Reaction to Barack Hussein Obama’s Cairo speech: A roundup
Posted by danishova on June 5, 2009
This may be the longest blog post evah, to be updated as I find new gems.
In his much-heralded "Muslim world" address in Cairo yesterday, Obama declared that the Palestinian people’s "situation" is "intolerable." Indeed it is, the result of 60 years of Palestinian leadership that gave its people corruption, tyranny, religious intolerance and forced militarization; leadership that for three generations rejected every offer of independence and dignity, choosing destitution and despair rather than accept any settlement not accompanied by the extinction of Israel.
That’s why Haj Amin al-Husseini chose war rather than a two-state solution in 1947. Why Yasser Arafat turned down a Palestinian state in 2000. And why Abbas rejected Olmert’s even more generous December 2008 offer. ..
Obama says he came to Cairo to tell the truth. But he uttered not a word of that. Instead, among all the bromides and lofty sentiments, he issued but one concrete declaration of new American policy: "The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements," thus reinforcing the myth that Palestinian misery and statelessness are the fault of Israel and the settlements.
Blaming Israel and picking a fight over "natural growth" may curry favor with the Muslim "street." But it will only induce the Arab states to do like Abbas: sit and wait for America to deliver Israel on a platter. Which makes the Obama strategy not just dishonorable but self-defeating.
He told the Cairo audience that "to move forward we must say openly the things we hold in our hearts," but he wasted the opportunity to forcefully instruct Muslims that respect and appreciation must be mutual. While conceding the mote in American eyes, he said almost nothing about the beam that blinds Muslim eyes. He enumerated the "sources of tension" between Islamic countries and the West and never mentioned terrorism. He chided the West for its harsh view of Islamic treatment of women – "I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal" – and suggested that denying education to women is the gravest Muslim sin against women. He could have denounced "honor killings," forced marriages and how women in Muslim countries are flogged on the pretext of minuscule violations of eighth-century Sharia law.
But it was more fun to fish for applause by berating America and throwing rocks at Israel. "Let there be no doubt: The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity and a state of their own." Israel, he said, must "live up to its obligations," but he had hardly a word of rebuke for the long record of broken Palestinian promises. It was a remarkable insult to an absent ally, delivered to the applause of Israel’s sworn enemies.
George Neumayr for The American Spectator:
His Cairo speech contained a familiar assortment of jaw-dropping whoppers and jumbled half-truths. The White House proudly announced that this syncretistic stream of deceptions will be translated into a dozen languages…
The more non-Western a religion is, the more Obama cottons to it. Ever the critic of the West, Obama declared casually that Islam made possible "Europe’s renaissance and enlightenment."
America, he argued, has learned a lot from it too: "Islam has always been part of America’s story. The first nation to recognize my country was Morocco." He didn’t bother to mention that Muslim pirates were also some of the first ones to wage war against America, thus making the Treaty of Tripoli necessary.
Obama added that "when the first Muslim American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution using the same holy Quran that one of our founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, kept in his personal library." Too bad he didn’t mention that Jefferson had purchased it in order to understand the tactics of the Muslim pirates.
Obama’s glib solipsism is bottomless. Whether telling Catholics at Notre Dame what Christianity means or Muslims in Cairo what Islam means, he simply substitutes his narcissistic liberalism for the subject at hand; all religious roads lead back not to God but to him.
In sum, there was a time when it was indeed true that Islamic culture was more advanced than that of Europeans, but that superiority corresponds exactly to the period when Muslims were able to draw on and advance the achievements of Byzantine and other civilizations. But when the Muslim overlords had taken what they could from their subject peoples, and the Jewish and Christian communities had been stripped of their material and intellectual wealth and thoroughly subdued, Islam went into a period of intellectual decline from which it has not yet recovered.
“And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.”
Assuming that such stereotypes actually exist, and that negativity toward Islam among non-Muslims isn’t entirely a reaction to jihad violence and Islamic supremacism, why is this his responsibility? Is it his responsibility as President to fight against negative stereotypes of Christians as ignorant racist yahoos? Is it his responsibility as President to fight against negative stereotypes of Hindus? Jews? Black Americans? American Southerners? Californians? Or is it only his responsibility to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam? If the latter, why? On what basis? By what justification?
For starters, he drew a totally false analogy between the Holocaust and the Palestinian pain of "dislocations" and "daily humilitations" under Israeli occupation. The parallel between the deliberate slaughter of 6 million Jews and the lot of Palestinians in refugee camps and in the West Bank and Gaza, where the UN supplies them with schools, food and shelter, is unsupportable. Yes, it’s an unhappy lot, but it’s not Auschwitz or Buchenwald. Not by a long shot. UN reports consistently rank the Palestinian territories ahead of Syria, Egypt, and about 70 other nations in basic standards of living.
Secondly, in discussing the Palestinian "pain of dislocation," Obama bought directly into Palestinian refusal to acknowledge that much of that pain has been self-inflicted. He failed to be "honest" with Palestinians by not telling them that there would be no refugee camps nor "daily humiliations" under Israeli occupation, if only their leaders and the leaders of Arab nations had accepted a two-state solution more than 60 years ago under the UN’s partition plan of 1947. Or that all that pain could have been ended in 2000 if Arafat had accepted a generous two-state plan offered by Bill Clinton or Ehud Barak. Or, as recently as last year, when Ehud Olmert proposed a Palestinian state on 95 percent of the West Bank and all of Gaza with a land corridor to connect the 2 territories.
Attorney General Eric Holder (Be sure to sit down for this one):
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder released the following statement relating to President Obama’s historic speech today in Cairo, Egypt:
“The President’s pledge for a new beginning between the United States and the Muslim community takes root here in the Justice Department where we are committed to using criminal and civil rights laws to protect Muslim Americans. A top priority of this Justice Department is a return to robust civil rights enforcement and outreach in defending religious freedoms and other fundamental rights of all of our fellow citizens in the workplace, in the housing market, in our schools and in the voting booth.
President Obama’s speech in Cairo was historic. No other President has gone to a foreign nation to so publicly throw a strong ally under the bus. Once again the President, pandered to the Muslim world by dissing Israel in a major way, he downplayed the role of terrorism, made Hamas look like a rowdy Boys Glee Club, called for the internationalization of Jerusalem, and used the Palestinian party line to describe the Israeli presence not only in the West Bank and Gaza but its VERY existence at all…
Peter Daou for The Huffington Post:
Is that a joke?
With women being stoned, raped, abused, battered, mutilated, and slaughtered on a daily basis across the globe, violence that is so often perpetrated in the name of religion, the most our president can speak about is protecting their right to wear the hijab?
Jennifer Rubin for Commentary Magazine:
He can’t distinguish between the U.S. nuclear arsenal and Iran’s acquisition of nuclear arms? This is gibberish right out the the nuclear freeze movement of the Cold War. Iran’s mullahs must be smiling: this is not someone dedicated to halting their ambitions or willing to “pick and choose.” The jig is up — his feebleness is plain for all to see.
"By quoting the Quran on issues such as diversity, justice and the sanctity of human life, the president acknowledged Islam’s contributions to universal values…
"We particularly appreciate the president’s challenge to those who promote ‘crude stereotypes’ of Islam in the West and of those who harbor similar stereotypes of America.
Aliza Herbst, a spokeswoman for Yesha, the West Bank settlers’ council, dismissed Obama’s speech as "naive" and "out of touch with reality."
"You can have your speechwriters find every good thing a Muslim has ever done," she said. "But more modern history is that the Muslim world is at war with the Western world."
But Wadir Safi, a professor at Kabul University, said, the speech held promise. He appeared in a special report by the VOA. "I have not heard until now from none of the American presidents so much clear and knowledgeable speech about Islam," he said.
In short, Obama’s "straight talk" to the Arab world, which began with his disingenuous claim that like America, Islam is committed to "justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings," was consciously and fundamentally fraudulent. And this fraud was advanced to facilitate his goal of placing the Islamic world on equal moral footing with the free world…
On the surface Obama seemed to scold the Muslim world for its all-pervasive Holocaust denial and craven Jew hatred. By asserting that Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism are wrong, he seemed to be upholding his earlier claim that America’s ties to Israel are "unbreakable."
Unfortunately, a careful study of his statements shows that Obama was actually accepting the Arab view that Israel is a foreign — and therefore unjustifiable — intruder in the Arab world. Indeed, far from attacking their rejection of Israel, Obama legitimized it.
The basic Arab argument against Israel is that the only reason Israel was established was to sooth the guilty consciences of Europeans who were embarrassed about the Holocaust. By their telling, the Jews have no legal, historic or moral rights to the Land of Israel.
This argument is completely false. The international community recognized the legal, historic and moral rights of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel long before anyone had ever heard of Adolf Hitler. In 1922, the League of Nations mandated the "reconstitution" — not the creation — of the Jewish commonwealth in the Land of Israel in its historic borders on both sides of the Jordan River…
Even worse than his willful blindness to the historic, legal, and moral justifications for Israel’s rebirth, was Obama’s characterization of Israel itself. Obama blithely, falsely and obnoxiously compared Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to white American slave owners’ treatment of their black slaves. He similarly cast Palestinian terrorists in the same morally pure category as slaves. Perhaps most repulsively, Obama elevated Palestinian terrorism to the moral heights of slave rebellions and the civil rights movement by referring to it by its Arab euphemism, "resistance."…
As Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas made clear in his interview last week with the Washington Post, in light of the administration’s hostility towards Israel, the Palestinian Authority no longer feels it is necessary to make any concessions whatsoever to Israel. It needn’t accept Israel’s identity as a Jewish state. It needn’t minimize in any way its demand that Israel commit demographic suicide by accepting millions of foreign, hostile Arabs as full citizens. And it needn’t curtail its territorial demand that Israel contract to within indefensible borders.
In short, by attacking Israel and claiming that Israel is responsible for the absence of peace, the administration is encouraging the Palestinians and the Arab world as a whole to continue to reject Israel and to refuse to make peace with the Jewish state.
Evan Thomas (via Newsbusters):
Newsweek editor Evan Thomas brought adulation over President Obama’s Cairo speech to a whole new level on Friday, declaring on MSNBC: "I mean in a way Obama’s standing above the country, above – above the world, he’s sort of God."
Thomas, appearing on Hardball with Chris Matthews, was reacting to a preceding monologue in which Matthews praised Obama’s speech: "I think the President’s speech yesterday was the reason we Americans elected him. It was grand. It was positive. Hopeful…But what I liked about the President’s speech in Cairo was that it showed a complete humility…The question now is whether the President we elected and spoke for us so grandly yesterday can carry out the great vision he gave us and to the world."
Let’s pause right there: It’s interesting how easily the words “the Muslim world” roll off the tongues of liberal secular progressives who’d choke on any equivalent reference to “the Christian world.” When such hyper-alert policemen of the perimeter between church and state endorse the former but not the latter, they’re implicitly acknowledging that Islam is not merely a faith but a political project, too. There is an “Organization of the Islamic Conference,” which is already the largest single voting bloc at the U.N. and is still adding new members. Imagine if someone proposed an “Organization of the Christian Conference” that would hold summits attended by prime ministers and presidents, and vote as a bloc in transnational bodies. But, of course, there is no “Christian world”: Europe is largely post-Christian and, as President Obama bizarrely asserted to a European interviewer last week, America is “one of the largest Muslim countries in the world.” Perhaps we’re eligible for membership in the OIC…
The speech nevertheless impressed many conservatives, including Rich Lowry, my esteemed editor at National Review, “esteemed editor” being the sort of thing one says before booting the boss in the crotch. Rich thought that the president succeeded in his principal task: “Fundamentally, Obama’s goal was to tell the Muslim world, ‘We respect and value you, your religion and your civilization, and only ask that you don’t hate us and murder us in return.’” But those terms are too narrow. You don’t have to murder a guy if he preemptively surrenders. And you don’t even have to hate him if you’re too busy despising him. The savvier Muslim potentates have no desire to be sitting in a smelly cave in the Hindu Kush sharing a latrine with a dozen halfwitted goatherds while plotting how to blow up the Empire State Building. Nevertheless, they share key goals with the cave dwellers — including the wish to expand the boundaries of “the Muslim world” and (as in the anti-blasphemy push at the U.N.) to place Islam, globally, beyond criticism. The non-terrorist advance of Islam is a significant challenge to western notions of liberty and pluralism.
I didn’t know what the term “shorter” meant until I started blogging. A “shorter” is someone who exaggerates someone else’s opinion, or creates a false choice between two extremes. Back in the day, such form of argument would be called setting up a “strawman.”..
Obama’s "historic" speech to the Muslim world yesterday was full of shorting.
“Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.”
So "many Muslims" object to modernity, and we are supposed to give credibility to those who want to live in the 15th Century just because "many" are afraid of the modern world.
“The attacks of September 11th, 2001 and the continued efforts of these extremists to engage in violence against civilians has led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile not only to America and Western countries, but also to human rights.”
The "some in my country" constitute the majority of the population who have legitimate fears of Islamic extremism and terrorism. By setting up the equation this way, Obama is creating a false equivalency between those who fear attack and those who attack.
‘"I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: no system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other.”
Promoting democracy is not the equivalent of imposing a system of government. The false analogy of promoting democracy to imperialism leaves those who seek freedom in places such as Iran left to fend for themselves. Stating that "we will support" certain universal freedoms, as Obama does in his speech, means nothing without actual support. So much for hope.
Any person with the smallest pretense to cultural literacy knows that there is no such place or thing as "the Muslim world," or, rather, that it consists of many places and many things. (It is precisely the aim of the jihadists to bring it all under one rulership preparatory to making Islam the world’s only religion.) But Obama said nothing about the schism between Sunni and Shiites, or about the argument over Sufism, or about Ahmadi and Ismaili forms of worship and practice. All this was conceded to the umma: the highly ideological notion that a person is first and foremost defined by their adherence to a religion and that all concepts of citizenship and rights take second place to this theocratic diktat. Nothing could be more reactionary.
Take the single case in which our president touched upon the best-known fact about the Islamic "world": its tendency to make women second-class citizens. He mentioned this only to say that "Western countries" were discriminating against Muslim women! And how is this discrimination imposed? By limiting the wearing of the head scarf or hijab (a word that Obama pronounced as hajib—imagine the uproar if George Bush had done that). The clear implication was an attack on the French law that prohibits the display of religious garb or symbols in state schools. Indeed, the following day in Paris, Obama made this point even more explicitly. I quote from an excellent commentary by an Algerian-American visiting professor at the University of Michigan Law School, Karima Bennoune, who says:
I have just published research conducted among the many people of Muslim, Arab and North African descent in France who support that country’s 2004 law banning religious symbols in public schools which they see as a necessary deployment of the "law of the republic" to counter the "law of the Brothers," an informal rule imposed undemocratically on many women and girls in neighborhoods and at home and by fundamentalists.
(Click here for more of professor Bennoune’s work.)
But to the women who are compelled to dress according to the requirements of others, Obama had nothing to say at all, as if the only "right" at stake were the right to obey an instruction that is, in fact—if it matters—not found in the Quran. In Turkey, too, head scarves for women are outlawed in some contexts. Is this, too, Islamophobia? Does the president think that the veil and the burqa are also freely chosen fashion statements? This sort of naiveté is worrying, and it means that among the global Muslim audience, the wrong sort of people were laughing at us, while the ones who ought to be our friends and allies were shedding a disappointed tear.
Obama bravely told the Cairo audience that 9/11 was a very nasty thing for Muslims to do to us, but on the other hand, they are victims of colonization.
Except we didn’t colonize them. The French and the British did. So why are Arabs flying planes into our buildings and not the Arc de Triomphe? (And gosh, haven’t the Arabs done a lot with the Middle East since the French and the British left!)
In another sharks-to-kittens comparison, Obama said, "Now let me be clear, issues of women’s equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam." No, he said, "the struggle for women’s equality continues in many aspects of American life."
So on one hand, 12-year-old girls are stoned to death for the crime of being raped in Muslim countries. But on the other hand, we still don’t have enough female firefighters here in America.
Delusionally, Obama bragged about his multiculti worldview, saying, "I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal." In Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan and other Muslim countries, women "choose" to cover their heads on pain of losing them.
Obama rolled out the crucial liberal talking point against America’s invasion of Iraq, saying Iraq was a "war of convenience," while Afghanistan was a "war of necessity." Liberals cling to this nonsense doggerel as a shield against their hypocrisy on Iraq. Either both wars were wars of necessity or both wars were wars of choice.
Neither Iraq nor Afghanistan — nor any country — attacked us on 9/11. Both Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as many other Muslim countries, were sheltering those associated with the terrorists who did attack us on 9/11 — and who hoped to attack us again.
The truth is, all wars are wars of choice, including the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, both World Wars, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, the Gulf War, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. OK, maybe the war on teen obesity is a war of convenience, but that’s the only one I can think of.