Blogwatch

June 4, 2009
Obama calls for a new beginning with the Muslim world

In a historic speech from Egypt on Thursday, President Obama called for “a new beginning” between the United States and the Muslim world, after years of mutual and deepening anger, resentment and hostility fueled by terrorism and two wars.

People all over the the Middle East — from leaders and radical groups to students and shopkeepers — reacted to Obama’s speech. See below for blogger reactions to the speech. 

Shibley Telhami, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland, joins Martin Savidge to discuss the speech, its intended audience and Obama’s other efforts to reach out to the Muslim world.

Blogger Noha Fawzy in Egypt reacted positively:

I was impressed with all that came in his speech.  It felt as if he really feels our real and deep pains and what we suffer from daily.  However, my only disappointment that he mentioned the nuclear power in Iran, but no mention of Israel that owns already nuclear power and can be threatening to the whole region. 

I must say that his speech was structured, well presented and very well accepted by the majority of the people and his call for peace as in all religions is so much needed.

We, Egyptians, thank you Barack Obama for choosing Egypt to be your platform while addressing the Muslim World, well advised and Egyptians are the most sympathetic people who will wait for you to fulfill your commitments as you promised.

We hope you enjoyed your visit, we did and we look forward for longer visits. 

I love Egypt and Egypt will prevail.

Peter Daou, a blogger at UN Dispatch, takes a more critical tone: 

I know many will gush over President Obama’s Cairo speech and I’m likely swimming against the tide of the media and my fellow Democrats and progressives. But reading the transcript, I was struck by two things:

1. Aside from a few platitudes, it is disappointingly weak on human rights and specifically women’s rights.

2. It betrays a naiveté, perhaps feigned, about how the Arab world works.

I sometimes preface my posts by explaining that my Mideast perspective is that of an American-Lebanese-Christian-Jew who grew up in Muslim West Beirut at the height (or should I say depth) of the Lebanese civil war. The tumultuous and bloody intersection of religions and geopolitical interests is painfully real to me.

Yes, Obama is targeting the Arab ’street’ and global public opinion - but to the corrupt regimes that dominate that region of the world, his oration means virtually nothing. Repression and suppression will go on uninterrupted. And to those whose abiding hatred of Israel (and thus America) is absolute, Obama’s words will be seen as empty and hypocritical.

Blogger “Ali” shares reactions from friends across the Middle East, including “Duha” in Jordan, who thinks the speech alienated many:

I think, he spoke to the average person, to the moderates and the educated, the silent majority if you may. He spoke to people’s minds and needs for peace and prosperity which are so much needed in the Muslim world, but at the same time I think he alienated so many against him mainly the extremists from all parties arabs, israelies, muslims, even in the US. I hope he stays safe, and more important I hope he delivers.

The same blogger posts a short reaction from “Noam” in Tel Aviv:

Liked the speech but might not be very realistic. 

Further brief reactions could be found on Twitter:

diptychal in Egypt: Obama is clearly playing both sides of the fence. Couldn’t really expect otherwise

NadiaE in Egypt: Audience claps to Islamic refs: are we that desperate for recognition of our faith?

donchad in Egypt: wise speech from obama

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Comments

26 comments

#26

[...] year, the three-day forum focused on President Barack Obama’s call – in his historic Cairo University address last June – for  a “new beginning” in relations between the United States and Muslims [...]

#25

Just Got Educated:JGE, if Najad goes and Assad and Arafat have long gone, who are you to pick up on????? of course their memory. But Liberman, Ehud Barak,and Bibi,your heores, who have been killing Palestinians for the last 35 years are good people. The Palestinians want one thing from you (GO AWAY AND LET US LIVE IN PEACE) in the 1980s Hamas was not there and you kept and defended the occupation and in the 1970, Shah an Israeli SPY was in Iran and you kept killing the Palestinians. Keep finding execuses not to leave the Palestine until you build illigal colonize on the last inche of the land and then it will be Global Warming to balme for your occupation of Palestine. I assure that all Palestinians have no respect for Iran, Hamas, Syria, and Israel.

#24

DH (DisHonest) has added his own confusion about the situation.

Poor Palestinians having these defenders.

#23

Just Got Educated, JGE you are wrong again. I think Najad et all are helping Israel more than anyone in the west by using this stupid language. The biggest losers if Najad goes are Bibi, Chaney, you of course because you love screamers and Yallon. I wish for him to go and for you to learn the truth

#22

Ahmadinejad should read this:

“When I reported from Beirut in the 1970s and 1980s, I covered coups and wars. I never once stayed up late waiting for an election result. Elections in the Arab world were a joke — literally. They used to tell this story about Syria’s president, Hafez al-Assad. After a Syrian election, an aide came in and told Assad: “Mr. President, you won 99.8 percent of the votes. It means that only two-tenths of one percent of Syrians didn’t vote for you. What more could ask for?”

Assad answered: “Their names!”

#21

And here we have AlJazeera reporting

The final results of Iran’s “closely-contested” 10th presidential election indicate that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has won a landslide victory.

“Of 39,165,191 votes counted (85 percent), Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the election with 24,527,516 (62.63 percent),” Interior Minister Sadeq Mahsouli told reporters on Saturday.

Mir-Hossein Mousavi came in second with 13,216,411 votes (33.75 percent), he added.

Closely contested 62% vs 33%. No surprise that DH (DisHonest) keeps distorting the facts. Poor Palestinians, they are defended by crooks and guided to the dry water hole with their thirsty camels and donkeys.

#20

While Hamas and Fatah are killing each other, Ahmadenijan the master of Hamas and Hezbollah has stolen the election in Iran. DH (DisHonest) will tell you that is the fault of the Israelis. And so goes. poor Palestinians with falsifiers like DH (DisHonest) they are more miserable than ever.

MOUSAVI: I’M UNDER HOUSE ARREST
Violence Rages In Iran… Police Beat Protesters, Journalists… Reports Of Some Dead

#19

Just Got Educated: JGE, you are not only anti Arab, you are also a big laier. The World Bank and the European Union are wittness to the amount of money that the Palestinians have invested in their infrastructure. But (your highly moral military destroyed it all)Sharon swept to the West Bank in 2002 like a a crazy bull and destroyed everything. Have some shame and stop lying to protect the longest military occuaption on earth. Mr. Halliday got it best, the more you have of him the more worried you should be.

#18

Michael Halliday: You have your facts all wrong and twisted. Hamas occupies and kills Arabs in Gaza, and now Hamas and Fattah are fighting each other. This is the road to nowhere. Don’t be like DH (DisHonest), a previous blogger, that was dyslexic in reading the news, and twisted all the information. The good guys are the Israelis, the bad guys are Hamas and the other pawns of Iran and Syria, like Hezbollah.

I had to correct it before Ahmadenijan got all upset. You see he says there are no gays in Iran.

PS. I am not anti-Arab.

#17

Michael Halliday: You have your facts all wrong and twisted. Hamas occupies and kills Arabs in Gaza, and now Hamas and Fattah are fighting each other. This is the road to nowhere. Don’t be like DH (DisHonest), a previous blogger, that was dyslexic in reading the news, and twisted all the information. The good gays are the Israelis, the bad gays are Hamas and the other pawns of Iran and Syria, like Hezbollah.

#16

Well said and recorded:

“In the 16 years since the Oslo accords turned the West Bank and Gaza over to the Palestinians, their leaders built no roads, no courthouses, no hospitals, none of the fundamental state institutions that would relieve their people’s suffering. Instead they poured everything into an infrastructure of war and terror, all the while depositing billions (from gullible Western donors) into their Swiss bank accounts. “

#15

Carthago delenda est!!!!!!

#14

With all due respect, supporters of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, and the Blockade of Gaza seem bent on twisting the history of the region to suit their own, dare I say extremist, goals of ethnically cleansing the West Bank and Gaza of Palestinians based on ancient religious dogma, rather than the law as determined by The World Court, and Geneva Conventions.

The fact that the Balfour Declaration was not well received in the Arab world should not be a surprise to anyone at this point in time. Nor should it be a surprise that the various Arab governments of that day made an attempt to defend their land, before being bombed into submission by the British and the French. The formation of the state of Israel was not a negotiated settlement, as the word declaration, as opposed to agreement, implies.

To believe that one speech directed at Muslim and Arab leaders will resolve over sixty years of inequities isn’t realistic. However, we can give President Obama credit for at least sounding a different tone, and acknowledging certain realities of the situation that exists on the ground today. However, it will be President Obama’s actions that will reflect any serious change in what, up to now, has been a grossly biased approach to achieving Middle East peace.

Given that the United States pours millions of dollars into the Israeli economy, and gives billions of dollars in military aide, one might think that Israeli Government would have been more willing to listen to President Obama’s admonition to stop building illegal settlements on occupied territory. But Israel remains defiant, and only tears down settlements of plywood and sticks which haven’t received official authorization from the Israeli Government. The huge complexes of illegally built settlements remain untouched and in fact are being expanded even while President Obama has asked Prime Minister Netanyahu to halt any new construction. I would call this a definite slap in the face, and one which reveals the true Israeli persona of being a law unto themselves.

This attitude does not engender peace, and furthermore is a legitimate provocation to which the Palestinian Authority, as well the democraticly elected Hamas Government is likely to respond.

Whether or not President Obama will become an impartial broker for peace remains to be seen, but I’m not overly optimistic. And even if The President is able to overcome the undue influence of the American Israeli Political Action Committee and win some support in congress for an even handed approach to Middle East policy, and peace negotiations, Israel has to be a willing party, and they are clearly not.

If I might refresh commentor Dorn L’s memory, the best chance for peace between Palestinian’s and Israeli’s was brokered by President Jimmy Carter between Yasser Arafat and Itszak(sp)Rabin. This peace agreement was quickly nullified, not by a Palestinian rocket, But by a bullet from the gun of a Zionist extremeist, which effectively assasinated Prime Minister Rabin and any hope of a lasting peace.

If there is to be any peace Mr. President, it will require that the United States Government to
get very tough with Israel regarding the rule of law, and also to stop protecting Israel in the United Nations Security Council when sanctions are imposed on Israel for actions outside the rule of law, and world opinion.

The expression “when pigs fly” comes to mind, but we can continue to hope, and speak the truth about injustice, and the role our government plays in perpetuating this injustice.

P.S. Just in case you were wondering, I am not antisemitic.

#13

Just Got Educated: JGE, it is so refreshing to see you misinforming the bloggers again. I thought you and I answered all these questions in January and you have the Chutzpa to blog again. You and Boris are the most shameless individuals that I have encountered in my life. No honesty, no integrity, no values, no education and no humanity. It is extremely hard to see people (especially Jews) justifying the killing of the other based on religion, ethnicity, or gender. But the two of you are spreading hatred and false information all the time. The Russian Boris, calls Palestine a liberated Jewish land, he thinks that he lives in the 3000 BC still. Indeed ignorance has no limitation and both of you are living proofs

#12

[...] join Martin Savidge to discuss the week’s top stories: The substance and impact of President Obama’s speech to the Muslim and Arab worlds and China 20 years after the Tiananmen Square [...]

#11

From 1948 to 1967 Egypt had Gaza and Jordan had the West Bank and Jerusalem, with no progress for the people. From 1967 to 2009 Arafat, Hamas, Abbas have had a continuum of hatred, violence, terrorism, war.
Always the blame is put away from their own leaders. What is the rational thinking of the Arabs?

#10

Josiane:Your narrative is based on Zionist history only. There have been many historical studies by Jewish historians who dispute every single word you put in your respond

On 1948 read Avi Shlaim
On Camp David and Barak’s offer read Robert Mally, a jew who was present with Arafat and Barak, Shlomo Ben Ami, Glad Shar and Yosi Bellin
On Olmert and Abu Mazen read Godon Levey and Akiva Alder and see that Olmert never offered Abu Mazen officially anything. They leaked in the press that the Israelis are willing to give this or that, or thinking about that. The Palestinians never received maps and a solid offer to say yes or now to it

Every single statement you made is not accurate and there are many Jewish and Israeli writers who did some serious archival work inside the Israeli military and found different facts.

On the Wars of 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, just read the memoirs of Dayan, Abba Ebban, and Rabin and see who started those wars and why.
I hope I have been of help to you

#9

WELL BEFORE AND IN 1948 JEWS ( AND I DO NOT TALK ABOUT THE JEWS FROM EUROP WHO FLEDTHE NAZIS) WERE LIVING IN PALESTINE WHICH COMPRISE WHAT IS KNOW AS JORDAN, ISRAEL AND PART OF IRAQ. IN 1948 BECAUSE OF THE REPEATED POGROMS THE JEWS CREATED ISRAEL AND THE PALESTINIANS CREATED JORDAN. SINCE THEN THE ARAB COUNTRIES ATTACKED ISRAEL IN 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973 AND THE ANTIFADA. WHOSE FAULT IS IT THAT JORDAN LOST LAND? IN 2000 BARACK OFFERED A PALESTINIAN STATE TO ARAFAT WHO REFUSED AND STARTED THE ANTIFADA, WHOSE FAULT PALESTINIANS DO NOT HAVE A STATE? OLMERT WAS READY TO GIVE ALL OF JUDEA AND SAMARIA AND ABU MAZEN REFUSED. ISRAEL DID NOT GO OUT TO TAKE LAND AND IN ANY WAR ALL OVER THE WORLD THE LOSER DO NOT GET BACK LAND (INTERNATIONAL LAW)THAT IS WHY JORDAN DO NOT REVENDICATE WHAT WAS LOST. YOU WILL TELL ME THAT ALMOST HALF A MILLION OF PALESTINIANS WERE DISPLACED IN 1948? YOU ARE RIGHT BUT READ THE NEWSPAPERS OF THAT TIME AND YOU WILL KNOW WHY YOUR LEADERS CALLED ON THE ARABS TO FLEE SO “THEY COULD PUSH THE JEWS TO THE SEA”. BUT NOBODY TALK ABOUT THE JEWS DISPLACED FROM ARAB COUNTRIESMORE THAN HALF A MILLION. IN IRAQ SINCE THE RISE OF HUSSEIN JEWS WERE DISCRIMINATED AGAINST AND MORE THAN 250,000 JEWS FLED THAT COUNTRY ALONE. WHY DO YOU THINK LEBANON, SAUDIA ARABIA AND OTHER COUNTRIES KEEP THE PALESTINIANS IN CAMPS AND REFUSE TO LET THEM INTEGRATE IN THOSE SOCIETES? THIS IS A BIG LEVERAGE AGAINST ISRAEL AND A WAY TO BLAME ISRAEL FOR THE SUFFERING, I HOPE I HELP

#8

Josiane:Think of the reasons why all these acts took place!! Hijacking plans was because of Israel’s occupation of Arab and Muslim land and the US not making enough efforts to solve the problem. The bombings in Iraq and Afghanistan are because of American occupation. Since Iraq’s independence in 1922, have you ever red of a suicide bombing in that country. Do you that Baghdad had the highest interracial marriages in the Arab world (sh’ia, Sunni, Kurds, and Christians married one another with reservations) it was not until the American invasions of Iraq in 1991 and 2003 that we began seeing all what you talked about. You came across as very naïve and shallow. Your understanding of the region is fully controlled by the Media and Hollywood. Remember who created the Taliban and financed them in the 1980s. I hope I have been of help to you and other readers on this.

#7

WITH DUE RESPECT MR. MANSOR THE FAULT IS NOT THE PAINTING OF MUSLIM WORLD BY MEDIA, JEWS OR AMERICAN. HOW CAN YOU BLAME ANYONE HOW WE THINK OF YOU WHEN WE SEE YOUR BROTHERS HIGHJACKING PLANES, CAR BOMBING NON MUSLIMS AND EACH OTHER, BOMB KILLING WOMEN CHILDREN AND MEN IN BUSES RESTAURANT OR NIGHT CLUBS? WHEN WE SEE THE POPULATION IN MUSLIM COUNTRY DANCE IN THE STREET WHEN JEWS OR AMERICAN ARE KILLED BY YOUR BROTHERS? SURE WE HAVE MADE MISTAKES BUT TO ACT IN THE WAY TO REVERE DEATH MORE THAN LIFE IS NOT HOW YOU GET RESPECT. WE HOPE THAT YOU CHANGE YOUR WAYS TOO AND ACCEPT OTHERS.

#6

..Obama reaches out to Muslim world
President Barack Obama calls for a new beginning in US relations with the Muslim world in a keynote speech in Egypt.———–WAY IS ABC NEWS IN FEAR AND FEELING SHAME OR GUILT TO SAY THE LEGAL NAME OF THE MUSLIM U.S.A PRESIDENT BARAK HUSSEIN OBAMA.OMITTING HIS LEGAL NAME HUSSEIN.——————————————————- HUSSEIN OBAMA mesmerize the audience with his tricks” AND DECEPTIONS SPEECHES LYING SAYING THE ISLAM AND AMERICA WILL BE FRIENDS—–SURE WAIT AND SEE HUSSEIN OBAMA WHAT WILL YOUR FELLOW MEN \THE MUSLIMS WHO ARE AGANIST THE USA AND ISRAEL WILL DO SOON.

#5

Ohhh yes!!! Obama’s words are honey to my ears.
Obama maintains double discourse by adapting his words in accordance to the place he is.
It’s tottaly out of proportion the world puts so much pressure on Israel, while Hamas can freely an average of 3 skyrockets to Israel everyday. Is that the peace Obama talks? Is the peace the United States identifies with?
I agree there should be close relationships between US and muslim countries, but with frank conversations such as the way US governments have mistreated Muslim countries, but also talking about human rights and social issues that are needed in this region impeded by Islam religion.
The way Obama adapts falsely to each setting will not eventually support in the peace process.

#4

Dear World Focus.

It would have been interesting to hear a more critical analysis of President Obama’s speech. Shibley Telhami gave it unqualified praise because of its emphasis on Palestinian views.

President Obama’s speech was remarkable in that on political issues, it chose
all the issues Arabs and Muslims want to hear about - Afghanistan, Iraq, and Israel/Palestine. And of course he was hard on Israel.

It’s remarkable that not a word was said about Darfur. Sudan is just south of Egypt. 300 000 people have died there during recent years (more than three times the death total in 60 years of Arab-Israel warfare according to what I read). The Arab League has consistently fought attempts to sanction Sudan. Yet President Obama avoided the issue lest he offend the Arab world.

President Obama talked of Palestinians under “occupation” and in “refugee camps”, of their dislocation. There was scarcely a hint that the Arab world started the wars, maintains the refugee camps, and that the “occupation” would have ended had if Arafat had accepted the Camp David Plan, or Abbas’ Olmert’s offer.

By appeasing the Arab world, and placing the onus on Israel, President Obama has ensured that the Arab world will be even less likely to compromise than now. Indeed, Jackson Diehl of the Washington Post noted this after interviewing Mahmoud Abbas.

Will World Focus ever expose this?

As for what is to be done: how is the new tone set by President Obama going to bring peace? Mahmoud Abbas confirmed to Jackson Diehl that he won’t recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Abbas demands resettlement of refugees in pre-1967 Israel - which is impossible, which denies the rights of a similar number of Jewish refugees from Arab lands, and sidesteps Arab responsibility for starting the wars.

The Arab world now believes that they can stick to their hardline, while Israel is pressured into evermore risky concessions. This fits in well with the “phased plan”, the piecemeal destruction of Israel, first proposed by Yasser Arafat.

Wooing the Muslim world by pressuring Israel is not going to bring Arab-Israeli peace when it encourages the Palestinians and the Arab world to stick to every hardline position. Moreover, the Muslim world’s record on rights, freedom, etc. will only be hardened by appeasement. Only when the Arab world stops inciting violence and genuinely changes its attitude, can there be peace.

#3

I like the way that Obama is able to speak to the common people like myself. And I love to believe that religious tolerance is a realistic goal. Unfortunately, it can’t become realistic with only one man professing it. We all should encourage it. I remember how I was impressed that people in India (back in 1973) were respectful of others religions. But, I don’t see it here in the United States where a person’s religion or color can be a topic of conversation. America should become more like Obama!

#2

very well said Mumtaz. I agree with you on that 100%. Had the Americans acted on their interests and not only Israel’s or Indian interests many of the sad stories that we wake up to everyday will not be there. Had the Americans solved the question of Palestine in the 1950s, we would have never seen the PLO, and Hamas. Had they solved the Question of Kashmir, we would have never seen Al Qeada. We as muslims and Arabs Christians and Muslims would love to live in peace with everyone. The problem we feel is the right wing Christians and Jews who constantly creat problems around the world and keep pushing the media to define Arabs and Muslims as the bad guyes. Hope we see a change now!!!!!!!!

#1

With great respect and love for President Obama I say he has embarked on such noble mission to set the things in the right perspective. The Muslim nation will wait and see actions from words. I believe that if a US president had sought justice for Palestinians and Kashmiris decades ago, there would be no 9/11, PLO, Hamas, Alqaeda, etc, etc and the world would have been very peaceful.

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