Thursday, June 05, 2008

From Said to Likud: a change you better believe in

From left to right, Michelle Obama, then Illinois state senator Barack Obama, Columbia University Professor Edward Said and Mariam Said at a May 1998 Arab community event in Chicago at which Edward Said gave the keynote speech. (Image from archives of Ali Abunimah, Tip of hat to Mike Doyle)

David Seaton's News Links
It might be a little exaggerated to say that I worshiped Edward Said... but not much. I can't think of any contemporary intellectual that helped me more to find my feet, whose essays, articles and books, especailly "Orientalism", helped me more to structure my political views and make sense of the world I live in than those of Edward Said. I find it difficult to accept that he is dead... I miss reading him so much.

However, there certainly must be some compensations in being dead... Not having to hear Barack Obama award Jerusalem to Israel as its undivided capital, for example. Edward Said was born in Jerusalem.

In the photo above, we see Barack Obama sitting at Edward Said's right hand, literally breaking bread with him: having the honor of sitting at his table, gaining the prestige of his attention. Ten years ago Barack Obama spoke out in favor of the rights of Palestinians. These views helped give him his first constituency.

I don't think it is exaggerated to say that in some sense Barack Obama has used Edward Said to get to the AIPAC platform, in order to award Said's city of birth to the oppressors of his people in defiance of international law. This is simply betrayal. Anyone who loved and appreciated Edward Said's life and work should be mortally offended in his name.

There are many who seem to think that Barack Obama is a deep thinker, filled with principals and ideas that will lead America and the world to green pastures: personally I think he is a vile and unprincipled opportunist and, if given the chance, I am sure he will break the hearts and make fools of the young people who treat him as a savior.

In this I find him even worse than George W. Bush. Bush at least gives me the impression that he believes the garbage he spouts... he has that minimum integrity... Obama not even that.

Perhaps the gods have not yet totally abandoned America, and we will be spared the rule of this word weaving hypocrite. DS

How Barack Obama learned to love Israel - The Electronic Intifada
Abstract: Over the years since I first saw Obama speak I met him about half a dozen times, often at Palestinian and Arab-American community events in Chicago including a May 1998 community fundraiser at which Edward Said was the keynote speaker. In 2000, when Obama unsuccessfully ran for Congress I heard him speak at a campaign fundraiser hosted by a University of Chicago professor. On that occasion and others Obama was forthright in his criticism of US policy and his call for an even-handed approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. (...) The last time I spoke to Obama was in the winter of 2004 at a gathering in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood. He was in the midst of a primary campaign to secure the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate seat he now occupies. But at that time polls showed him trailing. As he came in from the cold and took off his coat, I went up to greet him. He responded warmly, and volunteered, "Hey, I'm sorry I haven't said more about Palestine right now, but we are in a tough primary race. I'm hoping when things calm down I can be more up front." He referred to my activism, including columns I was contributing to the The Chicago Tribune critical of Israeli and US policy, "Keep up the good work!"(...) If disappointing, given his historically close relations to Palestinian-Americans, Obama's about-face is not surprising. He is merely doing what he thinks is necessary to get elected and he will continue doing it as long as it keeps him in power. Palestinian-Americans are in the same position as civil libertarians who watched with dismay as Obama voted to reauthorize the USA Patriot Act, or immigrant rights advocates who were horrified as he voted in favor of a Republican bill to authorize the construction of a 700-mile fence on the border with Mexico. Only if enough people know what Obama and his competitors stand for, and organize to compel them to pay attention to their concerns can there be any hope of altering the disastrous course of US policy in the Middle East. READ IT ALL


Anonymous said...

I enjoy your blog, but sometimes I find you astonishingly naive. That a man named Barack Hussein Obama distances himself from Muslim issues\sympathies ..etc seems to make sense if he hopes to be elected in a nation of which population can't place themselves on a map and still believe Saddam was involved in 9-11.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

I'm not that naive... What's happened is that I've gone through cynicism and come out the other side. If you hang around long enough it might happen to you too.