Friday, December 05, 2008

Just in case you were in doubt, yes I have opinions about Obama's decision to appoint Hilary Clinton to the position secretary of state.

I'm disappointed, generally. If this appointment means that Obama plans to take us back to (Bill) Clinton-style foreign policy, than this isn't change I can believe in. Clinton's policies were light-years better than those of Bush, but they weren't good for the Middle East. Through his sanctions, Clinton was responsible for the death of thousands of Iraqi children and for laying the groundwork for this current occupation of Iraq. Yes, Bush took those circumstances and ran with them to places they didn't need to go, but the basis of both the Clinton and Bush doctrines were fundamentally the same - both leaders believed that the United States has the right to shape the middle east to suit its fancy, supporting dictators when expedient and then turning on them when their usefulness has run out.

For Palestine, Bill Clinton's policy could have been better. It was during the Oslo accords that settlements expanded at an unprecedented rate. Clinton's diplomatic skills were as sharp in Palestine as they were any where, but he either wasn't able to understand the obstacle that settlements posed, or he decided to ignore them.

But Hilary Clinton shouldn't be judged by the policies of her husband, even though she hasn't differed with him significantly. Hilary's policy towards Palestine started to worry me in 2005 when she visited Israel while I was staying in Bethlehem. She was invited to see the apartheid wall near Jerusalem and learn about the damage that it is still causing. She declined to visit in wall in a Palestinian community, but still felt comfortable commenting on it. Sight unseen, Hilary Clinton told the world that she thought it was a great, "nonviolent" response for Israel's security:

"The top priority of any government is to ensure the safety and security of its citizens, and that is why I have been a strong supporter of Israel's right to build a security barrier to keep terrorists out. I have taken the International Court of Justice to task for questioning Israel's right to build the fence, and on this trip, I wanted to see the fence with my own eyes. ... I stood on a hilltop in Gilo and received a detailed briefing from Col. Danny Tirza who oversees the Israeli government's strategy and construction of the security fence."

Clinton showed in her 2005 trip that she wasn't willing to listen to both sides and that she going to "take to task" anyone who calls for the rule of international law. These is not the qualities of a new and different "changed" secretary of state.

The truth is, Clinton's Palestine policies worry me because they are so much like Obama's. Both Clinton and Obama used to - even recently - support Palestinian national aspirations, in meaningful, gutsy ways. Obama particularly can't deny that he knows how Palestinians are suffering. But both of them have decided to sacrifice these ideals to get - and stay - elected. Both Clinton and Obama are courting APAIC. Both are courting Jewish supporters of Israeli polices. And both are getting winning reviews from pro-Israel lobbyists.

That Obama would chose someone for secretary of state who has sold out the same ideals that he has abandoned makes me worry that he really had abandoned them completely. The president we have just elected, despite he many strengths, is hard to imagine doing the difficult work to build a just peace process.

Many of my friends keep telling me that Obama is just doing this to get elected. Now that the pressure is off, he'll turn back to his ideals. Forgive me for saying so, but the pressure on Obama has never been greater. Nor has the pressure on Hilary Clinton. The only thing that will steer Obama's Palestine policy - and the rest of his foreign policy as well - back towards a "change we can believe in" will be a different pressure. A pressure from us. Right now, Obama is giving us a foreign policy that's better than Bush's. What a relief. But those us of who believe in peace in justice - all of us who want to live in a safe world - need to ask for more than that.

1 comment:

@bdul muHib said...

Well said. I went off Hillary when she was running for the Senate the first time, and apologized for greeting Yassar Arafat's wife in the traditional Palestinian manner (a hug), back when she was First Lady. Evidently, despite the high-level talks between Arafat and Bill Clinton, New York Jews had decided Arafat was a terrorist, and Hillary had decided she couldn't win New York without their votes. So she apologizes for greeting a woman that no one accused of terrorism, using the traditional greeting of that woman's culture. Which is to me about the height of racist anti-Semitism.