Thursday, June 04, 2009

Obama pledges new beginning between US and Muslims.

I think it's fair to say that his speech went down a storm.
"I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world: one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based on the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive," he said.
He greeted his audience in Arabic and was rewarded with thunderous applause. Indeed, he only had to quote from the Qur'an to ensure applause.

When discussing 9-11 he did not fail to defend the rightness of the US decision to invade Afghanistan in search of bin Laden and, to back up his claim he, again, quoted the Qur'an:
"The Holy Qur'an teaches that whoever kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind; and whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind … Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism – it is an important part of promoting peace," he said.
Again, he was greeted with tumultuous applause.

He admitted that Iraq was "a war of choice" and his promise to, in future, use diplomacy and seek international consensus whenever possible, also went down well.

But, exactly as he did when he visited Europe, he promised to fight any Muslim stereotypes he came across in the US, but demanded the same from the Muslim world.

It was this same fairness which he brought when discussing the Israel/Palestine issue, although the fact that he is being so fair - which is utterly unusual for an American president - was what made this appear so incredible.

He spoke of the US's "unbreakable" bond with Israel. And reminded his audience that Holocaust deniers and people who threaten Israel's destruction are "ignorant and hateful".

And then, the flip side:

In one of the most eagerly awaited elements of the speech, he issued a tough message to Israel that went down well with his audience: stop building settlements on land claimed by Palestinians.

Marking a change from the Bush administration, Obama said: "Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop."

He promised that the US would not turn their backs on the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for a state.

"If we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth. The only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security. That is in Israel's interests, Palestine's interests, America's interests, and the world's interest. And that is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience and dedication that the task requires."

He then derided the Palestinians for the cowardice of firing rockets into buildings where children sleep.

It was, all in all, a blistering performance.

It goes without saying that it is impossible to imagine his predecessor going into the Muslim world and making such a speech. And, in a side swipe at the Israeli claim that Bush and Sharon had some sneaky deal where Israel was not bound to abide by the treaties which she had publicly signed, Obama promised transparency:

"We will say in public what we say in private. To Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs."

He even opened his hands to Iran and vowed that he wanted a world where there were no nuclear weapons.

He then finished by promoting democracy whilst distancing himself from the notion of one nation imposing democracy upon others. He even managed, whilst speaking in Cairo, to get a round of applause while calling freedom "a human right". Indeed, he was even interrupted by a call of, "We love you!" whilst making these demands.

Right wingers will pick holes, but I simply can't think of any way which he could have made a better speech at this time or in this place.

Click title for source.

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