Obama Needs Some Internet Virtual Reality On This Trip

Since this posting’s initial appearance it has been reproduced on many other locations in the internet world of virtual reality, a number of which serve the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  Visit that internet world by searching for this posting’s title at Google. You will find other blogs and sites that reproduced the posting, thereby extending its reach. We are grateful to the bloggers for this service.  Here is one appearance. 

By James M. Wall

When Paul Simon ran for the United States Senate in 1984, I was his primary campaign manager. Paul had many progressive ideas but I would cringe when he told Illinois voters that there would have been no cold war if a few Soviet leaders had spent time in the United States, where they would have experienced life in a democracy.

Paul was actually recalling the Native American wisdom that to know a man you must walk in his footsteps for at least a mile. It was an ideological perspective unrelated to the harsh political reality that any young Soviet official who traveled to the United States to get “educated” would no longer be a Soviet official.

In retrospect, I now believe Paul had a point. Through the wisdom of this Simon logic it could be argued that if Obama had spent even one summer living in the West Bank he would have seen for himself Palestinian homes demolished to make way for Israel’s so called “security” wall, that hideous 24 foot high concrete barrier that snakes through Palestinian land, enclosing cities and villages in prisons from which the only escape is a checkpoint manned by Israeli soldiers.

The Democratic candidate will travel to Palestine in a cocoon of security and secret service police, protecting him from attacks from radicals of all sides. Because of this cocoon, he will talk only to Palestinians sanctioned and vetted by his Israeli hosts. It is too late in his political career for him to be “educated” in the existenial realities of occupation.

But it is not too late for him to “feel” that occupation through the internet. Obama needs an internet virtual reality staff person with him at all times, giving him visual, aural and print data, not on the grand scheme of Middle East politics, but on the reality of occupation.   This staff person could make sure, for example, that Obama sees footage of an Israel Defense Forces soldier shooting a bound and blindfolded Palestinian in the foot with a rubber-tipped bullet.  

B’Tselem (pronounced Beit Selem, with a sound similar to Beit Lehem, the birthplace of Jesus) is an Israeli human rights organization that documents occupation abuses by Israeli authorities. The organization posted the internet video on its site. The incident took place July 7. Two weeks after the shooting, and after the video appeared on the internet, the Israeli soldier was arrested.

In the video, the Palestinian, Ashraf Abu Rahma, 27, who was protesting the building of the Wall, is shown being led, handcuffed and blindfolded, to a Jeep by a high ranking officer of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). Rahma falls to the ground after he was shot in the foot. The London Times online reported the arrest July 21. The video was taken by a 14-year old Palestinian girl, who used one of the more than 100 video cameras B’Tselem has distributed to Palestinians in the West Bank.

Knowing how carefully Obama prepares for his every assignment, I believe that if he had that virtual internet reality staff person on his staff he would already have “felt” the occupation through videos like the one of the shooting of Ashraf Abu Rahma.

Obama will not be invited to talk with Khaled Amayreh, a veteran Palestinian journalist I first met in Hebron two decades ago. But Obama can read about current conditions on the ground in an internet column Amayreh wrote for the Cairo-based publication Al Ahram:

If you still think there are red lines that Israel has not crossed with regard to its treatment of Palestinians, don’t be too sure. In recent days and weeks, the Israeli army has been vandalising, ransacking and confiscating Palestinian civilian institutions in the West Bank’s largest towns and cities, including Ramallah, the seat of the so-called Palestinian government.

Frustrated eyewitnesses and tearful victims spoke of “unprecedented brutality” and “Gestapo-like behaviour” as Israeli occupation forces moved throughout the central and northern West Bank to destroy what was left of the Palestinian charity sector upon which thousands of impoverished Palestinian families depend for their livelihood.

Israel had been targeting orphanages and boarding schools as well as soup kitchens and sewing workshops serving orphans in the Hebron region. The campaign of terror, with many hair- raising scenes of cruelty and moral callousness, has seriously raised the level of hostility and hatred for Israel.

Obama will not read this information in his State Department briefings, nor will he read Amayrey’s column in his hometown Chicago Tribune nor in the Israeli-friendly New York Times. But I can vouch for the journalistic integrity of Khaled Amayreh. And if Obama wants further verification, I can refer him to a colleague of mine who teaches religion in a Middle Western college. This colleague spent two nights in June sleeping in a shuttered Hamas-run Hebron orphanage, one of a number of American volunteers who maintain a presence in the orphanage to prevent its destruction by Israeli occupation forces.

Obama will talk with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad during his trip to the OPT, and Fayyad will surely inform him of Israel’s systematic campaign against Palestinian commercial and charity organizations.  But will Obama realize that in the Arab populations of the Middle East, it is common knowledge that Israel is attacking all institutions even remotely related to Hamas? 

In Ramallah, Israeli soldiers stormed the municipal council building of Al-Bireh, Ramallah’s twin-town, located a few hundred metres from the headquarters of PA President Mahmoud Abbas and the office of his Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. The Israeli soldiers, with sledgehammers and welding equipment, forced open offices, confiscating computers and destroyed furniture.

Again, PA forces remained confined to their barracks “in honour of agreements and understandings” with Israel. PA officials, including Prime Minister Fayyad, have argued forcefully that all social, cultural, educational, athletic and commercial institutions targeted by Israel functioned according to the law and were involved in nothing of concern to Israel whatsoever.

“These are legitimate Palestinian institutions, and targeting them is aimed at weakening and humiliating the Palestinian Authority,” said Fayyad while inspecting the targeted buildings. He added that he would complain to the United States as well as to Tony Blair, the Quartet’s envoy to the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. Neither has uttered a word criticising the latest Israeli savagery.

The Israeli occupation authorities claimed the targeted institutions were owned or run by religious individuals who might be sympathetic to Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic resistance movement. However, the Israeli army, and its intelligence arm, Shin Bet, failed to produce any evidence whatsoever linking the institutions to acts of violence. 

Paul Simon never made his leap into “feeling” the occupation, the leap now possible for Obama. Simon made that clear to me during the primary race which he won. (By prior agreement I did not manage his general election campaign against Senator Charles Percy.) John L. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt explain what kept Simon from making that leap in The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy.  Simon owed his Senate career to the Lobby. 

As Tom Dine [AIPAC executive director] boasted after Percy’s narrow defeat , “all the Jews in America, from coast to coast, gathered to oust Percy. And the American politicians–those who hold public positions now, and those who aspire–got the message.” Dine’s hyperbole notwithstanding, the basis lesson of these cases is hard to miss. (pp. 158-159).

That was the politics of 1984. Barack Obama is the candidate of change 25 years later. AIPAC is still a powerful force in American politics. AIPAC still demands that candidates utter public pieties about Israel’s need for security. And on this trip, Israel will prevent Obama from “walking in the footsteps” of Palestinians under occupation.

But no one, no government and no Lobby, can prevent him from a virtual tour of those footsteps during and long after this trip. He will see the conditions on the ground through his own eyes, and he will hear details of those conditions through the internet. As a man of color, Obama brings a special perspective to the Palestinian occupation never before available to a presidential candidate.

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 writings.me, 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 jameswall8@gmail.com 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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16 Responses to Obama Needs Some Internet Virtual Reality On This Trip

  1. Thank you for this report. I hope and pray something gets through the wall israelis and Americans have built. Ironic, isn’t it? The Soviets used to be the ones who built walls. Now we are: in Israel and on the fronterizo with Mexico. The mentality that produced both is the same. Control.

  2. wallwritings says:

    A Jewish Conscience

    Congratulations on this piece, Jim. We need this voice.

    This week, Senator Obama will be taken by the Israeli government to
    visit the Israeli town of Sderot, on the border of Gaza. He will be taken there
    to be shown the effects of Palestinian terrorist violence on Israeli citizens.
    I abhor the use of violence on innocent civilians, and as a American, and as a Jew, I agree with every US Administration since Harry Truman in making Israel’s security a top priority. However, I know that peace will never come to Israel and her security will never be assured until the causes for violence against her citizens is stopped. And that cause is the policies of the Israeli government, policies supported by our government. Our policies vis a vis the Israel-Palestine conflict have failed – and I do not limit this to the Bush White House, but to every administration since 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza strip. If Senator Obama wants to understand how to stop the shelling of Sderot, he needs to look over the border and see the intolerable conditions in Gaza, conditions brought about by collective punishment and shelling of civilian targets. If he wants to
    understand Palestinian resistance, he needs to see the occupation of the West Bank: the taking of land, the systematic strangulation of Palestinian civil society and the ongoing humiliation and brutalization of the population. He has to understand that the occupation is illegal, that it has been not only winked at but financially supported by the United States for decades, and that
    this is at the root of the conflict. And that peace will not come unless we reverse our policy of support for the occupation and begin to use our diplomatic and financial influence to change Israel’s course.

    Mark Braverman, Washington, DC

  3. Leyla says:

    Thank you for a brilliant article , i wish this article reaches ALL the americans so they can understand the reality , not the version of zionists who own most major Media outlets . But there is hope , more and more decent americans are doing their own research and finding blogs and sites like this one and many have now realised they have been lied to . thanks again .

  4. sahdia maryam says:

    The Palestinian issue needs to be seen and recognised by everyone. It is a festering sore on the body of this planet. it is a grave crime being done against the Palestinian people who have suffered in humiliation over the last 60 years. They are being punished for collective guilt against every legal system.It is alien to the Abrahimic traditions of Islam, Christianity and Judaism.

  5. S.Mallozzi says:

    Thanks to Mark Braverman for stating the problem so well. But what can we do to change this horrific and ongoing problem?

  6. Shades says:

    How can individuals from around the world help, if we are just one voice, will to do what it takes?
    – South Africa

  7. Shades says:

    How can individuals from around the world help, if we are just one voice, willing to do what it takes?
    – South Africa

  8. Nate says:

    “Israel had been targeting orphanages and boarding schools as well as soup kitchens and sewing workshops serving orphans in the Hebron region. The campaign of terror, with many hair- raising scenes of cruelty and moral callousness, has seriously raised the level of hostility and hatred for Israel.”

    The Hamas specifically set up camp at these places so when the IDF forces come in, they look bad. The Hamas are the REAL problem and until the weaker Palestinian people can stand up and remove them from power, their situation will not change. Israel is merely protecting itself and I think before you make judgments about Israel you should ask yourself what you would want your government to do if people were shooting rockets at your house!

  9. Mark says:

    Nate said: “Israel is merely protecting itself and I think before you make judgments about Israel you should ask yourself what you would want your government to do if people were shooting rockets at your house!”

    If your house is built on a land through illegal oocupation in the first place, I think it’s the mistake of Israel government to put the life of their citizens in danger.

  10. peteguer says:

    What drivel you outcast band of professional refugees spout! You’re not even a distinct “people” but even so you demand the destruction of a legitimate state. Never in the history of the WORLD has there been people claiming refugee status for as long as you have. I see this as proof that none of the other arabs want you either. And I can’t blame them after what arafat did in Jordan and Lebanon. You give your so-called people nother but suffering and strife and gleefully blame it on Israel while non of you seem to be missing many meals!
    Pete in USA

  11. realpeace says:

    Reply to Nate
    Israel is the REAL problem. The people in Palestine want Hamas. And if you want to describe Israelis’ actions as “protecting itself”, well just let us know when a thief enters your own home, killing many of your family, torturing others, taking your possessions, kicking you out,… saying that it is his home he and his followers -while the fair among his followers say that it is not their home and that he is fabricating the whole story-, looking to other unfair people -who always fear him- and asking “isn’t it my home?” and they say “sure it is”, and when you begin defending yourself and your family, he screams “look! aren’t they terrorists?” and they say “of course they are”… please tell us if it happens and about your reactions then.

  12. MAX S says:

    Israel is fueling terrorism with it’s genocidal foreign policy. Hamas will emerge stronger, as they are the only ones standing up for Palestine. Israel will continue to massacre civilians, but will emerge defeated just like in Lebanon.
    Personally, I’m past the point of shock, and like most of the world have moved into the phase of extreme anger.

  13. Miss Gie says:

    History will never LIE..people can be indifferent and foolish..but history won’t. How can people deny the fact that Palestine has been there for ages..and how could people from the so-called “most civilised” country in the world never say “NO” to the barbaric mutilation/bombardment of the millions and millions of innocent ppl/the owners of the land.i wonder if Americans would allow this to happen in their very own land-Strangers come to your land and take everything from you, even your last breath left unspared..

  14. roger grealy says:

    Hamas won the democratic election in Gaza; Israel & the USA have never accepted them; I guess when George W only won by hanging chads with brother Jeb in Florida he can’t handle true democracy.

    Blue Mountains Australia

  15. Nely says:

    This article is very good and it makes me happy that every day more and more people are opening their eyes to the truth of what’s really happening in Palestine.

    Massacres have been happening in Palestine since israelis occupated Palestine, but unfortunately not so many people knew about it because of the control they have on the Media. But since the Internet, no truth can be hidden. Its very hard for them to control the Internet like they control the Media, which is very good for us. And using the Internet to publish this kind of articles can help a lot to educate people about the truth.

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