January 29, 2010

Does the name 'Abdelaziz' rattle you?

It did rattle a lot of Obama supporters who came to listen to and to applaud Obama's corporatist policies in a town hall in Tampa. Who would have believed that this name would be so unpopular in Florida? Listen for yourself. Laila Abdelaziz, a Palestinian student at Tampa University, is strongly booed by the audience after merely stating her name and affiliation: audio track. Obama then has to calm the audience down. Mind you, this blatant racism comes from the most "progressive" sector of the U.S. electorate, Obama's politically involved base, people who self-selected by attending this town hall meeting.

Things would have been so much better if she just said her name was Cohen.

Abdelaziz, who had actually volunteered for Obama's campaign, went on and asked a pointed question:
"My question is, um- Last night you spoke in your State of the Union address you spoke of America's support for human rights...Then, why have we not condemned Israel and Egypt's human rights violations against the occupied Palestinian people? And yet we continue supporting them financially with billions of dollars from our tax dollars?" (WMMF)
Good question. You can listen to Obama's reply on the track above, (or the video below, which unfortunately does not include the initial boos). It is not a pearl of wisdom, and as Abdulaziz later told the radio station, he effectively did not answer her.

But I would like to highlight the beginning of Obama flat footed, inarticulate, mendacious (a vibrant democracy? Not even a sick democracy like the U.S. is) and unintelligent answer:
"The Middle East is obviously an issue that has plagued the region for centuries...
Wow! We got used to Obama channeling Bush's policies, but here he is also channeling Bush's torture of the English language. What the hell does this sentence mean?

If I were inclined to deep parsing, I would have said that the President meant exactly what he said, namely, that the trouble with the region is itself. In other words, the region sucks, and has sucked for "centuries". The people there are just, well, the way they are. Clearly, if that's the case, one might solve the problem by taking the Middle East out of "the region", i.e., making the region (i.e., the Middle East) less Middle Eastern (for example, by ethnically cleansing it and putting there a lot of Jews from Brooklyn instead), or at least by imposing on it the oh-so enlightened dominion of Israel and the U.S. Beneath the incoherence there is a clear affirmation of crude Orientalism. Small wonder Obama doesn't mention occupation. From this orientalist perspective, occupation, far from being the problem, is in fact the solution.

Of course, one can be charitable towards Obama and read it as merely total incoherence that comes from having nothing to say after he had abdicated all pretense to pressure Israel into making the mildest of conciliatory gestures.

Bravo Laila Abdelaziz!

(UPDATED)

A couple of readers tell me that I am wrong and the booing at the beginning was because of sports rivalry. Given that, the title and first paragraph are in doubt. The audio is there, so make your own judgment. It's one thing I'd love to be wrong about.


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