June 7th, 2010
09:09 AM ET

For Arabs wooed by Obama's Cairo speech, flotilla response frustrating

After President Obama's speech in Cairo last year, Arabs were hopeful about the new President, selling shirts and celebrating him. Now, things are a bit different.

A lot has changed since the symbolic Cairo speech President Barack Obama dedicated to Muslims exactly a year ago.

Back then, I wrote a story headline "Middle East eagerly awaits Obama with curiosity and cautious optimism."

Today, it is safe to say that the curiosity has turned into skepticism and the cautious optimism has been replaced by flat-out pessimism. Headlines such as this one: "Muslim praise for Obama dries up a year after Cairo speech" are commonplace for the media who cared to remember the speech on its first anniversary. But, most Arab media didn't give the anniversary any coverage or even mention.

The Gaza flotilla disaster couldn't have come at a worse time for Obama's image among Muslims and Arabs. After all, 9 Turks died, when Israel stormed a flotilla of ships carrying aid to Gaza in an attempt to break a 3-year-old Israeli blockade.

Israel: Seized aid ship's passengers being deported | Navy seizes aid boat headed for Gaza

The Muslim world turned to the White House hoping for a stand that mirrors President Obama's promises to the Muslim world.

"The White House is trying to understand the circumstances of what happened," is what they heard.

Video: Obama: Israel has "legitimate" concern

Comparing this reaction and U.S. efforts to block a U.N. resolution against Israel and how other countries and nations around the world responded to the Israeli raid on the flotilla, many Arabs and Muslims found it easy to draw the conclusion that Obama's Muslim love fest is over.

Turkey says Israel can't 'face the facts' on Gaza raid | Kucinich wants Obama to 'call Israel to an accounting'

To know how Arabs feel about the Gaza flotilla attack, all you have to do is cruise through their various media, print and broadcast as well as online. There is no shortage of articles, cartoons and opinions all depicting Israel as a giant menace that always acts above the law, kills, maims and blockades the Palestinians without a shred of remorse or concern about any repercussions. In political cartoons across the region, Israel is portrayed as a boat-swallowing shark, a careless dolphin killer and an unrelenting bull defying international condemnation.

In Oman, Al-Watan newspaper carried this headline: "Israeli crime shakes the world's consciousness, and the victims are aid ambassadors from 36 nations."

The Sultanate of Oman, like most Arab nations, condemned the attack and demanded an immediate end to the Gaza siege. One editorial cartoon in the paper shows Israel controlling life support on a Gaza under siege.

Qatar's The Nation newspaper also had a scathing reaction to the attack and several political cartoons expressing how most Arabs feel about the flotilla attack and Israel's role in it. This one equates the Jewish state to "Terror State" and one of them, is entitled "the latest Israeli horror movie."

Moderate voices are calling on Arabs to seize the opportunity created by last week's flotilla confrontation.

Prominent columnist Diana Moukalled contends the incident has created international momentum in favor of the Palestinian plight in Gaza.

"The diverse responses from the West were neither weak nor lenient despite the obvious reluctant position adopted by the Security Council and the White House," she said in her weekly column in Asharq Alawsat.

In order for an equal battle with Israel, we must not get dragged into a game of bloodshed," she added.

Instead she suggests taking advantage of the limelight, saying, "Israel has lost the flotilla battle so can we take advantage of that?"

Others also have called for calm and moderation in approach and response. The flotilla tragedy certainly united Arabs in many ways. It especially solidified and brought to the surface their animosity towards Israel and highlighted their distrust of the United States while casting a shadow on President Obama's intentions towards Arabs and Muslims.

Those who were moved when they heard President Obama address Muslims directly and hoped for a better tomorrow, are now disappointed, to say the least. They watched other leaders, including some of Israel's staunchest allies, react to a tragedy very close to their heart, but didn't hear from the man who traveled all the way to Cairo last year to talk to them and win their hearts and minds.

Obama was already facing a challenge with the people - not the leaders - of the Arab world. The majority of Arabs were waiting to see if he will come through on his promises to bridge the gap and promote understanding and mutual respect between East and West.

Post-flotilla he finds himself with a tarnished image among those who trusted him and believed he might bring positive change. The intelligentsia that cheered him on last year sent him messages this week to his Twitter account reminding him of his Nobel Peace Prize and urging him to take a tough stance on Israel. With no clear answer coming back to them, Obama might find it much harder to restore the shaky trust he was able to build through his Cairo speech.

soundoff (84 Responses)
  1. Mistress

    Let the games begin.

    June 7, 2010 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
  2. Essie Javaheri

    Intriguing article, full of facts; very nice. Flottila came about some 50 years late but like they say, late is better than never. On Obama's image; well, he said right from the beginning that he has a lot on his plate and I always say ' When you have too much on your plate chances are you won’t get a good taste of what you’re having!’.

    June 7, 2010 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
  3. katie

    Obama is a Muslim. Not American thinking

    June 7, 2010 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Tom from LA

      Katie, you're an idiot. Not American thinking.

      June 7, 2010 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • mustafa

      I am not agree with you. if you followed his speech on tv, he looks like same as others prisendt. there is a little diffrent is he is black

      June 8, 2010 at 5:22 am | Report abuse |
  4. Josh

    Katie you are jewish. Not American Thinking

    June 7, 2010 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      So what if she is Jewish mr bigot?

      June 7, 2010 at 11:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Alex: So what if he/she is Jewish mr bigot?

      June 8, 2010 at 2:38 am | Report abuse |
  5. katie

    Josh you are a martian. Not AMerican thinking

    June 7, 2010 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Goanri

    The Kurds are also Muslims, are not they? So why Turkey kills them? Is the blood of the Kurds less red than the blood of the so called Balestinians? I read in the news that the same day the Turkish mercenaries on the Maramara were killed, The Kurds attacked a Turkish navy ship. Is not this an act of celestial justice?

    June 7, 2010 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • kathy

      Talk about not knowing what is going on – what the hell do the Kurds have to do w/this latest continuing flouting of justice by Israel? The kurds love Israel; they're not Arabs, why should they care or get into this? And – You are very clear in your bias against the Palestinians and the Arab Middle East. Why don't you try reading history for a change, you rotten jerk?? The long, sad history of the Arab Middle East caused by Europeans from waaay back, not just since 1948 when the US practically "created" Israel from the land Palestinians have lived on for more than 1200 years. (Of course it created it with the very great help of Britain & France and all the other stooges of the U.S.).

      The deck has been stacked against the Arab Middle East for hundreds of years, not just since 1948 when "Israel" was created. And their homes are being continuously demolished due to the injustice of the U.S. Why – well Israel does anything it wants and the US goes along w/everything and every act they do. Kill innocent civilians and people from other lands who try to help Gaza (which Israel destroyed) recently – sure it's OK – it's Israel The U.S. proudly says!

      You are so un-knowledgeable about the situation and its history that it's disgusting. As long as the U.S. goes along with every vile act Israel does (and as it has always done), it denigrates its image. Obama is just continuing cheney-bush's vile directions. He's no different; and I never thought he would be. He's nothing but a bum who made every promise in the book to get elected – and broke every one of them. You must be very glad...you anti-Arab/Palestinian jerk. You certainly are as bad as the Israeli killers who will continue killing & lying – certain that the U.S. will do nothing against them. And the stopping of innocent civilians on an aid ship and the killing of nine of them – this is one of the worst crimes they've done; they have topped themselves this time.

      June 7, 2010 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |

      great point we need to flood the kurds with weapons and aid and rockets and see how sympathetic the turks are

      June 8, 2010 at 2:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Anderson

      Hmm..so you are outraged when Israeli commandos defend themselves and shoot to kill. But when the Arabs tried to exterminate the Jews in 48,67,and 73 where was the oturage? The Israelis succeeded in nationahood because they are open about their shortcomings and dont consume themselves with propaganda. When they made a mistake in Yom Kippur, they quickly modified their tactics. Stuff the turks! they massacred Armenians, Greeks and Kurds by the thousands. I come from a majority Muslim country that is a so-called democracy (kleptocracy in reality) and never was I treated as an equal because I am not Muslim!!!

      June 8, 2010 at 4:42 am | Report abuse |
    • mustafa

      We never genocide our citizen. we live peacuful in our country with turkish, kurdish and others. if you seach and look at the docs for pkk, you can see pkk is a terörist and not defend the kurdish. also their guns provided israel and usa.
      please check on the net..
      i was a commander in turkish army and also two persons of my friends were killed by pkk and they were orginally kurdish.!!!!

      June 8, 2010 at 5:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Xstrato

      Yeah try to make your terrorist attacks look legal. Thats the problem of you guys, you have zero IQ

      June 8, 2010 at 6:25 am | Report abuse |
  7. nookly23

    I am not sure what people wanted out of Obama on this one. He should not shoot off his mouth without knowing the facts. It is a bad habit of his that I hope he corrects. The Arab nation is mad because it involves Israel, pretty simple. Many of these nations do not want other nations to look at the entire picture but simply side with them. These same nations are also guilty of the same crimes they claim Israel is guilty of. Get the facts, then comment. Most important, know the whole story and get to the truth.

    June 7, 2010 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  8. damiao

    Obama is the president he is not a religious. http://www.englishtips-self-taught.blgospot.com

    June 7, 2010 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jim

    Obama can say nothing but the obvious–Israel has a right to defend itself against terrorism and make sure no missiles or weapons are brought in under the guise of humanitarian effort. You can't expect a country like Israel to let any ship come through without inspection knowing that Iran wants to use Gaza as a port to harm Israel. It's obvious that Palestine doesn't want peace and only wants to annihilate Israel, therefore the blockade of weapons but not the blockade of supplies and food. So simple, weapons out, food and supplies in after inspection. Hard to understand how the Mideast countries sees this situation through the lens of such hatred for Israel when the fact is that Israel cannot allow any enemy bring weapons into Gaza–plain and simple!

    June 7, 2010 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  10. fuzislippers

    So let me get this straight, in order for America to be "accepted" by the Muslim world, we have to agree with them that Israel should be obliterated "off the map and out of the pages of history"? That Jews should all be slaughtered? Um, no thanks, I'm okay with Muslims hating me if winning their "favor" means condoning (implicitly or explicitly) the genocide of an entire people. I can't understand why anyone would even have to ponder something like that. Gee, kill millions of people . . . or try to help them avoid being brutally slaughtered. It's a no-brainer. Or it should be.

    And to the intolerant racist who implied, rudely, that Jewish people are not "American thinking": please learn a thing or two about Islam and about Sharia, then tell me again how Muslims are "American thinking" as you imply by your response to Katie. Look at Israel's economy, government, culture, and society and compare that with (say) Iran's. Or Turkey's as it's become more and more Islamist. While neither Israel nor Iran or Turkey can be usefully compared ot America, it's quite clear with which we have the most in common, and we all know that America has long supported Israel . . . and long will, especially once we get this Jew-hating clown out of the White House in 2012. Antisemitism is every bit as ugly as any other form of bigotry and racism. Shame on you all.

    June 7, 2010 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rima

      I dont have time to go in details. I am muslim and proud of it. You dont know what it means shariaa so go educate your self before talking.
      most muslims accept two states living side by side. As for the isaraeli economy, dont you know dum ass that they get $13 million a day from the United States????
      you raciste ignorante , asses like you who creates these wars and civilians killing on both sides.
      look what are the origins of the Z in your name , it reminds me of something you know what I mean. Stupid

      June 8, 2010 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Chris

    Turkey had been, until the not to distant past, a secular muslim nation. When the latest party came to power that all changed. The military kept things that way because they knew that the move to a radical state would cause great harm to the nation of Turkey. They sure were not wrong.

    They have become yet one more islamist, country that finds it comforting to spew hate, right up there with the best of them.

    I guess everyone forgets some of the last series of "aid" ships that were stopped. Chocked full of weapons of all types. It is much more convenient to pretend that another muslim country would never do such a thing.

    This was never about aid. If it had been, then the ships would have docked either in Israel, or Egypt for inspection and then the aid allowed in by truck. This was about creating a confrontation with one ship that had people that had declared themselves "martyrs" before they had even left the docks for the trip. Funny it was only the one ship with those nice peaceful people on board that fought, and died, non of the other ships had any sort of violence at all.

    That shows the lies that are printed and shared the world over that Israel was just looking to kill muslims. Israel, had planned to do nothing of the sort and all involved know it.

    Next up Iran, that pillar of human rights, is said to be contemplating sending ships to "run the blockade." Again, nothing to do with aid, and if Israel were to let anything that comes from Iran to pass into Gaza, they may as well just all lay down to die.

    When the muslim world stops wanting to kill everyone that is not muslim, then maybe some peace can come to the world. Short of that, I only see war, terrorism and death – from the religion of peace.

    June 7, 2010 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Behang

      Hey Block-headed dumb you have all the Zeroes of the world, thats all...

      June 9, 2010 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Steve

    Use your imagination for a moment and put yourself in the position of the Palestinians in Gaza. Your land has been taken from you by force and you are forced to live in a ghetto surrounded by walls and blockades. No help or aid can come to you without the permisison of the people who took your land. You are living entirely at their mercy without any control over your own life. How would you feel? Would you be angry? Can understand why the Palestinians are angry?. They have every right to be! No, I don't condone terrorists who kill innocent people. That can never be justified. However, I understand how injustice fuels the desire for revenge. There was a Jewish carpenter named Jesus who understood that fairness has a powerful effect on people. If Israel wants to stop terrorism, then it should do unto the Palestinians what it wants done unto them.

    June 7, 2010 at 9:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chiane

      Steve I am so glad you wrote this...so many of us sit back in our cozy lives and have no clue what is happening to other people...we can not understand the nightmares that they live and they don't care to know the truth...it is really sad...but I am not one of those people and I appreciate your thoughts...

      June 7, 2010 at 11:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      Firstly, you, along with alot of other ignorant folk, state Jews and Israelis as one in the same. As if there isn't/wasn't a Jewish presence accross the middle east. Over 1 million Jews have been kicked out o their homes accross the middle east, including Palestinian areas, and yet you make absolutly no mention of that. The Palestinians in Gaza are in the situation they are in for a reason. Hamas is at war with Israel. Period. Israel sends millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians of Gaza every year, yet you make no mention of this either. You and all your other hypocritical and ignorant freinds can keep yapping, but it doesn't make you right!

      June 7, 2010 at 11:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Steve, the Palestinians in Gaza left in 1948 from the Jewish State under the Separation Plan (British) because their Muslim leaders TOLD them to, and promised to slaughter every last Jew and wash the land of Palestine clean from the filthy blood of the Jews. So they picked up and left. You ask, why are they STILL refugees? Well, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon all refused to give them citizenship. Funny though, 86% of Jordanians are "Palestinians". Anyway, those who fled in 1948 were not removed from their land, they left of their own free will. In an act of aggression coupled with that of EIGHT Arab/Muslim nations (Sudan joined in and not all Sudanese are Arabs as we learn in Darfur).
      So don't misrepresent the facts, please. People who willingly abandon their lands and are not forced out are really not refugees. They should in fact not be given asylum, but should be given citizenship by Egypt, Jordan etc.. But they are not, right? Ask yourself why. BECAUSE the Arab / Muslim world REFUSES to define itself in modernity, REFUSES to pro-actively define itself as a modern, forward thinking group of peoples. Instead, it focuses only on Israel, only on the defeat those 8 nations suffered at Israeli hands. They are "enraged" and their "honor" is besmirched. So this is not a logical issue, it is an emotional issue.
      Fact is, they have to get over it and move on. Sadat in Egypt did so (and was killed by his troops for it). Shah Riza Pahlevi did it (and Muslim fanatics topped him for that). See a trend here? Stop pretending that the "poor Palestinians" don't have choices. They do. They are parasites, living off of UNWRA handouts for decades. Staying in anger, violence and hatred. Letting those emotions define them. But that, after all, is Islamic teaching of the Hadith. Convert the Fakir or kill them. So first and foremost Islam has to redefine itself to allow for change. For modernity. For peaceful co-existence. THEN the ball will start moving. Not before.

      June 8, 2010 at 12:30 am | Report abuse |
    • AmericanD

      Steve, I think you need to take a history lesson on the Middle East.
      But let's place ourselves in that "Palestinian's" shoes. How was it "his" land? Did his father buy it? No, it was stolen from a Jew who had moved to the area and purchased it, whom your father also murdered. I'm sorry, your whole "poor innocent Palestinian" is a load of garbage. Not only that, but the Palestinians were NOT moved out of Israel by force, they CHOSE to leave when they were warned by the other Arab nations that if they didn't, they would get caught in the tidal wave of Islam that was going to destroy Israel the day it was created.
      Get your facts straight!.

      June 9, 2010 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  13. dickfor

    Gaza = Ghetto

    June 7, 2010 at 10:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Perrucci

      Gaza = Iranian Prisoners forced to live in squalor until its their turn to blow up.

      June 8, 2010 at 1:18 am | Report abuse |
  14. JusticeToAll

    WE ARE 400 THOUSAND TIMES MORE FUSTRATED WITH DARFUR AND THE 400 thousand murdered and them blocking all UN attempts.

    June 7, 2010 at 10:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • MIKI

      justice.......and i dont see the un doing y type of inquiery on darfur...???

      June 8, 2010 at 1:44 am | Report abuse |
  15. kapechi

    The "Muslim World" is so wrong about so many things there is no way to keep track of all of it. Their entire life is centered around getting rid of Israel. This is the only place in the world that generations of people are raised to hate a single nation for some perceived slight hundreds of years ago. If they would just "get a life" and live normal lives, all this hassle and jihad stuff would go away. What a crazy life it must be over there. Glad I'm American, with the exception of NObama who is one of them under the skin anyway. How did he ever get elected in the first place? God must be starting his revenge on our nation for turning our backs on Him.

    June 7, 2010 at 10:59 pm | Report abuse |
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