US' double standards in dealing with unrest

US' double standards in dealing with unrest

The Arab Spring of discontent has been met with a series of policy proclamations by US President Barack Obama intended to secure US influence and interests in countries moving from dictatorship to democracy.

As a result of the uprisings across the Arab world, the once-despised ‘Arab street’ has become the engine of democratic change in the region.  However, Arabs are sharply critical of the US and other western powers for employing ‘double standards’ when dealing with unrest in different Arab countries.

The West bombs Gadhafi regime targets in Libya and sanctions the Syrian regime for suppressing protests against autocracy. But the West turns a blind eye to brutal repression of Shias calling for equality in Bahrain, host to a US fleet, and of opponents of the Saleh government in Yemen which is battling al-Qaeda on behalf of Washington.

Consequently, Arabs dismiss the opinion article co-authored by Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron who vowed not to abandon Arab democrats “who seek freedom in place of repression” and who are “laying the building blocks of democracy”.

Clear divisions

They pledged, “We will not stand by as their aspirations get crushed in a hail of bombs, bullets and mortar fire”. The inference was, of course, that the two leaders would defend Libyan and Syrian regime opponents but not those in Yemen and Bahrain and certainly not in Palestine, where citizens are routinely bombed, shot, and shelled by Israel.

The Arabs insist that the US take action against Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for flatly rejecting Obama’s call for the resumption of negotiations based on the ceasefire line of June 1967. Although Obama did not call for full Israeli withdrawal to this line, the Arabs regard his reference to it as positive.

Netanyahu not only rejected the 1967 line but also added more than half a dozen ‘Nos’ totally unacceptable to Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims.

He said Israel would not remove Jewish colonies in areas designated for the Palestinian state, permit Palestinian refugees to return to Israel, or allow the Palestinians to establish their capital in East Jerusalem. Israel would not withdraw from the border with Jordan, enabling Israeli troops to encircle the West Bank.

Israel would not negotiate as long as Fatah and Hamas are reconciled and until the Palestinians scrap their plan to seek international recognition of a Palestinian state in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza — 22 per cent of geographic Palestine.

Netanyahu rejects a halt to the Israeli colonisation drive and insists that the Palestinians recognise Israel as a Jewish state, thereby negating the rights of the 1.5 million Israeli Muslims and Christians of Palestinian origin. Finally, he rejected a deal imposed by the outside world.

Ibrahim Mousawi, a Lebanese professor, drew a distinction between the ‘old Obama’ and the ‘new Obama’. Mousawi observed that the ‘old Obama’ remains as committed as ever to Israel’s positions. Mousawi recalled Obama’s positive Cairo speech of June 2009, in which he spoke of Palestinian suffering and aspirations for self-determination and pledged to reconcile with the Arab and Muslim worlds but failed to deliver. The ‘new Obama’, Mousawi said, seeks to “hijack, confiscate and bribe” the democratic forces that are transforming the region.

Arab commentators argue all Obama’s fine talk is designed to impress people in the US and Europe who fear their governments cannot cope with the dramatic changes that are taking place in West Asia and North Africa.

Ezzedin Choukri-Fishere, a professor at the American University in Cairo, said that Palestinian-Israeli peace process, which gave the US leverage with the Arabs, is dead and Obama has made himself irrelevant.

The toppled Tunisian and Egyptian governments, ‘moderates’ that toed the US line on Palestine-Israel, Iran and other issues, have been overthrown and their successors can no longer ignore public opinion. In an effort to reassert its leadership, Cairo is halting cooperation with Israel’s blockade of Gaza and reconciling with Tehran. Other regional governments allied to the US have expressed concern over Obama’s policies while Europe is fed up with US failure. The US and its hangers-on are no longer ‘indispensible’, contrary to Obama’s claim during his visit to Britain.

Although Obama has warned against taking such a step, Palestinians intend to proclaim their state within the ’67 borders in September. Palestinian leaders have no alternative. They argue it is better to be an internationally recognised state illegally occupied by Israel than ‘disputed’ territory in the process of being colonised by Israel.