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Monday, June 22, 2009

Bottom line on Iran

Iranian Protest Parallels With 1979

There are a lot of folks comparing recent events in Iran with 1979 and many Americans are Tweeting and Facebooking their support for demonstrators and declared the election rigged as soon as Ahmadinejad's victory was announced. We may never know for sure if the election was indeed rigged, but there were a lot of suspicious events surrounding it. Too many for a coincidence.

I think we need to be careful who we throw our support behind, especially with us Westerners not being all that familiar with Middle Eastern history. With all the American support and media coverage for demonstrators and the reform candidate, before I did some homework I thought this guy must be a drastic change from the current leader. Maybe he is going to start a new revolution away from an Islamic Republic and toward a Western democracy. Wonderful.

Except that's not exactly the case. All candidates are vetted by the Ayotolla, so really, how revolutionary can these folks be anyway? They are people very much tied to this current government: a PM that led during the Iran-Iraq war, a revolutionary guard commander against Iraq, a speaker of Parliament.

A guest on The Diane Rehm Show summed it up quite well. The fight is not between the government and exiled or illegal opposition, it is a fight within the government. Even if Mousavi were to prevail in a recount or truly free and monitored election, Iran would not morph into a Western liberal democracy (complete with the AIPAC branch?), it would just be a slightly more moderate version of the current government. Our troubles and issues with Iran wouldn't disappear and Israel certainly wouldn't be anymore satisfied or less demanding (of it's demands on us to demand more of Iran), regardless of who wins, unless it changes to a Zionist Western democracy, of course.

I'm all for free and fair elections and I think rigging elections is frustrating and insulting (and shooting peaceful protesters is outrageous), but I also think perhaps the media has made so much of the demonstrations that people mistakenly think that Iran is on the verge of creating a liberal democracy (that will have zero nuclear ambition if the US wants it to).

Further, I am a little worried that all this worldwide attention on Iranian protests is maybe leading to a list of grievances for which a group of nations will want to confront Iran and give it an ultimatum that will result in another war (needlessly). Hopefully, Obama will be more cautious than Bush & Co, but it is unsettling. We in the West are all too eager to jump into war when it's not on our soil, regardless of whether or not we have all the facts. I mean, let's say we jump in and "liberate" Iran and install who we think should have won- Mousavi (or someone else who is actually pro-West and will implement liberal democratic changes). Will we make sure the election was rigged before bombing them to the stone age? The bigger question is- are we sure Mousavi would be that much better than Ahmadinejad and would it justify another war, massive casualties, and all the horrors that go with it??

Maybe I'm jumping the gun, but the media coverage and tone worries me a bit.

If Hilary were KKK, what would our reaction be?

If she got to be the Secretary of State, there would be outrage, and rightly so. She wouldn't make it that far, thankfully, in this country. But in Israel...

We, however, are much more forgiving when it comes to foreign terrorists. We apparently have lost our discretion. George W. Bush took it too far, but this same old pattern of marginalizing elected Palestinian leaders on the basis of terrorism while schmoozing with Israeli terrorists and racists is really sending the wrong message. Or perhaps we don't really want freedom and justice for Palestinians and Israelis. It is possible I have superimposed my own hope for the region on our government. Maybe peace isn't really the goal.

I have continued to see pictures of Clinton and Lieberman together this weekend and today and it makes me mad and at the same time hopeless.

This picture of the two of them together undermines our position on illegal (all) settlements. He's a settler and represents Netanyahu's government, who doesn't acknowledge the authority of any UN Resolution unless it is the part that created Israel or ones that condemn Arab states.

Having Clinton meet with Lieberman both personally as a settler and bigot and politically as a terrorist representative of his hard line government kind of makes our so-called strong language disappear in thin air. Does anyone know why we are recognizing the legitimacy of this guy, his agenda and beliefs? By talking and standing next to him, Clinton and Obama are essentially saying that we will talk the talk, but could care less if they walk the walk (as usual). Possibly most importantly, we are accepting his status and legitimacy of being able to represent Israel even though he doesn't live there (he is in violation of the very thing we are speaking against) and is illegally staking a claim to Palestinian land. We are talking to a terrorist, but won't include democratically elected Hamas. I guess it's ok to talk to Jewish or Western terrorists. Those Arab terrorists, or those Israel designates a terrorists, are the ones that are off limits. That picture of Lieberman and Clinton together says we are giving legitimacy to the horrible things Lieberman has said about Arabs. This is not the way toward peace. Justice is the only way, but this Netanyahu/Lieberman government only wants to secure Jewish majorities, hegemony, and superiority in every way possible. They can't be bothered with peace at a time when American constituencies are educating themselves on Israel's war crimes and are increasingly against settlements and occupation.

If we want peace, why are we talking to or standing anywhere near this guy? I mean, when we have found Palestinian leaders unacceptable, we have gone in search of ones we feel are more moderate, so why not do that with Israel?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Pentagon report says terrorism is speaking out against Gitmo torture tactics

6/6/09 New York Times finally apologizes for false Guantánamo recidivism story

I think this is the story (with recent Editor's note) that is referred to in the above link- "1 in 7 freed detainees rejoins fight, reports says":

The first link describes the situation pretty well, though I don't know anything else about the blog.

I found out about this latest apology from NYT by listening to a podcast of
Al Jazeera Listening Post 6/17/09 and they made some good points:

-Some detainees weren't picked up on the battlefield, so the "return" is in question.

-The so-called acts of terrorism they "returned to" included writing an op-ed for NYT against detainee treatment at the prison, talking about their abuse in Guantanamo to the media, appearing in film about Guantanamo, like the "
Tipton 3." (I don't know if their names were included in the infamous list, it wasn't clear, but this is a film about Guantanamo)

-Also rather sketchy is that this Pentagon report was dated April 7, 2009, but no one knew about it until the NYT printed the May 21 story, which happened to be the same day Obama gave that major speech on closing Guantanamo, followed immediately by Cheney's speech blaming him for future terrorist attacks, essentially.

-This is not the first time. In 2002 the Bush Admin leaked false info about Iraq's nuclear program and Cheney quoted it the same morning in the circular validation of "facts" to gain public support for war in Iraq. Two years later, the NYT said their article on Iraq lacked rigor and should have been more aggressive. Hoyt issued another similar mea culpa for this debacle.

And here is a blog post from someone (again, I don't know anything about the author or blog other than this article) about a year ago noting problems with a similar claim as the April 7, 2009 Pentagon report:

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Clinton's meeting with the terrorist

So, Clinton met with the terrorist FM of Israel yesterday. We won’t meet with a Palestinian government that includes (democratically elected) Hamas, which we have labeled terrorists, but that is debatable, but a card carrying honest to goodness Israeli terrorist and bigot who is a living example of the policy we oppose (himself being an illegal settler of Nokdim) is perfectly welcome on official visits. Makes no sense. Guess it’s the unbreakable bond. But, when that bond is tied to a weight that is determined drown you, it’s time to break out the bolt cutters.

It’s always about demographics, Jewish majorities, politically correct ethnic cleansing (transfer, absorbed by another Arab country, etc). The UN and international law means nothing. Except the part that legitimizes Israel’s existence. That they want to uphold, but that stuff about equal rights, borders, etc for others? It’s all garbage. Or a mirage.

"We really don't have any intention to change the demographic balance in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank]," he said.

"As President Obama, Senator Mitchell and I have said, we want to see a stop to the settlements," she said.

Stopping and freezing is nice, but dismantling, bulldozing, chasing settlers back to Israel or Europe or Russia or where ever they’re from is more like it. That would be justice. That would make a Palestinian state a reality rather than just talk and stall tactics.

I found this bit rather interesting. Israel doesn’t have to abide by international laws and agreements to which it is a signatory because why? I wonder how we are responding to this tidbit? Israel- a country of law. That’s becoming a bit of a joke. Who really believes that now?

From June 17, 2009 Democracy Now:
1979 State Dept Ruling: Israel Settlements "Inconsistent with International Law”

Meanwhile, new attention is being paid to a State Department opinion issued during Jimmy Carter’s administration regarding Israeli settlements. In 1979, a State Department legal adviser issued an opinion that stated the establishment of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories is “inconsistent with international law.” The opinion cited Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states that an occupying power “shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” The legal opinion has never been revoked or revised. On Tuesday, Israel’s newly appointed ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, claimed that Israel does not have the ability to halt all settlement building.

Michael Oren: “This is a country of law, and citizens of the state of Israel have rights under that law. And if a person has purchased a house, if a person has taken out a contract for building a house, if a corporation is involved in a construction activity, the Israeli government does not have the right under Israeli law to stop them. And if it tries to, they will appeal to the (Israeli) supreme court, and my guess is, the supreme court will view in favor of those appellants.”

The future of the Israeli settlements is expected to be discussed at today’s meeting in Washington between Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Lieberman lives in the West Bank settlement of Nokdim.

This article might shed some light on the "laws" Oren is talking about, but it is still clear that many more violate even Israel's laws than they will ever admit.

Lawsuit brings murky West Bank land deals to light

Another blog

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Israel's intentions... lets' stop lying to ourselves. Israeli leader's don't.

I heard this quote from Shamir today about Israel's real intent to stall with talks while they create facts on the ground with settlements that will make a Palestinian state impossible. We in the US often make it seem like Israel's trying their utmost and doing everything possible for peace that they can do; we are just waiting on Palestinians to fullfill their obligations. This is far from the truth if you listen to Israeli leaders themselves- Shamir, Sharon, etc.

Democracy Now Monday June 15, talking about Netanyahu's June 14 policy speech:

RABBI ARIK ASCHERMAN: Well, it’s, of course, significant that he even made a policy address. Israeli leaders don’t usually do that. That shows that he—that our prime minister felt a need to respond to President Obama in a very significant way.

I’m, unfortunately, always remembered of the words of our former prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir, when he was voted out of office. He had been the prime minister during the beginning of the Madrid process. And he said, “You know, it’s too bad that I was voted out of office. My plan was to keep on talking and talking and talking, all the while creating facts on the ground, so that by the time we actually got anywhere, there would be—it would be moot. There would be nothing really to talk about.”

This is the actual quote I found after some digging:

Mission accomplished
Osamah Khalil, The Electronic Intifada, 29 November 2007
After leaving office, Shamir explained why he agreed to attend the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference, stating that although Israel participated in negotiations with the Palestinians, "I would have carried on autonomy talks for ten years and meanwhile we would have reached a half million people in Judea and Samaria." [7]

[7] Joseph Harif, "Interview with Yizakh Shamir," Ma'ariv, 26 June 1992; Avi Shlaim, "Prelude to the Accord: Likud, Labor, and the Palestinians," Journal of Palestine Studies, p 23 (1994).

And here is some backpedaling from those remarks at the time, after ruffling feathers of "friends". There are just too many statements by too many leaders to believe anything other than the original impression. Especially if you read some of the other stuff Shamir said (his talk of "Greater Israel", etc).

Shamir remarks on autonomy 'misinterpreted'

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

History Lesson- Middle East

In thinking about the reaction to the "new" statements on settlements coming from Washington and American perceptions of the US-Israel relationship and knowledge of the Middle East in general, I am struck by the vast differences in perceptions.

One the one hand, there is a history of dispossession, lies, broken promises and others deciding your fate and on the other there is the account that Arabs were given generous offers many times, but chose violence instead each time due to their intense hatred for Jews, so Israel had to defend itself.

Which is right? I guess that's up to each reader to decide. Here is one version- not without my own commentary- that is likely different from the one Americans tend to want to believe :

Palestinians (and Arabs in general, at first) have really gotten the short end of the stick more often than not. Arabs (Hashimites) teamed up with the British in WWI after negotiating that they would be independent after they help remove the oppressive Turks from power. Sounds good. While they are doing this, Britain is promising France Lebanon and Syria and planning to keep the rest for themselves. Oops. After some shuffling of Arab rulers by France and Britain, Abdullah requested that Transjordan and Palestine be merged. Churchill said no go. Balfour had plans for a Jewish national home in Palestine, which was chosen over Uganda and Argentina due to the influence of the ultra religious Zionists in the bunch. In 1920, the League of Nations makes Britain's Mandate official. Jews begin arriving and the Jewish National Fund begins "buying" land from absentee landlords in Syria and Lebanon out from under Palestinian farmers. In the 30's, Jews come in droves with a goal of owning it all rather than sharing. An Arab revolt is suppressed by the British in 1934-36. Since conflict continued after WWII due to more illegal Jewish immigration, the British turned the area over tho the UN, whose members wanted to partition it into an Arab and Jewish state with an international Jerusalem. There was also a proposal to keep it whole, but this lost out by 2 votes. Arabs storm out at the ridiculous notion that one third of the (rather new and partly illegal) population who owns 6 percent of the land (all of which was originally promised to Arabs by Britain if they helped throw out the Turks) should now get 55% percent of the land because the West says so. What we might call the Israeli War for Independence (or al Nakba) starts at Deir Yassin. This village had a peace pact with it's Jewish neighbors, but the terrorist forces of Irgun and Stern Gang (some of Israel's most senior officials were members, along with our own Rahm Emanuel's infamous father) went house to house massacring families and blowing up houses. This started the Palestinians seeking temporary refuge elsewhere until it was safe, but they haven't been allowed back or compensated for lost land to this day despite UN Resolution 194). There was back and forth fighting, but these forces were not as organized or prepared as the group that took on the Ottoman Empire, so Israel ended up with 78% of the land- considerably more than they should have gotten or the UN gave them. A current Palestinian state will be small consolation and a tiny fraction of this remaining land, so these settlements become a no-brainer in this context. Israel needs to get rid of them, give Palestinians their independence and compensation, and stop the whining. They got more than they deserved from the beginning- be it land or support. Palestinians have been wronged and back-stabbed at every turn. Not just by Britain and the international community, but of course by Arab leaders and prominent figures (i.e. terrorists hijacking the plight for their own personal gain). Our support for Israel makes even less sense in context. The British should have stepped up long ago and fixed what they broke.

And since this month was an anniversary of this conflict, the 1967 war:

You can find the Israeli account everywhere in the US, online at Israeli and Jewish sites of the 6 Day War started when terrorists suddenly attacked us in 1965 and kept on until 1967 and Egypt for no reason closed the Strait of Tiran, etc, so Israel HAD to strike. If nothing else, the account below will fill in some very obvious blanks in the account that Americans generally swallow without objection- Arabs bad, Jews good; Arabs always attack, Jews seek peace always; Arabs reject generous agreements, etc. Possibly it is more factual than the account you usually hear. I don’t know. I wasn’t there. All but the 3 quotes in the middle is basically Queen Noor’s (Arab American Queen of Jordan at the time) impression of the situation (or my recollection of it). Her book is really interesting, BTW. It has the right mix of personal and political content to appeal to a variety of people.

Anyway, whether you take or leave the account, you should at least consider it:

In 1965, Israeli settlers plowed land between Israel and Syria to provoke an attack. This is not just Arab spin, as it might sound like. Moshe Dyan in the NYT : "If they didn't shoot, we would tell the tractor to advance further, until in the end the Syrians would get annoyed and shoot. "And then we would use artillery and later the air force also." After one of Syria's predicted responses to Israeli provocation, Israel launched a planned offensive in April 1967. Hmmm. Their strategy hasn't changed much. They did this exact thing in Lebanon and Gaza recently.

IDF put forces on the Syrian border. Egypt prepared itself since it had a defense agreement with Syria. Israel promised Jordan that it wouldn't attack if they were neutral. Jordan didn't really believe it- probably since Israel had attacked a West Bank village not long before (Resolution 228 censured Israel). Hussein knew Arab forces couldn't compare, but didn't want to risk Jordan's security for not joining with Egypt and Syria.

June 5, 1967 Israel launched a surprise attack on Egypt's planes while they were still on the ground, then attacked the ground forces. It is said it was all over before it began.

Some interesting quotes about what Israel knew about Egypt:
"Nasser didn't want war. The two divisions he sent to Sinai would not have been sufficient to launch an offensive war He knew it and we knew it." (Yitzhaq Rabin, Le Monde, February 28, 1968).

"The Egyptian layout in Sinai and the general build up there testified to a militarily defensive Egyptian set-up, south of Israel" (Levy Eshkol, Yediot Ahronot, October 16, 1967).

"In June 1967 we again had a choice. The Egyptian army concentrations in the Sinai did not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him." (August 8, 1982, Prime Minister Menachem Begin, New York Times, August 21, 1982)."

There was then a (now puzzling- was it propaganda, pride, was Israel involved) radio announcement of an overwhelming Egyptian victory from the Commander in Chief- details of wiping out 75% of air force and ground troops and even that they had moved into Israel. Egypt ordered the scant Jordanian forces to the already lost war. They made one run and had to refuel; Israel wiped them out while on the ground. Israel was then able to fire on Amman because the Egyptian and Jordanian air forces were gone.

King Hussein went to the UN for a cease-fire 24 hours into the war on June 6. Wording the resolution delayed it another 24 hours. During that time, Israel grabbed land like in 1948. On June 7, the cease-fire finally was announced via radio all over Jordan and the territories, though Israel still fought Jordan for control of East Jerusalem and the West Bank after that point. Israel also ignored the Syrian ceasefire on June 9, grabbing the Golan Heights hours after it was announced.

Israel bombed our USS Liberty in Gaza June 8. It was a communications ship that was listening to Israeli preparation to invade Syria despite the ceasefire, leading many involved to conclude that this was no accident- as Israel would claim (and the US would officially accept).

On November 22, the famous and oft (partially) ignored Resolution 242 was passed- "the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war" (also in UN charter). Also in there is the stipulation of the withdrawal of Israel to pre-1967 borders for acknowledgement of territorial integrity and political independence of all states, right to live in secure boundaries. Jordan agreed to this "land for peace" deal on the assurance of the US Secretary of State who said Israel would certainly return most of the land in 6 months, max.

Also in Queen Noor's book is the Jordanian reaction to Camp David. Coincidentally, I read Jimmy Carter's Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid the week before. Of course, Carter put forth Camp David as the foundation of all peace agreements, a major breakthrough, etc. He does mention the Geneva Initiative, but doesn't mention, as Queen Noor does, that the Geneva Initiative involved more parties than just Egypt, Israel, and Arafat or that Camp David kind of interrupted and sabotaged the Geneva effort. Camp David didn't make solid provisions for a Palestinian state, but rather focused on peace between Egypt and Israel. In taking the Egyptian military might out of the picture, Arabs were left without deterrence for Israel's advances and enforcement for continued violation of international law. That was an interesting perspective and one I hadn't thought about before, really.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Read the fine print: Netanyahu agrees to two states... or does he?

He didn't agree to two states so much as one apartheid state and one amorphous ( and constantly shrinking) pseudostate with no military (?!?!) with several other provisions that flout international law and past agreements. Like their "recognition" of the Roadmap peace plan, the so-called reservations (check out the Roadmap's 14) for this momentous announcement negate it completely. If you're not going to remove ALL settlements and withdraw completely to pre-1967 borders, as Resolution 242 requires, then you are lying; you are not serious about peace.

Israel has made it clear that Iran is the only item on their agenda and that they think (absurdly) that Iran, not peace with Palestinians, is central to their and the region's peace and stability. This little publicity stunt is probably meant to shift the conversation away from settlements, which most Americans are coming to their senses about. And to warm up the White House for Lieberman's visit. We are a glutton for punishment. First Netanyahu, then Lieberman? What's next? Are we going to host a reunion of all the 1948 terrorists who are still alive? We could invite Rahm Emanuel's dad- we know he's good for some hateful slurs.

Avigdor Lieberman, the terrorist FM and top "diplomat", is coming to Washington this week. We should be banning this guy, not treating him with any sort of respect or credibility! As I have said before- because of this guy, we should be boycotting the entire state of Israel. If we let this terrorist in our country, then we should have NO problem honoring Hamas (the military wing, not the other) in the same way. Break out the red carpet for them and call them men of peace.

Netanyahu sets conditions for new peace talks

While Netanyahu called for renewed peace talks without preconditions, he outlined a series of demands for the talks.

This guy is a fountain spewing doublespeak! He is full of it! Unbelievable. Yet Obama is probably taking this as a sign of his influence. Too bad, Israel is in reality making a fool out of us. That's par for the course, though.

Along with his call for Palestinians to accept a demilitarized state and explicitly recognize Israel as a Jewish nation, Netanyahu said there would be no discussion of ceding control of any parts of Jerusalem to establish a capital of a future Palestinian state or of allowing Palestinian refugees to return to ancestral homes they fled in 1948 when Israel was established in British-mandate

This is clearly a dead end. Who would accept those terms?? But in case you had any doubt, Netanyahu puts the nail in the coffin for peace with his remarks on settlements, all of which are illegal and would need to be removed for a viable Palestinian state.

But Netanyahu defended the settlers as Jewish pioneers and indicated that he would continue to support settlement construction in the West Bank .

"The settlers are neither the enemies of the people, nor are they the enemies of peace," Netanyahu said. "They are our brothers and sisters. Pioneers. Zionists. Principled people."

Principled people do not settle on land stolen by their country. Principled people don't make us believe the lie that Israel wants peace and two states, all the while grabbing land illegally with a goal and belief of a Greater Israel (the equal and opposite of "pushing Israel into the sea").

If settlers are brothers, not enemies, pioneers, and princlipled people, then so are Palestinian suicide bombers and rocket launchers.

But that's not how it is. The double standard says that it is ok for us to talk to terrorist and extremist Jews, but not Palestinians. It's ok to let Israel pick off the (scantily armed) security forces and imprison Parliament members, but fine to condemn Palestinians for lack of control over the area. It's every Jew's natural right to live in Israel (and apparently settlements on Palestinian land), but Palestinians aren't even afforded the right of return guaranteed them by the same UN Resolution Israel uses to justify it's very existance. It's ok for Israel to brutally oppress, imprison and punish the entire Palestinian population for the crimes of a few, but fine for us to ignore atrocities and violations of law ordered by Israel's top officials. In fact, we let terrorist Zionist Jews have state visits, but won't even talk to extremists on the other side. First, the British promise the land to Arabs, France, Zionists (and of course themselves) in an overlaping and deceitful fashion and make a huge mess of things, then we get involved and continue to stir the pot and side with the transplanted Europeans, rather than follow and enforce international law.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

President Obama's Cairo speech

Here's the link to Obama's Cairo speech:

I thought he did a great job in trying to mend fences that have been left neglected and rotting for 8 years. He clarified a lot of common sense things that Bush obfuscated. I know this wasn't the place to make major policy announcements, but I think that's what I wanted to hear, so I was a bit disappointed. I think the folks are right who say that if he doesn't actually do something soon, the words will be just meaningless words. Overall, the speech was going in the right direction.

I did appreciate how he said that just as Israel has a right to exist, so does Palestine. Settlements were again spoken about, which is important, but Israel will continue to ignore it if we don't do something- like threaten to cut "aid" to them, for instance.

One thing that disturbed me was that he said our bond with Israel was unbreakable. I don't think our bond with any country should be without conditions or unbreakable. That should make no sense to anyone concerned about our security.

Another biggie was that he kept speaking of Palestinian displacement vs. Israel's having to endure hostility, attacks, old women on buses being blown up, sleeping children being fired on by rockets. "Displacement" is probably the most polite way I have heard it described (esp. if you consider all it encompasses-occupation, crimes, bloodshed- which most won't). On top of this, to contrast it with Palestinians blowing up old women and children is to say that Israel doesn't shoot children on the way to school, blow up families on the beach or in cars, demolish homes, take prisoners for political reasons, the list goes on... It is simply unfair and untrue to imply that Palestinians do this, but Israel does not have as much, if not more, innocent blood on its hands.

To be fair, he did touch on the Palestinian humanitarian situation and called it intolerable. But he fell into the same old American refrain of telling Palestinians they must renounce violence, recognize Israel (As a Jewish state? He didn't say. And didn't Hamas already do this in 2006?), recognize past agreements, without being as straightforward with Israel. This stipulation that Palestinians must renounce violence and disarm, but Israel doesn't, makes no sense. Even if both sides disarmed, where would we be? Palestinian land would still be occupied, they would still be imprisoned without food and water or travel or rights, but Israel would be peachy, so I guess that's all that matters?? Who would accept such conditions as we are expecting Palestinians to accept? The absurdity and inequality goes back to when the Mandate Palestine was formed (and before). Jews owned 6% of the land, but were given 55% under the British Mandate. Everyone always says it's the Arabs' fault for not accepting agreements. Who would? Who in their right mind would not be enraged by a bunch of Westerners suddenly giving away half the land (to new immigrants mostly) already won and promised to them (for helping remove the Ottoman Empire) to finally exercise their independence?

He did call on Israel to "live up to its obligation to ensure that Palestinians can live and work and develop their society," which is an improvement, I'll give him that, but it is still without the specifics the Palestinians routinely get. This description, along with "dislocation" is rather the whitewashed, cleaner version of actual events. It still gets under my skin that Palestinians are described as "dislocated" (it isn't even said Israel is to blame, but rather something Palestinians suffer without rhyme or reason, like an earthquake), which is rather benign compared to the imagery of Palestinians blowing up old women and sleeping children.

If he'd have stated the specifics of the UN resolutions Israel is ignoring, such as withdraw from the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem to pre-1967 borders, tear down the Wall, recognize and allow the Palestinian right of return, evacuate ALL settlements, recognize Jerusalem as an international city, release political prisoners and children, recognize a Palestinian state with control over it's own borders, airspace, and water, THEN I would have called the speech a real turning point.

Here are a few other reactions. The first, I agree with, the other two I think are rather funny given that they focus on one word or sentence, rather than the whole or even a few paragraphs.

*** *** ***
US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation had this, among other things to say about the speech. I thought this point was particularly insightful:

On the one hand, on the other. President Obama's empathy with the Palestinian narrative and acknowledgment that both Israelis and Palestinians are "two peoples with legitimate aspirations" is certainly an advance over traditional U.S. discourse which over the decades has primarily portrayed Israel as an innocent victim and either downplayed or ignored Palestinian human and national rights. However, there is a danger that the "both sides" rhetoric-"It's easy to point fingers," and "if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth," for example-President Obama employed obscures the fact that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has never been one of equals.

It has been and continues to be today a conflict of Israel, an apartheid state that institutionalizes discrimination against non-Jews, versus Palestinians, a people dispossessed of their homeland through ethnic cleansing. In the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, for the last 42 years it has been and continues to be a conflict of Israel, an Occupying Power defying international law and the Geneva Conventions, versus an Occupied People, the Palestinians who struggle daily to maintain their existence in the face of widespread and systematic human rights abuses by Israel.

Within this framework, it is intellectually dishonest for President Obama to ask Palestinians to give up violence without asking the same of Israel. (In fact, Palestinian civil society is engaging in nonviolent campaigns of boycott, divestment, and sanctions to advocate for their rights, a call which we support.)

It is unrealistic and even cruel to ask Palestinians "to focus on what they can build" when Israel systematically destroys Palestinian civilian infrastructure and maintains a siege of the Gaza Strip under which Palestinians have difficulty importing pasta, much less necessary things like concrete to rebuild after Israel's devastating attacks that left more than 1,400 Palestinians dead and thousands of buildings destroyed. President Obama must do more than just ask Israel "to take concrete steps to enable such progress" toward Palestinian economic opportunity; he must recognize instead that as long as Israel maintains its brutal occupation and siege of Palestinian territories, then Palestinian institution-building and economic development are impossible.

*** *** ***
Fox news focused on the mention of Hamas. Obama was more chastising them rather than promising to treat them as a negotiating partner. As usual, Fox missed the point.

*** *** ***
MSNBC noted the "silence" in response to the one sentence mention of closing the Sunni-Shia divide. IMO, clapping would be inappropriate, as it was talking about the violence as well, so I’d say that the “silence” was more out of respect for the situation rather than a rejection of Obama’s call for unity. And sometimes you need to pause to see where he's going and what he has to say. Clapping after every sentence they agreed with would get tiresome and annoying (for all, I'm sure).

Here's the sentence:
“And if we are being honest, fault lines must be closed among Muslims, as well, as the divisions between Sunni and Shia have led to tragic violence, particularly in Iraq.”