by James M. Wall
Bethlehem, Palestine, was once a small village where Jesus was born. Today, it is a city surrounded by what is essentially a 30-foot high concrete prison wall.
In less than two weeks, Christians around the world will once again celebrate only half of the scene in the painting above. They will sing, clap and enjoy seeing their children dressed like the shepherds shown above in the work by British graffiti artist Banksy.
This Christmas, few churches and few clergy leaders, will focus on the wall in Banksy’s prophetic vision because it shouts into Bethlehem’s quiet night what President Obama’s newly-appointed ISIS czar, Rob Malley, said in a different, but highly relevant context, this week in a New York conference:
“‘resolving the Israel Palestine conflict is necessary to defeating Islamist extremists’ because [ISIS] ‘extremists refer constantly to the situation of Palestinians'”.
Malley, now the senior advisor to Obama “for the Counter-ISIL Campaign in Iraq and Syria” and White House Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, told the conference, co-sponsored by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz and the New Israel Fund:
“ISIS would lose a recruiting tool if the matter were resolved. And the failure to resolve the conflict makes it ‘very difficult’ to get ‘the kind of open cooperation that we really need to get changes on the ground'”.
Who is this man who states the truth with such clarity?
As a start, it helps to know that he is a man intensely disliked by the government of Israel and Israel’s minions in the U.S.
NBC News reported his latest appointment as “controversial”, the media code word for “that with which Israel is not pleased”.
Under the headline on her December 1 report that described Malley as “Obama’s New ISIS Czar Trusted Controversial Pick”, NBC’s Elizabeth Chuck reported:
“President Obama has a new weapon in the fight against terror: a longtime security adviser he has promoted to be his new ISIS czar. National Security Adviser Susan Rice refers to Rob Malley as one of her ‘most trusted advisers’ and ‘one of our country’s most respected experts on the Middle East’.”
Chuck traces Malley’s career in the White House which “started under the Clinton administration, first as executive assistant to the national security adviser in 1996 and then as Special Assistant to the President for Arab-Israeli Affairs”.
After his Clinton assignment, Malley moved to the respected non-profit International Crisis Group to serve as Middle East and North Africa program director, a role he kept until 2014 when he came to the Obama White House.
Alarmed over Malley’s friendship with Obama since Harvard days, the U.S.Israeli minions went into action. NBC’s Chuck recalls, in a paragraph inevitable in any mainline Malley story:
“He ran into his first firestorm in 2001 when he co-wrote an article about a Camp David summit on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, which had ended in failure the year prior. In the article, Malley said it was unfair to blame only Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat — who most observers argued was the reason the talks fell apart — and pushed for ‘a more nuanced and realistic’ analysis showing Israeli leader Ehud Barak was partially responsible, too.”
Chuck continues with the obligatory “right-wing critics” meme by saying these “critics” (hard-line Israeli backers) “pounced on him”, claiming that an anti-Israeli, pro-Palestinian bias was evident in much of his writing. Some even went so far as to write he was “influenced by his father, Simon Malley, a well-known journalist born in Egypt who had ties to the Egyptian government.”
Obama was fully aware that to further involve Malley in his Middle East policies would set off the “critics”. Nevertheless, he went forward with the appointment, knowing that the link between ISIS and the brutal military occupation of Palestinian would emerge.
Earlier this year, the “critics” screamed loudly when in March, Obama elevated Malley to be his new Middle East National Security chief.
That appointment came three days after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress. I began a posting for Wall Writings at the time:
“President Barack Obama delivered a stinging response to the latest in a series of Netanyahu diplomatic insults. The President chose Robert Malley (right) as Special Assistant to the President and White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf Region.
Special Assistant Malley will begin his new assignment April 6. The news of the Malley promotion raised hardly a ripple in U.S. mainstream and cable news media, currently obsessing over Hillary Clinton’s email servers.
Pro-Israel media outlets, however, rushed to sound the alarm. The word went out to Israel’s staunch U.S. backers, ‘Obama has struck back with the dangerous Malley’.”
Earlier, in a posting February 2, 2014, one of the most avid U.S. Israel media backers, Pamela Geller, warned her right-wing blog followers (note the false adjectival “Hamas adviser”):
“President Obama has named Hamas adviser Robert O. Malley the senior director at the National Security Council (NSC). You may recall that Malley was foreign policy adviser to then-presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2007, and was fired from his campaign team in 2008 because of his notorious ties to Hamas, the PLO and other jihadist, anti-Israel groups.
“Atlas readers are long familiar with this subversive jihad operative. As early as 2007 and 2008 (and repeatedly throughout the campaign and in my book), I warned Atlas readers of the troubling relationship between Robert O. Malley and Barack Hussein Obama. Robert Malley told the NY Times that he had regularly been in contact with Hamas, which is designated a terrorist organisation by the State Department.”
Malley was a journalist at the time, interviewing any source he could find to understand the internal dynamics of Hamas.
That is what journalists do, as it appears our mainline media is “forbidden” to do on this issue by its current ideological masters.
Republican candidates are currently dominating the space and bandwidth of those media while they seek to outdo one another in bragging about how vicious they would be in dealing with ISIS.
Rob Malley’s linkage of the growing power of ISIS to Israel’s unrestrained occupation and brutality to Palestinians, would be a much wiser course for the candidates to consider.
It is not what our next president will do to treat the cancer that is ISIS; It is what she or he plans to do to identify and eradicate the cause and steady growth of that cancer.
By appointing Rob Malley to the ISIS job, President Obama has at least hinted that he knows what needs to be done.
The question looms in today’s increasingly dark political climate, can Obama make any progress in his final months in office?
In the closing scene of John Osborne’s 1961 play, Luther, with Albert Finney in the title role, the Protestant reformer asks a similar question to his new-born son.
Luther answers himself in a response that fits our current moment:
“Let’s hope so, let’s just hope so”.