Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Obama Interview Signals New Tone in Relations With Islam: NY Times + Comment


Obama Interview Signals New Tone in Relations With Islam

By ALAN COWELL ~ Published: January 27, 2009


PARIS — In one of his first interviews since taking office, President Barack Obama struck a conciliatory tone toward the Islamic world, saying he wanted to persuade Muslims that "the Americans are not your enemy" and adding that "the moment is ripe for both sides" to negotiate in the Middle East.


His remarks, recorded in Washington on Monday night, signaled a shift — in style and manner at least — from the Bush administration, offering a dialogue with Iran and what he depicted as a new readiness to listen rather than dictate.


Mr. Obama spoke as his special Middle East envoy, George J. Mitchell, arrived in Egypt to begin an eight-day tour that will include Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, France and Britain. Mr. Mitchell planned to meet President Hosni Mubarak.


In a transcript published on Al Arabiya's English language Web site, Mr. Obama said he believed "the most important thing is for the United States to get engaged right away" and that he had told his envoy to "start by listening, because all too often the United States starts by dictating."


"Ultimately, we cannot tell either the Israelis or the Palestinians what's best for them. They're going to have to make some decisions," Mr. Obama said. "But I do believe that the moment is ripe for both sides to realize that the path that they are on is not going to result in prosperity and security for their people. And that, instead, it's time to return to the negotiating table."


Shortly after the interview was broadcast, an explosion on the Israel-Gaza border on Tuesday killed an Israeli soldier. A Palestinian farmer was shot dead, according to Palestinian witnesses, in retaliatory gunfire. The incidents were the first known fatal incidents since the Gaza fighting ended 10 days ago.


Mr. Obama said Israel "will not stop being a strong ally of the United States and I will continue to believe that Israel's security is paramount. But I also believe that there are Israelis who recognize that it is important to achieve peace. They will be willing to make sacrifices if the time is appropriate and if there is serious partnership on the other side."


He also said he believed it was "possible for us to see a Palestinian state — I'm not going to put a time frame on it — that is contiguous, that allows freedom of movement for its people, that allows for trade with other countries, that allows the creation of businesses and commerce so that people have a better life."


But he also said the Israel-Palestine conflict should not be seen in isolation. "I do think it is impossible for us to think only in terms of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and not think in terms of what's happening with Syria or Iran or Lebanon or Afghanistan and Pakistan," Mr. Obama said.


He spoke at length about America's future relationship with the Muslim world, saying his "job is to communicate to the American people that the Muslim world is filled with extraordinary people who simply want to live their lives and see their children live better lives."


"My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy. We sometimes make mistakes. We have not been perfect. But if you look at the track record, as you say, America was not born as a colonial power, and that the same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago, there's no reason why we can't restore that. And that I think is going to be an important task," he said.


He drew a distinction between "extremist organizations" committed to violence and "people who may disagree with my administration and certain actions, or may have a particular viewpoint in terms of how their countries should develop."


"We can have legitimate disagreements but still be respectful. I cannot respect terrorist organizations that would kill innocent civilians and we will hunt them down," he said. "But to the broader Muslim world what we are going to be offering is a hand of friendship."


He also said it was "important for us to be willing to talk to Iran, to express very clearly where our differences are, but where there are potential avenues for progress."


He echoed his inaugural address last week when he said, "If countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us."


He was not asked whether he would continue the policy of former President George Bush in refusing to exclude military action in the dispute over Iran's nuclear ambitions.


Comment: This was one of the most progressive interviews ever done by a sitting U.S. President and we should all take heed of its importance. We need to work with what we got and with whom we got. We do not live in a dream world. Connected reality is complex and intertwined in a countless array of distinct realities ~ OBJECTIVE, SUBJECTIVE AND SPIRITUAL ~ that should be scrutinized in our global analyzes. No phenomena can be understood in-and-of-itself in isolation from other social dimensions. We must learn to think globally. We can focus on particular regions, such as the Middle East as a whole, but we must come to see how the various pieces of a global jigsaw puzzle fit together.

Progressive humane beings should strongly support the creation of a free, safe and secure Palestinian state, yet Israel as a living entity must also be recognized. We are all on the same planet ~ Mother Earth ~ and there is no substitute. We should honor, treasure and preserve Mother Earth.

Once again, man of our social problems are outward manifestations of our inner spiritual problems: ego-pride, greed, hatred, envy, lust in various forms and it is these character defects that we must ultimately eradicate from our mind-personalities.

Education for Liberation!
Peter S. Lopez aka: Peta
Email: peter.lopez51@yahoo.com
Key Link: http://www.NetworkAztlan.com

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