Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, May-June 2009, page 82
No Shoes or Angry Shouts.
On his first trip overseas, President Barack Hussein Obama began the Herculean task of mending fences in Europe and the Muslim world. The only time shoes made the news this time was when President Obama removed his to show respect at the door of the Blue Mosque in the heart of Istanbul’s old city. The only shouts came from the throngs who came to listen and see the president and the first lady.
Reaching Out to Youth.
“The world will be what you make of it,” President Obama told Turkish college students, inspiring youth abroad as he has at home. “You can choose to make new bridges instead of new walls.” Michelle Obama also made an impact. She chose her audience carefully for her only speech on this trip. She addressed children, many of them refugees or asylum seekers, who speak a total of 55 different languages at a girls-only, inner-city school in London. “I want you to know that we have very much in common,” she told the girls. “I wasn’t raised with wealth or resources or any social standing to speak of...If you want to know the reason why I’m standing here [as a first lady], it’s because of education.”
No Swagger, Just Hope.
In the Czech Republic capital of Prague, Obama declared, “Freedom is a right for all people, no matter what side of a wall they live on, and no matter what they look like.“ He said that “divisions could be bridged; that walls could come down; and that peace could prevail.” He made an important promise: “I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”
It’s Up to Each of Us to Remind...
Our president, again and again, that peace with justice in the Middle East will bring down the most terrible wall. A nuclear-free world can begin in the Middle East, including Israel. Many of the articles in this issue reveal the fear and hopelessness that has engulfed the Middle East. Will we be able to reach Obama and Hillary Clinton to bring...
Hope Back to Us All?
“I Cannot Just Stand Still.”
In Baghdad, hours before President Obama’s surprise arrival and a day after bombings killed 37 people in Shi’i areas of the Iraqi capital, a baby boy (at right) survived a car bombing on April 7 when Asad Raad, a motorbike salesman, rushed out of his shop, reached through a shattered car window and plucked the infant from the back seat of the burning vehicle, where he lay next to his dead mother. Raad took the baby boy, who had minor burns to the face, to his home and said he would care for the infant. “I cannot just stand still and watch this,” Raad said. Iraqis do their best to help each other after bombings and often drive victims to hospitals because ambulances can be slow in getting to the scene. Raad’s act was particularly noble, according to the Associated Press, because a burning car can explode if its fuel tanks catch fire, and bombings are sometimes followed by other attacks intended to kill rescuers.
In Iraq, the occupied Palestinian territories and, we’re sure, Afghanistan, do whatever they can to help their fellow human beings in an environment of terror and fear. In the process, they renew our faith in humanity. We who have the luxury of living normal lives of relative predictability can show our humanity by working to ensure that our fellow human beings enjoy...
Liberty and Justice for All.
A growing chorus of voices is warning that expanding the war in Afghanistan will not achieve that desired result. Rather than sending weapons and young Americans to fight in foreign lands—or giving money and weapons to foreign countries which kill civilians in violation of international law, not to mention simple humanity—President Obama can protect Americans only by implementing a foreign policy that is based on American ideals rather than the interests of a foreign country. Only then will he be able to...
Bring the Peace Home.
“Arabesque” on the Potomac.
Visitors to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts—which, we can’t resist pointing out, receives less taxpayer money than the Holocaust Memorial Museum—discovered, many for for the first time, the riches of Arabic music, poetry, literature, and art when they explored “Arabesque: Arts of the Arab World” from Feb. 22 to March 15 (see pp. 60-62). Our hats are off to the organizers and backers of this marvelous and inspiring festival. Every effort that helps further Americans’ understanding of the Arab and Muslim worlds is priceless, of course—but when it is an event of such beauty and intellectual stimulation the experience is a joyful one. Americans who visited the Kennedy Center’s “Arabesque” souq also discovered many treasures, including Palestinian handicrafts, pottery and embroidery. If you missed it, you can still visit our Internet souq at <www.middleeastbooks.com>. The Palestinian Arts and Crafts Trust (PACT) supplied many of the Kennedy Center offerings and we hope you will support our efforts to keep these crafts, and the people who make them, alive.
Donors Don’t Wait.
Many of our readers have not waited for our first annual donation appeal, which should reach your mailboxes in May. We thank our Angels—and contributors of any and all amounts—for continuing your good works. At this moment of change here at home and throughout the world, it is more important than ever that we...