Posted by Joshua on Wednesday, November 5th, 2008
[Landis Comment] Syria is expecting change with Obama’s election. The Syrian people were overwhelmingly in favor of Obama. The Syrian leadership are Obama fans as well because he promises to draw down the US involvement in Iraq within the next two years, re-open regular US communication with Syria, and follow the recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton report, which stressed on the importance of resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict. Of course it will take at least a year for Obama to sort out his Middle East team and for Israel, Iran and Lebanon to sort out their new leadership in elections that are scheduled to take place this coming year.
Not only Syria welcomes Obama. Many US allies also look forward to change, having realized that Bush’s foreign policy has badly radicalized the region and delivered few gains.
Syrian courts have pardoned two of Syria’s most prominent prisoners, Michel Kilo and Mahmoud Issa, in what seems to be an effort to turn a new leaf. Hopefully they will be released as promised and both Syria and the US can re-establish relations on sounder and more cooperative footing.
Michel Kilo and Mahmoud Issa, Opposition leaders pardoned by Appeals Court, FOUNDATION FOR THE DEFENSE OF PRISONERS OF CONSCIENCE, Sunday 2 Nov 2008
In an unexpected development, the Penal Chamber of the Appeal Court in Damascus agreed today to give the writer Michel Kilo (more background below page) and Mahmoud Issa(left), a Communist Labor Party member and human rights activist, a pardon amounting to a quarter of the total sentence they were previously condemned to serve. Both men were arrested in 2006 following their involvement in moves to advocate Democracy in the country. Kilo and Issa were both prominent signatories to the Beirut-Damascus Declaration.
Read Syria Comment’s Michel Kilo the Patriot
AFP: Nov. 4: Prominent Syrian journalist Michel Kilo, seen here in 2005, and translator Mahmud Issa, who ought to have been released from jail on Sunday, are still behind bars, human rights figures said on Tuesday.
ABC News: French President Nicolas Sarkozy was even more glowing in a letter to Obama:
“In choosing you, the American people have chosen the path of change, openness and optimism. Your election raises immense hope in France, Europe and beyond: the hope of an open America.”
Nelson Mandela, as qualified as he is complimentary in his comments, gushed, “Your victory has demonstrated that no person anywhere in the world should not dare to dream of wanting to change the world for a better place.”
In the Middle East, ‘everybody’ is with Obama
From Tuesday’s Globe and Mail, November 4, 2008
DAMASCUS — Bassem Suweida drops his voice out of habit when discussing politics, even though it was today’s election in the faraway United States that the 45-year-old waiter was about to weigh in on, not the closer-to-home intrigues of Bashar Assad’s regime.
“Of course we are with Obama. Everybody in the Middle East is with Obama, because everybody hates Bush,” Mr. Suweida explained, almost whispering, during a break in serving mezze at an upscale restaurant hidden deep in the stone warrens of the walled old city of Damascus. “Will Obama be any different? That’s the question everybody is asking. We don’t know, but we hope so.”
Hope. It’s the word that Barrack Obama has built his campaign for the U.S. presidency around, and it’s the word that defines him, even here in the capital city of a country that many Americans likely consider to be an enemy.
There’s yearning across the Middle East – at least outside of Israel and Iraqi Kurdistan – for a new face in the White House, and John McCain doesn’t fit the bill. He’s seen both by the governments of this region, as well as the legendary “Arab street,” as too close to the policies of George W. Bush. And the eight years the latter spent as the most powerful person in the world are viewed here as an unmitigated disaster.
Syrian Information Minister Mohsen Bilal on Wednesday voiced hope that Barack Obama’s election will help change US foreign policies and bolster Middle East peace. Syria, which has long had a rocky relationship with the United States, hopes that Obama’s election victory will contribute to “a change in US foreign policy,” Bilal said, as quoted by the official SANA news agency.
2009 has the potential to be a massively transformative year. It is the year of potentially momentous elections.
Israel will hold legislative elections on Feb 10, 2009.
Iran will hold presidential elections on June 12, 2009.
Lebanon will hold parliamentary elections in May or June 2009.
Depending on the results (Likud vs Kadima, Iranian conservatives vs. reformists, March 14 vs. March 8), we may see the region lurch decisively in one direction or another.
(I actually don’t think the Lebanese elections will make that much of a difference, given that all parties are more or less back to business as usual. Israel and Iran’s elections will have a much greater influence on Lebanese [and Syrian] politics than the Lebanese elections themselves.)
A Reluctant Middle East
By Amr Hamzawy, Al Ahram Weekly, Issue No. 920, 30 October – 5 November 2008
As far as Washington is concerned there are four aspects to the crisis in the Middle East.
Firstly, it is exacting an enormous political price — especially the US military presence in Iraq — in terms of military expenditure, loss of life and the daily attrition on the US army.
Secondly, the US, in its capacity as a superpower striving towards universal hegemony and keen to secure its vital interests in the Middle East, is no longer able to manage regional conflicts in a manner that furthers the pursuit of its aims and curtails the threats to its interests. After two Bush administrations, which sought to redraw the map of the Middle East in order to eliminate or marginalise forces antagonistic to its policies in the region, Washington is incapable of controlling conflicts in Lebanon, in Palestine between the PA and Hamas and between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and in Iraq. Nor has it been able to settle its multi-tiered problems with Iran. On every front in the region it is encountering increasing competition from states opposed to the US or from resistance organisations.
Thirdly, US policies in the region are in the grip of a severe credibility crisis. I am not talking about the campaign to spread democracy, to which the Bush administration had hardly adhered before the Hamas victory in the Palestinian legislative elections in 2006 and that it abandoned entirely afterwards. Rather, I am speaking of the conventional role that Washington has played since the end of World War II, which is to protect its allies — Israel above all — and to steer the collective security arrangements in the Gulf in order to safeguard the flow of oil. Many of America’s allies have begun to question the efficacy of Washington’s polices and, in some cases, now believe these policies cause more problems than they solve. Such reactions are closely connected with the Bush administration’s military adventurism and its poor, if not negative, results, as well as with the administration’s unbounded bias in favour of Israel to the detriment of Arab interests.
Fourthly, in spite of the unprecedented magnitude of the US military presence in the region, America’s manoeuvrability and available pressure tools have declined. Of course, Washington remains a leading player in Iraq, the Gulf, Palestine and Lebanon, but it can no longer move independently. It would be wrong to think that only Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hizbullah are acting outside of the framework of US policies. Long-term allies such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan are exploring courses of their own in order to buffer themselves against the negative repercussions of US policies. ….
The failure of US policies andthe decline in Washington’s influence drove its regional allies to search for alternative strategies less dependent on the superpower. This has exacerbated the crisis Washington faces in the Middle East. Perhaps the clearest manifestation of this development is found in its allies’ reluctance, if not outright refusal, to fall in line with the Bush administration’s incessant drive to — indeed obsession with — pushing tensions in the region towards perilous confrontations in the hope of producing decisive victories. Today, Washington’s allies in the Gulf refuse to treat Iran solely as a source of threat and instability that can only be contained by force. Instead, as Riyadh’s attempts to coordinate with Iran over regional concerns such as Lebanon indicate, they are seriously exploring ways to work with Iran so as to avert the spectre of another war in the region and, simultaneously, regulate Iran’s regional aspirations. Egypt, for its part, has stepped up diplomatic efforts to bring the security situation in Gaza under control, to maintain calm between Israel and the Palestinian factions, and to promote a national dialogue between the PA and Hamas. It is a course that contradicts the American premise that Hamas is a terrorist organisation that needs to be eliminated. Indeed, Israel, while encouraging confrontation against Iran and still refusing to deal with Hamas, has entered into Turkish-mediated negotiations with Syria. Neither Tel Aviv nor Ankara, Washington’s two key allies in the region, seem overly concerned with the disgruntlement this may have caused in Washington…..
An Open Letter to Barack Obama
Between Hope and Reality
By RALPH NADER
Dear Senator Obama:
In your nearly two-year presidential campaign, the words “hope and change,” “change and hope” have been your trademark declarations. Yet there is an asymmetry between those objectives and your political character that succumbs to contrary centers of power that want not “hope and change” but the continuation of the power-entrenched status quo.
Far more than Senator McCain, you have received enormous, unprecedented contributions from corporate interests, Wall Street interests and, most interestingly, big corporate law firm attorneys. Never before has a Democratic nominee for President achieved this supremacy over his Republican counterpart. Why, apart from your unconditional vote for the $700 billion Wall Street bailout, are these large corporate interests investing so much in Senator Obama? Could it be that in your state Senate record, your U.S. Senate record and your presidential campaign record (favoring nuclear power, coal plants, offshore oil drilling, corporate subsidies including the 1872 Mining Act and avoiding any comprehensive program to crack down on the corporate crime wave and the bloated, wasteful military budget, for example) you have shown that you are their man?
To advance change and hope, the presidential persona requires character, courage, integrity– not expediency, accommodation and short-range opportunism. Take, for example, your transformation from an articulate defender of Palestinian rights in Chicago before your run for the U.S. Senate to an acolyte, a dittoman for the hard-line AIPAC lobby, which bolsters the militaristic oppression, occupation, blockage, colonization and land-water seizures over the years of the Palestinian peoples and their shrunken territories in the West Bank and Gaza. Eric Alterman summarized numerous polls in a December 2007 issue of The Nation magazine showing that AIPAC policies are opposed by a majority of Jewish-Americans.
You know quite well that only when the U.S. Government supports the Israeli and Palestinian peace movements, that years ago worked out a detailed two-state solution(which is supported by a majority of Israelis and Palestinians), will there be a chance for a peaceful resolution of this 60-year plus conflict. Yet you align yourself with the hard-liners, so much so that in your infamous, demeaning speech to the AIPAC convention right after you gained the nomination of the Democratic Party, you supported an “undivided Jerusalem,” and opposed negotiations with Hamas– the elected government in Gaza. Once again, you ignored the will of the Israeli people who, in a March 1, 2008 poll by the respected newspaper Haaretz, showed that 64% of Israelis favored “direct negotiations with Hamas.” Siding with the AIPAC hard-liners is what one of the many leading Palestinians advocating dialogue and peace with the Israeli people was describing when he wrote “Anti-semitism today is the persec!
ution of Palestinian society by the Israeli state.”
During your visit to Israel this summer, you scheduled a mere 45 minutes of your time for Palestinians with no news conference, and no visit to Palestinian refugee camps that would have focused the media on the brutalization of the Palestinians. Your trip supported the illegal, cruel blockade of Gaza in defiance of international law and the United Nations charter. You focused on southern Israeli casualties which during the past year have totaled one civilian casualty to every 400 Palestinian casualties on the Gaza side. Instead of a statesmanship that decried all violence and its replacement with acceptance of the Arab League’s 2002 proposal to permit a viable Palestinian state within the 1967 borders in return for full economic and diplomatic relations between Arab countries and Israel, you played the role of a cheap politician, leaving the area and Palestinians with the feeling of much shock and little awe.
David Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator, described your trip succinctly: “There was almost a willful display of indifference to the fact that there are two narratives here. This could serve him well as a candidate, but not as a President.”
Palestinian American commentator, Ali Abunimah, noted that Obama did not utter a single criticism of Israel, “of its relentless settlement and wall construction, of the closures that make life unlivable for millions of Palestinians. …Even the Bush administration recently criticized Israeli’s use of cluster bombs against Lebanese civilians [see www.atfl.org for elaboration]. But Obama defended Israeli’s assault on Lebanon as an exercise of its ‘legitimate right to defend itself.'”
In numerous columns Gideon Levy, writing in Haaretz, strongly criticized the Israeli government’s assault on civilians in Gaza, including attacks on “the heart of a crowded refugee camp… with horrible bloodshed” in early 2008.
Israeli writer and peace advocate– Uri Avnery– described Obama’s appearance before AIPAC as one that “broke all records for obsequiousness and fawning, adding that Obama “is prepared to sacrifice the most basic American interests. After all, the US has a vital interest in achieving an Israeli-Palestinian peace that will allow it to find ways to the hearts of the Arab masses from Iraq to Morocco. Obama has harmed his image in the Muslim world and mortgaged his future– if and when he is elected president.,” he said, adding, “Of one thing I am certain: Obama’s declarations at the AIPAC conference are very, very bad for peace. And what is bad for peace is bad for Israel, bad for the world and bad for the Palestinian people.”
A further illustration of your deficiency of character is the way you turned your back on the Muslim-Americans in this country. You refused to send surrogates to speak to voters at their events. Having visited numerous churches and synagogues, you refused to visit a single Mosque in America. Even George W. Bush visited the Grand Mosque in Washington D.C. after 9/11 to express proper sentiments of tolerance before a frightened major religious group of innocents.
Although the New York Times published a major article on June 24, 2008 titled “Muslim Voters Detect a Snub from Obama” (by Andrea Elliott), citing examples of your aversion to these Americans who come from all walks of life, who serve in the armed forces and who work to live the American dream. Three days earlier the International Herald Tribune published an article by Roger Cohen titled “Why Obama Should Visit a Mosque.” None of these comments and reports change your political bigotry against Muslim-Americans– even though your father was a Muslim from Kenya.
Perhaps nothing illustrated your utter lack of political courage or even the mildest version of this trait than your surrendering to demands of the hard-liners to prohibit former president Jimmy Carter from speaking at the Democratic National Convention. This is a tradition for former presidents and one accorded in prime time to Bill Clinton this year.
Here was a President who negotiated peace between Israel and Egypt, but his recent book pressing the dominant Israeli superpower to avoid Apartheid of the Palestinians and make peace was all that it took to sideline him. Instead of an important address to the nation by Jimmy Carter on this critical international problem, he was relegated to a stroll across the stage to “tumultuous applause,” following a showing of a film about the Carter Center’s post-Katrina work. Shame on you, Barack Obama!
But then your shameful behavior has extended to many other areas of American life. (See the factual analysis by my running mate, Matt Gonzalez, on www.votenader.org). You have turned your back on the 100-million poor Americans composed of poor whites, African-Americans, and Latinos. You always mention helping the “middle class” but you omit, repeatedly, mention of the “poor” in America.
Should you be elected President, it must be more than an unprecedented upward career move following a brilliantly unprincipled campaign that spoke “change” yet demonstrated actual obeisance to the concentration power of the “corporate supremacists.” It must be about shifting the power from the few to the many. It must be a White House presided over by a black man who does not turn his back on the downtrodden here and abroad but challenges the forces of greed, dictatorial control of labor, consumers and taxpayers, and the militarization of foreign policy. It must be a White House that is transforming of American politics– opening it up to the public funding of elections (through voluntary approaches)– and allowing smaller candidates to have a chance to be heard on debates and in the fullness of their now restricted civil liberties. Call it a competitive democracy.
Your presidential campaign again and again has demonstrated cowardly stands. “Hope” some say springs eternal.” But not when “reality” consumes it daily.
Barack Obama wins 77 percent of Jewish vote, exit polls show, By Haaertz
Despite the tense rift between Republican and Democratic Jews over the course of the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, exit polls on Tuesday showed that Barack Obama received about 77 percent of the Jewish vote.
These numbers were higher even than the 2004 election, when Democratic candidate John Kerry received 74 percent of the Jewish vote. Al Gore received the highest percentage of Jewish votes in 2000, with 79 percent.
Jeremy Ben-Ami, executive director of the J Street lobby group on Tuesday called Obama’s victory a sign that the campaign waged against him by Republican Jews comprised “baseless smears.”
“American Jews resoundingly rejected the two-year, multi-million dollar campaign of baseless smears and fear waged against him by the right wing of our community,” he said. “Surrogates and right-wing political operatives in our community stopped at nothing in their efforts to sway Jewish voters against Obama.”
Addendum: I have erased a photo included with a crazy article that insisted that Obama is the son of Malcolm X. I thought it was funny and demonstrated some of the stranger aspects of the race. Some of my readers did not see the humor in it.
Black Man Given Nation’s Worst Job
November 5, 2008 | The Onion
WASHINGTON—African-American man Barack Obama, 47, was given the least-desirable job in the entire country Tuesday when he was elected president of the United States of America. In his new high-stress, low-reward position, Obama will be charged with such tasks as completely overhauling the nation’s broken-down economy, repairing the crumbling infrastructure, and generally having to please more than 300 million Americans and cater to their every whim on a daily basis. As part of his duties, the black man will have to spend four to eight years cleaning up the messes other people left behind. The job comes with such intense scrutiny and so certain a guarantee of failure that only one other person even bothered applying for it. Said scholar and activist Mark L. Denton, “It just goes to show you that, in this country, a black man still can’t catch a break.”