Monday, January 12, 2009

Why is Obama silent?

Today's Zaman interviewed an expert in international relations, Mr Gökhan Bacık, about Turkey's role in the Israel-Hamas issue. The article, Academic Bacık says Turkey fills vacuum in Middle East, is interesting although not everything the professor says is really original. But what I think he gives the most lucid answer about, is the question about Obama's silence on the Gaza war. Here it goes:

Why is US President-elect Barack Obama keeping quiet?

It is much better for Obama to be silent rather than to speak out regarding what is happening in Gaza. An American president would not talk against Israel. But his silence is as symbolic as his speech. Obama’s silence at least shows a hesitancy to speak.

But the world expects something from him.

People around the world expect something different from him. Right or wrong, people look at Obama’s personality, name, background, color and rhetoric and expect a different approach. He must have realized that expectation as well. If he says, “Israel has a right to defend itself,” then his campaign balloon with all of its promises would burst. He may become another Bush. On the other hand, Obama’s Cabinet choices include quite pro-Israeli names. And it’s a dream to expect anything anti-Israeli from the Obama administration. However, expectations from his leadership in such countries as Indonesia, Iraq and Egypt have produced some global public pressure on Obama and that’s why he is silent. Moreover, an American president cannot convince the Israeli leadership by speaking on television. But by using his operational tools, he can give messages to the Israeli elite; he can emphasize the role of international organizations.

Another part of the interview that I appreciated, concerns what he calls "the Golden Age of Judaism":

You are talking about “convincing Israel.” When we think about this we see that Israel started the raids of its own initiative and continues them on its own terms and that nobody is able to stop it. Where does this power come from?

There was a historical period known as the “Golden Age of Islam.” Now we are in the Golden Age of Judaism. Israel has obtained this power by hard work. Einstein did not receive the Nobel Prize by favoritism. In many scientific disciplines, in media, politics and finance, Jewish people have considerable power. And the ones who have this power can formulate the truth. If a country has the power to stop the United States, to limit the United Nations and to influence the European Union, we need to understand how this happens. Israel’s intellectual and ideological influence is comprised of material and intellectual qualities. If you are going to face up to it, you need to have compatible intellectual and material powers to do it.

The rest of the interview concerns mainly Turkey's role in the Middle East, and how it is the only country with enough credibility to mediate between the parts. If you are interested in the issue, just click here.

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