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What Obama Should Say About Middle East Policy

Ilan Pappe: President Obama should announce he will break with US
unconditional support for Israel

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Story Transcript

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay. On Thursday, President Obama is speaking as we record this–it’s just a little bit before he speaks. And he’s going to talk about new US foreign policy towards the Middle East in light of the Arab uprising. Now joining us from London to give his views on what he would hope President Obama might say is Ilan Pappe. Ilan is an esteemed historian, professor with the College of Social Sciences and International Studies at the University of Exeter in England. He’s written extensively on the subject, including A History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples and The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. And I should have said he’s an esteemed Israeli historian. Thanks very much for joining us, Ilan.

ILAN PAPPE, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF EXETER: It’s a pleasure.

JAY: So you are–this is one of the more unlikely things to have happened. But let’s say you got a chance to write President Obama’s speech. What would you like him to be saying?

PAPPE: I think I would have liked him to say that for the first time there is really an opportunity for a new Middle East to be born, and that what he and others, especially the Israeli allies, in the past called the new Middle East, in which Israel and America are dominant forces, was a mistake, and to say thank God that the Arab peoples themselves, in most cases without any violence, has taught us what the real new Middle East should be about. The second thing I would have liked him to say, that–and I don’t think he will–is that the Arab Spring has taught us that democracy, human rights, civil rights, the freedom of citizens, are values which are as dear to people in the Arab world as they are to people in the West. And one of the places where these values are not respected is Israel, and one of main victims who suffer from absence of these rights are the Palestinians. And one of the main reasons this has happened in the past was the American policy. And actually he’s going to announce a change in American policy, so that also the Palestinians, and not just the Syrians, the Lebanese, the Tunisians, and the Egyptians, will enjoy what everyone else enjoys in the West. I do hope also–and I don’t think he would say that–that he is as worried about the policies of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain as he is about the policies of–as he was about the policies of Mubarak and the policies of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. I also hope that he would go on to say that the American administration owes the people of Iraq an apology for destroying their country, and that from now on the American policy in Iraq would be similar to the one that America seems now to pursue in the case of Egypt and Tunisia. In short, I would have imagined his speech would be very different from the one he’s given in Cairo, where he would actually start with an apology and with a commitment for an American, positive role in the life of people in the Arab world, in the Islamic world, after years where America played quite a negative role in the lives of these people. But even if he would make a second apology, and even [if] he would just give us reason to believe that the basic military, unconditional support for Israel may change, this would be enough, as far as I am concerned. But I doubt even if that [incompr.]

JAY: Well, let me just give a final note to the interview. These remarks by Professor Pappe were based on me asking him what he would like President Obama to say, and I don’t think there’s any sense of any expectation, given President Obama’s foreign policy assumptions, that anyone expects that there’s any chance that he ever will say something about this. Am I right with my note?

PAPPE: I think you’re right.

JAY: I think I’m right. Thanks very much for joining us, Professor.

PAPPE: Thank you very much. And all the best. Thank you.

JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

End of Transcript

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