In a visit to the State Department Thursday, President Obama made his first substantive comments on the Middle East conflict since Israel’s attack on Gaza. Obama first mentioned his commitment to Israel’s security, without affirming his commitment to Palestinian security. He condemned Palestinian rocket attacks on southern Israeli towns, but didn’t criticize the U.S.-backed Israeli bombings of densely-populated Gaza. But in a departure from the Bush administration, Obama acknowledged Palestinian suffering and said Gaza’s borders should be opened to aid. We speak with MIT professor, Noam Chomsky.
President Obama has made his first first substantive remarks on the crisis in Gaza since being elected. Obama was speaking at the state department flanked by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as he named two key envoys: Retired Senate majority leader George Mitchell, who negotiated a lasting agreement in Northern Ireland, will be Middle East envoy. And Richard Holbrook, who brokered a deal in the Balkans in the mid-90s, will be envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In his remarks, Obama backed Israel"s three week attack on Gaza as a defensive move against Hamas rocket fire but also said he was deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation for Palestinians in Gaza. The twenty-two-day assault killed more than 1,400 Palestinians, most of them civilians, at least a third children. More than 5,500 were injured. 13 Israelis were killed over the same period, 10 of them soldiers, four by friendly fire.
A Hamas spokesperson told Al Jazeera television Obama’s position toward the Palestinians does not represent change. Osama Hamdan said, “I think this is an unfortunate start for President Obama in the region and the Middle East issue. And it looks like the next four years, if it continues with the same tone, will be a total failure.” For more we are joined on the telephone by Noam Chomsky, a professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for over a half-century, he has written over a hundred books, including “Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy.”
Noam Chomsky, a professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for over a half-century and written over a hundred books.
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