Sarah is a trouper. She can bounce back like Dick Nixon. Elemental. Tawdry. But for a nation of gamblers, a game we love to play.
Sarah is a trouper. She can bounce back like Dick Nixon. Elemental. Tawdry. But for a nation of gamblers, a game we love to play.
Netanyahu should admit Israel doesn’t want peace.
An Israeli leader who speaks the truth will also free himself of international pressure. The world will understand that it is dealing with a deep, continuing recalcitrance over peace that no pressure can overcome, so the world will throw up its hands and surrender. Some of the Arabs will do the same. They will all know there is a North Korean leader in Jerusalem who is as stubborn as a mule, that most of his Israeli subjects don’t want the likes of him and don’t want change. The world, which has bought Israel’s web of lies and excuses, hasn’t opened its mouth. This includes Europe, which is incapable of coming to a single firm and courageous decision, and America, which dances to the drum of the Jewish lobby – they will also be happy to be relieved of this deceptive burden.
Because that is the truth. We don’t want peace. It’s as simple as that. It’s good for us to wallow in the current situation. There are no terrorist attacks so there are no Arabs. Life is a bowl of cherries, so why change? Society is comatose. It doesn’t object and doesn’t even ask, led like a flock of sheep, not asking why we need a freeze if at the same time more and more of its funds will be allocated to the settlements in huge quantities.
I think the above assessment from Haaretz is where we should begin to assess what it means that Israel is the largest recipient of US aid and what it means to be supporting a nation that wants none of our advice about what it should do.
http://ow.ly/npFP Afghan War Needs New Strategy: US Commander McChrystal
I include many areas where the world faces huge challenges, including the former Soviet Union (FSU).
We make a mistake when we segment challenges. One boat rocks others. We may not be gaia but there is some truth to our interdependence.
In all these situations, violence is active or incipient. In all of them, there is no solution being proposed that promises an end to the prospect of more of the same.
To cite examples:
There is every possibility that Iran will remain firm in refusing to stop enriching uranium and this will activate Israel eventually. If that happens the US may not be far behind.
There is every chance that the civil violence (if that is not an oxymoron) in many areas of the FSU will continue and that worsening economic conditions there will exacerbate conflict. Again involving other nations including the US.
In Africa there are at least five situations in which any notion of rights and decent behavior is a pipe dream without international action that would involve the US.
In Asia, Burma and Sri Lanka are merely the most conspicuous examples of continuing repression. I have not even mentioned North Korea.
And in Afghanistan we have the head US military man suggesting that with more resolve and manpower we can succeed — a truth that is no more likely to hold than the belief that Iraq will be a stable and unified democracy over time.
No serious thinker following Nietzsche and living through the Holocaust believes that the world can permanently weather a continuation of the dynamics which gave rise to the cataclysmic wars of the 20th Century.
We cannot weather full economic breakdown and a global nuclear winter.
How then are we to proceed?
I see no way other than for our President to declare a global emergency and address the underlying issue of a global military-industrial complex and a reliance on force that is fueled by governments still operating with 20th century notions that the sword is the instrument of peace and justice.
President Obama needs to declare a restructuring of the moral apparatus of the world. Realpolitik must be seen as the politics of negotiation and peace. Religion must be seen as the proximate capacity to dream, not as a license to kill. Economies must be made to create sustainable communities, not fortress societies.
Only the leadership of courageous persons can accomplish the movement needed today. Specifically, in Afghanistan we need to understand that there cannot be a military victory, period. In the future the only real victories will be those of aroused peoples who insist that the ways of war be permanently shelved. This will mean more movements like those in Iran following the most recent elections.
The President needs to stand at the helm of a global civil rights movement. He needs to show that realism is not inconsistent with this. He needs to hark back to Eisenhower and identify the military-industrial complex as the true enemy of civilization.
This is a moment of truth. This is not one person’s belief. It is the stance of all who have lived under the lash of the global war machine. We must reject the leadership of those for whom belief in force has overcome belief in themselves.
The moment of truth is a reappropriation of who we are and of our inherent possibilities.
http://ow.ly/lkZX Israel Has No Right To Act With Impunity
FROM THE FULL BLOG
Today’s climate has become demonic. And the culprit at the root is religion, or so I contend. A true understanding of who we are would strip us of our religious pretensions and acknowledge that we possess inherently a dignity that even our own sin cannot entirely eradicate.
This is a theological post. I have every right to say what I will say and to claim that it is true. Why? Because I am a person who, though theologically educated in a “tradition”, is also a thinker whose theology has evolved through a painful process to the point of arriving close to where Nietzche found himself more than a century ago. I have evolved to the point of scoring all Abrahamic religions for the very same sin — the hubris of believing their respective religions give them the right to act with impunity.
Like the prophet Amos, I hate and despise this posturing, whether it comes from an Imam, a Rabbi or a minister. As Shoah suggests, the causes of the Holocaust were at bottom religious. So too are the underlying realities of many of the most intractable conflicts today.
I believe that there are two sins that are unforgiveable. The first is to deny a person the dignity of being able to say no, for I believe that Abba is within everyone and so too is the freedom to be who one is and who one shall be, period. The second is to claim one’s religion as a justification for acting with impunity. This is exactly what is claimed whenever any person or nation uses their power to deny life and liberty to “enemies” — most particularly civilians.
In a situation of profound conflict, it is necessary to be scrupulous in one’s judgments. Such scrupulousness has been the hallmark of Human Rights Watch.
One indication that Israel has been acting with impunity is the ferocity with which it has attacked the dispassionate conclusion of Human Rights Watch, an organization which is no less veracious than the prophet Amos was when he told the priests to take away the noise of their songs. Human Rights Watch exposes impunity with an equal brush, Arab and Israeli, US and China, etc.
Today’s climate has become demonic. And the culprit at the root is religion, or so I contend. A true understanding of who we are would strip us of our religious pretensions and acknowledge that we possess inherently a dignity that even our own sin cannot entirely eradicate.
Now I shall not attempt the herculean task of trying to undo what is being done to Human Rights Watch by its ferocious and unfair critics. I shall merely give you some references to enable you to reach your own conclusion. If you agree, you do not say I am for the Palestinians or I am for Israel. You say I am for truth. Until the participants in any conflict can step back and see more than the red heat of irrational war, there can be no peace.
Human Right Watch cited and documented an incident representing Israeli impunity in Gaza.
http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2009/08/13/white-flag-deaths-0 (Downloadable PDF)
Required reading. Objective reporting.
A Google news search for Joe Stork, the Human Rights Watch expert on the Middle East, will link you to a plethora of baseless and unfair attacks on both Stork and Human Rights Watch.
Required reading. Highly prejudiced opinion.
And here are some of the reasons I have been so insistent on saying Human Rights Watch is being treated with the same impunity I would criticize across the boards.
The true face of the so called “human Rights Watch”? Short and vitriolic, accuses Stork of supporting Palestinian terrorism against Israel.
Pathological politics: HRW’s “white flags” report Long and involved. Seeks to refute the facts of the HRW White Flag Report. If you take out the statements that have nothing to do with the evidence in the HRW report, it would be much shorter. But the purpose is to undermine trust of Human Rights Watch. The fact remains that HRW is the gold standard for unbiased human rights reporting, vetting each report with legal counsel and relying for support globally on the promise that it is being objective. This is what places current attacks in the “they do protest too much” category.
How human rights groups abuse their position I was about to credit this piece with a great POV until I got to the point where it gravitates to the main attack on Stork which is the most nefarious of the lot. If there is a mother lode of negativity toward HRW, it is Maariv’s Ben-Dror Yemini and here is a summary of his recently issued and false brief on Stork. And here is the report on which Yemeni relies. The slim pickings in this report are evidenced by taking a quote or Stork out of context and representing its message to be an endorsement of Palestinian violence. All Stork suggests is that Palestinians might be motivated to violence, a statement a FBI agent might have made in a report about the Black Panthers.
But whole cloth can be made from tissues of lies by able propagandists.
Generally when such accusations are made they just get repeated over and over by one side against the other.
I once spent a good deal of time investigating and then writing what was deemed to be a fair article on the late community organizer Saul Alinsky. This controversy reminds me of the sorts of tone I encountered back then. It is clear that Stork has detractors who will not respond to any argument, no matter how true or reasonable.
Innocent Israelis and Palestinians who have perished are victims of such closed minds. If there is collective guilt there is also collective causation.
The sage person will do better to remain silent than to venture into realms of untruth that mount up and serve to besmirch organizations that are our only protection against a world of total polarization and propaganda.
President Obama In The Middle East with Full Text of His Cairo Speech
The history of the relationship between America and the Muslim World is deeper and more complex than the common perception might suggest. Thomas Jefferson taught himself Arabic using his own Quran kept in his personal library, and had the first known presidential Iftaar by breaking fast with the Tunisian Ambassador at sunset. President Dwight Eisenhower attended the dedication ceremony of the Islamic Center in Washington, D.C. on June 28, 1957. President Bill Clinton issued the first presidential greeting for Ramadan, appointed the first Muslim American ambassador, M. Osman Siddique, to Fiji, and sent the first presidential Eid al-Adha greeting to Muslims. And one year after President George W. Bush placed the Holy Quran in the White House library in 2005, Representative Keith Ellison took the oath of office on the same Quran owned by Thomas Jefferson two hundred years before.
With his speech in Cairo, the President will lay another marker, addressing America’s relationship with the Muslim World in the heart of the Middle East. Whereas the past years and decades have deepened the rift in that relationship, the President will seek a new start by opening up a serious, honest dialogue to find areas of common interest where we agree, and new ways of communication where we do not. By continuing unprecedented outreach to the Muslim World, the President is strengthening national security and opening up new opportunities to address some of the problems that have seemed so intractable over recent years.
FULL TEXT OF PRESIDENT OBAMA’S CAIRO SPEECH
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 coexistence 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 Quran 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 Quran 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 Qaida 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 Qaida 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 Quran 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 worshipped 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 — the sixth issue that I want to address is women’s rights.
I know, and you can tell from this audience, that there is a healthy 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, Indonesia, we’ve 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. I am convinced that our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons.
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.
The issues that I have described will not be easy to address, but we have a responsibility to join together to behalf of the world that 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 that has built up over the years. 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 reimagine the world, the 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’s easier to start wars than to end them. It’s easier to blame others than to look inward. It’s easier 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 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 hearts of billions around the world. 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 Quran tells us, 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. Thank you very much.
The headline is as much a message to me as to my beleaguered fellow religionists.
Let’s get that out of the way. I see the root of our global violence crisis in two broad ways.
First all human beings are wired for violence. It is part of the spectrum of who we are and the reason for the wiring may have to do more with enabling us to be decent to ourselves by channeling the energy decently. But for discussion purposes the wiring means that the countries not mired in the Abrahamic religions — that would be Asia and the Far East mainly — have contributed to the fund of historic violence with just as much gusto as have the Abrahamic realms.
Second, the potential overcoming of this violence thing is a tiny reality within the Abrahamic faiths — these would be Judaism, Islam and Christianity — in verses of Isaiah (all three of them), scattered through the Koran and manifest in many sayings act activities attributed to Jesus of Nazareth. But the behavior of the Abrahamic faiths up to the present time has been execrable, shameful. idolatrous and all other nasty words you care to list. The strong prophetic message of moving beyond binary simplicities to something like reconciliation is tough medicine for wired human beings. And religion has typically drawn its organizational and cultural clues from societies that are not exactly cottoning to the prophetic core of these faiths. Simply, they have not given peace much of a chance.
This is why the end of the world could very well rest in the hands of the orthodox, the fundamentalists, the idolatrous and culpable representatives of these Abrahamic faiths. Whether the Taliban latching on to nukes in Pakistan, the Jews building offensive settlements with impunity to face down Palestinians, or the good Christians who support our military industrial complex simply doing business as usual and seeding the world with the high tech weapons it needs to destroy itself.
Against this double whammy of universal violence and Abrahamic my-God-can-beat-your-God violence, rational discussion of Israel is by definition totally impossible. This is why the UN and other human rights groups skirt the issue or come to blows when there is a lapse in avoidance. And this is why I limit myself to an occasional screed which amounts to throwing up my hands and giving up the ghost in a pantomime of inevitable doom.
Enter the little window opened up to history by the Obama Presidency, a tiny aperture through which we might permit some simple reason to shine. Such is the likely origin of this salient article in Newsweek. from which I will offer a few salient paragraphs and a link, so you can read it in full.
If Obama is serious about peacemaking he’ll have to adjust that balance in two ways. First, whatever the transgressions of the Palestinians (and there are many, including terror, violence and incitement), he’ll also have to deal with Israel’s behavior on the ground. The Gaza crisis is a case in point. Israel has every reason to defend itself against Hamas. But does it make sense for America to support its policy of punishing Hamas by making life unbearable for 1.5 million Gazans by denying aid and economic development? The answer is no.
Then there’s the settlements issue. In 25 years of working on this issue for six secretaries of state, I can’t recall one meeting where we had a serious discussion with an Israeli prime minister about the damage that settlement activity—including land confiscation, bypass roads and housing demolitions—does to the peacemaking process. There is a need to impose some accountability. And this can only come from the president. But Obama should make it clear that America will not lend its auspices to a peacemaking process in which the actions of either side willfully undermine the chances of an agreement America is trying to broker. No process at all would be better than a dishonest one that hurts America’s credibility.
Read all of If Obama Is Serious He should get tough with Israel.