Obama on Israel, Palestine and the Future of the Middle East

Senator Obama has some interesting comments on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict that deserve reflection. Here is an excerpt from his trip to the region:

The next day, and the final full day in Israel, we spent finally doing a little bit of sight-seeing and traveling through the old city of Jerusalem. Those of you who have been here know the incredible magic of the city. As the sun rises over 2,000-year old walls – walls built by David, Soloman, the Turkish Empire, we visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where the site of Calvary and Jesus’ tomb is located. Just a stone’s throw away, the Western Wall; across from there you have the magnificent Dome of the Rock, gilded in gold. It gives you a sense of just how much history is here and it reminds us that you have to be humble when you think about the Middle East and what’s possible here.

There are a lot of memories, there’s a lot of history, there are a lot of grudges and bitterness and in some ways it reminds us of how lucky we are as Americans that ironically we don’t have this kind of history. It’s easier for us to forget and move on. It’s much harder for people here who are seeing everyday the roots of their own people and the conflicts that go back generation after generation.

On the other hand, as I was leaving Jerusalem on that final day and looking over the Old City I was reminded of how similar in many ways Palestinians and Jews, Muslims, Christians – how similar all these people were; and that despite differences in language and religion and despite the bitter history of the region it must be possible on some level to have each group recognize the humanity of the other.

We have a window here on how Obama will handle foreign policy as president. There are three vitally important legs on which he stands: 1. humility before the complexity of the region, 2. a faith in the basic similarities of the groups beneath all their differences, a faith in their ability to recognize each other’s humanity and 3. hope and vision.

These are vital building blocks of peace and justice that those of us in conflict resolution globally have seen as the successful ingredients of positive change. It has worked in many other places in the world, but it needs a major third party, a U.S. President to embrace them.

Senator Obama
Senator Obama
© Marc Gopin