When President John F. Kennedy told the world on June 26, 1963. “Ich bin ein Berliner”, he was asserting his solidarity with Berliners separated by a wall.
Thomas Putnam, director of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, wrote in the Atlantic blog:
“Other than “ask not”, [“Ich ein bin Berliner”] were the most-famous words [Kennedy] ever spoke. They drew the world’s attention to what he considered the hottest spot in the Cold War.”
Barack Obama, the current successor to John F. Kennedy, has not stepped forward to update JFK by saying, “Ich bin ein Palestinian.“
Kennedy’s personal solidarity with walled-in Berliners, Putnam writes, “endures because of the pairing of the man and the moment. John F. Kennedy’s defense of democracy and self-government stand out as a high point of his presidency”.
After it was built in 1961, the Berlin Wall became a world wide example of the futility of dictatorial repression, The wall finally fell on November 11, 1989, 26 years after Kennedy’s speech. A full text of the speech is available on line.
This past November 11 was the 25th anniversary of the fall of the wall. On that significant anniversary, speaking before a large Berlin crowd, German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared that the fall of the Berlin Wall was “an inspiration for oppressed people everywhere”.
Finnian Cunningham points out a notable omission in Merkel’s speech:
“An obvious and strange omission from Merkel’s list of oppressed people were those in the Occupied Palestinian territories who live in the shadow of the Israeli concrete separation wall. This barrier, which violates international law, is taller and longer by hundreds of kilometres than the Berlin Wall ever was.”
U.S. President Barack Obama is guilty of the same omission as German Chancellor Merkel.
Barack Obama has two more years in which to find his “pairing of the man and the moment”. His presidency has been badly marred by his unwillingness to denounce the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and people.
The inhumane blot of the occupation cries out for Obama action.
At the outset of Obama’s final two years as president, Israel not only continue to enforce the occupation, but every day it moves even further into internal actions affecting Palestinians that are racist to the core.
In the most recent example, on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that “he would push forward a draft law specifying that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people”. A vote on this draft law was scheduled for a vote at the Ministerial Committee on Legislation, later on Sunday.
Netanyahu told ministers at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, “The justice system, which recognizes the democratic nature of Israel, will also have to recognize its nature as the national state of the Jewish people:
“We will advance the nation state law today, and while it will go through many changes, at the end of the day we will be able to make clear that Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people, along with a guarantee of equal rights for all of its citizens.”
Ha’aretz reports that
“The current iteration of the bill — Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People — is sponsored by coalition whip MK Zeev Elkin (Likud), and is considered the most extreme of a series of similar legislative proposals that have been raised this year.
In addition to giving Israel’s nation-state status for the Jewish people the force of constitutional law, it specifies that Jewish law is to be a source and “inspiration” for new legislation and judicial rulings.”
One previously dropped clause in the proposed draft, now restored to the draft, declares “the Arabic language would no longer be an official language of the state”. Instead Arabic would enjoy “special status,” whatever that could possibly mean.
Many Knesset members point out that there is little likelihood of the bill ever passing in its present form. Ha’aretz explains the process, which sounds suspiciously like the process followed by the U.S. Congress.
“The cabinet ministers of the right have discovered that it is possible to kill two birds with one stone,” said one cabinet minister who is a member of the ministerial committee. He was speaking to Haaretz on condition of anonymity.
“Both to support a controversial proposal in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, and also to make sure one of the moderate ministers later appeals it.
That is how they win points with their voters, while knowing there is a safety net” that will prevent such proposals from being passed into law in the end,” he said.
Livni and Finance Minister Yair Lapid have both said in the past that they would block the current version of the bill from advancing.”
In the final analysis, it does not really matter if the law passes. Just by having the bill introduced and debated, the right wing of the Knesset makes its point, which is, that Israel is not a democracy; it is a Jewish state that represses non-Jews.
President Obama knows this and he must also know that to declare his solidarity with the Palestinian people living under such repression, his statement, “Ich bin ein Palestinian”, would be the moment for which his presidency will be remembered.
The photo in this posting of Benjamin Netanyahu is from Ha’aretz. It was taken by Tomer Applebaum.
The picture of President Kennedy overlooking the Berlin Wall in November, 1963, is from the Atlantic. It is an Associated Press picture.