By Stephanie Hicks, Guest Contributor
In the last few weeks, Burnside has run a few articles about the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, an issue that is close to my heart. I spent a summer teaching English in Gaza, and am currently am working as a writer/co-producer on a documentary called, With God On Our Side. It follows the story of the two Palestinians the role of Evangelicals and the Christian lobby in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. So I asked myself, where do the candidates stand? Here are some of the things I found out.
Although the two presidential candidates differ greatly in many regards, as with most Presidents of the last sixty years since the creation of the State of Israel, both Obama and McCain cater to the powerful Jewish lobby in their foreign policies with regards to Israel.
Both candidates have spoken at AIPAC, the largest Jewish lobbying group, promising the U.S.A.'s support and commitment to Israel. McCain goes as far to say the alliance will "stand forever." McCain has often spoken at Christian United for Israel, although he has separated himself from the founder, John Haggee since his insensitive remarks about the Holocaust.
McCain, on his website, devotes a mere two paragraphs to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict; while devoting at least eleven to Iran. This is his official stance:
“The Palestinian people are badly served with Hamas in charge of Gaza. This is a group that refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist, to denounce violence, and to acknowledge prior peace commitments. They deliberately target Israeli civilians, spread hatred, and set back their people's cause with every new bombing.
We hope that the talks between Israel and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will yield progress toward [eace. While encouraging this process, we must also ensure that Israelis can live in safety until there is a Palestinian leadership willing and able to deliver peace. A peace process that places faith in terrorists can never end in peace."
McCain visited Israel this year, but did not visit the Palestinian Territories. All in all, I’m not expecting much out of the McCain administration with regards to diplomacy and peacemaking.
Obama on the other hand appears much more committed to the peace process. He visited with the Palestinians in July, and his website contains a plan of action for peace similar to the Clinton Administration. He’s been quoted as saying "nobody has suffered more than the Palestinian people," giving hope to many that there would finally be a President to push for Palestinian sovereignty.
But this is just appearance. He has the same constraint to cater to the Jewish lobby and he was quick to clear up his statements about the Palestinian people’s suffering, laying the blame squarely on their shoulders:
"Well, keep in mind what the remark actually, if you had the whole thing, said. And what I said is nobody has suffered more than the Palestinian people from the failure of the Palestinian leadership to recognize Israel, to renounce violence, and to get serious about negotiating peace and security for the region. Israel is the linchpin of much of our efforts in the Middle East."
Obama is clearly for the two-state solution which is good: "We can and we should help Israelis and Palestinians both fulfill their national goals: two states living side by side in peace and security. Both the Israeli and Palestinian people have suffered from the failure to achieve this goal. The United States should leave no stone unturned in working to make that goal a reality.”
But while his language is positive towards a Palestinian State, he places the responsibility for the failure of this completely on the Palestinians, while not in any way rebuking the excessive human rights violations perpetuated by Israel's military in the Occupied Territories. Rather Obama caters to the myth of security and excuses to the United States from putting pressure on the Israelis to change this, saying: "We also know that we should never seek to dictate what is best for the Israelis and their security interests. No Israeli Prime Minister should ever feel dragged to or blocked from the negotiating table by the United States."
Where Obama stands on Jerusalem: "We don't want barbed wire running through Jerusalem, similar to the way it was prior to the '67 war, that it is possible for us to create a Jerusalem that is cohesive and coherent. I think the Clinton formulation provides a starting point for discussions between the parties. The intention was never to move away from that core idea that a Jewish state depends on their ability to create peace with their neighbors, and that the Palestinian leadership has to acknowledge that the battles that they've been fighting, and the rhetoric they've been employing, has not delivered for their people."
With either candidate, if we don’t get involved as informed citizens and keep pushing them to make peace talks a priority, and to not just put stipulations on the Palestinians, but also on the Israelis to stop settlement growth and Jewish terrorism in the form of settler violence against Palestinians, then we will probably end up with another stalemate for the next four years.
Stephanie Hicks encourages you to watch the trailer for a documentary on Israel/Palestine that she helped produced at www.withgodonourside.com.