Updating JFK In Berlin: “Ich Bin Ein Palestinian”

by James M. WallTomer Applelbaum Ha'aretz

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.

JFK Life not pubBarack 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. 

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.
This entry was posted in Israel, Middle East, Middle East Politics, Netanyahu, Obama. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Updating JFK In Berlin: “Ich Bin Ein Palestinian”

  1. AWAD PAUL SIFRI says:

    If President Barak Hussein Obama enunciates those words, “Ich Bin Ein Palestinian”, he would win over – for America – the entire Arab and Muslim Worlds. Yes, Jim, your observations are right on and this will produce an explosion of love for President Obama and America.
    But, when it comes to America, Israel’s interests come first and foremost, as has been demonstrated with every US President, after American Patriot, President Jimmy Carter.

    The other point concerning Israel’s attempt to pass the bill declaring “Israel as the Nation State of the Jewish People”, as well as the removal of the Arabic language as an official language in Israel, the Palestinians have to, first, declare the Palestinian State, hopefully this month of November.
    After doing so, Palestine should pass a bill that declares that “Historic Palestine is the Nation State of All Palestinian and Arab People”.
    The Palestinian State should also raise a case against Israel and any, and all, countries that allow their citizens to become terrorist-settlers in Arab East Jerusalem, the West Bank, or Gaza.

  2. fred says:

    It would be a great thing now for President Obama to come out strongly in support of total and complete equality for non Jews in Israel/Palestine, and calling on Israel to withdraw from ALL the occupied territories. He has nothing to lose at this point. He doesn’t need the billions of dollars from zionist groups to pay for his campaign. He is no longer at their mercy.

    Still does he have the courage to do this? He has not shown much courage in his presidency to stand up for human rights and against oppression.

  3. I beg to differ with Awad Sifri, no disrespect intended, of course.
    The possibility of a viable, independent Palestinian state is gone. It’s dead.
    As to our President going back to I/P to declare his solidarity with the Palestinian people, I wonder what he would say the next time around.
    The highlight of his first visit there some years ago featured his address to an overflow crowd of mostly young Israelis (and establishment folks), where he begged the Israelis to “put themselves in the same shoes” with the Arab Palestinians in their midst. “Can’t you imagine that they want the same thing you wanted, when you declared your own State?” or words to that effect.
    The older generation does not have that kind of imagination. They are not able to listen to, comprehend or allow for this position. They will have to endure their own civil rights movement!
    As now with the Germans in Europe, in I/P, there will be an advance towards one state, with liberty and justice for ALL its citizens, including the 20% Arab Palestinians who are suffering from second class citizenship (to say nothing about the exclusion of the millions of Palestinians in the Diaspora).
    This is the direction dear Awad Paul Sifri that we are headed in. Most of my Palestinian friends, who started from the position of wanting their own state, are now reverting to the (pre-Oslo) vision of One, Secular, Pluralistic, (democratic) State, a really hard but necessary choice.

  4. AWAD PAUL SIFRI says:

    Thank you, John Kleinheksel, for the important points you raise.
    I agree with you completely.
    I also believe that, due to Israel’s suffocation of the 2-state solution, by saturating East Jerusalem and the West Bank with settlements, the 2-state solution is dead. Murdered by Israel.
    The most logical solution is a ONE STATE that is secular and democratic, in all of HISTORIC PALESTINE, (I/P),and one that includes, both, Palestinians and Jews.
    As a matter of fact, this is precisely what Yasser Arafat called for in the early 1970’s. The Israelis rejected the idea completely.
    “Historic” Palestine that I refer to in my original comment includes all of I/P, i.e., Israel ’48 and Israel ’67 (Israel of 1948 plus the 1967-Occupied Territories).
    To me, the Zionist regime’s intent to declare Israel as, “the Nation State of the Jewish People”, deserves an equally hysterical response, a “symmetrical” equivalent. In other words, Abbas should declare “Historic Palestine” as a Nation State, not only for Palestinians; but rather as a “Nation State for all Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims”.
    This is my ignited response as a “tit-for-tat”, just to demonstrate to the world what Netanyahu’s terrorist junta is actually calling for.
    Thanks again for the opportunity to discuss.

  5. Ah yes, Paul!
    Now you have clarified your remark about declaring ALL of historic I/P a nation for (just) all Palestinians, and Arabs–thus excluding the Jews; just as the Israeli/Jews wish to declare a Jewish State (just) for Jews (NOT to include Arabs, Muslims, Palestinians, etc).
    How symmetrical indeed. And how absurd, by US/American standards of a pluralistic, democratic state.
    Thank you for this discussion. Unfortunately, the Israeli’s just don’t “see” it. They cling to the old Zionist view that what they have created is a homeland for US, for us homeless, persecuted Jews, who can never risk the possibility of being in the minority (because the goy will SURELY destroy us, and can ONLY, ever want to destroy/exterminate us.
    That “we” can live in peace with our neighbors just isn’t in the equation, I have found in my recent visit there. The “aliens” they found when they arrived have implacably become the “terrorists” who themselves, resist their own extermination.
    Under Likud and Bibi, the old (and now completely discredited) Zionist platform is fully exemplified.
    We all are hoping saner heads will prevail. Salaam/Shalom, JRK

  6. AWAD PAUL SIFRI says:

    John, I am afraid that you are missing my point, entirely.
    For clarity, and as mentioned, I am for a One secular, democratic State in Historic Palestine for Palestinians and Jews.
    I was simply saying that, for Abbas to make a symmetrical declaration to Netanyahu’s outrageous (planned) declaration, he should similarly declare that Historic Palestine is a Nation State for all Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims.
    I am sorry if I cannot clarify it more than I have.

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