. the reaction result from what Obama represent for the arab people who fight a long time for the change.the people is despraite and oppressed by dictature.President Obama and the demorat party, even obligated politicaly to deal with the corupte govrments and dictatres will never let the progressive issues and his ideological brother down.
    so the speesh is only a speesh we are waiting for what he shall do ,and the change must be from the people but with or without help of our friends .

  10. John,
    I agree, Obama has his handlers, and they seem to have made the decision that the time is right to create client nations out of Middle Eastern countries. After all wasn’t it Israel which was selling mortgages to home owners in the occupied territories just as soon as they were done demolishing them. That being said the symbolism has to be worth something.

  11. This is laughable. While we continue the slaughter of innocent people in Iraq, and take the slaughter up in Afganistan since Obama took office, he holds out a open hand to the Arab world? He talks about democracy and freedom, yet we still hold people without being charged at Gitmo? Israel attacks Palestinians using phosphorus weapons, and we stand by their side? If anyone in the Arab world thinks that a speech means anything, they are fools, and so are you. Obama has picked up where Bush left off. Nothing has changed. It is a good-cop/bad-cop scam that we get suckered into every four years. This road we are on started with Bush 1, was furthered by Clinton, put into high gear by Bush2. Now Obama talks about "preventative detetion." If you think the infrastructure for tyranny has just been about "terrorists," wake up. It is for us, and the chickens will be coming home to roost sooner than you think.

  12. This is laughable. While we continue the slaughter of innocent people in Iraq, and take the slaughter up in Afganistan since Obama took office, he holds out a open hand to the Arab world? He talks about democracy and freedom, yet we still hold people without being charged at Gitmo? Israel attacks Palestinians using phosphorus weapons, and we stand by their side? If anyone in the Arab world thinks that a speech means anything, they are fools, and so are you. Obama has picked up where Bush left off. Nothing has changed. It is a good-cop/bad-cop scam that we get suckered into every four years. This road we are on started with Bush 1, was furthered by Clinton, put into high gear by Bush2. Now Obama talks about “preventative detetion.” If you think the infrastructure for tyranny has just been about “terrorists,” wake up. It is for us, and the chickens will be coming home to roost sooner than you think.

  13. mikeR has no use for illusions, & Ted Sky rips off the veils !! Everything speaks, beginning with where you choose to speak. Why talk in Cairo ? No chance choice — cairo's today's keypoint of the Arab Quisling collab with israel. Speaking there is speaking from the bridgehead of the Invason.

    Who's the Great White Thief to tell Hamas to lay down arms ? It's the same advice he just gave the Tigers in sri lanka as only answer to their last appeal to him to urge a ceasefire before they were massacred, even the young men who were trying in vain to run away from the army's guns, while the Great White Thief watched, hands clean as Pilate, & still keeps silent before the ongoing army deathdance.

    Who's he to lecture the Arabs about the Holocaust ? They didn't cause it, tho' they've been made to pay for it by him & his kind. i'm sick of hearing of the Holocaust —- it's the dead mountain coming down upon today's living, struggling Creation, burying whole nations & worlds alive.

    Whenever this man opens his mouth to speak, it's a knell for those he faces. His words just now on the slaying of Dr. Tiller, the dedicated abortionist, tolled the bell, not for the gloating murderers, but for the cause of woman's fundamental right to abortion which the doctor worked humbly & tirelessly for all his life.

    Only history Malcolm X was wrong about was when he said the chickens were coming home to roost. The chickens had already been brought to Turtle Island by the first white man.

  14. mikeR has no use for illusions, & Ted Sky rips off the veils !! Everything speaks, beginning with where you choose to speak. Why talk in Cairo ? No chance choice — cairo’s today’s keypoint of the Arab Quisling collab with israel. Speaking there is speaking from the bridgehead of the Invason.

    Who’s the Great White Thief to tell Hamas to lay down arms ? It’s the same advice he just gave the Tigers in sri lanka as only answer to their last appeal to him to urge a ceasefire before they were massacred, even the young men who were trying in vain to run away from the army’s guns, while the Great White Thief watched, hands clean as Pilate, & still keeps silent before the ongoing army deathdance.

    Who’s he to lecture the Arabs about the Holocaust ? They didn’t cause it, tho’ they’ve been made to pay for it by him & his kind. i’m sick of hearing of the Holocaust —- it’s the dead mountain coming down upon today’s living, struggling Creation, burying whole nations & worlds alive.

    Whenever this man opens his mouth to speak, it’s a knell for those he faces. His words just now on the slaying of Dr. Tiller, the dedicated abortionist, tolled the bell, not for the gloating murderers, but for the cause of woman’s fundamental right to abortion which the doctor worked humbly & tirelessly for all his life.

    Only history Malcolm X was wrong about was when he said the chickens were coming home to roost. The chickens had already been brought to Turtle Island by the first white man.

  15. Obama has already had his response from the Arabs….Even if the settlement expansion and construction stopped completely they would not stop the hatred, violence and terrorism or recognise the Jewish State. But all of that was a pre-condition of Oslo, Wye etc. So that is the end of the 'peace process' that never was!
    Bear in mind that Jewish settlement is not only legal but to be encouraged. International Law is very clear on this. Check out the 1919 Paris agreement (Weizmann and King Feisal) and the 1922 British Mandate to Palestine.
    Unfortunately, with Obama, we have a racist, an anti-semite and an advocate of apartheid for the Jews!

  16. Obama has already had his response from the Arabs….Even if the settlement expansion and construction stopped completely they would not stop the hatred, violence and terrorism or recognise the Jewish State. But all of that was a pre-condition of Oslo, Wye etc. So that is the end of the ‘peace process’ that never was!
    Bear in mind that Jewish settlement is not only legal but to be encouraged. International Law is very clear on this. Check out the 1919 Paris agreement (Weizmann and King Feisal) and the 1922 British Mandate to Palestine.
    Unfortunately, with Obama, we have a racist, an anti-semite and an advocate of apartheid for the Jews!

  17. Hello i am so delighted I found your blog, I really found you by mistake, while I was searching Yahoo for something else, Anyway I am here now and would just like to say thanks for a tremendous blog posting and a all round interesting blog (I also love the theme/design), I do not have time to read it all at the moment but I have bookmarked it and also added your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read more,

  18. Hello i am so delighted I found your blog, I really found you by mistake, while I was searching Yahoo for something else, Anyway I am here now and would just like to say thanks for a tremendous blog posting and a all round interesting blog (I also love the theme/design), I do not have time to read it all at the moment but I have bookmarked it and also added your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read more,