Obama V Netanyahu (Shadow Boxing or A Real Contest?)

The following is the text of a presentation I made at the London Muslim Centre last night:

The contestants in the fight of the headline I gave to the title of this talk can best be described as President “Yes, We Can” and Prime Minister “No, We Won’t.”

I want to start with a positive observation about Obama.

He is, I believe, the first American President to fully understand the real dynamics of the making and sustaining of the conflict in and over Palestine that became the ZIONIST state of Israel. (I emphasized the word ZIONIST because Israel is Zionist not a Jewish state. If it was a Jewish state – by definition one which acted in accordance with the moral values and ethical principles of Judaism, it could not have behaved in the criminal way it has done since its creation, mainly by Zionist terrorism and ethnic cleansing, in 1948).

The main reason why I am convinced that Obama really does understand who must do what and why for justice and peace in the Middle East is his friendship with Rashid Khalidi. For those of you who don’t know about him, I’ll say this much. Rashid is a New York born, Palestinian-American historian. He’s professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University and director of the Middle East Institute of Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs. He’s also a prolific writer and a most eloquent public speaker. Rashid Khalidi and Barak Obama were good, close and dear friends. From time to time they dined with each other. It’s more than reasonable to assume that during their private conversations over years, Obama was fully informed about the Palestinian side of the story, including the fact – unknown to almost all Americans – that the Palestinians have been ready to accept a two-state solution for more than a quarter of a century.

One good indication of how troubled Zionism was by Khalidi’s influence on Obama is in this fact. During Obama’s run for the White House, the Zionist lobby and other supporters of Israel right or wrong tried to make his friendship with Khalidi a campaign issue. That friendship, Zionism asserted, was proof that a President Obama would not pursue a pro-Israel policy.

But it wasn’t only Obama who came under fire for his friendship with Khalidi. John McCain, the Republication front runner, was also attacked because, in the 1990’s, he had served as the chairman of the International Republication Institute. What was so bad about that from Zionism’s point of view? Under McCain’s chairmanship the institute provided grants of half a million dollars to the Centre for Palestinian Research Studies, to facilitate its work polling the views of the Palestinian people. The problem? Rashid Khalidi was a co-founder of the Centre.

To give you some idea of how difficult to impossible it is for any American president to have a friendship or even a conversation with anybody Zionism regards as an enemy, and all the more so if the perceived enemy is a Jew, I’ll tell you a story from my book.

First I’ll give you a name – that of Dr. Nahum Goldmann. He was one of the founding fathers of the Zionist lobby. After the obscenity of the Nazi holocaust, no individual worked harder and to better effect than Goldmann to unite world Jewry and secure American support for Zionism. When he died in 1982 he was given a state funeral in Israel because he was one of the five former presidents of the WZO – the World Zionist Organization.

Behind closed doors the same Nahum Goldmann was disgusted by Zionism’s collaboration with the Nazis and the WZO’s policy of not even trying to resist Hitler. He also tried and failed to persuade Israel’s founding father, David Ben-Gurion, not to go ahead with a unilateral declaration of independence when the occupying British left Palestine. Goldmann said that such a decision by Israel’s provisional government-in-waiting would amount to a declaration of war on the Arabs. At the time Goldmann believed, and I think he was more right than wrong, that negotiations, which the Americans favoured and were seeking to advance, might well have resulted in Arab agreement to the establishment of a Jewish entity in Palestine, not a sovereign state but an entity which could evolve into a sovereign state if Zionism demonstrated that it posed no threat to the Arabs.

In the 1974 November-December edition of the New Outlook magazine published in Jerusalem, Goldmann wrote the following:

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