List 5 things Obama should do for peace in the Middle East, and 5 challenges he’ll face there.

Obama, SyriaThe popular Barack Obama seemed and sounded very confident as he told the world during the American festival of democracy that the US is “ready to lead once more.” In his inauguration address on 20 January, the new American president said to “all other peoples and governments who are watching” that “America is a friend of each nation … who seeks a future of peace and dignity.”
Obama, whose middle name is Hussain, took oath with his hand on a Bible used by Abraham Lincoln. He addressed the “Muslim world” as such, promising to “seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.” At the same time, Obama emphasized his message “to those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West – know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy.”

While many saw in Obama’s speech a departure from Bush’s policy, some observers insist that it was not much different from the previous administration’s rhetoric before 9/11. Obama did not address the Middle East crisis, that has added a new bloody chapter to its 60-year-long history after the atrocities in Gaza. He obviously avoided the subject, probably wanting to not commit to a stand before he learns more from his envoy Senator Mitchell. In his first day in office, he phoned four Middle Eastern leaders. The Palestinian president was the first foreign statesman Obama called as president, a step that is highly symbolic as to realising a long ignored fact: the Palestinian-Israeli is the region’s core problem, and that the US has to be an “honest broker.”

On 20 January, the Israelis listened to Obama tell the world that “that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.” In a region that is plagued by America’s complete bias for Israel, an occupier and an aggressor, people listened to Barack Obama forthcoming assertion that the US should “reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals… to assure the rule of law and the rights of man… [as the] ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake.” Can Israel continue with its policies when its biggest supporter, the world’s only super power, is on the other side of the spectrum?

Time will tell. But at this time, and with that background, I ask: what are the top five things Obama should do to bring peace to the Middle East? What are the top five challenges he is going to face there?

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Justice for Gaza: You can make a difference!

Syrian Activism

Forward Magazine January 2009 cover, Syria Make a differnce! E-mail or fax your protest message to U.S senators, congressmen, governors and state legislators! For their contact details visit: fw-magazine.com/gaza

Al-Farah Choir: North American Tour

Music in SyriaMehdi Rifai

During these sad times in Arab history, nothing is more important to emphasize than Arab unity and internal acceptance of our own diversity. No one works harder at this than Father Elias Zahlaoui and the al-Farah Choir (Choir of Joy), promoting tolerance and shared community between Arabs of all faiths and beliefs. As mentioned in the December 2008 issue of Forward Magazine, the choir is preparing for a North American tour involving its adolescent level singers. Those in North America are encouraged to come to the concert, and those elsewhere are encouraged to help them get there. Below are the links to their website and to the Facebook event concerning the choir.

http://www.choirofjoy.org/

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=43493153380#/event.php?eid=43493153380

For those wondering the effect of going to a music concert in the middle of all the turmoil in the region, consider Father Zahlaoui’s words: “For this tour, we will carry Syria and the whole Arab world, so we can say to those who know us or don’t know us, those who love us or don’t love us, who we are, Christians and Muslims, Arabs in a desperate time, when all the hate of the West seems to pour over the Arab world, especially Palestine.”

I would write only for Gaza’s sake…

For Gaza’s Sake

Palestinian Flag
By Dima Abdulhaq*

8.1.2009


If my words could make a difference,
then I would write only for Gaza’s sake.

And if my voice could tear the distance,
then I would shout to make the dead awake.

 

If I could write and the poem becomes an armor
to shield the space above the children’s heads,

I would have written a thousand times more
preventing missiles from touching their peaceful beds.

If I could win the public ears,
I would then speak unveiling the truth
which has been covered over the years
I would then tell who are the Jews,

and who is the innocent murderer
who hides his face behind a lie;
he is the villain slanderer
who turns the facts to mystify

And I would tell whose land it is;
who are the owners and the passers by,
who dug the earth to find evidences,
yet the holy soil refused to lie

The coyotes came to rape our land
chasing every human trace
if they escaped the defending hand,
can they escape God’s Face???


* Dima has newly graduated from the University of Damascus; she obtained a B.A in English Literature. Forward Magazine is proud to have her as one of our newest interns.

Reacting in moderation: How not to let the death of those in Gaza be in vain

Smoke, SyriaBy Mehdi Rifai

First off, an easy confession for me to make is that what is happening in Gaza appalls me, and makes me rethink a lot of my former “moderate” opinions concerning Israel. It has been my opinion for some time that Arab grief over Palestine has been stuck too long in the “anger” and “denial” phases, and that perhaps it is time to move on to some strong bargaining and get what we realistically can out of the whole situation. The recent events, however, while only proving once again the disdain Israel has for the international community and their conventions regarding the rules of war and proportionality, does make me wonder how much we can achieve negotiating with a people that have become so incredibly fascist and over-reactionary. The age of leaders in Israel who, while we might hate them, we can respect is over. Israel has become as tactless and inefficient as the Americans in their recent war efforts, and therefore deserve nothing but contempt.

That said, how we phrase our contempt should be a matter of extreme study. Right now, all eyes are on us, and the international community seems to finally agree that the Israel situation is completely out of hand. It’s therefore a little disturbing for me when I receive, as I had this morning, a mass email falsely claiming to feature quotes from Hollywood stars talking about the situation, fabricating quotes like “Arabs are dirty creatures that must be annihilated.” One of those quoted, Keanu Reeves, was born in the American University Hospital in Beirut and has always been proud of it. Another, Harrison Ford, an Irish Catholic, is quoted as saying that “We the Jewish people are the chosen ones, and therefore need to destroy the Arab stain on Jerusalem.”

These blatant lies only serve to make us look ridiculous in the eyes of the people who can help us overcome this situation with a gain, and who can finally make the Israeli government revise these murderous tactics. You don’t think that these emails are noticed, or they have no effect? I’ll tell you about another forwarded email I got when I was in Canada. These were of a real protest in London, one I had actually seen on the news a few days earlier, and was embarrassed to see what some people had decided to write on the signs. “Behead all the enemies of Islam,” said one, while another claimed that soon, an Islamic wave would wash over Europe, wiping it clean. The caption under all these pictures was “Do you still think the war on terror is not necessary?”

“I wish people would keep Islam out of it,” says one friend of mine, who prefers to remain anonymous. “There are plenty of reasons to be angry with Israel, but when people propagate stories like all Muslims will one day march on Israel and wipe them away, except for those who hide behind sycamore trees, since those were always Jewish trees, people stop taking us seriously. I don’t hate Israel because I’m Muslim. I hate them because they kill indiscriminately, and don’t use the technology and weaponry that they’re so proud of, and claim is so precise, to minimize casualties. I hate them because they cut off aid, and don’t recognize the conventions that allow personnel like UN and Red Cross and Crescent workers safe passage to heal and help the injured and the helpless on both sides. I hate them because they block every agreement that would ban certain weapons, such as WMDs or, on a much smaller but practically deadlier scale, land-mines. I hate them because as a supposedly democratic country, they allow the people that represent them to commit atrocities like this unhindered. It is not my religion that makes me angry with them; it’s my human decency.”

What we say and how we react to these situations is most definitely noticed, which is why our reactions must be studied and educated, not emotional and unbridled. Many I have told this too say, “Well, it’s impossible to control all your reactions, and we need to “Fish Khilq” (blow off steam) somehow.” To this, I say, no, you don’t need to blow off steam; you need to take that steam and use it to power some kind of motion forward. Use your emotions to finally make some headway in a situation that has kept us down as a people for so long. Israel has finally lifted its mask to reveal its true, and ugly, face; now is the time to make progress.

When Gazan misrey turns into an online football game…

A circulation email arrived this morning with the title, “Vote for Palestine against Israel,” with the heated comment:

Dear AllGaza. READ . VOTE . SEND

Be Active Now.

صوت لـ فلسطين ضد اسرائيل
على أقل تقدير دعونا ننتصر على الإنترنت

إضغط على الرابط أدناه

Vote for Palestine against Israel
at least let us make a win over web

http://www.israel-vs-palestine.com/gz/

Opening the link you see two flags, one of motherland Palestine, the other of occupying Israel. The website looks Israeli with all the “learn Hebrew” banners decorating the site. Is this some sort of a football game with fans on both sides of the divide? Real people are being killed, real families, real children…!