have found it difficult expressing my emotions in connection with
the inauguration of President Obama. In the face of the jubilation,
particularly but not exclusively among African Americans; in the
face of the hopes and fears; in the face of severe crises across
the USA and the planet; it has been difficult for me to express
this is an exciting and historic moment. Of that, there is little
question. I, like most other African Americans I know, never conceived
that we would see a Black person assume the Presidency. Looking
at the Inauguration ceremony one could not help but remember the
countless demonstrations that have been held on the Washington,
DC Mall, including but not limited to the famous 1963 March on Washington,
that have demanded the expansion of democracy and fought to guarantee
that someone of color would have the right and the opportunity to
assume the Presidency of the United States.
have also been overwhelmed by the excitement and energy that emerged
from the Obama campaign, an energy that I am convinced can be part
of the force that builds a broad progressive movement.
despite all of this, in the background to this historic moment there
is Gaza. No, not just the immediate Gaza crisis—as horrific as
that is—but the on-going oppression of the Palestinian people and
the continuous erosion of their lives and their human rights. The
Gaza crisis which we have watched unfold over the last several months,
and the military action taken by the Israelis most recently with
the vocal and silent support of the USA, hovers like an apparition
over the events in Washington, DC and the elation around the USA,
an apparition that many people seem to ignore.
the USA there is a tendency in mainstream circles, and indeed within
the general public, to draw lines of separation between the domestic
and the international. President Kennedy, for instance, who eventually
made steps towards supporting Civil Rights legislation as well as
signed into effect an executive order permitting federal workers
to unionize, at the same time oversaw near continuous aggressive
actions against Cuba, the Congo, and not to mention intervention
in Laos and Vietnam. Yet Kennedy is viewed as the great “liberal”
in US history as if nothing that he did overseas matters very much,
at least to those of us in the USA.
in inaugurating the 44th President of the USA we face a dilemma.
While President Obama offers proposals for domestic reform, including
jobs, a fight against foreclosures and some form of national healthcare,
we await to see what he will actually do in the realm of foreign
policy. He promises US withdrawal from Iraq, yet redeployment to
Afghanistan. He promises to talk, rather than shoot at, other nations
with which the USA has differences. At the same time, he chooses—and
the timing is very curious—to poke at Venezuelan President Hugo
Chavez who had gone out of his way to extend a hand of friendship
to the United States.
then there is Gaza. US complicity in these atrocities will never
be forgotten by the people outside of the USA; nor should it be.
US weapons are being used to take the lives of Palestinians. The
USA has remained silent when civilians, including installations
of the United Nations, have been attacked by the Israelis. And
in this, President Obama remained silent, supposedly because there
can only be one president at a time, and he did not wish to interfere
with the actions of then President Bush.
here we are, and I find that there are few people with whom I can
express my feelings, so I have chosen to express them with you.
Yes, I am as excited as the next person about this moment in time.
I wish the new President of the USA the best of luck. And I will
support President Obama and his program of change when it advances
the interests of the people of the USA and the world. But my reservations
come to the surface in this way: now that he is President of the
United States, we need him to dramatically alter the relationship
of the USA to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. No US weapons;
no US economic support to a criminal regime that is violating one
international convention and resolution after another.
this is to be a period of change that we can believe in, it must
be change that we can see. Palestinians must be free and they must
have our support. In this regard we need a form of courage and
leadership from the 44th President of the United States unlike anything
that we have seen in recent times.
Executive Editor, Bill Fletcher, Jr., is a Senior Scholar with the
Institute for Policy Studies,
the immediate past president of TransAfrica
Forum and co-author of, Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path
toward Social Justice
(University of California Press), which examines the crisis of organized
labor in the USA. Click here
to contact Mr. Fletcher.