The Dawn Begins with a Single Ray of Light to Illuminate the Darkness: Palestinian Hamas Hails Obama’s Cairo Address as “Historic”
by Dr. Robert D. Crane
The majority of Muslims throughout the world, including the heads of all the national Muslim organizations in America, have been open-minded enough to give President Obama the benefit of the doubt at least for awhile in his effort to develop a new paradigm of foreign policy diametrically opposite to that of the NeoCons.
Unfortunately, many both in America and around the world seem to have become so traumatized by George W. Bush’s sustained double cross between the elections of 2000 and 2004 that they refuse to trust anybody, anytime, anywhere. Many Muslims look at the dark side of everything, simply because they have become used to so much darkness. Then when signs of dawn appear they retreat like bats into their caves.
Others try to be objective by emphasizing what Obama should have said but did not or did but with insufficient emphasis.
Such emphasis on the negative is self-defeating. Implementing actions are in the future. Much more important are policies stated in the present, because without them there is nothing to implement. Still more important are new paradigms of thought, because these shape agendas, which, in turn, control policies. President Obama is an astute politician, and he knows that paradigmatic revolution is the secret to lasting change.
Perhaps the best answer to the skeptics was penned by Mirza Beg in his June 5th article, “A Critique of President Obama’s Speech in Cairo.” Addressing those who want immediate reversal of all American policies from the Bush Administration, he gives the analogy of a pilot on the Mississippi River: “As President, Lincoln once equated the navigation of the Ship of State to navigation on the Mississippi River. By necessity one has to follow the path of the river. Even though one may be travelling south, when the river meanders to the north, one has to go along that short distance. It takes time and sustained effort by a visionary leader to gradually institute new policies while educating and carrying the people along. It is not easy to challenge wrong policies and the propaganda of decades. Those idealistic politicians who get too far ahead and do not take appropriate time to educate the people are overwhelmed by the entrenched opposition and court failure. The good policies and noble intents find a place on the dust heap of history.”
President Obama has a humanly impossible task to change American policies, both foreign and domestic, but he has now made known his hopes and intentions for the future. The least that those who share his hopes can do is thank him for trying, stop criticizing him for not yet having implemented his intentions, and pray for his success.
The conflicting reactions to President Obama’s address in Cairo to the Muslim world on June 4, 2009, are most acutely found perhaps in the Holy Land among both Muslims and Jews.
The best approach was taken by Dr. Ahmed Yousef, for whom I served in the 1990s as Managing Editor of his scholarly Middle East Affairs Journal and for whom I have long been a principal adviser. As the Deputy Foreign Minister in Palestine’s legally elected government, and as one of the two intellectual founders in 1983 of the Palestinian Hamas, Dr. Yousef has authority as perhaps the world’s leading Islamist in the search for peace, prosperity, and freedom through compassionate justice.
Dr. Yousef’s comments on President Obama’s Cairo address strike a balance by emphasizing the historic nature of this address while highlighting the tasks that lie ahead in building a confederation of peoples in the Holy Land. The following report by Michael Slackman is from the New York Times of June 5, 2009:
“Ahmed Youssef, the deputy foreign minister in the Hamas government in Gaza, said, ‘He [President Obama] points to the right of Israel to exist, but what about the refugees and their right of return?’ ... As a legal specialist, he should know people are under occupation and cannot recognize the state while they are under occupation, only afterwards. Why put pressure on Arabs and Muslims to recognize Israel while it is not recognizing our existence?’ But, Israelis and Palestinians also stepped back from their own concerns and said they understood the broader significance of the speech. Even Mr. Youssef hailed the speech as historic.”
In Al Jazeera worldwide TV broadcasts, according to the Washington Post of June 5, 2009, Dr. Yousef compared President Obama’s historic address in its vision to the Reverend Martin Luther King famous address in front of the Lincoln Memorial, “I have a Dream.”
A first step in carrying out this dream must be universal recognition of Palestine’s legitimate government so that it, in turn, can recognize the State of Israel. In international law, such recognition by either side does not imply acceptance of the other’s moral legitimacy. Acceptance of Israel’s existence, perhaps initially as one of two states in the Holy Land, is an essential step in recognizing the rights in natural law of both Palestinians and Jews to a common homeland.
Such a homeland, known as The Abraham Federation, has been advocated for many decades, and has been spelled out in several articles published recently in http://www.theamericanmuslim.org inclu,ding two by Dr. Norman Kurland, The Abraham Federation: A New Framework for Peace in the Middle East, August 25, 2002, and Gaza and the Logic of an Abraham Federation, January 15, 2009, and several of my own, including ““The Challenge of Nakba: Surahs al-Haqqah and al-Furqan on the Role of Truth and Justice,” December 24, 2008, The Abraham Federation: A Non-Violent Strategy of Satyagraha for Jews and Arabs in the Holy Land, January 18, 2009, “Peace and Justice in Gaza: The Ontological Debate, January 22, 2009, and “Palestine, Jus Cogens, Maqasid al Shari’ah, and The Abraham Federation,” January 26, 2009.
The major stumbling block in turning such a dream into reality for Muslims, Jews, and Christians has been the joint U.S.-Israeli policy during the Bush Administration to destroy the legitimate government of Palestine. Ahmed Yousef and Prime Minister Isma’il Haniya have been in a minority position within Hamas because Western policymakers have been determined to undermine their moderate leadership by denying their legitimacy as representatives of the Palestinian nation. This has strengthened the rejectionist leaders in a vicious circle that can end only in the suicide of a “final solution.”
One of the first tasks of President Obama in pioneering bold new approaches would be to start by recognizing the elected government of Palestine, followed by all the other steps that he mentioned in ending what he boldly termed the “occupation.” This would be the most powerful way to remove the causes of rejectionist violence. Only when the rejectionists are marginalized can progress start on the development of an Abraham Federation as the most visionary but also the most reliable and practical road to peace, prosperity, and freedom through compassionate justice. The task is enormous, but the dawn always begins with a single ray of light.