President Barack Obama was at his eloquent best when he addressed the United Nations General Assembly this week.
Until, that is, he inserted a jarring note that was anything but eloquent. It sounded, in fact, like a left over paragraph from Obama's last speech to AIPAC.
Note the following contrast between the President's explanation of why the United States does not ban even ugly and demeaning speech like that which appeared in the recent movie trailer that blasphemed the Prophet Muhammed.
"Americans have fought and died around the globe to protect the right of all people to express their views -- even views that we disagree with. We do so not because we support hateful speech, but because our Founders understood that without such protections, the capacity of each individual to express their own views, and practice their own faith, may be threatened."
Near the end of his speech, the President shifted both his tone and content. No longer did he wish to defend free speech; it was time to move from his statesman mode to that of a politician running for reelection, by adding an obligatory bow of obeisance to Zionism.
"Among Israelis and Palestinians, the future must not belong to those who turn their backs on the prospect of peace. Let us leave behind those who thrive on conflict, and those who reject the right of Israel to exist. The road is hard but the destination is clear -- a secure, Jewish state of Israel; and an independent, prosperous Palestine."
As a statesman, Obama could have made a bold move and expanded Israel's "right to exist" to include the "right to exist" of a new "independent, prosperous" state of Palestine. It did not happen.
Obama's "right to practice free speech" did not embrace the citizens of Palestinian communities like Beit Ommar (at left), a town of 17,000, located in the Hebron governate of the West Bank.
For the past three years non-violent Palestinian protests, in and around Beit Ommar, have been conducted against Jewish settlements, built, illegally, on Palestinian land.
Beit Ommar, largely unknown in the United States, has found supporters in the European Union. This activism distresses Israel's leaders, who, in reprisal, have targeted communities like Beit Ommar. As is its custom, the Israeli occupying forces have imprisoned protesters and, at times, have focused on large families with young and teen-age children.
During this week, in which Obama spoke to the UN of "the right to practice free speech," two of those Beit Ommar families received intense Israeli attention:
The Palestine Solidarity Project (PSP) reported:
"On Monday 24th of September two Beit Ommar residents, Mohammed Abu Hashem (16) (see poster here) and Tarik Abu Maria (18), were arrested in a night raid by the Israeli occupation forces.
"The occupation forces accused Mohammed of using a sling shot and of participating in peaceful demonstrations, therefore they wanted to bring him to Gush Ezion for interrogation. The officers claimed they have pictures of him in both situations.