The Guardian columnist Jonathan Steele today looks at how hopes placed in President Obama in the Middle East have crumbled in just over a year since the US President made his impassioned Cairo speech in June 2009.
No serious pressure has been placed on Israel to dismantle its illegal Jewish settlements on Palestinian land and Obama refused to even criticise the killing of nine aid activists on the Gaza bound flotilla in May 2010. What happened?
Steele says that the problem lies with a generally uncritical US media which rarely calls on the US President to stand up to Israel and its well-funded and well-organised lobby.
‘It is easy to blame Obama, as though he alone had the power to crack down on Israel’s political elite. It is easy, too, to blame the American Israel Public Affairs Committee for its lobbying against critical US politicians. Just as important is the pressure that pro-Israel campaigners put on the mainstream US media. They warn people off the very word Zionist as though only antisemites use it and demand Israel be treated as a special country whose politics deserve more sympathy than others.
‘In fact US publishers, editors, and reporters carry the biggest responsibility for the rotten state of US policy in the Middle East. The pro-Israel lobbies are powerful and Obama weak mainly because Americans rarely get an alternative view. On the rare occasions when Obama criticises the Israeli government, newspaper editorials and talk show hosts sometimes support him. How often do they condemn him on the more frequent occasions when he fails to criticise it?
‘It would be nice if Obama stuck his neck out, but he needs a radical media to start a real debate. The sea-change in US attitudes that the Middle East so urgently needs cannot come from the White House alone.’