Hopeful but not audacious enough!
This seems to sum up US President Barack Obama’s much vaunted speech to the Muslim world.
Comments and analysis from the Arab street as reflected on the screens of al-Jazeera, CNN and BBC suggest that while Obama’s message is generally welcome, skepticism abounds.
This is mainly due to a bitter price paid by many in the Muslim world by trusting American governments more than necessary. The other is as a result of knowing that actions speak louder than words –” and that as yet Obama’s speech contained no more than articulate sounds.
What is intriguing though, is that while global anticipation of ground-breaking decisions to “mend Muslim fences” heightened expectations; it’s the re-affirmation of neoconservative rationale that seemed at odds with his “re-imagination”.
As much as he sounded like a Sunday school preacher or to be closer to his global Muslim audience, like an Imam, Obama retained a military quality.
From women’s rights to democracy; from human rights to economic development and from decrying regime change to practicing it, his range covered the entire gambit of life on earth in idealistic rhetoric.
Yet it was incomplete!
Despite galloping through a lengthy oration in a historic setting within Islam’s oldest citadel, the custodian of the free world’s most powerful state must have pondered long and hard about his moment of détente with the Muslim world.
In his circuitous route, from 9/11 to rockets and back to Afghanistan, the first Afro-American president of the United States crafted his talk with a degree of circumspect. Mindful that pro-Israeli lobbies back home would be hard at work analyzing every syllable, Obama invoked the Jewish Holocaust.
After softening feelings in Israel, he donned the mantle of a philosopher by confirming an oft-repeated claim by Muslims across the world: “The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable”. This cold brutal fact alongside his equally harsh admonishment of Israel’s need to acknowledge Palestinian suffering and Palestine’s “right to exist”, is the closest any US president has ventured to unsettle Zionist colonialism.
Robert Fisk attests to this. “Not for a generation has Israel had to take this kind of criticism from a US President. It sounded like the end of the Zionist dream”.
Yet, the fact is that for the Muslim world, Obama did not go far enough. Palestinians languishing in refugee camps or in the Occupied Territories are distinctly aware that despite his harsh criticism of settlements, their quest for freedom is consistently squashed by American-sponsored weapons.
They are aware that the defunct Abbas-led Palestinian Authority is legitimized by American support. They know too that the movement of their choice, Hamas, is marginalized and subject to clandestine regime-change operations at the behest of America
Peace and prosperity while papering over injustices whether in Palestine, Iraq or elsewhere cannot be attained. Neither can words alone heal the wounds of centuries.