The Aardvark has been on my blogroll for a long time.He is a man of many words but also very smart. When he says something is worth quoting, believe it.
Israelis and Palestinians. I'm still struggling to grapple with this truly astonishing portion of his speech. I don't think I have ever heard any American politician, much less President, so eloquently, empathetically, and directly equate the suffering and aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians. This is the one part which I have to quote:
Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed - more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, ignorant, and hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction - or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews - is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.
On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people - Muslims and Christians - have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations - large and small - that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.
For decades, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It is easy to point fingers - for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought by Israel's founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: the only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.
This is quite possibly the most powerful statement of America's stake in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the urgent need for justice on both sides that I have ever heard. He posed sharp challenges to Israelis and Palestinians alike, directly addressing the realities of Palestinian life under occupation and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza while also empathizing with Israeli fears. He positioned the U.S. as the even-handed broker it needs to be: "America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs." Left unsaid, but clearly in the background, was the fact that he has been matching those words with deeds by forcefully taking on the issue of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
He also offered a powerful analogy to the American civil rights campaign and other global experiences to argue that "that violence is a dead end. It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered." I really like this analogy, which he extended well beyond America's shores. Some Palestinians will likely complain, though, that their own attempts at non-violent activism too often get crushed beneath Israeli bulldozers. How will the U.S. and the international community support such non-violent action and redeem such moral authority?