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Obama's Silence on Gaza is Deafening

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Barack Obama must be given a lot of credit for his remarkable ascent to power, particularly in terms of the dignified way in which he did it. But there is a dark side to his rise to the Presidency, one progressives and liberals do not like to acknowledge.

Barack Obama had to do two things to persuade the powers that be that he was a viable candidate for President. The first was to assure the financial community that he would commit to a centrist economic platform, and the second was to sell out the Palestinians immediately and jump in bed with AIPAC.

Obama did both, and the consequences will be felt immediately. Economically, Obama has not surrounded himself with the type of people committed to real change. The enormous financial crisis has given him more room to move, but he won't do anything dramatic (like hold Wall St to account, or provide a meaningful bailout to the average American). The results during his Presidency will mean extraordinary pain for the middle classes and poor, while the burden is shifted from those who caused it. It would no doubt be worse under a Republican, but it will not be pleasant.

With the latest Israeli assault on the Gaza strip, Obama's wholesale sellout of the Palestinian people is being felt even more acutely. His unique position to speak up for a bitterly oppressed people has been wasted in the name of political convenience.

Western responses to the massacre has been pathetic to say the least. The U.S, U.K and European Union have done little to stop the Israelis pounding Gaza with it's hi tech weaponry, with the Bush Administration laying the blame squarely on Palestinians. "The United States strongly condemns the repeated rocket and mortar attacks against Israel and holds Hamas responsible for breaking the cease-fire and for the renewal of violence in Gaza," said Condoleezza Rice. "The cease-fire should be restored immediately." Gordon Brown merely asked the Israelis to 'Show restraint'.

And Obama's response? A half hearted critique of Hamas through former campaign manager David Axelrod on CBS, where Obama's allegiance to Israel was reiterated and belief that Israel has the right to respond how it likes to Palestinian attacks.

One of the writers on my site, Hugo Foster has written a brilliant analysis of the Israeli action in the Gaza strip, explaining why the incursion is basically counterproductive and unnecessarily violent:

Publicly, Israel has stated it wants to create a new security environment, to deliver the 'knockout blow' that will definitively destroy Hamas' rocket-launching capability. To be sure, Hamas' military infrastructure has been truly battered in the past couple of days. Yet toppling Hamas' rule in Gaza is just not feasible. Logistically it would require precisely the sort of costly ground fighting that the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) have tried to avoid since they withdrew from the territory in 2005. And given the close proximity of military and civilian infrastructure in Gaza, it would inflict a level of human damage (beyond the 56 civilian lives already lost) that would eventually weaken tacit international support for Israel's 'right to self-defence', as happened belatedly in Lebanon two years ago.

The brash move by Israel was clearly taken due to the economic turmoil in the West. While we concern ourselves with job cuts, food shortages and plummeting house prices, Israel has taken brutal measures that even the most hawkish U.S politicians would have tried to avert.  

Obama has massive political capital, and could have injected himself into the crisis before it happened. He did so during the beginning of the economic meltdown, and could have lent his credibility to a situation that has spiralled dangerously out of control. Obama has stated that 'There is only one President at a time', abdicating responsibility and essentially passing the buck.

Obama has pointed out the Qassan rockets Hamas has been firing into Israeli towns over recent months, but has failed to mention the illegal sanctions Israel has placed on Gazans, turning the already squalid land into a virtual prison of starvation and targeted assassinations. 

The massacre over the past few days will enrage Palestinians further, strengthen Hamas, and solidify hatred towards Israel and the United States in the Arab world. If Obama wants meaningful change in the Middle East, he must start speaking up. For now, his silence is deafening.

Ben Cohen is the Editor of The Daily Banter.com