Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Obama's New Hard Line Towards Israel

The Obama administration is starting to signal its impatience with the State of Israel. A "two state solution" will be high on the list of priorities of the Obama administration, according to the Times of London, which reports as follows.

"Israel has to work toward a two-state solution,” declared Vice-President Joe Biden today in a speech to the annual conference of a powerful pro-Israel lobby group in Washington.

“You’re not going to like my saying this,” he warned the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) before adding that the Jewish state should not build any more settlements on Palestinian territory, and should “dismantle existing outposts and allow Palestinians freedom of movement”.
The news concerning Israel is one of many ways that the Obama administration is signalling its desire for "dialogue" with nations that are more interested in war than in developing a working relationship with their neighbours. Old friends like Great Britain and the Karzai government in Afghanistan are finding themselves sitting home on Saturday nights while the Obama administration is out partying with the bad boys on the world scene.

Currying favour with OPEC is an obvious motive for twisting Israel's arm. But there is the lip service to "humanitarian motives" that raises questions that beg to be asked.

Israel's neighbours such as Jordan and Lebanon have employment restrictions on descendants of those who fled Israel in 1948. Some restrictions on voting, citizenship and employment that the governments of these countries impose on fellow Arabs resemble apartheid in their pervasiveness and scope.

The Development Research Centre on Globalisation, Migration and Poverty reports on some of these restrictions on Palestinians in Lebanon as follows.

"A foreigner, other than an artist, is prohibited from carrying in Lebanon any work or occupation unless permitted to do so by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs under valid laws and regulations’. Additionally, Article 17 of the same decree directly refers to the national preference principle, as it states that: ‘The work permit shall be cancelled at any time, if it is revealed that any document is incorrect or as may be required in the interest of Lebanese labour’. Further, according to Article 9 of the same decree, the Minister of Labour is entitled to enumerate and list the jobs and trades that are restricted to Lebanese nationals and to yearly update the list in line with the needs arising in the Lebanese labour market. For instance, on 15 December 1995, the Minister of Labour, Asa'ad Hardan, issued a Ministerial Decision No. 621/1 in which he enumerated a list of about 50 jobs, trades and independent professions in the private sector which would prefer nationals. The list is long and includes both manual and clerical jobs in administration and banking, laboratories and pharmacies, electronics, mechanics and maintenance, teaching, also included the jobs of concierge, guard dyer, cook, butler and hairdresser, as well as other independent professions in the private sector like trade business (all categories), engineering (all categories), patisserie, printing and publishing and car maintenance (Danish Immigration Service and Danish Refugee Council 1998: 95, Annex 7). This ministerial decision was an update of the Ministerial Decision No. 1/289 issued on 18 December 1982."

Examples abound of Palestinians being expelled from Kuwait, Libya and other Arab countries because of political tensions. Why are these grievances not within the scope of a "comprehensive solution.?"

Israel incorporated almost a million Jewish refugees from Arab countries in 1948 and the years that followed. This is very close to the number of refugees claimed by sources advocating for descendants of Arabs who fled Israel in 1948. Most Jewish refugees left considerable property behind for which they were never compensated. The descendants of these Jewish refugees have gotten on with their lives and built stable lives for themselves. Instead of declaring an ex post facto population exchange resembling that of Greece and Turkey, Israel's neighbours and the Arab world now seek to uproot as they claim rights for Arab Muslims displaced at the same time.

The perception created in the media is that the Middle East is in the midst of an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. While the world has focused on the low body count conflict in the Middle East, the Congolese civil war has taken about six million lives since the mid 1990's and shows no sign of abating. Displacement from the Rwanda genocide in 1994 in which close to a million were killed persists today. And who can forget the apartheid regime in the Sudan which murders, rapes and enslaves Black non Muslim( and even some Muslim) Africans?

Between AIDS and bloody wars, there are a multitude of African conflicts which on a yearly basis vastly outstrip the body count of all wars involving Israel since 1948. Yet these conflicts are barely mentioned in the United Nations or in our daily news coverage. Why is there such a grotesque disparity in the compassion shown to Africans who suffer and die horrible deaths. Is there any difference in the colour of their tears?

It is difficult to escape the conclusion that there is a deeply entrenched regard for Black Africans as children of a lesser god. The cost of this indifference can be measured in human life and in human suffering. How do we measure up against all of the values to which we collectively pay lip service? We have fallen desperately short of the compassion demanded by any faith we might espouse. As our thoughts and deeds are being weighed on the heavenly scales, the cost of our indifference to starvation, pestilence and war in sub Saharan Africa continue to mount. How much longer will we look at their suffering with blind eyes? How much longer can this go on? And what are we becoming as a result of our indifference?

Report on Rape epidemic in the Congo Sphere: Related Content

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