Thursday, 26 May 2011

Obama: media adulation and the 1967 border

Barack Obama's current European tour has been accompanied by levels of media idolatry that would make a movie star blush.

One has little faith in what purports to be serious 'analysis' in most of the mainstream media.  But it has been remarkable, by any such standards, to watch so many journalists, correspondents and news anchors gush over Obama's 'starlit' presence and 'benign' words, particularly concerning Israel-Palestine.

The propaganda effect on a celebrity-primed public is a study in how our 'critical' media have served to conceal, circumvent and prettify Obama's true warmongering colours.

As the first leg of the tour commenced in Ireland, the BBC's Mark Mardell was in typical 'romantic' flow:
"President Obama's trip to Europe will be a melange of pageantry and policy, and the political equivalent of both poetry and prose."
The fawning continued in more personalised form during Andrew Marr's studio 'questioning' of the President, which, alongside his previous 'engagement' of Tony Blair, might serve as a definitive model of the deference-to-power BBC interview.

By the time of Obama's speech to Parliament, the BBC's political correspondent Nick Robinson was swooning for the nation: "There was never any doubt that Britain was in love with Obama" - a declaration, observed Media Lens in a letter to Robinson, which had raised the adulation from love-in to "hagiography". 

The Guardian's Patrick Wintour was also on-side with a glowing endorsement of Obama's US-Europe 'compact' for a free Middle East:
"Barack Obama has put America and Europe unambiguously on the side of those fighting for freedom across the Middle East, saying the west can remain "the catalysts for global action", ending a decade of war, terrorism and terrible recession."
Much of the same media devotion has been given to Obama's latest Middle East speech, billed as the second big 'appeal to the region' after his Cairo address in 2008.  

In particular, the 'analysis' failed to record the truth behind Washington's supposed 'support' for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal based on the 1967 border.

This was taken in spoon-fed form by the BBC and other liberal outlets as Obama's 'historic endorsement' of a two state settlement.  Yet, few seemed willing to question or deconstruct what Obama had actually intimated to Netanyahu. 

Wintour at the Guardian could only muster this lame comment on Obama's meaning:
"He also seemed to tack to the Israelis, following his speech calling for a settlement based on 1967 borders, by arguing that it would be difficult currently for Israel to talk to the Palestinians.
Helpfully, other observers like Lamis Andoni have been more forthcoming in helping to expain that "tack":  
"Obama's lip service to Palestinian "self-determination" is nothing more than vacuous rhetoric - as he clearly implied that Israeli interests, especially its security, remain the top priority for American foreign policy in the region.
He mechanically repeated his commitment to the vision of a two-state solution - establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel. However, as expected, he left the borders and terms of the creation of such state subject to Israel's "security interests".
His reference to resuming peace negotiations on the basis of the 1967 borders (also known as the Green Line) means neither a complete Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories nor the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state on all of the land within the Green Line, including East Jerusalem.
There is a significant difference in negotiations "lingo" and even legal language between saying that the establishment of a Palestinian state "will be based on" 1967 borders as opposed to saying it "will be established on" the 1967 borders.
The first leaves ample room for Israel to continue occupying and even annexing vast settlement blocs (and perhaps even all of the illegal, Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem) for "security reasons".
For Andoni, Obama's evasions are a clear green signal to Israel that it's still permissible to take whatever it can from any 'two-state settlement':
"Just in case his pro-Israel support base misunderstood the thinly veiled statements from his Middle East speech last Friday, Obama made sure to clarify to his definitively pro-Israeli view that there is no going back to the true 1967 borders:
"[The statement] means that the parties themselves - Israelis and Palestinians - will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 196... It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last forty-four years, including the new demographic reality."
In clearer words, the president is effectively, although not explicitly, equating the presence of Palestinians on their own land with the illegal presence of Israeli settlers living on land confiscated forty-four years ago from the Palestinians."
Ilan Pappe, another ever-reliable conduit for truth, could also see the real intimations behind Obama's lofty words:
"[Obama]said there will be “no return to the borders of June 4, 1967” and the thousands who attended the AIPAC convention cheered wildly. Annexation of Israeli settlement blocs built illegally in the occupied West Bank and the creation of a small Palestinian bantustan in the spaces in between was the essence of Obama’s real vision for peace."
Which leaves Pappe, like this present writer, in no doubt about the necessary direction of any Palestinian - or other - liberation process:  
"A relentless struggle against the ethnic cleansing of Palestine will continue outside the realm of the western corridors of power. What we learned from Egypt and Tunisia, even if we are not sure what would be the endgame there, is that struggles outside corridors of power do not wait for leaders, well-oiled organizations and people who speak in other people’s names."
We wait in vain for Mark Mardell committing those fundamental words to poetic prose.


Sasha said...

I love your analysis, as always. I know I don't comment, but I read your blog pretty faithfully.

This is slightly off topic, but you referred to the backlash surrounding the Middle East speech; I was wondering what you made of the reasons behind it, considering an identical statement was issued by Bibi and Hilary Clinton last year with absolutely no fuss?

John Hilley said...

Many thanks for your kind words, Sasha. I greatly appreciate your own blog, including the current dissection of Anfrew Marr's servile 'engagement' of Obama.

I think the media are responding as an obedient 'pack' to the Obama hype, mostly failing to see or ignoring the true implications behind Washington's '67 border' spin.

Yes, there's no real difference to what's already been said by Clinton et al in these regards, but the 'headline' statement in Obama's 'big' Middle East speech of a two state settlement seems to have been more eagerly received as 'evidence' of Washington's 'neutral encouragement' towards a deal - which all fits with the broader media love affair with Obama.


Sasha said...

That's a good point, although I think it probably works both ways; the European media seem to laud it as a revolutionary position for the US president to take, while the Israeli/US media have taken it as an attack on Israel.

Oh the hypocrisy of it all!

Also, that's very kind of you to say. It's not a proper blog, just tidbits I find interesting, butI'm finding the idea of setting up some sort of formal blog really appealing at the moment.