US/UK’s good cop/bad cop act to subvert Iranon the dictats of Israel

June 19, 2009

Friday, June 19, 2009




US/UK’s good cop/bad cop act to subvert Iranon the dictats of Israel 


While Obama and his staff is treating Iran imbroglio with kid gloves, it would appear that they are in the good cop act, while the bad cop act was given to BBC, UK. The virulent depth of BBC’s beyond the call of duty involvement can be judged that on the day, the Mousavi protestors decided to hit the street wearing black, as a sign of mourning for the dead during the earlier protest rallies, BBC’s own anchor was given a black overcoat to wear over her private dress. This is how BBC’s objective coverage is managed. This shows how detailed and thorough the campaign against Iran’s ruling establishment under Ahmadinejad, is orchestrated by BBC and its possible funders from the British Jewry, probably as a commercial paid project. This is a blatant interference by UK in the internal affairs of a UN member country. UK leaders have always been given the dirty job by the US big brother. In the past, Bush arm-twisted Blair to drag UK into an illegal Iraqinvasion. While the people howled over Blair decision, UK administration found itself unable to shake off the pressure of British Jewry, which on the Labour party was represented by Lord Goldstein, the one man fund-raiser of the party. A group of protestors have gathered around BBC offices inLondon. As BBC’s propaganda activities against Iran in their agenda of regime change, persists day after day; there are the reasons to believe that BBC’s home offices will be a target for possible trouble makers too,  on behalf of rabble rouser, with direct vested interest in inflaming the fires in Iran.


UN secretary general should take note of BBC’s virulent propaganda campaign against Iran and caution the UK government against playing with fire that might breakout of the boundaries of Iran.



Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai


The ‘Regime Change’ regime targets Iran – By Ghulam Muhammed

June 17, 2009

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The ‘Regime Change’ regime targets Iran

Long before Iran was to have its scheduled current election to elect or re-elect a new President, US had started its mission to sabotage the current Ahmadinejad regime, through massive instigation of opposition groups to prepare for an ‘Orange revolution’ type of ‘Green revolution’ in Iran. US Congress openly appropriated funds for this subversive mission. Obama came in with a new approach for speaking softly and engaging Iran in a dialog. The dialog was to try a new approach to substitute Israel’s obsessive demand to bomb away Iran’s nuclear facilities. Apparently after its disastrous war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, US and its NATO allies are not in a mood to ‘permit’ Israel to start another of its promoted war adventure. Obama had therefore acquiesced if not actively offered to sabotage the election and bring in a regime change in Iran, using the same strategies that US had so successfully used in regime change ‘revolutions’ in East European countries that had got their freedom from Soviet Union, though still under Russian affiliations. One after another, the coups were organised openly and world got the front row view of the staged revolution on 24 hour television coverage where crowds surged on government institutions while US and its allies, using their powerful media relentlessly bombarding the world with its cacophony of expression of outrage on brutalities heaped on the protestors, who were nothing put hired thugs of the US and its western allies.

The same strategy was adopted by the US in Iran. In the forefront of the subversive campaign is BBC, with its Persian radio and television services. BBC world service TV and radio programs relayed round the clock commentary and voices of disgruntled Iranians, from within as well as from outside Iran. The organised nature of BBC’s new coverage was fully exposed when BBC’s star senior journalist John Simpson majestically descended on the streets in Tehran to anoint the crowds and encourage mass revolt on the streets. Its street by street coverage through use of latest electronic gadgetry was a new trench war. Each and every snap and video clip was most dutifully displayed by BBC to the world audience and its commentaries in Persian were on a war footing. BBC’s website carries a hyper coverage of the events unfolding on the streets of Iran. The US stamp of organisation was so blatant, so typical and so arrogant, that no one in the world is convinced that the current street jamming is a home grown instantaneous protest movement. Though BBC again and again refered to the Khomeini’s revolution as to how the street demonstrations overthrew the regime, the stark difference between the spontaneity of the ‘Khomeini revolution’ and the entirely foreign backed and funded orchestrated subversion movement was not lost to the world at large.

It is not that Ahmadinejad’s government was not aware of the huge and widespread preparation by the so-called liberal forces, not only to participate in the free elections, but more than that to be prepared for a huge protest demonstration, to paralyze the entire nation after they have lost the elections, which was hundred percent certainty. Each and every town and city of Iran was activated. Still, President Ahmadinejad had chosen to be very cautious in his response to the expected street protests of the opposition demonstrations. In fact, it was a test of depth of Khomeini revolution to observe how after 3 decades, it can fight off another western challenge to its continuity with mass support from its people, not only from urban centres but from all over rural Iran, which is by far the much greater part of Iranian nation.

Like the Shah, Ahmadinejad could have unleashed terror on the street. But that would have been counterproductive and a blot on the face of Islamic revolution.

President Obama, who only days earlier in his Cairo speech to Muslim world, had mentioned with a tinge of regret, now very suspicious, about America’s interference in Iran through Mossadagh revolution and its overthrow. Even now, according to BBC, Obama was refusing to ‘meddle’ in Iran. In fact, Obama was trying to douse the inflamed country that would have been a major thrust point for his new beginning with the Muslim world. Obama held that there was not much difference between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi in terms of their actual policies and the world should not believe all the advertised expectation propaganda.

However, Mousavi has turned out to be a dumb witted leader, who is trying to ride two tigers in one go. If he thought the forces that are unleashed in his name are in fact, under his absolute command, he is only fooling himself. It is therefore, appropriate that Obama has publicly disassociated himself and his country from the turmoil in Iran. It is the kind of decisive turnaround that former US President Dwight Eisenhower used to force UK- France and Israel from their joint action in Egypt, fearing a world confrontation with the Soviets. This time the threat to US is not from their cold war rivals the Soviets but from the Muslim world. He can never achieve his goal to win the hearts and minds of Muslims around the world, if he had supported the liberals that were unleashed by a section of his own administration, together with Israeli planners.

In Iran now, time is of essence. As back in 2005, a similar protest move was made by the opposition of vote rigging and a recount was agreed by the Guardian Council. In similar vein the readily agreed recount by Guardian Council for a recount, seems to be a time honoured means to defuse the tension. However, this time, unless the western supporters are silenced, especially the subversive media like BBC, Obama will find it hard to fine-tune his new beginning with Iran. The ball is in Obama’s court.

Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai

Roger Cohen fails to find a quotable line in Obama’s Cairo speech – Comments by Ghulam Muhammed

June 10, 2009

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Roger Cohen fails to find a quotable line in Obama’s Cairo speech

The charm and majesty of Obama is in his delivery before his captive mesmerized audience that laps it up as he goes along, word by word, phrase by phrase, line by line.

It is like a symphony performance that lingers in the inner recesses of the listeners’ soul, long before it has ended.

Roger Cohen is a prejudiced commentator. He is Jewish and for all it may take, a Zionist too and since for the first time in last 8 years of Bush years, Israel is getting it right and left, all Jewish lobbyists and media moguls are enraged. Cohen’s comments should be hardly a surprise, given his loyalties with Israel. Naturally, not only he personally would like to forget all Obama speeches, after Cairo speech, in a retrospectively castigation, Cohen would wish the entire world to forget that Obama had ever addressed the Islamic World, when in the same breath Obama not only patronised Israel but exhorted Israel to change course. In fact, if Cohen is fishing for a memorable and quotable line in Obama speech, Obama could have added: Israel, get off while the going is good.

Cohen’s advice to Obama to resort to ‘cunning and maneuver’ is a throw back to typical Jewish traits that better not despoil Obama’s straight talk and straight walk. As it is, he has just come out of the dark shadows of American Jewish Neo-cons cunning and maneuvering record of manipulating Bush and Cohen’s counsel could hardly be other than poison in the garb of a literary/political critique.

This reminds me of an Indian folk story, where a village verse writer had a gift of ridiculing his village friends in matching rhymes. He saw a Jaat, a farmer sitting on a cot – Khaat and called out to him: Jaat re Jaat, tere sar be Khaat. (Jaat, may this Khaat hit your head).

Now it so happened that this ‘poet’ was a Teli, a ‘lowly’ caste that crushes oil seeds to extract oil. They use the heavy oil grinder that is driven by bullocks.

The Jaat instantly replied: Teli re Teli, tere sar be kulooh (grinder).

Teli, in the same vein as our NYT columnist Roger Cohen, came out with the retort: but this does not rhyme.

Jaat said, rhyme or no rhyme, when the grinder hits your head, you will know, who hit the hardest.

Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai

Felicitation of Muslim MPs and Ministers

June 10, 2009

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: MJ KHAN <>
Date: Wed, Jun 10, 2009 at 6:39 PM
Subject: Felicitation of Muslim MPs and Ministers
To: "" <>

Union Government keen on Muslims welfare: Salman Khursheed

Speaking at the felicitation function organised by CMEII for Muslim Ministers and newely elected MPs at New Delhi on 9th June, 09, the union minister of minority affairs, Mr. Salman Khusheed said that he is under the prime minister’s instructions to take up programs directly and through various economic ministries for speedy development of minorities, particulalry muslims, who have been left out of the mainstream educational and economic activites in the last 62 years.

He asked that when demad for reservation is raised, we must be clear on what basis and under which provision the same can be done. He said Article 341 has its social and histrocal dimensions and in OBC reservation, muslims are included but, they have not been able to access opportuntiies. He said the Prime Minster is keen for muslims economic development and on quite a few occaisions, he has expressed that adequate resources need to allocated for their speedy progress. Now it is for us, how effectvely we can translate good intentions of the Government into some concrete schemes for us.

Speaking on the occaisiion, Union Minister, Dr. Faruq Abdullah said that we have been talking about increasing our representation In Govt, but in effect this is on constant decline since 1947. The figure of 31 out of 543 MPs in 15th Lok Sabha bears testimony. He emphasised the need to collectively pursue the development agenda for muslims and suggested to form a monitoring mechanism to get us work and correct us, if we go wrong.

Mr. Sultan Ahmad, Union Minister of State spoke on the need for work in rural areas. He said education holds the key to our development and we must concentrate on the same. He said we need a national leader from our community, under whose leadership, we could move for our struggle for progress. Mr. Ahmad demanded tabling of Mishra Commission report.

Delivering his Presidential Speech, Mr. K Rehman Khan, Hon’ble Dy. Chairman, Rajya Sabha said that let us not shy away that we are Muslims Representatives in the Government and we have to talk about their agenda and work for it. He said it is not the lack on the part of the Government in appreciating the difficulties faced by muslims, but our failure to clearly work out our agenda, put up demands collectively and pursue persistently to get them done. He said we need to understand our priorities – education, reservation and empowerment.

Present on the occaision were Mr. Asad Owaisi, MP, Mr. A Rashid, MP, Mr. Kadir Rana, MP, Mr. Ahmad Saeed, MP, Mr. B. Ajmal, MP, Mr. Zafar Ali Naqvi, MP, Mr. Azeez Pasha, MP, Mr.D Raja, MP, Mr. Maulana Qasmi, MP, Dr. Ejaj Ali, MP, Mr. Shariq, MP, Mr. M Adeeb and few other MPs, besides Mr. Shafi Quraishi, Chairman, NCM, Mr. PA Inamdar, Chairman, Azam University and others

Mr. Naqvi, Maulana Qasmi, Mr. Shariq, Mr. Ajmal and Mr. Rana also shared their thougths.

Ealier making background presentation, MJ Khan, President, National Economic Forum for Muslims said that the world order is changing and the community need to access quality education for mainstreaming role, growth and a place in the society. He emphasised that youths are looking forward to playing mainstream role in the social and economic development of the nation. They need enabling environment and level playing field. He spelt out Six point demand for the consideration of the Government:

Six Point Agenda

  1. Govt. support in education, skills development, equal opportunities and fair share in national resources
  1. Community needs the Instrument of Reservation. Mishra Commission Report to be Tabled in House
  1. Equal Opportunity Commission to be set up
  1. The reports of all Commissions and Committees to be tabled and ATR presented within 3 months
  1. Muslims sensitivities to be respected
  1. Audit of Ministries and States on “Minorities Confidence Level” and to release Annual Survey Report

Based on that four specific demands were spelt out by MJ Khan, while concluding his presentation. The program was ably conducted by Mr. Kamal Farqui.

  1. The discrimination meted out to Muslims under article 341 through the Presidential Order 1950, must be revoked and Muslim SC/SC castes must be entitled to the same benefits, as other SC/ST
  1. Muslims need the instrument of reservation. The OBC quota may be tri-furcated among Advanced OBCs, MBCs and Muslims for a just and fair share to all the three sub-groups
  1. 15% share in all educational institutions, Govt or private, and in all Govt. and PSUs schemes, allocations, dealerships etc., as suggested by Mishra Commission. A Monitoring Officer in each Ministry.
  1. Support in skills up-gradation and certification through launch of a major program up to block levels by the Union Ministry of Labour and Employment with allocations of Rs. 3500 crores annually

More details with photograph would be sent soon. We shall appreciate your kind comments and suggestions.

With regards

MJ Khan

President – IMRC and Muslim Economic Forum

New Delhi – 1

Comments posted on The Times of India website over Swagato Ganguly’s Edit page article: Taliban can be beaten

June 10, 2009

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Ghulam Muhammed <>
Date: Tue, Jun 9, 2009 at 11:01 PM
Subject: Comments posted on The Times of India website over Swagato Ganguly’s Edit page article: Taliban can be beaten

Comments posted on The Times of India website over Swagato Ganguly’s Edit page article: Taliban can be beaten

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

For over a century now, Americans lived with the dictum: What is good for GM, is good for USA. GM filed for bankruptcy last week. In India, our intelligentsia, since the arrival of a World Bank advisor, Manmohan Singh, with his bag of liberalisation cookies, has been following a new line of thinking: What is good for USA is good for India. This, while USA itself is tottering on the verge of bankruptcy.

In today’s TOI edit page article: Taliban can be beaten, have no need to think independently – who are Taliban, how far India is their target, why US attack on Afghanistan should be lauded by India. All they are obsessed with is that Taliban are Muslims and we hate Muslims, so we should hate Taliban. In their

Swagato Ganguly’s comments: The Taliban can be beaten, suffer from a major analytical flaw, when he fails to highlight that there is deep divergence albeit with some overlap between US and India‘s identification of who is the enemy. Neither Muslims nor Taliban is a monolith. US is targeting Al Qaida for 9/11 and Taliban for not allowing US corporate UNOCAL to lay its oil and gas pipeline through ‘independent and free’ Afghanistan, which Mulla Umar had wrenched from his own countrymen – Gulbuddin Hikmatyar and Abdullah Masood. India‘s enemy is Muslim groups based in Pakistan and not in Afghanistan, who have been making forays into Jammu and Kashmir. If India is mixing up the two groups and presenting them as one, just to get sympathy and help from the US over its problems with Jihadist (for want of a better and correct phrase), it cannot fully blame the US for not coming to the aid of the party.

Besides, if India falls into a trap of owning up US enemies as its own, it is open to an extension of its war against the Jihadi, into other areas. US has global hegemonic underpinnings to its ‘neo-con chalked out world strategies’. India has to find its own objectives first, and need not fall into strategies of the New World Order, where India will be merely the supplier of mercenary forces where our Jawans will sacrifice their blood and sweat to carry out a colonial war being marketed as war against terror or war against Jihadists. India should not fall prey to such motivated and self-serving agenda of the US backbenchers, who are still holding on to Bush era fundamentals and priorities.

2. Swagato Ganguly’s definition of modernity lacking in Taliban is a much skewed proposition. In the use of modern weapons, they are as modern as the US and NATO forces and much more modern than the current level of modernity available to Indian armed forces. Taliban are not village bums. They have earlier able to use even stringer missile to take down enemy aircraft. They are international traders in arms, ammunitions, drugs and currencies. The modernity sought by the West in Afghanistan is merely a smokescreen to demonise the ‘other’ and get support world-wide. India should have its own assessment of what modernity means to an undeveloped region, be that Afghanistan, Pakistan, India or Bangladesh.

3. Even though a reference is made to ‘international jihadist activity’, it cannot be denied that India has till now escaped the full force of such activity in Jammu and Kashmir and even in mainland India. India therefore should do everything to keep the genie into the bottle and not get tempted to ‘virtually’ invite international jihadist forces to ‘come into our parlour’ through ill advised moves, public and private.

4. Sometime back I wrote: Taliban cannot be fought; though they can be bought. It only means that between war and diplomacy, there are better chances for diplomacy to succeed. In its latest interview with German magazine Der Spiegel, Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf admits they negotiated with Taliban to get Pakistani Ambassador to Afghanistan free. That proves discretion is better part of valor and Swagato Ganguly’s bravado — Taliban can be beaten — has no leg to stand on.

The myth of the invincibility of Afghan/Pathan/ Pakhtoon/Taliban is not mere historical or Kiplingesque fiction. There are easily observable reasons for that invincibility. And for that one does have to rely only on Kipling. The terrain is so vast, mountainous, craggy, full of natural hideouts; the people are deeply committed to their personal freedom and independence, their own sense of justice, their own standards of generosity and revenge. Like the Wild West, they too have personal security and safety as the sine qua nonof their armed existence at individual level. All these cannot be broken down with aerial bombardments. Even with heavy aerial bombardment, US and NATO forces are bogged down in Afghanistan and the government of US promoted President Karzai does not extend beyond his heavily fortified residence.

Besides Afghan/Pakhtoon/ Taliban are not fighting a conventional war, they are into an ongoing guerilla war. As you eliminate some, others take their place. They are residents of their country; others are merely visitors in a place that cannot hold attraction for them for long. Even timeless time is on their side. They can survive on minimum. Modern armies need to be funded and financed by sacrificing public budgets. Taliban resources are meager but limitless. Others’ are limited.

It is time Times of India choose its lead commentators that do not boast of being more wild than Taliban, just to prop up a public charade.

Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai

Obama’s Cairo speech –

June 9, 2009

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: <>
Date: Tue, Jun 9, 2009 at 2:32 PM
Subject: Obama’s Cairo speech – Ed. 22

b i t t e r l e m o n s. o r g
June 8, 2009 Edition 22

Palestinian-Israeli crossfire

Obama’s Cairo speech
. A level US-Arab playing field

by Yossi Alpher

The message was quantitative.

. Waiting expectantly

by Ghassan Khatib

Too many times burned, most observers received the speech with a wait-and-see attitude.

. Trust is not enough

by Saul Singer

Why can’t we all just get along?, Americans want to know.

. A breeze of change

by Ali Jarbawi

Palestinians must be facilitators, not spoilers.


A level US-Arab playing field

by Yossi Alpher

US President Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo last week devoted unusual emphasis to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In this respect, the message was quantitative. Obama never mentioned the prospect of an Israeli-Syrian peace process and he devoted barely a sentence to the Arab Peace Initiative and little more to key issues like democratization and women’s rights. But the Israeli-Palestinian issue got huge play, clearly reflecting the US administration’s recognition of its centrality to the Arab discourse and decision to concentrate on it in the months ahead.

The speech also presented a calculated effort to balance statements deemed friendly to Israel with those friendly to the Palestinian and Arab cause in general. Israel got a "Jewish homeland"; Palestinians an end to the occupation, a two-state solution and repeated use of the term "Palestine". Hamas was told to accept the Quartet’s three conditions, but Israel was told to end the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Arabs were asked to recognize Israel’s right to exist, abandon violence, end Holocaust denial and cease using the conflict as a distraction from other problems; Israel was told to freeze settlement construction and remove outposts. Arabs were informed that the Arab Peace Initiative is "an important beginning, but not the end of [Arab states’] responsibilities"; Israelis noticed that Obama never used the words "terrorism" and "normalization" even as he talked at length about these very issue areas.

At a broader level, the speech appeared to be an attempt to cultivate the more moderate forces of political Islam, offering dialogue to anyone who is "peaceful and law-abiding" and, perhaps symbolically, repeatedly recognizing women’s right to wear the hijab. It barely confronted Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons and seemingly hinted at Israel in presenting a demand to eliminate all nuclear weapons (from the region? from the world?).

The speech also, not once but twice, referred to the need for Palestinians, with Arab help, to develop their "capacity to govern" and build the "institutions that will sustain their state". Herein lies an important message to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. While Obama insists that Netanyahu endorse the two-state solution and cease settlement expansion–two very problematic demands for this Israeli coalition–he also seemingly endorses Netanyahu’s vision of an Israeli-Palestinian peace process built from the bottom up, with special emphasis on institution-building.

Netanyahu can also find solace in Obama’s avoidance of presenting a major new Israel-Arab peace initiative that the current Israeli governing coalition would find hard to digest. That may still be in the works, particularly if Netanyahu fails to come up with a viable initiative of his own (he has now committed to present his own plan next Sunday). Meanwhile, in view of Obama’s demand that Hamas recognize Israel’s right to exist, cease violence and accept past agreements, the likelihood of the Palestinians fielding a united and viable negotiating team in the near future is low. That means that it will be extremely difficult to translate Obama’s vision into a peace process.

Obama set out in Cairo to reverse the damage wrought by eight years of the George W. Bush administration: to level the playing field between the US and the Arab world, between Americans and Muslims. This largely explains the extensive retelling of America’s interaction with the Muslim world, juxtapositions like Holocaust/ Nakba and the indirect comparison between the saga of blacks in America and the plight of the Palestinians.

Many Israelis and supporters of Israel are inevitably uncomfortable with these themes, which can be construed to adopt the Palestinian narrative without recourse to historic criteria and objective analysis. By the by, it is easy to ignore how this way of dealing with the issues also facilitated Obama’s exhortation to Arabs "to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past" and his recommendation to the Palestinians to adopt non-violence.

If Obama’s approach does the job of restoring American credibility and boosting his moral authority in the Middle East, the exercise may prove useful. This could happen if and when this US president exercises that authority at critical times ahead, for example to persuade the Palestinians to drop their demand for the right of return or to rally Arab countries, alongside Israel, against Iran and its allies.- Published 8/6/2009 ©

Yossi Alpher is coeditor of the family of internet publications. He is former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University.


Waiting expectantly

by Ghassan Khatib

The speech delivered by US President Barack Obama in Cairo last week was impressive in intent, taking on the great rift that now divides the United States and the Arab and Islamic world. Its main impact, however, was to generate cautious optimism. Too many times burned, most observers received the speech with a wait-and-see attitude, hoping for practical implementation of these expansive new ideas.

Obama’s speech can be divided into two spheres: the first was general and conceptual, engaging the relationship between the American people and US administration and the Arab and Islamic world. The other was practical, concentrating on the Arab-Israel conflict and Iranian-American tensions.

Dealing with the first–and more prominent–level, the president showed a depth of understanding and used language that were together a marked departure from the approach of the previous administration. Political ideology, and the September 11 events, led the previous administration to deal with problems in the region–including "terrorism"–as solely technical, and related to security and the military. This approach produced superficial and wrong-headed diagnoses and treatments, and deepened negative attitudes in the region toward the American government.

Obama’s speech went much deeper than others in diagnosing regional problems, referring, for example, to the negative impact of globalization in the region, which has swept in western cultural domination and all the resulting negative social and economic implications. This nod, together with prescriptions for improving and investing in education and women’s issues, shows a level of understanding that the people of the region are not used to in American rhetoric.

On the Arab-Israel conflict, the speech was also successful. Obama used the term "occupation", which has been intentionally banished from western diplomatic language for at least a decade. He also referenced the tragedy of the Palestinian refugees–their loss and displacement. And most importantly, he used clear language criticizing Israel’s settlement expansion and the need for it to stop.

People in this region have a long and negative experience with changing rhetoric, verbal declarations and politicians’ waffling over this conflict. All the while, however, the trend on the ground is for the worse. This has left the region’s peoples, especially Palestinians, unable and unwilling to build their hopes on words. We need concrete and practical change in our daily lives to convince us that it is, in fact, possible to end Israel’s occupation.

The US administration will now face the inevitable contradiction between its refreshingly strong insistence that Israel stop all settlement expansion and the continuous construction underway in the settlements–nails driven in place and cement poured at the very moments that Obama was speaking. In other words, the credibility of the US president is on the line in the region–first and foremost over the issue of Israeli settlements.

But also important to realizing the vision presented in Obama’s speech is the creation of local political realities more conducive to political progress. Yes, that means encouraging and empowering the Palestinian peace camp, but it also means supporting Palestinian dialogue between the factions by offering incentives, and encouraging Hamas to become part of the legitimate political system rather than forcing it out. Hints of this direction were to be found in Obama’s speech. Now we wait to see what he will do. – Published 8/6/2009 ©

Ghassan Khatib is coeditor of the bitterlemons family of internet publications. He is vice-president for community outreach at Birzeit University and a former Palestinian Authority minister of planning.


Trust is not enough

by Saul Singer

President Barack Obama’s Cairo speech embodied the paradox of the modern age: the wealthiest, most powerful nation in the world is also the most idealistic. One face of America is that of strength and confidence. Obama displayed another face of America that is no less essential: that of humility, honesty and innocence.

"All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time," Obama said. "The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart, or whether we commit ourselves to a sustained effort to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children, and to respect the dignity of all human beings."

Why can’t we all just get along?, Americans want to know. This sort of "innocents abroad" approach was mixed with an apologetics, lavish praise for Islam and extreme moral juxtapositions–such as comparing the Holocaust to the suffering of Palestinians and placing Israel in the role of oppressors as in South Africa under apartheid or American blacks suffering the "lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation".

On the other hand, Obama had some blunt words for the Arab world: "Palestinians must abandon violence. . . . It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered. Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build."

And this: "Finally, the Arab states must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities. The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems. Instead, it must be a cause for action to help the Palestinian people develop the institutions that will sustain their state; to recognize Israel’s legitimacy; and to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past."

This is greatly understating the matter. Since this was an opportunity to boldly tell the truth, he should have said to the Palestinians and the Arab states: "The dream of a Palestinian state is in your hands. It is the Arab world that has repeatedly rejected the partition of Palestine–in 1937, 1947, 1967 and 2000. If the Arab world steps forward and accepts the legitimate right of the Jewish people to a state in their land alongside an independent Palestine, the people and government of Israel will embrace peace, as they did with Egypt and Jordan."

Though Obama did not go that far, his call on the Arab states to do more could be an important step toward a more realistic policy. Yet the speech was not really about policy, but more a pressing of a rhetorical "reset" button. It is as if Obama has looked at the world and determined that what is lacking is inspiration, humility and vision. He used the word "mistrust" four times. Obama’s proposed remedy: "a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground."

But the focus on trust is a misdiagnosis. Would it were true that the world is suffering from a vast misunderstanding. Totalitarian movements–such as Nazism, Communism, and Islamism–do not attack, kill, oppress and expand because of a lack of trust.

Obama comes from Chicago, a place that has suffered from organized crime. Imagine that the mob controls half the city, imposing tremendous fear and poverty on millions of citizens. Next imagine the mayor making a long-awaited foray into the heart of this troubled area and calling for a new start and a better way of life.

Before such a speech, the mobsters might have been worried that the mayor would take them on, and the people hopeful for the same reason. But both sides would simply be mystified if the mayor came in and said, first, I’m not the mayor, second, sorry for bothering you and third, you really should stop fighting and behaving so badly–all without clearly mentioning the mobsters and sometimes even sounding like the people and mobsters were equally to blame.

The purpose of the Cairo speech, it seems, was to prove that the US means well. Now, however, it will be harder than before for the US to prove that it means business. In a mob-dominated neighborhood, the people only want to know one thing: is someone going to help us get rid of these thugs or not?

The danger is that moderate Arab leaders will take Obama’s speech to mean 1) the pressure is off on us to liberalize and 2) we’re on our own because Iran is going nuclear. The Arab people will similarly conclude that America is retreating and will not stand with them against their sclerotic governments or the spread of Islamism.

The only way Obama will convince them otherwise is if he suddenly shows that the US will put muscle behind its vision. In an interview with Newsweek last month, Obama said of his outreach to Iran, "if it doesn’t work, the fact that we have tried will strengthen our position in mobilizing the international community," presumably to impose draconian sanctions on Iran. This sort of stick was completely absent from the Cairo speech.

If there was a doubt, Obama has succeeded in proving that he is not George Bush. Yet the world has not changed. The mullahs continue to build their centrifuges, stoke terrorism and galvanize their veto power over any peace process. The Arab states will not risk reaching out to Israel under the cloud of a nuclear Iran. Building trust with the peoples of the region will not address their predicament. The future of Obama’s vision depends on whether he believes that trust alone will work, or if he understands that trust must be used to mobilize free and threatened nations to take effective action.- Published 8/6/2009 ©

Saul Singer is a columnist for the Jerusalem Post and co-author of the forthcoming book "Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle".


A breeze of change

by Ali Jarbawi

The conciliatory tone of US President Barack Obama’s speech delivered in Cairo has attracted widespread praise. Many skeptics, however, are asking if and how these words will be translated into action, particularly in relation to the Arab-Israel conflict.

The recent history of US engagement in Israel-Arab relations provides grounds for skepticism. However, this speech and other preparatory actions taken by this new US president do offer some encouragement to those who seek a more even-handed approach from the US. It is essential that the Arabs and Palestinians give President Obama the benefit of the doubt, at least for a limited period, and avoid acting as spoilers of his declared intention to be an honest broker.

Ordinary citizens, as well as seasoned analysts, began poring over the text of Obama’s speech from the moment it was first posted on the web, just minutes after he left the podium at al-Azhar University. They are finding many examples of Obama’s intention to be frank and even-handed.

He made a direct link, in consecutive paragraphs, between the tragedy of the Nakba and the Shoah. He unequivocally called for a Palestinian state and used the word "Palestine"–something that previous US presidents have avoided. In addition to repeating his demand for an end to the settlement enterprise, he stopped short of supporting the concept of a Jewish state, preferring the term "Jewish homeland". He effectively called upon Palestinians to pursue peaceful resistance, whilst equating their struggle for rights and freedom to that of black Americans and South Africans. There was even an acknowledgement of Hamas’ legitimacy as a representative of the Palestinian people.

And he didn’t use the word "terrorism"–not once in 6,000 words lasting 56 minutes. These are not coincidences or missteps. This president and his speechwriters are well aware of the novelty of these messages coming from the US leadership; and they are cognizant of the disquiet they will cause among the Israeli political and military leadership and the settler communities.

Obama has also made some significant gestures in the way he has related to the Arab world, Palestine and Israel since taking office less than five months ago. King Abdullah of Jordan, a sharp critic of the new rightist Israeli government who speaks openly of his distaste for Binyamin Netanyahu, was the first Middle East leader to be welcomed into Obama’s White House. The US president overflew Israel on his way to Cairo last week and won’t be paying Netanyahu a visit for a while yet. The president has also appointed a slew of advisers and staffers who have a history of taking an uncompromising line on settlements, most notably Special Envoy George Mitchell and National Security Adviser General Jim Jones. And Obama’s chief of staff has been vilified by Israelis as a "self-hater" for his perceived role in formulating "anti-Israel" US policies.

US domestic political commentators who have observed Obama’s career closely repeatedly refer to his genuine interest in the experience–and often suffering–of the ordinary citizen. This interest has been given its most recent expression in his nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. She is undoubtedly a woman of great intellect, but also a woman of the world who has a deep appreciation of how it feels to be at the bottom of the pile. In hearing his words in Cairo, in particular his description of the suffering of Palestinians, one wonders if he is the first US president in a long time to sense the brutality and the injustice of the occupation.

In his speech, Obama quite rightly pointed to the responsibilities that Arabs and Palestinians share in helping bring an end to the conflict and building the state of Palestine. Palestinian unity is an imperative regardless of Obama’s speech. Even if Obama does not fulfill his early promise, we must be united.

However, if his words are truly to be translated to deeds, Palestinians must be facilitators, not spoilers. If we remain divided, we run the serious risk of being labeled the opponents of peace. This does not mean we have to relinquish our resistance to the occupation, but we do need to pursue resistance more intelligently. It also does not mean that we should allow ourselves to be dragged back into open-ended negotiations. The US, Israel and the broader international community need to understand that there is a limit to our patience, and that we need to see rapid and tangible steps toward dismantling the infrastructure of the occupation.

United Arab support is also essential. As President Obama stated, the Arab Peace Initiative is an important beginning, but not the end of the Arab role. The stability and development of the region depend on concerted Arab support for the establishment of a stable state of Palestine. They will need to expend political capital in their own countries in the long-term interest. However, they need to be persuaded that the price is worth paying. The Arab nations, their leaders and their citizens, need to see an early and tangible return on their investment. They need to see an end to the suffering and indignity that has become part of the daily experience of Palestinians living under occupation.

In his famous "Wind of Change" speech delivered in both Accra and Cape Town in 1960, British Prime Minister Harold MacMillan said, "it is our earnest desire to give South Africa our support and encouragement, but I hope you won’t mind my saying frankly that there are some aspects of your policies which make it impossible for us to do this without being false to our own deep convictions about the political destinies of free men."

This speech marked the beginning in earnest of the British policy of decolonization and a political furor in the United Kingdom, infuriating those determined to hold on to imperial possessions. His words were soon followed by deeds. Let us all hope that the breeze that blew in from Cairo last week rapidly gathers strength.- Published 8/6/2009 ©

Ali Jarbawi is minister of planning in the Palestinian Authority.

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Tavleen Singh’s lesson to Obama – By Ghulam Muhammed

June 8, 2009

Monday, June 08, 2009

Tavleen Singh’s lesson to Obama

Tavleen Singh’s article: Osama needs some more lessons in Islam, published in The Indian Express, is like the dropping of the second shoe, without which Indiawould not have slept that night. 

The resounding silence that could be heard all across the Indian nation, while the world tuned in to Obama’s speech at Cairo boldly and generously embracing Muslim world, was more painful in the backdrop of the most successful marginalization of Muslims in India

Tavleen Singh,. a writer famous for her thin skin as far as Islam and Muslims are concerned, was typical of the ultra jingoists, who could hardly breath, while world’s lone super power, had engaged the Muslim world so publicly and so passionately  and offering them a new strategic alliance for the peace of the world. 

The name of the emotion that gripped a section of the Hindutva elements was nothing but  sheer jealousy. 

How can they tolerate that the Muslims who had ‘brutalized’ the Hindu over centuries and now finally been successfully divided in three parts in the sub-continent so as to render them insignificant in the comity of nations, should be given so much attention, so much lauding, so much importance that bordered on virtual call for peace negotiation after a virtual defeat that stared the US in the face. And all because of a handful of al Qaida ‘terrorists’, who seems to have pinned down their mighty army in these God-forsaken lands!

What a sudden change of fortune. It was only yesterday, when India was in love with President Bush and America‘s Jewish lobby has been working overtime to favour India, in its quest to find a new strategic partnership with their country and a new set of close relationship with Israel, ensuring billions of dollars worth of defense rearmament. In this equation, India‘s own 150 million Muslim were so totally marginalized, as if they deserved to be punished for their crimes of the past.

So it was a nightmare for the likes of Tavleen Singh to finish watching the worldwide telecast of Obama speech without him mentioning neither India nor the Hindus, even once in his hour long love fest with Islam. For TOI Washington correspondence, it was a relief that Obama left out Kashmir in his speech.

Tavleen had to react by puking her bile and offering her unsolicited lessons in Islam to the untutored Obama. Indian Express site mentions that her diatribe was the most emailed article of the day. Doubtless she has legions of supporters, who felt just like her, dejected and ignored, if not betrayed.

However, this is the worst case of insecurity and inferiority complex being so blatantly displayed in India‘s English media. India need not have cringed. It is great nation and it has great destiny ahead, if only it comes out of its exclusivity shell.

In the event, the world will not ignore India‘s adverse reaction to Obama speech.India and Israel were the only two nations in the world that had come out against Obama’s opening towards Islam. Israel’s reasons are obvious; India’s reasons are still obscure to the world.

Indian Muslims are a far cry from the Osama brigade and even though they have been institutionally discriminated against and reduced to the worst of the lot, they have remained peaceful all throughout the last 60 years of Indian’s freedom from the British.

In the recent elections, they had reverted to tactical support to Indian National Congress, which came out with a manifestly large clutch of parliamentary seats that virtually enabled it to dictate its terms to coalition partners. Though all around the nation media and intelligentsia are openly mentioning how Muslim support to Congress has turned the tide for Congress, the arrogant Congress leaders have yet to find the courage to cultivate the magnanimity to acknowledge Muslim debt and offer them their rightful place in the political formations.

Now that Obama has shown a different mode of reassessing the Muslim world and Islam, Indian leadership is demonstrably peeved. Only reckless commentators are wallowing in their own grief and writing poison articles. That can not delay the morn that is bound to break out from within this dark night of bigotry and prejudice.

Indian Express did try to balance the reactions to Obama’s Cairo speech on Islam, by publishing the next article by Sudheendra Kulkarni, on the same page. It is remarkable, how a liberal turned Hindutvadi had gathered up the courage to call for a positive engagement with the Muslims, even to his own extremist Hindutva party which finds itself at a dead end while stuck in the rut of hate and prejudice.


Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai


on, 8 Jun 2009


 Obama needs some more lessons in Islam

Tavleen SinghPosted: Sunday , Jun 07, 2009 at 0342 hrs IST




The day before President Obama set off to win Muslim hearts and minds last week, I had an interesting conversation about Islam with a Lebanese gentleman and his wife. I met them at a discourse by an ex-Buddhist monk who smiled a lot and talked of happiness. It was when he said that all religions were the same that trouble began. An Indian friend I was with pointed out that Indian religions did not urge believers to rush off and brutalise (or convert) the nearest unbeliever while Islam did. This made the Lebanese lady angry and she stomped off asserting that the Koran said ‘to each his own belief’.

Then her husband got really angry when the subject of women’s rights came up. He said the Prophet of Islam had given more rights to women than anyone ever. I pointed out that what was progressive fourteen hundred years ago may not be progressive today. Many Islamic countries continue to declare nine as the age of consent for girls because the Prophet’s wife Ayesha was nine. I drew his attention to the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia (the Prophet’s native place) and reminded him that 60 girls were burned alive in a hostel some years ago because the morality police would not let them out unveiled. This infuriated him. “What about Mumbai,” he said, “where they sell the eyes and liver of young girls. If you hit on Saudi Arabia I will hit on Mumbai.”

I recount this exchange to make the point that when it comes to winning hearts and minds, the exercise must happen both ways. It is not just President Obama who should be required to do all the ‘outreaching’; the Muslim world has its share to do as well. Why should Saudi Arabia be allowed to get away with funding virulent strains of Islam in countries like ours? Why should Pakistan get away with textbooks that teach school children about ‘evil’ Hindus and Jews? Why should Pakistan get away with releasing Hafiz Mohammed Sayeed?

What is the point of fighting the Taliban in Swat and Waziristan if you can release the man who created the Lashkar-e-Toiba? The organisation he created has been declared a terrorist organisation not just by us but by the United States. It has been responsible for terrorist acts on Indian soil, including the attack on Mumbai. By any standards, that makes Sayeed a terrorist. If Pakistan were serious about fighting Islamist terrorism, they would have charged Sayeed with the crime of starting a terrorist organisation. Even before Mumbai was attacked.

The jihad did not appear one morning out of a clear blue sky. It happened because of a system of education in most Islamic countries that perpetuates the idea that Islam is the best thing that happened to mankind and that pluralism is wrong in Allah’s eyes. As for us happy idol-worshipping types, we are doomed to damnation. This idea is in direct conflict with the Indian idea of ‘sarva dharma samabhaava’. But, it is more than just religion that is the problem.

The Islamic sense of grievance is now so confused that the Americans are blamed for ‘abandoning’ Afghanistan after the Russians were defeated. Now that they are back, they are blamed for interfering in Islamic affairs. In the Middle East the stated objective of the jihad is to obliterate Israel but if Israel attempts to resist this fate it is charged with being brutal to Palestinians. It may not be politically correct to say this but the truth is that there could have been a solution in Palestine decades ago if Yasser Arafat had not been corrupt and amoral. The peace treaty that nearly got signed when Bill Clinton was President was as good as anything President Obama will be able to deliver. Do Palestinians ask why it did not go through?

What saddened me most about President Obama’s speech was that without actually apologising for America’s mistakes he made it sound as if all the mistakes were on one side. It would have been nice when he mentioned American mistakes if he had mentioned a few made by Islamic countries. Pakistan ran a black market in nuclear bombs. Saudi money builds madrasas in Indian villages that poison our happy heathen atmosphere. The war with the United States was started by Osama bin Laden. India is under constant threat from terrorist groups that continue to be nurtured by the Pakistani state. The release of Sayeed is proof. And, the reaction of President Obama’s government is to give Pakistan more aid than ever before.

President Obama seems not to know that there are more Muslims in the Indian sub-continent than anywhere and that we lived in relative harmony till Saudi money started to fund Wahabi Islam.



Obama’s candour in timeless Cairo

Sudheendra Kulkarni

Posted: Sunday , Jun 07, 2009 at 0344 hrs IST

Barack Obama’s speech in Egypt on Thursday is quite simply one of the most important articulations by any world leader on the relationship between Islam and the West—indeed, between Islam and the rest of the world. The first sentence in his speech—”I am honored to be in the timeless city of Cairo”—is, outwardly, a tribute to the hoary civilisational past of the country and its capital. But the choice of the word ‘timeless’ also befits several themes and thoughts that flow through the speech like meandering River Nile. It is heartening to see the president of the United States approach many global issues, including issues that have created a problematic relationship between America and the Muslim community, from the standpoint of truth and justice. He made the Holy Koran’s injunction “Be conscious of God and speak always the truth” the touchstone of his speech and said, “That is what I will try to do—to speak the truth as best I can.” Like ‘truth’, the word ‘justice’ figured several times in his long, 5,802-word speech.


Obama’s choice of Egypt for delivering his much-anticipated address to the Muslim world, and his resolve to be candid and honest, reminded me of what the late Naguib Mahfouz, Egypt’s greatest novelist, said in his speech while accepting the Nobel Prize in 2006. “I am the son of two civilisations that at a certain age in history have formed a happy marriage. The first of these, seven thousand years old, is the Pharaonic civilisation; the second, one thousand four hundred years old, is the Islamic one¿Gone now is that (first) civilization—a mere story of the past. One day the great Pyramid will disappear too. But Truth and Justice will remain for as long as Mankind has a ruminative mind and a living conscience.”


Obama’s speech reached the heights of greatness because he recognised both the mortality of human beings and the immortality of the ideals that ought to guide the journey of humanity. “All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time,” he observed, and added words derived from the wisdom of the ages: “The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart, or whether we commit ourselves to an effort—a sustained effort—to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children, and to respect the dignity of all human beings.”


He seemed sincere in his soul-searching. “It is easier to start wars than to end them; it is easier to blame others than to look inward.” He almost admitted that America’s war on Iraq was wrong. Stating that his policy would be “Leave Iraq to Iraqis”, he added, “I have made it clear to the Iraqi people that we pursue no bases, and no claim on their territory or resources.” This is music to the ears of many fair critics of America. And so also is what he said on the other war that the US is engaged in. “Make no mistake: we do not want to keep our troops in Afghanistan. We seek no military bases there. It is agonising for America to lose our young men and women. It is costly and politically difficult to continue this conflict. We would gladly bring every single one of our troops home if we could be confident that there were not violent extremists in Afghanistan and Pakistan determined to kill as many Americans as they possibly can. But that is not yet the case.”


Obama is entitled to saying that “We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security.” But we in India will judge him and his administration on the basis of whether they address the root of the problem, which is that terrorists in Pakistan are, and have all along been, protected and patronised by its military rulers. If the US is entitled to worry about, and take suitable steps for, its own security because “al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 people on 9/11”, isn’t India, which has lost 20 times more people in attacks by Pak-based terrorists over the past nearly three decades, even more entitled to do the same? This is a question that Indians must keep asking our American friends. And it is also a question that India must be ready to answer on its own.


Obama’s Cairo speech covered a broad array of issues, from religious freedom to women’s empowerment, from the tensions between globalisation and religious-cultural identities to the need to move towards a nuclear weapons-free world. He was most impassioned on the imperative to end the Israel-Palestine conflict on the basis of fulfilling the legitimate aspirations of both sides. “Too many tears have flowed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed (peace be upon them) joined in prayer.” I, a Hindu, await that day as keenly as any peace-loving Jew, Christian or Muslim.


I found two things missing in Obama’s speech. Firstly, he did not explore, even tangentially, the theological roots of religious intolerance and extremism. Secondly, he nowhere mentioned India in his descriptive, analytical or normative narrative. After all, India is home to the second largest Muslim population in the world. More important, in its own 1,400-year-old interaction with Islam, India has changed it in ways that would certainly interest Obama. And unlike Egypt, India’s pre-Islamic civilisation or spirituality did not simply vanish in this interaction. In talking about the “proud tradition of tolerance” in Islam, Obama says, “We see it in the history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition. I saw it firsthand as a child in Indonesia, where devout Christians worshiped freely in an overwhelmingly Muslim country. That is the spirit we need today.” Mr. Obama, if Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country in the world, presents a tolerant picture of Islam, it certainly has something to do with the civilisational and spiritual history of India.


(Write to:



June 7, 2009
Last update – 02:16 05/06/2009


Obama emerged in Cairo as a true friend of Israel
By Gideon Levy
Neither Tel Aviv nor Ramallah held their breaths Thursday as the American president gave a speech in Cairo; the traffic in both crowded cities continued normally. Tel Aviv was indifferent, Ramallah sunk in desperation: Both cities have already had their fill of nice, historic speeches. 

Nonetheless, no one can ignore the speech given by Barack Obama: The mountain birthed a mountain. Obama remained Obama. Only the Israeli analysts tried to diminish the speech’s importance (“not terrible”), to spread fear (“he mentioned the Holocaust and the Nakba in a single breath”), or were insulted on our behalf (“he did not mention our right to the land as promised in the Bible”). All these were redundant and unnecessary. Obama emerged Thursday as a true friend of Israel. 

The prime minister ordered the ministers to say nothing, but of course they could not help but invade the studios. Uzi Landau said that a Palestinian state is tantamount to an “Iranian state.” Isaac Herzog appeared even more ridiculous when he said that the problem with the settlements is one of “public relations.” In essence, both were busy with the same problem: How can we manage to pull the new America‘s     leg as well? Israeli politicians have never before appeared as pathetic, as small as they did Thursday, compared to the bearer of promise in Cairo. 




Indeed, there was promise in Cairo, of the dawn of a new age. A U.S. president talking about negotiations with Iran without preconditions or tacit threats, even willing to accept Iran having civilian nuclear capability; a president who talked about Hamas as a legitimate organization that represents part of Palestinian society, but that needs to relinquish violence; who spoke with empathy about Palestinian suffering; who spoke, believe it or not, about security not only for Israelis but also for Palestinians; who said that all the settlements are illegal; who called for nuclear disarmament of the entire region. All are sensational messages, headlines whose significance cannot be exaggerated, even if there are those who desperately tried to argue yesterday that “there was nothing new in his speech.” 

Not enough? Obama also spoke in Cairo (!) against denying the Holocaust, about the rights of women and Copts, and on the need for democracy tailored to each society’s culture. 

This is the thinking of a great leader, who walked with wisdom and sensitivity between the Holocaust and the Nakba, between Israelis and Palestinians, between Americans and Arabs, between Christians, Jews and Muslims. How easy it is to imagine his predecessor, George Bush the Terrible, in the same position: a complete opposite. 

Our right-wingers were disappointed that he did not approve at least of Gush Etzion, and the peace lovers were disappointed that he did not offer a timetable. But a speech is just that, and the time for carrying things out is still to come. 

But why waste words? Israeli news shows still opened Thursday with the Dudu Topaz story; that is what really interests Israelis. Never mind Obama; Israel has its own concerns. 

Related articles:  

·  Obama: I’ll personally pursue two-state solution  

·  Israel praises Obama speech, but says its security paramount  

·  Full text of Obama’s speech in Cairo to the Muslim world



Last update – 13:01 07/06/2009 


Livni: Netanyahu endangering U.S. support for Israel 


By Haaretz Service
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni warned Sunday that Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu’s reluctance to declare support for a two-state solution may cause the United States to withdraw its support for Israel. 

“In the past it was clear that Israel wanted to accept the peace process,” Livni told Army Radio. “The government today is not prepared to advance the process and set future borders, and the feeling in the world is that all Israel is trying to do is gain time.”  



Livni’s comments came after 
U.S. president Barack Obama pledged last week to personally pursue a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during a speech to the Muslim world in Cairo. 

The opposition leader also weighed in on the issue of whether there have been understandings with the U.S. over construction characterized by “natural growth,” a question over which a sharp disagreement has erupted between Israel and its superpower ally. 

“There were no formal agreements on the matter, but an attempt to delineate borders and discuss the question of whether the settlement blocs would remain within Israel‘s bounds,” said Livni, who served as foreign minister in Israel‘s last government. 

She confirmed a statement made by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Saturday that there was no “memorialization” of any informal and oral agreements. 

“If they did occur, which of course people say they did, they did not become part of the official position of the United States government,” said Clinton. 

Related articles:  

·  Saudi FM to U.S.: Cut off aid if Israel doesn’t end occupation  

·  Obama envoy may propose immediate talks on West Bank borders  

·  Clinton: No proof Bush administration approved settlement growth 



Last update – 12:10 07/06/2009
Will Obama envoy push Israel for final border talks?
By Barak Ravid and Assaf Uni, Haaretz Correspondents
Senior U.S. officials, including President Barack Obama’s Mideast envoy George Mitchell, say they might propose immediate talks on setting Israel’s border along the West Bank. 

The move comes in light of Israel’s opposition to a freeze on settlement construction and would determine which settlements will remain in Israel in a final deal that would see the emergence of a Palestinian state. 

The American proposal was raised in recent weeks following Israeli suggestions that there is no reason to cease construction in the large settlement blocs. Such construction would accommodate natural growth. The Israelis say that since those blocs will remain in Israel under a final-status agreement, there is no point in preventing construction. 

The Israeli position was mainly directed at the blocs of Gush Etzion, Alfei Menashe, Ariel, Ma’aleh Adumim and certain areas adjoining Jerusalem. 

The American officials countered by suggesting that they initiate immediate negotiations on the border between Israel and a future Palestinian state. This, the Americans insisted, would make it easier for everyone to decide where settlement construction could take place. 

Israeli sources told Haaretz that they are not entirely sure what the American proposals mean. “We do not know what precisely they intend,” said a senior official who took part in some of the meetings. 

Another official said that “this is essentially a threat and a verbal form of leverage” that is meant to clarify to Israel the American insistence to find a resolution to the issue of settlement construction as soon as possible. 

Mitchell will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel on Tuesday to discuss the settlements. 

Ahead of Mitchell’s visit, a sharp disagreement has erupted over whether there have been earlier understandings with the United States over construction characterized by “natural growth.” 

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Saturday that “there is no memorialization of any informal and oral agreements. If they did occur, which of course people say they did, they did not become part of the official position of the United States government.” 

Clinton added that “there are contrary documents that suggest that they were not to be viewed as in any way contradicting the obligations that Israel undertook pursuant to the road map … [and] those obligations are very clear.” 

Meanwhile, Obama reiterated during meetings on Saturday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy that the Americans insisted on a freeze in settlement construction. 

In Germany, Obama said that his Cairo speech drew a great deal of attention for his demands of Israel and that “less attention has been focused on the insistence on my part that the Palestinians and the Arab states have to take very concrete actions.? 

However, both Merkel and Sarkozy praised his Cairo address. The chancellor said that ?it was an ideal basis for positive action, especially accelerating the peace process in the Middle East.? She said a solution of two states for two peoples was necessary. 

According to Sarkozy, ?I told the president that we are in complete agreement on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, and how much we support American diplomacy as it seeks to … stop and freeze settlement construction.? 

Netanyahu and his aides, meanwhile, are concerned by the complications over the settlements with the U.S. administration. They say they had not expected that the differences would be so wide. 

Netanyahu believed that any problems in ties with the Obama administration at this time would revolve around Iran?s nuclear ambitions. He was surprised to discover that the new president does not consider himself obligated by the informal understandings between Israel and the Bush administration on natural-growth construction in settlements. 

Ghajar pullout 

Netanyahu told Clinton during his recent visit to Washington that the results of the Lebanese general election will affect Israel?s decision on whether to withdraw from the village of Ghajar on the border between Israel and Lebanon. 

A political source in Jerusalem said Netanyahu had hinted that if Hezbollah wins the parliamentary elections, Israel will put on hold all preparations to pull out from the northern portion of the village. 

Related articles: 

  • Clinton: No proof Bush administration approved settlement growth 
  • Barak: We didn’t bow to Obama on West Bank outpost evacuation 
  • EU seeks to increase pressure on Israel for settlement freeze


    After Cairo, It’s Clinton Time – By Thomas L. Friedman, NYT

    June 7, 2009



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    June 7th, 2009 1:46 pm

    Like a true Jewish tactician, Friedman is following the Netanyahu line of prevarication, derailing and using diversionary means to try to shift Obama’s peace focus on Israeli-Palestinian imbroglio to yet another alternative trouble spot, after Iran is now more or less defanged as diversion. According to him, peace in Iraq should have priority and Hillary Clinton should not waste her time and energy on any peace moves in Israel-Palestinian sector, as it is, according to him, beyond diplomacy.

    One fails to fully grasp the meaning of the phrase -‘beyond diplomacy’, if the alternative suggested by him is that only war in the region will bring peace. Another interpretation of his brushing out diplomacy in Israel/ Palestinian peace effort, could be that he gives out a hint to Israeli hawks to tone down or else? But reading his columns over the time, I doubt if he has guts to risk the flak from his own community, in the US as well as in Israel.

    Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai

    —    Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai, India







    After Cairo, It’s Clinton Time



    Published: June 6, 2009

    It’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry after reading the reactions of analysts and officials in the Middle East to President Obama’s Cairo speech. “It’s not what he says, but what he does,” many said. No, ladies and gentlemen of the Middle East, it is what he says and what you do and what we do. We must help, but we can’t want democracy or peace more than you do.


    Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

    Thomas L. Friedman

    What should we be doing? The follow-up to the president’s speech will have to be led by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. This will be her first big test, and, for me, there is no question as to where she should be putting all her energy: on the peace process.

    No, not that peace process — not the one between Israelis and Palestinians. That one’s probably beyond diplomacy. No, I’m talking about the peace process that is much more strategically important — the one inside Iraq.

    The most valuable thing that Mrs. Clinton could do right now is to spearhead a sustained effort — along with the U.N., the European Union and Iraq’s neighbors — to resolve the lingering disputes between Iraqi factions before we complete our withdrawal. (We’ll be out of Iraq’s cities by June 30 and the whole country by the close of 2011.)

    Why? Because if Iraq unravels as we draw down, the Obama team will be blamed, and it will be a huge mess. By contrast, if a decent and stable political order can take hold in Iraq, it could have an extremely positive impact on the future of the Arab world and on America’s reputation.

    I have never bought the argument that Iraq was the bad war, Afghanistan the good war and Pakistan the necessary war. Folks, they’re all one war with different fronts. It’s a war within the Arab-Muslim world between progressive and anti-modernist forces over how this faith community is going to adapt to modernity — modern education, consensual politics, the balance between religion and state and the rights of women. Any decent outcome in Iraq would bolster all the progressive forces by creating an example of something that does not exist in the Middle East today — an independent, democratizing Arab-Muslim state.

    “The reason there are no successful Arab democracies today is because there is no successful Arab democracy today,” said Stanford’s Larry Diamond, the author of “The Spirit of Democracy.” “When there is no model, it is hard for an idea to diffuse in a region.”

    Rightly or wrongly, we stepped into the middle of this war of ideas in the Arab-Muslim world in 2003 when we decapitated the Iraqi regime, wiped away its authoritarian political structure and went about clumsily midwifing something that the modern Arab world has never seen before — a horizontal dialogue between the constituent communities of an Arab state. In Iraq’s case, that is primarily Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.

    Yes, in a region that has only known top-down monologues from kings, dictators and colonial powers, we have helped Iraqis convene the first horizontal dialogue to write their own social contract for how to share power.

    At first, this dialogue took place primarily through violence. Liberated from Saddam’s iron fist, each Iraqi community tested its strength against the others, saying in effect: “Show me what you got, baby.” The violence was horrific and ultimately exhausting for all. So now we’ve entered a period of negotiations over how Iraq will be governed. But it’s unfinished and violence could easily return.

    And that brings me to Secretary Clinton. I do not believe the argument that Iraqis will not allow us to help mediate their disputes — whether over Kirkuk, oil-sharing or federalism. For years now, our president, secretary of state and secretary of defense have flown into Iraq, met the leaders for a few hours and then flown away, not to return for months. We need a more serious, weighty effort. Hate the war, hate Bush, but don’t hate the idea of trying our best to finish this right.

    This is important. Afghanistan is secondary. Baghdad is a great Arab and Muslim capital. Iraq has something no other Arab country has in abundance: water, oil and an educated population. It already has sprouted scores of newspapers and TV stations that operate freely. “Afghanistan will never have any impact outside of Afghanistan. Iraq can change minds,” said Mamoun Fandy, of the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

    You demonstrate that Iraqi Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds can write their own social contract, and you will tell the whole Arab world that there is a model other than top-down monologues from iron-fisted dictators. You will expose the phony democracy in Iran, and you will leave a legacy for America that will help counter Abu Ghraib and torture.

    Ultimately, which way Iraq goes will depend on whether its elites decide to use their freedom to loot their country or to rebuild it. That’s still unclear. But we still have a chance to push things there in the right direction, and a huge interest in doing so. Mrs. Clinton is a serious person; this is a serious job. I hope she does it.

    Maureen Dowd and Frank Rich are off today.


    Comments posted on The New York Times – Readers comments on Obama’s speech in Cairo + Text Obama speech courtsey NYT

    June 5, 2009

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    June 5th, 2009 11:12 am






    Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai

    — Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai, India 




    Thursday, June 04, 2009



    Text: Obama’s Speech in Cairo


    Published: June 4, 2009

    The following is a text of President Obama’s prepared remarks to the Muslim world, delivered on June 4, 2009, as released by the White House.


    Obama Calls for Alliances With Muslims (June 5, 2009)


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    I am honored to be in the timeless city of Cairo, and to be hosted by two remarkable institutions. For over a thousand years, Al-Azhar has stood as a beacon of Islamic learning, and for over a century, Cairo University has been a source of Egypt’s advancement. Together, you represent the harmony between tradition and progress. I am grateful for your hospitality, and the hospitality of the people of Egypt. I am also proud to carry with me the goodwill of the American people, and a greeting of peace from Muslim communities in my country: assalaamu alaykum.

    We meet at a time of tension between the United States and Muslims around the world – tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate. The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of co-existence and cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars. More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations. Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.

    Violent extremists have exploited these tensions in a small but potent minority of Muslims. 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. This has bred more fear and mistrust.

    So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, and who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. This cycle of suspicion and discord must end.

    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 upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles – principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.

    I do so recognizing that change cannot happen overnight. No single speech can eradicate years of mistrust, nor can I answer in the time that I have all the complex questions that brought us to this point. But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly the things we hold in our hearts, and that too often are said only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground. As the Holy Koran tells us, “Be conscious of God and speak always the truth.” That is what I will try to do – to speak the truth as best I can, humbled by the task before us, and firm in my belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart.

    Part of this conviction is rooted in my own experience. I am a Christian, but my father came from a Kenyan family that includes generations of Muslims. As a boy, I spent several years in Indonesia and heard the call of the azaan at the break of dawn and the fall of dusk. As a young man, I worked in Chicago communities where many found dignity and peace in their Muslim faith.

    As a student of history, I also know civilization’s debt to Islam. It was Islam – at places like Al-Azhar University – that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed. Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.

    I know, too, that Islam has always been a part of America’s story. The first nation to recognize my country was Morocco. In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second President John Adams wrote, “The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims.” And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, served in government, stood for civil rights, started businesses, taught at our Universities, excelled in our sports arenas, won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic Torch. And when the first Muslim-American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution using the same Holy Koran that one of our Founding Fathers – Thomas Jefferson – kept in his personal library.

    So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed. That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn’t. And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.

    But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America. Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire. The United States has been one of the greatest sources of progress that the world has ever known. We were born out of revolution against an empire. We were founded upon the ideal that all are created equal, and we have shed blood and struggled for centuries to give meaning to those words – within our borders, and around the world. We are shaped by every culture, drawn from every end of the Earth, and dedicated to a simple concept: E pluribus unum: “Out of many, one.”

    Much has been made of the fact that an African-American with the name Barack Hussein Obama could be elected President. But my personal story is not so unique. The dream of opportunity for all people has not come true for everyone in America, but its promise exists for all who come to our shores – that includes nearly seven million American Muslims in our country today who enjoy incomes and education that are higher than average.

    Moreover, freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one’s religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state of our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That is why the U.S. government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab, and to punish those who would deny it.

    So let there be no doubt: Islam is a part of America. And I believe that America holds within her the truth that regardless of race, religion, or station in life, all of us share common aspirations – to live in peace and security; to get an education and to work with dignity; to love our families, our communities, and our God. These things we share. This is the hope of all humanity.

    Of course, recognizing our common humanity is only the beginning of our task. Words alone cannot meet the needs of our people. These needs will be met only if we act boldly in the years ahead; and if we understand that the challenges we face are shared, and our failure to meet them will hurt us all.

    For we have learned from recent experience that when a financial system weakens in one country, prosperity is hurt everywhere. When a new flu infects one human being, all are at risk. When one nation pursues a nuclear weapon, the risk of nuclear attack rises for all nations. When violent extremists operate in one stretch of mountains, people are endangered across an ocean. And when innocents in Bosnia and Darfur are slaughtered, that is a stain on our collective conscience. That is what it means to share this world in the 21st century. That is the responsibility we have to one another as human beings.

    This is a difficult responsibility to embrace. For human history has often been a record of nations and tribes subjugating one another to serve their own interests. Yet in this new age, such attitudes are self-defeating. Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail. So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners of it. Our problems must be dealt with through partnership; progress must be shared.

    That does not mean we should ignore sources of tension. Indeed, it suggests the opposite: we must face these tensions squarely. And so in that spirit, let me speak as clearly and plainly as I can about some specific issues that I believe we must finally confront together.

    The first issue that we have to confront is violent extremism in all of its forms.

    In Ankara, I made clear that America is not – and never will be – at war with Islam. We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security. Because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women, and children. And it is my first duty as President to protect the American people.

    The situation in Afghanistan demonstrates America’s goals, and our need to work together. Over seven years ago, the United States pursued al Qaeda and the Taliban with broad international support. We did not go by choice, we went because of necessity. I am aware that some question or justify the events of 9/11. But let us be clear: al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 people on that day. The victims were innocent men, women and children from America and many other nations who had done nothing to harm anybody. And yet Al Qaeda chose to ruthlessly murder these people, claimed credit for the attack, and even now states their determination to kill on a massive scale. They have affiliates in many countries and are trying to expand their reach. These are not opinions to be debated; these are facts to be dealt with.

    Make no mistake: we do not want to keep our troops in Afghanistan. We seek no military bases there. It is agonizing for America to lose our young men and women. It is costly and politically difficult to continue this conflict. We would gladly bring every single one of our troops home if we could be confident that there were not violent extremists in Afghanistan and Pakistan determined to kill as many Americans as they possibly can. But that is not yet the case.

    That’s why we’re partnering with a coalition of forty-six countries. And despite the costs involved, America’s commitment will not weaken. Indeed, none of us should tolerate these extremists. They have killed in many countries. They have killed people of different faiths – more than any other, they have killed Muslims. Their actions are irreconcilable with the rights of human beings, the progress of nations, and with Islam. The Holy Koran 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. The enduring faith of over a billion people is so much bigger than the narrow hatred of a few. Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism – it is an important part of promoting peace.

    We also know that military power alone is not going to solve the problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That is why we plan to invest $1.5 billion each year over the next five years to partner with Pakistanis to build schools and hospitals, roads and businesses, and hundreds of millions to help those who have been displaced. And that is why we are providing more than $2.8 billion to help Afghans develop their economy and deliver services that people depend upon.

    Let me also address the issue of Iraq. Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq was a war of choice that provoked strong differences in my country and around the world. Although I believe that the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, I also believe that events in Iraq have reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build international consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible. Indeed, we can recall the words of Thomas Jefferson, who said: “I hope that our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us that the less we use our power the greater it will be.”

    Today, America has a dual responsibility: to help Iraq forge a better future – and to leave Iraq to Iraqis. I have made it clear to the Iraqi people that we pursue no bases, and no claim on their territory or resources. Iraq’s sovereignty is its own. That is why I ordered the removal of our combat brigades by next August. That is why we will honor our agreement with Iraq’s democratically-elected government to remove combat troops from Iraqi cities by July, and to remove all our troops from Iraq by 2012. We will help Iraq train its Security Forces and develop its economy. But we will support a secure and united Iraq as a partner, and never as a patron.

    And finally, just as America can never tolerate violence by extremists, we must never alter our principles. 9/11 was an enormous trauma to our country. The fear and anger that it provoked was understandable, but in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our ideals. We are taking concrete actions to change course. I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States, and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year.

    So America will defend itself respectful of the sovereignty of nations and the rule of law. And we will do so in partnership with Muslim communities which are also threatened. The sooner the extremists are isolated and unwelcome in Muslim communities, the sooner we will all be safer.

    The second major source of tension that we need to discuss is the situation between Israelis, Palestinians and the Arab world.

    America’s strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.

    Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed – more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, ignorant, and hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction – or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews – is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.

    On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people – Muslims and Christians – have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations – large and small – that come with occupation. So 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.

    For decades, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It is easy to point fingers – for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought by Israel’s founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. But 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 interest, Palestine’s interest, America’s interest, and the world’s interest. That is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience that the task requires. The obligations that the parties have agreed to under the Road Map are clear. For peace to come, it is time for them – and all of us – to live up to our responsibilities.

    Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America’s founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It’s a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered.

    Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, and to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel’s right to exist.

    At the same time, 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.

    Israel must also live up to its obligations to ensure that Palestinians can live, and work, and develop their society. And just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel’s security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress.

    Finally, the Arab States must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities. The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems. Instead, it must be a cause for action to help the Palestinian people develop the institutions that will sustain their state; to recognize Israel’s legitimacy; and to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past.

    America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs. We cannot impose peace. But privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away. Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true.

    Too many tears have flowed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed (peace be upon them) joined in prayer.

    The third source of tension is our shared interest in the rights and responsibilities of nations on nuclear weapons.

    This issue has been a source of tension between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran. For many years, Iran has defined itself in part by its opposition to my country, and there is indeed a tumultuous history between us. In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically-elected Iranian government. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians. This history is well known. Rather than remain trapped in the past, I have made it clear to Iran’s leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward. The question, now, is not what Iran is against, but rather what future it wants to build.

    It will be hard to overcome decades of mistrust, but we will proceed with courage, rectitude and resolve. There will be many issues to discuss between our two countries, and we are willing to move forward without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect. But it is clear to all concerned that when it comes to nuclear weapons, we have reached a decisive point. This is not simply about America’s interests. It is about preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that could lead this region and the world down a hugely dangerous path.

    I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons. That is why I strongly reaffirmed America’s commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons. And any nation – including Iran – should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That commitment is at the core of the Treaty, and it must be kept for all who fully abide by it. And I am hopeful that all countries in the region can share in this goal.

    The fourth issue that I will address is democracy.

    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.

    That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.

    There is no straight line to realize this promise. But this much is clear: governments that protect these rights are ultimately more stable, successful and secure. Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments – provided they govern with respect for all their people.

    This last point is important because there are some who advocate for democracy only when they are out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others. No matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who hold power: you must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.

    The fifth issue that we must address together is religious freedom.

    Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. We see it in the history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition. I saw it firsthand as a child in Indonesia, where devout Christians worshiped freely in an overwhelmingly Muslim country. That is the spirit we need today. People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind, heart, and soul. This tolerance is essential for religion to thrive, but it is being challenged in many different ways.

    Among some Muslims, there is a disturbing tendency to measure one’s own faith by the rejection of another’s. The richness of religious diversity must be upheld – whether it is for Maronites in Lebanon or the Copts in Egypt. And fault lines must be closed among Muslims as well, as the divisions between Sunni and Shia have led to tragic violence, particularly in Iraq.

    Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together. We must always examine the ways in which we protect it. For instance, in the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation. That is why I am committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat.

    Likewise, it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit – for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. We cannot disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism.

    Indeed, faith should bring us together. That is why we are forging service projects in America that bring together Christians, Muslims, and Jews. That is why we welcome efforts like Saudi Arabian King Abdullah’s Interfaith dialogue and Turkey’s leadership in the Alliance of Civilizations. Around the world, we can turn dialogue into Interfaith service, so bridges between peoples lead to action – whether it is combating malaria in Africa, or providing relief after a natural disaster.

    The sixth issue that I want to address is women’s rights.

    I know there is debate about this issue. I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality. And it is no coincidence that countries where women are well-educated are far more likely to be prosperous.

    Now let me be clear: issues of women’s equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam. In Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia, we have seen Muslim-majority countries elect a woman to lead. Meanwhile, the struggle for women’s equality continues in many aspects of American life, and in countries around the world.

    Our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons, and our common prosperity will be advanced by allowing all humanity – men and women – to reach their full potential. I do not believe that women must make the same choices as men in order to be equal, and I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles. But it should be their choice. That is why the United States will partner with any Muslim-majority country to support expanded literacy for girls, and to help young women pursue employment through micro-financing that helps people live their dreams.

    Finally, I want to discuss economic development and opportunity.

    I know that for many, the face of globalization is contradictory. The Internet and television can bring knowledge and information, but also offensive sexuality and mindless violence. Trade can bring new wealth and opportunities, but also huge disruptions and changing communities. In all nations – including my own – this change can bring fear. Fear that because of modernity we will lose of control over our economic choices, our politics, and most importantly our identities – those things we most cherish about our communities, our families, our traditions, and our faith.

    But I also know that human progress cannot be denied. There need not be contradiction between development and tradition. Countries like Japan and South Korea grew their economies while maintaining distinct cultures. The same is true for the astonishing progress within Muslim-majority countries from Kuala Lumpur to Dubai. In ancient times and in our times, Muslim communities have been at the forefront of innovation and education.

    This is important because no development strategy can be based only upon what comes out of the ground, nor can it be sustained while young people are out of work. Many Gulf States have enjoyed great wealth as a consequence of oil, and some are beginning to focus it on broader development. But all of us must recognize that education and innovation will be the currency of the 21st century, and in too many Muslim communities there remains underinvestment in these areas. I am emphasizing such investments within my country. And while America in the past has focused on oil and gas in this part of the world, we now seek a broader engagement.

    On education, we will expand exchange programs, and increase scholarships, like the one that brought my father to America, while encouraging more Americans to study in Muslim communities. And we will match promising Muslim students with internships in America; invest in on-line learning for teachers and children around the world; and create a new online network, so a teenager in Kansas can communicate instantly with a teenager in Cairo.

    On economic development, we will create a new corps of business volunteers to partner with counterparts in Muslim-majority countries. And I will host a Summit on Entrepreneurship this year to identify how we can deepen ties between business leaders, foundations and social entrepreneurs in the United States and Muslim communities around the world.

    On science and technology, we will launch a new fund to support technological development in Muslim-majority countries, and to help transfer ideas to the marketplace so they can create jobs. We will open centers of scientific excellence in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, and appoint new Science Envoys to collaborate on programs that develop new sources of energy, create green jobs, digitize records, clean water, and grow new crops. And today I am announcing a new global effort with the Organization of the Islamic Conference to eradicate polio. And we will also expand partnerships with Muslim communities to promote child and maternal health.

    All these things must be done in partnership. Americans are ready to join with citizens and governments; community organizations, religious leaders, and businesses in Muslim communities around the world to help our people pursue a better life.

    The issues that I have described will not be easy to address. But we have a responsibility to join together on behalf of the world we seek – a world where extremists no longer threaten our people, and American troops have come home; a world where Israelis and Palestinians are each secure in a state of their own, and nuclear energy is used for peaceful purposes; a world where governments serve their citizens, and the rights of all God’s children are respected. Those are mutual interests. That is the world we seek. But we can only achieve it together.

    I know there are many – Muslim and non-Muslim – who question whether we can forge this new beginning. Some are eager to stoke the flames of division, and to stand in the way of progress. Some suggest that it isn’t worth the effort – that we are fated to disagree, and civilizations are doomed to clash. Many more are simply skeptical that real change can occur. There is so much fear, so much mistrust. But if we choose to be bound by the past, we will never move forward. And I want to particularly say this to young people of every faith, in every country – you, more than anyone, have the ability to remake this world.

    All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time. The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart, or whether we commit ourselves to an effort – a sustained effort – to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children, and to respect the dignity of all human beings.

    It is easier to start wars than to end them. It is easier to blame others than to look inward; to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path. There is also one rule that lies at the heart of every religion – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. This truth transcends nations and peoples – a belief that isn’t new; that isn’t black or white or brown; that isn’t Christian, or Muslim or Jew. It’s a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilization, and that still beats in the heart of billions. It’s a faith in other people, and it’s what brought me here today.

    We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been written.

    The Holy Koran tells us, “O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.”

    The Talmud tells us: “The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace.”

    The Holy Bible tells us, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

    The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God’s vision. Now, that must be our work here on Earth. Thank you. And may God’s peace be upon you.