Cairo didn’t expect it Mr. Obama!

4 June 2010

Cairo didn’t expect it Mr. Obama!

Will Obama’s Response on Flotilla hurt his Standing in the Muslim world?


Friday, 04 June 2010


Gaza Flotilla Violence is another controversial dilemma facing Obama after one year on his memorial speech to the Muslim world in Cairo University. Day after day, the US administration's response to the Israeli military forces’ attacks on “Freedom Flotilla” might damage Obama's standing in the Muslim world, at a time where the broader international community has been more forceful in its condemnation of Israel

The US only condemned "those acts" which resulted in the loss of life without specifying who was responsible for the acts. Indeed, does the US administration consider Israel's operation, which occurred on international seas, is a violation of law? Does it believe that the blockade of Gaza by Israeli forces is counterproductive?

On the other side, the question Israeli officials are asking about Gaza crisis is “will we be alone again?” It won’t be easy for Obama to answer. Another public rift between the United States and Israel is the last thing the White House needs as it tries to wrest concessions from Netanyahu in Middle East peace talks. But defending Israel in and outside the United Nations will risk a rift with Turkey to the US, not to mention Arab states, at the moment when the administration is hoping to win broad support for a new Security Council resolution on Iran.

This time, the credibility of Obama’s administration globally and especially in the Muslim world is at stake. While one cannot underestimate the many crises on the president's plate and the political pressures the administration faces on Israel-Arab relations, the White House statement implicitly endorses a total distortion of the facts on the ground and practically parrots the Israeli Government's narrative. It assures that in the eyes of the rest of the world, especially the Middle East and broader Muslim world, the US (Obama administration) is unilaterally and entirely one-with-Israel.

This raises the broader issue of the Administration's policy vis-à-vis Gaza. The blockade against Gaza has devastated its infrastructure and people, created a humanitarian and human health disaster that contributed to the emergence of radical Salafi groups that are both anti-Israel and anti-Hamas and Fatah. The head of United Nation's Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) mission in Gaza, John Ging, specifically expressed the need for the Flotilla to enter Gaza due to the "medieval siege", mass unemployment, extreme poverty, food insecurity and food price rises caused by shortages left four out of five Gazans dependent on humanitarian aid.

The simple fact is that Israeli commandos violated international law. They entered international, not Israeli, waters, swept down in a raid at 4 am and encountered according to PM Netanyahu outrageous description "unexpected resistance." What did the Israelis expect? And even if some resisted an illegal raid with knives and iron bars did that justify the response of trained and heavily armed professionals firing at point blank range?

Does the Israeli public opinion expect that Israeli government will conduct a full and credible investigation? Do you Mr. Obama believe in that? All what I know is that Obama’s speech after few days to Muslims, Arabs, and Americans waiting for him, in Alexandrina Bibliotheca- Egypt on the 16th of June, to discuss what has been done to the better of  US-Muslim relations after one year on Obama’s speech in Cairo university will be very hard to prepare by your administration Mr. Obama.

Since his inaugural, and especially in Cairo whose anniversary is upon us, Obama succeeded to set out a different vision and reached out to the Muslim world as no American president before him. However, will the “Flotilla incident” make Obama’s window of opportunity in the Muslim world closes?

The US is the only country that can take the lead decisively and broker the breaking of the deadlock and the siege of Gaza. The current tragedy and the widespread condemnation of Israel globally and within Israel itself can be seized as an opportunity by the administration to end the siege of Gaza, an action that is ultimately in Israel's long term interest as well as that of the Palestinians.


By Rowaida Mroue

MA International Affairs,

Director of Youth & Dialogue programs, LYDS Organization

Lebanese Interfaith Initiative CC