Thursday, June 4, 2009

Phyllis Bennis: Obama's Cairo speech represents shift in discourse, not yet shift in policy

Phyllis Bennis, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and a member of the Steering Committee of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, argues that Obama's Cairo speech represents an important change in U.S. discourse, if not U.S. policy:
"The shift in discourse, away from justifying reckless imperial hubris, unilateralism and militarism and towards a more cooperative and potentially even internationalist approach was potent. The actual policy shifts were much smaller. It remains the work of mobilized people across the U.S. - starting with the millions who mobilized to build a movement capable of electing Barack Hussein Obama as President - to turn that new language into new policies - reversing the escalation and moving towards ending Obama's war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, ending the occupation of Iraq immediately rather than years from now, ending U.S. military aid to Israel and creating a policy based on an end to occupation and equality for all, launching new negotiations with Iran not based on military threats, implementing U.S. nuclear disarmament obligations, and more."
She adds that "in the crucial weakness of the speech" Obama did not "make any U.S. commitment to insuring that compliance - such as conditioning all or even part of the $3 billion annual U.S. military aid to Israel on a complete settlement freeze or other adherence to other aspects of U.S. or international law." Bennis notes the significant shift in the framing of the Palestinian struggle:
"Obama did move the discourse significantly by his linking the Palestinian struggle to that of the U.S. civil rights movement and those in South Africa. While Obama referred only to the non-violent nature of those struggles, and didn't explicitly describe the Palestinian struggle for human rights as a civil rights or anti-apartheid struggle, those parallels are now part of the U.S. framework for understanding the fight for Palestinian rights. This gives new legitimacy to the anti-apartheid and "BDS" (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) movements that shape the global civil society mobilizations in support of Palestinian equality.
Read the full article here. As Phyllis Bennis says, it's up to mobilized people to turn new language into new policies. Join the growing ranks of the mobilized by clicking here!