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Douglas Carpenter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-21-09 03:33 PM
Original message
Arabs and Muslims give Obama benefit of doubt on new way

Arabs and Muslims give Obama benefit of doubt on new way

By Jonathan Wright
Wed Jan 21, 2009 11:58am GMT


CAIRO (Reuters) - Arabs and Muslims gave the benefit of some doubt on Wednesday to U.S. President Barack Obama's offer of "a new way forward" with the Muslim world, but many said it would take deeds rather than words to convince them.

After eight years of President George W. Bush, who invaded two Muslim countries and gave strong support to Israel, Arabs and Muslims watched Obama's inaugural speech on Tuesday closely for any sign that U.S. policy toward them will change.


"This is a speech that reflected a new spirit of dialogue, reaching out and working together. This is a new direction that is certainly not what the Bush administration has been pursuing," said former Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher.

Hilal Khashan, political science professor at the American University of Beirut, noted Obama's reference to Muslims as a significant part of the patchwork of the United States, an attitude not common in U.S. political discourse.

"The fact that he mentioned Muslims means a lot. This is a symbolic gesture to the Muslim world that they are part of the world. He's inclusive," he said.

In Britain, the umbrella Muslim Council of Britain welcomed Obama's offer of new relations with the Muslim world.

"His intentions are noble. I hope it ends the rift between the United States and the Muslim world, which has grown further and further in the last eight years," said Muhammad Abdul Bari, the secretary general of the organization.

link to full article:

On a purely personal note, I happen to spend a lot of time in the Middle East, and there is certainly an optimistic attitude everywhere I go that American policy under President Obama will be at least somewhat more enlightened and inclined at least a little bit more toward fair play. No one is so naive as to imagine that President Obama is going to immediately reverse long standing American policies or switch sides or anything remotely of the sort. But there is very much a hope that the new President does actually understand the Middle East. He does actually grasp the issues. He is less inclined toward holding bigoted or racist assumptions about Arab and Muslim people. And just perhaps, just perhaps President Obama will be a bit more inclined toward at least listening and showing some respect, for a change. That in itself would be a massive seismic shift.
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azurnoir Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-21-09 05:02 PM
Response to Original message
1. Agreed and I most
earnestly hope that the benefit is well deserved
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Douglas Carpenter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-21-09 05:14 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. I am encouraged that he might choose George Mitchell as Middle East envoy
I think former Sen. Mitchell would be the best choice of those who would actually hold the most credibility on all sides.

When I read the May 20, 2001 Mitchell Commission Report which examined the causes of the second intifada in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, I cannot say that I am in complete agreement.

However, I do see a sincere effort to act in a balanced manner and to pursue honest fact finding and to establish findings and make recommendations dispassionately and reasonably.

I also fear disappointment. The Middle East fears disappointment. But for now, I think it is best to cautiously hope for some balance and a move toward a sense of fair play. That is the best possible scenario.
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Vegasaurus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-21-09 06:36 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. What do you think of the Iranians burning American flags and pictures of Obama yesterday?
Or of Obama's comments on terror and those who "sow conflict"?
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Douglas Carpenter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-21-09 08:19 PM
Response to Reply #3
4. Iran is hardly part of the Arab world. In fact most of the Arab world
Edited on Wed Jan-21-09 08:50 PM by Douglas Carpenter
holds a very dim view of the Iranian state and has for a very long, long time. But they also recognize the devastating consequence of a military conflict with Iran.

I can't think of anything President Obama said about terror of sowing conflict where the vast majority of Arab people would fundamentally disagree.

The question is what can be done to diffuse tensions and reduce the stimulus for conflict in the Middle East? The most fundamental change that I could imagine is to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians along lines similar to what the Magistrate mentioned in his post.

That along with the dispute between Israel and Syria (which Bill clinton says could be resolved in less than half an hour)

If this were to happen and the Obama Administration was to push this along, there is no reason why relations between Israel and the Arab world can not be fully established and Israel can then be fully integrated into the Middle East with full and inhibited movement and trade that would benefit everyone. This is the mutual interest President Obama mentioned in his address.

Perhaps you and some others do not believe that the Arab world would want this. But people who know the Middle East, know otherwise. Provided this settlement is rooted in, as the President says, mutual respect. Mutual interest is already the case. However, time is running out and the possibility for a negotiated long term peace may not be available forever in the face of intransigence and rejectionism by those who are simply incapable of mutual respect.
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Vegasaurus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-22-09 06:46 PM
Response to Reply #4
6. What does mutual respect mean to you, Douglas?
Does it mean that Hamas will respect the right of Israel to exist?

Because honestly, Hamas is the stumbling block here, since there is no "mutual" in any of their statements.

They seem rather focused on themselves and their desire to "liberate all of greater Palestine".

These goals seem incompatible with mutual respect, so I am interested to hear your opinion.
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Douglas Carpenter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jan-23-09 12:28 AM
Response to Reply #6
8. "a little island of the civilized in a vast sea full of savages and barbarians"
Edited on Fri Jan-23-09 12:40 AM by Douglas Carpenter
is an example of an attitude that is certainly not mutual respect.

Whatever political formulation is eventually put together to end this wretched conflict, it can only be durable and lasting if people are willing to accept the others as their equals. Arab people already know that the western world - including Israel - has many technical, educational, political, economic and social advancements that they can only envy but cannot match at this time in history. But constantly rubbing it in with insults upon insults upon insults does nothing but produce resentment and frustration. This attitude is exactly what mutual respect is not.

All the military power in the world cannot out muscle geography and demographics forever. If Israel truly wants security, they can only achieve it by acceptance by the Arab world and integration into the region. This is only possible if Israel is willing to accept the Arab world and deal with Arab world as human beings of equal worth and equally deserving of respect and dignity. This is not simply a nice ideal. This is an absolute requirement for the long term security and even survival of the Israeli people. Without this mutual acceptance, Israeli is just holding off the flood gates of the inevitable, which can be done for a time, but not forever.

As far as recognition of Israel by Hamas is concerned, nobody is suggesting that Likud or any Israeli political parties that is included or might be included in a future Israeli government, must first recognize the Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital, based on the 1967 border. If Palestinians were to throw up that requirement, everyone would say that they were being unreasonable.

For that matter there are political parties all over the world that hold all kinds of theoretical positions, but this does not prevent them from sharing power. Sein Fein in Northern Ireland still does not recognize the right of British sovereignty over the Northern counties and still openly advocates full unification of all of Ireland. But they still manage to share power in governments that include staunch Unionist.

Please allow me to quote what former Israeli Foreign Minister, Shlomo Ben-Ami said in regards to Hamas:

SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Yes, Hamas. I think that in my view there is almost sort of poetic justice with this victory of Hamas. After all, what is the reason for this nostalgia for Arafat and for the P.L.O.? Did they run the affairs of the Palestinians in a clean way? You mentioned the corruption, the inefficiency. Of course, Israel has contributed a lot to the disintegration of the Palestinian system, no doubt about it, but their leaders failed them. Their leaders betrayed them, and the victory of Hamas is justice being made in many ways. So we cannot preach democracy and then say that those who won are not accepted by us. Either there is democracy or there is no democracy.

And with these people, I think they are much more pragmatic than is normally perceived. In the 1990s, they invented the concept of a temporary settlement with Israel. 1990s was the first time that Hamas spoke about a temporary settlement with Israel. In 2003, they declared unilaterally a truce, and the reason they declared the truce is this, that with Arafat, whose the system of government was one of divide and rule, they were discarded from the political system. Mahmoud Abbas has integrated them into the political system, and this is what brought them to the truce. They are interested in politicizing themselves, in becoming a politic entity. And we need to try and see ways where we can work with them.

Now, everybody says they need first to recognize the state of Israel and end terrorism. Believe me, I would like them to do so today, but they are not going to do that. They are eventually going to do that in the future, but only as part of a quid pro quo, just as the P.L.O. did it. The P.L.O., when Rabin came to negotiate with them, also didn't recognize the state of Israel, and they engaged in all kind of nasty practices. And therefore, we need to be much more realistic and abandon worn-out cliches and see whether we can reach something with these people. I believe that a long-term interim agreement between Israel and Hamas, even if it is not directly negotiated between the parties, but through a third party, is feasible and possible.

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ProgressiveMuslim Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-22-09 06:49 PM
Response to Reply #4
7. Thanks for sharing your POV based on your experience in the ME...
Everything you write sounds right on!
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iconicgnom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jan-23-09 12:30 AM
Response to Reply #3
9. oooo! let's bomb iran! bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb iran!
Some of them said some mean things.
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Vegasaurus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jan-23-09 07:48 AM
Response to Reply #9
10. Stop being silly
The point was that there are Muslims, and Islamic fundamentalists in particular, who are not very happy about Obama.
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Douglas Carpenter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-22-09 09:53 AM
Response to Original message
5. one kick for next shift
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