A Public Relations Stunt
Or a Vision
For Real Change
As the world's attention is focused on Cairo, in anticipation of Obama's historic visit to Egypt and his address to the Islamic world, Kifaya, the Egyptian Protest movement, earlier today announced its intention to organize a demonstration in Cairo's busiest square tonight in protest of the much publicized visit. The leaders of Kifaya, (the word Kifaya literally means enough in Egyptian), regard the visit as an attempt to bestow undeserved legitimacy over a repressive regime and see Obama's speech addressing the Muslim world as no more than a PR stunt designed to deceive Muslims and Arabs. They view the visit and the address as a gimmick which aims at distracting Arabs and Muslims from the fact that the United States main interest in the region is to guarantee Israel's security and supremacy in addition to ensure that the U.S. controls the region's vast oil reserves through oppressive regimes which are merely puppets serving the US interests. Even in the United States itself, analysts are warning from losing this historic opportunity in rhetoric which does little in dealing with the real issues. The message they give is that actions matter more than words.
It is true that nothing can be said tomorrow, which in itself is capable of bringing about Obama's promise of hope and change. Only actions and policies to follow can do that. All that can be hoped from tomorrow's speech is to set a vision and a road map for the future marking a new phase of U.S.-Muslim relations. The people, however, will be watching out at how this vision is to be turned into actions in the months and years to come.
Tomorrow's speech can provide a starting point for a switch of the mindset, a change of heart and a paradigm shift. It should provide a new way of thinking our common problems and mutual interests. It may serve as the preamble of an informal collective contract in which each party must play its role and honor its commitments and obligations.
On this historic occasion, Obama may ask Muslims to pay more attention to what is being taught at their schools, preached at their mosques and communicated in their media. Incitement of hatred, the attitude of having a total monopoly over the truth, exclusion and self-righteousness when taught to young minds and shared by the elites and the masses on a national level will eventually lead to imminent clash and conflict. The same message of tolerance should be relayed to keen followers of Orthodox Judaism and Christianity; in Israel, the United States and the rest of the world.
Obama must also demand that the regimes adopt a long term approach of modernization and peaceful democratic transformation of Arab and Muslim countries. Reforms that would protect human rights, enshrine equality, create opportunity, celebrate diversity; pluralism and rejoice liberty. A true partnership for prosperity between the United States and countries of the region should see timely implementation of such reforms.
On the other hand, for Obama's speech to become more than a public relations stunt, Obama must also promise change in the American ways of conducting foreign affairs.
For starters, the United States should reverse an unnecessary tradition of blocking Security Council resolutions whenever the hint of blame is to be placed on Israel. This decades-long unfortunate tradition was equal to the United States' blocking of justice since U.N. Security Council is just about the only apparatus man has so far devised for collectively serving international justice. Second, the idea that negotiations alone between the Palestinians and Israelis can bring about a just peace is not realistic and has led to endless rounds of fruitless negotiations. Meanwhile, things on the ground were constantly changing creating even crueler realities for Palestinians. Peace became like an evasive mirage. Third, we are heartened to hear the new administration's commitment to a two-state solution and its strong position against illegal Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian lands. This position however, must have material consequences should Israel fail to match its commitments.
For instance, the United States placed very stringent regulations on fund raising which will be used to finance extremist Islamist organizations Similarly, the new Administration must put in place equally strict regulations designed to block fundraising activities in the United States if the funds will be funneled to Israeli for financing building of illegal Israeli settlements. Currently these generous donations from unsuspected U.S. citizens are used to even rebuild bigger settlements as soon as the Israeli government dismantles some, making a mockery of the American and Israeli administrations' commitment in this regard.
At the end, change and global security is not the responsibility of America, Israel, the Arabs and Muslims alone. Obama should demand that all nations must work towards the creation of the better world we all seek, through compassion, economic cooperation and diligent efforts which aim at reforming the United Nations, the Security Council structure and its decision making process, as to finally erect an effective international justice system at some point in the future. A system which will significantly reduce conflict, violence and human suffering as it invests in our common humanity to enhance our common security and world peace at large.
Yes. It is true that actions speak louder than words, but it is words that will be exchanged tomorrow. Words which can create this shift of mindset and set a road map for a better future. Actions and policies to follow, however, is what will make these words more than rhetoric and turn them into design specifications for a truly better world.