Dr. Bouthaina Shabaan
When Nelson Mandela stood to greet the thousands of people gathered to watch the world cup final in South Africa, everyone stood to show respect to the man whose moral authority and stardom is unrivalled and uncontested. One wonders how Mandela came to represent moral and human integrity in our age and how he was treated by a racist government before he defeated it. What were the accusations levelled at him during the different stages of his struggle?
Racists accused Mandela of ‘terrorism’, and was asked to abandon ‘violence’, but he continued his fight against apartheid having become convinced, after the massacre in the poor black township of Sharpeville (March 21, 1960), that the white minority and their western allies will not peacefully give up authority and its privileges.
Mandela was arrested as a result of US intelligence cooperation with the apartheid regime, and was imprisoned on charges of ‘violence’ and ‘terrorism’. But he refused, as of 1985, offers to be released in return for abandoning ‘violence’. In his memoirs, Mandela wrote that the oppressor not the oppressed always identifies the form that struggle takes. If the oppressor uses violence, the oppressed cannot but respond in kind. It is useful to note that in the conflict between the black majority, fighting for freedom, and the white minority rule, the United States, Israel and the west (until 1981) supported the ‘wrong side’, i.e. the side supporting apartheid, under the pretext of fighting the ‘communist threat’. The ‘Al-Qaeda threat’ had not been invented yet.
Today, after more than a year into President Obama’s administration, the approaching mid-term Congress elections, and after Obama (raising the slogan of ‘change’ then) had asked Israel to freeze settlement as a prerequisite for resuming negotiations with the Palestinians, he reversed course to support the ‘wrong side’ in the Palestinians’ struggle for freedom. His latest meeting with Netanyahu gave the latter’s extremist government the green light to demolish more unarmed civilians’ houses, arrest more civilian Palestinians, including women and children, and spread more oppression and settlements in Palestine. This means that the party giving unconditional support to all these crimes has once again gained control of White House decisions concerning the Middle East as it has dominated, for decades, the American Congress and media. Nevertheless, there have been enlightened voices which tried recently to express concern over the price paid by American soldiers and the American people as a result of supporting all Israel’s crimes in Palestine, and the price the peoples of the world will pay, in terms of security and stability, if the United States and some other western countries continued to support the ‘wrong side’ despite their knowledge of the truth.
Since the publication of the Baker – Hamilton report about Iraq, the link between troubled areas and the resulting consequences of these troubles was highlighted. What is happening in Iraq and Palestine cannot be separated from what is happening in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The more those concerned about the world’s security and stability tried to stress this fact, the more the Zionist extremists persisted in denying it in order to carry on with their crimes.
During his famous visit to Israel, American Vice-President Joe Biden reiterated his concern and anger over the price paid by American soldiers as a result of Israel’s policies in Palestine. He addressed Netanyahu saying: “This is starting to get dangerous for us. What you’re doing here undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That endangers us and it endangers regional peace”. This was quoted in an article in The Guardian by Chris McGreal under the title “US questions its unwavering support for Israel”. General David Petraeus, who has commanded US forces in both wars, has also identified Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian land as an obstacle to resolving those conflicts (in Iraq and Afghanistan). Obama’s chief political adviser, David Axelrod, said the settlement construction plans “seemed calculated to undermine” efforts to get fresh peace talks off the ground and that “it is important for our own security that we move forward and resolve this very difficult issue”.
In an attempt to address the problematic relationship between Arabs and the United States, Obama’s scientific envoy to the Middle East and Nobel laureate, Ahmad Zewail, says: “For half a century US policy has focused on securing the flow of oil and ensuring Israel’s military superiority; it has supported undemocratic regimes while calling publicly for democratic change. This two-faced policy must change to one that genuinely supports human rights and good governance. In the places I visited, people wish to see an even-handedness on Palestinian issues. In the long run the best support the US can give Israel is a secure peace. (The Guardian, July 11, 2010).
Why does not the United States take a position against the ‘wrong side’ instead of continuing to support it? Was not the experience of South Africa sufficient to convince everyone that victory should be for justice and freedom not for those who promote antagonism, wars, hatred and racism between nations? Has none of Obama’s advisors told him that failure to lift the Gaza blockade and restore the rights of the Palestinian people will keep the fires of Afghanistan and Pakistan raging against American soldiers and their NATO allies? Has nobody been able to convince the US administration that nothing in Islam poses a threat against anyone and that the only danger lies in hypocrisy, criminality, suppressing people’s will and jeopardizing their future?
The American people does not deserve that their government supports the wrong side, once more, while they pay the price with their blood, credibility and reputation. It should support those fighting for freedom and peace not those who promote racism, occupation and terrorism.
Professor Bouthaina Shaaban is Political and Media Advisor at the Syrian Presidency, and former Minister of Expatriates.