Arab media has been criticizing President Obama for his speech on Thursday in Jerusalem where he spoke before hundreds of students asking them to push politicians towards the path of peace. An article by Al Quds Al Arabi, a pan-Arab newspaper, reported Obama identified with the suffering of the Palestinian people and emphasized his threats toward Iran and Syria. Specifically the article criticized his warmness to the Israeli public calling him a sycophant (a servile self-seeker who attempts to win favor by flattering influential people.)
Atwan, Editor-in-chief himself, wrote “I have never in my life seen a president who toadies to the Israelis so much and seeks to please them; who gives their achievements and history as much praise as US President Barack Obama. He promises the Palestinians a state and pleads with Israelis to put themselves in their (the Palestinians) place.” The article expresses Arabs’ disappointment stating, “We mistakenly expected that this man, because of the color of his skin and his association with a group that suffered from decades of persecution, the man who spoke with bitterness of racism towards his ancestors in Chicago…we expected something different from him something closer to understanding our nation’s pain under the Zionist occupation, but he disappointed us.” Atwan admitted Obama surprised the Arab world when “he demanded that Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state and entreated with Arabs to normalize relations with Israel, telling those who deny its right to exist that their denial is like denying the earth and the sky… We don’t know why Obama used these words and why he was so shamefully obsequious – Israel is the one who threatens our existence and denying our rights.”
Many other Arab media sources expressed similar views. Al Hayat’s headline pointed out the difference of opinion between the US government and senior Palestinian officials: “Obama is frustrating the Palestinians and fawning over Israelis.” Alarabiya addressed the Syrian angle of the speech: “Obama threatens Hezbollah and Assad from Jerusalem… He (Obama) called on Israelis to consider Hezbollah as a terrorist organization and called on Assad to resign.” Al Jazeera took a softer route, titling their article “Obama calls on Arabs to normalize relations with Israel.”
In his speech Obama said, “Every country that values justice should call Hizbullah what it truly is — a terrorist organization.” This was apparently a dig at the European Union, who declined to put the group on their list of terrorist movements. Hizbullah responded saying, “Obama is a full partner in the enemy’s crimes and is trying to place conditions for Arabs to accept the enemy as a purely Jewish state in the region… Obama spoke as if he worked for the Zionist entity rather than as the most senior official in an independent country.”
Lebanon’s Al Akhbar newspaper’s headline read “Obama calls on Palestinians to recognize the Jewish country … and described Hezbollah as a terror group. Obama obeys Israel’s authority.” The article went on to claim: “The president’s stance is not surprising … he refuses to see the occupation from the ground and chooses instead to come to Ramallah by helicopter. Yet young Palestinians fulfilled their duty in occupied Jerusalem when they shouted out the facts.”
The Arab world has gained technology and freedoms through the media revolution – but that does not necessarily mean they have gained a new outlook. With technology must come development. Social media, blogs, and online articles allow ideas to be spread much quicker than ever before, but it does not make them evolve. In this case, social media allowed President Obama’s ideas to reach a much wider audience than just the Jerusalem students and allowed Arabs to express their opinions of it to the world. However, with that said, while Obama might have made a call to peace – he definitely didn’t make any friends in the Arab media… or possibly in the Arab world….