Philadelphia and AIPAC: A Tale of Two Speeches

by James M. Wall

In a Yahoo video clip,  John McCain confessed that with a computer, he is “illiterate”. Score one for Barack Obama who is apparently computer literate enough to carry on a lively email exchange with film star Scarlett Johansson, or so she says.  Barack Obama is from the computer generation where emails and Google are daily companions. He is also, as he demonstrated in his Philadelphia speech on race capable not only of writing his own speeches, but of doing so with grace, wisdom, and courage.

Which is why I am prepared to conclude that his American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) speech was not written by Obama.  Oh sure, he delivered it to a cheering audience.  But actually write it?  No Way.

The author of that Philadelphia speech could not possibly have written the AIPAC speech. It was too pandering, far too one-sided and overly strident.  It also contained a false assertion that “Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.” 

Obama was forced to reverse himself for that Jerusalem gaffe, which underscores my point. Someone as computer literate as Obama would have asked Google to check on the Annapolis negotiations and the status of Jerusalem. There is not much these days in the American media about the negotiations, but a quick look at this report from a Chinese web site could have saved Obama from his Jerusalem mistake:

So-called final-status issues are the thorniest disputes between Israel and the Palestinians, which included control of Jerusalem, Palestinian borders, Israel’s settlements in the West Bank, Palestinian refugees, security and water resources.

Speaking [in January] in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced the decision, saying that “If we reach an agreement on these issues, we could say that there is an agreement.” (

Of course, it is now obvious to any computer literate person that the negotiators will not reach any agreement before George Bush leaves office.  And to close observers of the process, it is a given that Israel’s interest level in the six core issues starts and stops with “security”. Meanwhile, the Palestinians are sticking to the agreement reached at Annapolis: agree on how to deal with the six core issues, otherwise no final agreement.

The American media gave Obama a pass on his insensitivity to the Palestinians in his AIPAC speech. The foreign press, however, contained some outraged reactions. The London Independent’s Robert Fisk, could barely contain his anger:

 So they are it again, the great and the good of American democracy, groveling and fawning to the Israeli lobbyists of American Israel Public Affairs Committee, repeatedly allying themselves to the cause of another country and one that is continuing to steal Arab land. (June 7)

Underlying all six of the core issues under negotiations, is the issue of human rights, If computer literate Obama defeats computer illiterate McCain in November, he will be able to start each day in the White House searching the internet for examples of human rights violations by his own government and by its allies.

 In fact, he could begin his research right now, with a Google search of Israel’s blockade of Gaza.  He would find formal reports and personal stories, including this one on a report from Omar, an aid worker who works with the British agency Oxfam, in Gaza.

It is summer and Omar’s children want to go to the beach. The Mediterranean Sea is close at hand.  Barack Obama should understand Omar’s story; he has children close in age to the four children in Omar’s family. Omar explains why he cannot take his children to the beach. 

. . . [Gaza beaches have] become a public health hazard; more than 70 million litres of sewage are discharged into the sea every day. The sea is no longer a venue for children looking for a swim. . .My six-year-old twins sometimes talk like young adults and it scares me. They are aware of the Israeli blockade and the issues facing Gaza and they ask questions about it. When they ask about people suffering or why we are restricted from travel, I have to come up with some answer. . .

My wife has not been feeling well lately and I had to take her to the doctor last week. She underwent tests and the doctor finally told her today she developed a problem with one of the bones in her back. The treatment she needs is not available in Gaza. She is always in pain and has bad headaches. Just over a year ago, she could have left Gaza for treatment in Israel or Egypt, but right now we feel uncertain about the future.

Obama’s AIPAC speech was a disappointment to Gaza parents like Omar.

In Hebron, where the Israeli army plans to close and confiscate facilities run by the Islamic Charitable Society (ICS) the speech offered no hope to those Muslims orphans and their caregivers who could lose the only home they have. The US-based Christian Peacemakers organization ( has assigned international volunteers to stay overnight in the orphanages to provide a peaceful presence for the orphans and their caretakers. According to a CPT news release (May 21):

 In a meeting on May 21st with members of the Steering Committee for Supporting the Orphans, Mr. Jawad Bulos, a lawyer for the Islamic Charitable Society (ICS), gave a briefing on the legal side of closing and confiscating the ICS facilities.

“[When the] Charity received the closure orders I appealed to the [Israeli] Military Legal Advisor and asked him to arrange a meeting with me. The advisor refused to meet me and later he rejected our appeal. I was forced, then, to appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court.  Five days after my appeal to the court, the court unexpectedly refused to issue a stop order (prohibition order). I was informed later that the court will not discuss our appeal before October.” 

Irish Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire traveled to Hebron June 5 to meet with the Administrator of the Hebron Orphanages. He told her that the Israeli army is threatening to close 14 schools and orphanages In the Hebron district, eight belonging to the Islamic Charitable Society. The remaining six belong to the Muslim Youth Society. Her report on that visit points a finger of responsibility at former United Kingdom Prime Minister Tony Blair:


Tony Blair is based In East Jerusalem, (a few hours from Hebron, so he is well aware of this systematic wilful destruction of Islamic charitable institutions). His brief is to help Palestinian economic reconstruction. How ironic that while he is supposed to be helping businesses etc., the Israeli military, in the dead of night, is spreading terror and destruction in the Islamic communities. What is Mr. Blair and the UK governments doing about this?

 In the conclusion of his new book, Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation, Saree Makdisi, who was born in Lebanon and is now a professor of English at UCLA, cites a report from John Dugard, the United Nations’ Human Rights observer:

The international community, speaking through the United Nations, has identified three regimes as inimical to human rights–colonialism, apartheid and foreign occupation. . . Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem contains elements of all three of these regimes, which is what makes the Occupied Palestine Territory [OPT] of special concern to the international community. . .

[There are other regimes, particularly in the developing world, that suppress human rights, Dugard acknowledges]. . . but there is no other case of a Western-affiliated regime that denies self-determination and human rights to a developing people and that has done so for so long. This explains why the OPT has become a test for the West, a test by which its commitment to human rights is to be judged.” (p.297)

If Barack Obama wins his election in November, he will face his first human rights test when he chooses his cabinet and staff.  If the Obama of the Philadelphia speech takes the oath of office next January, there is no question but that he will pass his next test, confronting Israel on its human rights violations. Forget about the Obama speaker at AIPAC;  the Philadelphia Obama will be sworn in next January. Inshallah. 










About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
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