Obama's Deadly Silence
"I would like to ask President-elect Obama to say something please about the humanitarian crisis that is being experienced right now by the people of
The small boat, carrying
But as more than 2,400 Palestinians have been killed or injured -- the majority civilians -- since
The Mumbai attacks were a clear-cut case of innocent people being slaughtered. The situation in the Middle East however is seen as more "complicated" and so polite opinion accepts Obama's silence not as the approval for
It ought not to be difficult to condemn Israel's murder of civilians and bombing of civilian infrastructure including hundreds of private homes, universities, schools, mosques, civil police stations and ministries, and the building housing the only freely-elected Arab parliament.
It ought not to be risky or disruptive to US foreign policy to say that Israel has an unconditional obligation under the Fourth Geneva Convention to lift its lethal, months-old blockade preventing adequate food, fuel, surgical supplies, medications and other basic necessities from reaching Gaza.
But in the looking-glass world of American politics,
While feigning restraint, Obama has telegraphed where he really stands; senior adviser David Axelrod told CBS on 28 December that Obama understood
The truce Hamas had meticulously upheld was shattered when
Axelrod also recalled Obama's visit to
This should not surprise anyone. Despite pervasive wishful thinking that Obama would abandon
Along with Tony Blair and George W. Bush, Obama staunchly supported
Obama's comments in Sderot echoed what he said in a speech to the powerful pro-Israel lobby, AIPAC, in March 2007. He recalled an earlier visit to the Israeli town of
Obama has identified his daughters repeatedly with Israeli children, while never having uttered a word about the thousands -- thousands -- of Palestinian and Lebanese children killed and permanently maimed by Israeli attacks just since 2006. This allegedly post-racial president appears fully invested in the racist worldview that considers Arab lives to be worth less than those of Israelis and in which Arabs are always "terrorists."
The problem is much wider than Obama: American liberals in general see no contradiction in espousing positions supporting
And then there's Hillary Clinton, the incoming secretary of state and self-styled champion of women and the working classes, who won't let anyone outbid her anti-Palestinian positions.
Democrats are not simply indifferent to Palestinians. In the recent presidential election, their efforts to win swing states like
Even those further to the left implicitly accept
Similarly, we can expect that the American university professors who have publicly opposed the academic boycott of Israel on grounds of protecting "academic freedom" will remain just as silent about Israel's bombing of the Islamic University of Gaza as they have about Israel's other attacks on Palestinian academic institutions.
There is no silver lining to Israel's slaughter in Gaza, but the reactions to it should at least serve as a wake-up call: when it comes to the struggle for peace and justice in Palestine, the American liberal elites who are about to assume power present as formidable an obstacle as the outgoing Bush administration and its neoconservative backers.
Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, Ali Abunimah is author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse (Metropolitan Books, 2006).