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Raffique Shah


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Obama must attack Israel's apartheid

By Raffique Shah
November 09, 2008

Palestine. Afghanistan. Iraq. Cuba. These countries form the pillars on which President-elect Barack Obama, if he is to achieve his stated aim of a peaceful world, must rebuild America's image abroad. I deliberately chose the order I did because I am convinced that for as long as three million Palestinians remain enslaved in an apartheid system worse than what prevailed in South Africa, there can be no peace in Iraq or anywhere else in the world.

I have also chosen to focus first on America's foreign policy rather than its more urgent economic dilemma. The domestic mess that George Bush has saddled his successor with must be of prime concern to Obama. But the new president can call on hundreds of highly competent American patriots, even some foreign experts, to help him wrestle with this monster.

America's foreign policy priorities are more complex, and, I suggest, of equal importance. Based on statements he made during the campaign, clearly Obama sees extricating America from Iraq as his most urgent challenge. Most Americans want out of that hellhole that is partly responsible for their economic woes. For some time now, top military officers have advised there is no way either to consolidate America's occupation of Iraq, or to hand it over to a strong central government.

The fact is the Bush Gang-Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, to name the top three-took America into two unjustified, unnecessary, costly wars. They have lied, conspired and sacrificed young American lives like the heartless beasts they are. They have murdered millions of Iraqis, tens of thousands of Afghans. They destroyed Iraq, a once thriving country, even if its ruler, Saddam, was a son-of-a-bitch. On the campaign trail Obama vowed to withdraw from Iraq but focus on Afghanistan and bin Laden.

That would be a grave error. Because the source of the problem in almost all these theatres of war and the root of Islamic "terrorism", lie in Palestine. America must come to terms with the reality that there are three million of these people condemned to living in the most atrocious conditions, many for generations, because of Zionist inhumanity. Another five-or-so million live in the Diaspora in neighbouring Arab states, while many more have migrated to distant lands.

Their daily struggle for bare existence seems to escape our minds as we focus on Darfur, the Congo and scores of other trouble spots. The Zionists (very distinct from Jews in general), have imposed apartheid in and around Israel. America has kept Israel's war machine well oiled. By proxy, America is supporting one of the last bastions of this kind of rabid and brutal racism. Obama should be able to identify with that: if he can't, just ask Jesse Jackson or Nelson Mandela.

A few months ago a delegation from the ANC in South Africa visited the West Bank and Gaza. In their report, they said they were shocked at the inhumane conditions under which millions of Palestinians lived. "It is worse than anything we ever experienced in South Africa, under the apartheid system," one of them said. We did not need the ANC to tell us that. But the world-and this includes many wealthy Arab countries-has ignored this problem for far too long.

It is not why bin Laden became what he is today: that has its genesis in another American misadventure, back in the 1980s, during the Soviet Union's occupation of Afghanistan. But what followed with 9/11 and the globalisation of "terrorism" in many countries across the world, can be traced to the "Palestinian question". Bear in mind the Palestinians are not all Muslims: among them are Druze and Christians. There is no distinction when Israel brings its massive firepower to bear on them. As recent as last week many were killed, Israel's usual excuse being they went after "a militant hideout".

Obama must ask himself why is it whenever the Israelis or American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan target "militants", it's always ordinary people, especially children, who suffer most? Every time a drone strikes in Pakistan, it flattens schools or parts of villages with no regard for the lives of ordinary people. How can America win friends when it engages in genocide, when you kill people because of their race or religion?

These inhumane acts against different people who have only one thing in common-Islam as their religion-are what spawn more bin Ladens. If there is peace in that part of the world, there would be little reason for fundamentalist Muslims to attack "enemies", perceived or real. Al Qaeda would have fewer recruits seeking vengeance if apartheid is dismantled.

On the night Obama won the US presidential election, people across the world saw in his victory hope for a better world. Among them must have been Palestinian women and children, victims of the Darfur genocide as well as the thousands fleeing for their lives in the Congo. He cannot afford to disappoint the wretched of the earth. Sure, he needs to "fix America first". But coming after a disaster named Bush, his challenge is to repair America's image across the world.