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Date posted: March 28, 2013
By Nejwa Ali for MIFTAH

Last week, US President Barack Obama paid tribute to lifelong ally Israel, his first visit to the region as President, symbolizing his unwavering stance on the Palestinian-Israeli impasse.

In front of American media, Obama has been consistent, viewing Israeli settlement expansion as detrimental to any legitimate peace process, straining relations with Israelís Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. However, Mr. Obama admitted that he had no plan to for push peace talks, stating that Israel was not interested, dismissing any effort to do so as a waste of time.

However, a completely different tone was taken on this past week. Obama pledged his allegiance to Israel, solidifying his unconditional support and Israelís right to defend against any threat to their nationís security, completely ignoring the continuous situation of Israeli colonization of Palestinian territory. Accordingly, his criticism falls short of any concrete progression towards peace. Instead of bolstering this kind of behavior without consequence, Obama needs to take an aggressive approach forcing Israel towards a peace deal. Perhaps slashing U.S. financial support, conversely what they did to the Palestinian Authority when they submitted their application to the United Nations for statehood (completely undermining the U.S. position of supposedly supporting an independent Palestine state), would prove effective?

Sidelining the Palestinian cause, Obama invested his time and energy into securing an Israeli apology to Turkey and restoring diplomatic ties between nations. Adding insult to injury for the Palestinians, it turns out Obama scored an accomplishment after all. Unfortunately, Obamaís near silence regarding the Palestinian peopleís national rights reflected his poor leadership in this regard and lack of commitment towards resolving this conflict. Hence, he negated himself as an influential peace leader in the eyes of the Palestinians, who saw him more of the stereotypical political pawn.

Coincidentally, during the same week of Obamaís trip to Israel, I visited east Jerusalem. As an American citizen, I am privileged with complete access to Jerusalem, even though some of my family, born and raised in Palestine, are excluded from visiting the city. According to Israeli law, any person with Palestinian identification, residing within the West Bank and Gaza Strip are prohibited from entering Jerusalem. Ultimately, depriving Palestinians (Muslims and Christians) the freedom to worship and restrict their ability to travel freely, defines a situation tantamount to apartheid.

On my trip to Jerusalem I admired religious sites and walked around neighborhoods, marveling at the breathtaking views. Still, an eerie calm lingered. A paradox began to unravel. Israelis go about their day nonchalantly, with the daily Palestinian theme of ďthe occupationĒ taboo from their discussions. A snapshot of the New York City lifestyle, Israelis live comfortably with plentiful resources at their disposable. In comparison, Palestinians are forced to do with the insufficient resources at their disposal. If I were a typical tourist, for the first time in the region, I would be oblivious to the humanitarian crisis Israel imposes on the Palestinians. However, Obama is not a tourist. He is fully aware of the humanitarian abuses and Israelís oppressive occupation and continues to fund it with American tax dollars. This kind of support needs to come to a halt.

As Israelís occupation of Palestine approaches its seventh decade, I would like to remind President Barak Obama to be a man of his word and follow his own campaign slogan of moving forward towards change. Stand firmly against Israelís occupation and prevent another generation of Palestinian youth from being born and raised under it.

Nejwa Ali is a Writer for the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at mid@miftah.org.

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