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Today, it is safe to say that the curiosity has turned into skepticism and the cautious optimism has been replaced by flat-out pessimism.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. Jewel

    This is in response to what Steve wrote:

    Your comment is fair and I really liked your analogy of the facts. Thank you!

    June 7, 2010 at 11:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • TruthTeller

      I'm glad that some people with conscious are accepting the truth that if Israel wasn't occupying Palestine, there would be no violence and no Hamas. Palestine is being occupied by Israel for over 60 years even in this 21st century. And to Dave probably one of the many Jew or Zionists who are trying to twist the truth; there was no Israel before 1948, if you look at the geography in the middle east, it's all Arab nations and Israel is an anomaly among them. And how did Israel come about? Where were all the Israelis living before they came to Palestine? When Hitler was persecuting Jews in Europe, ONLY Palestine gave them place to live. Not your so called Western countries because they didn't want refugees or parasites as Dave likes to call them. BTW DAVE, it's not the Palestinians that are parasites but the Israelis which are leeching off of Palestinian land and leeching off of American tax paying money of $3bn a year so get your facts straight. European don't even recognize the food products that comes out of Israel because they have built settlements on Palestinian lands and according to International Law, these settlements or so called Israeli lands are illegal settlements. Now go and enlighten yourself DAVE and the other Zionists.

      June 8, 2010 at 2:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Max

      Re: Truth teller
      "Where were all the Israelis living before they came to Palestine? "

      1. Do you know that the very name "Palestine" has a Hebrew root?

      2. Are you aware of the fact there has been a constant Jewish population in Palestine long before Zionism?

      Sorry to sound harsh, but you might want to check your facts, before you "enlighten us" with this propaganda.

      June 8, 2010 at 7:50 am | Report abuse |
  2. Dave

    Well, the article written by Octavia Nasr (who by name would be a Muslim), is slanted (as usual) against Israel. What was the Muslim world expecting? That the USA would make a snap judgment that first hour? That Mr. Obama is smart enough to wait until all the facts come in, is admirable. Now that we see the videos of the Marmara activists preparing for martyrdom, and see the Hurriyet photos of them beating up and capturing Israeli soldiers, the assertion that some "massacre" happened or that the US should do anything but praise Israel for its restraint, is simply propaganda of the Muslim world. Today Iran is jumping on the bandwagon, wanting to confront Israel too, with a new convoy. So Muslims expected that the US would do what? Listen to the "enraged" Muslims (as usual) screaming from the rooftops? The same Muslims who celebrated when their "brothers" attacked the US on 9-11? Go watch the Palestinians in Gaza celebrate on 9-11 - it's on youtube... then figure out why the US is not rushing to judgment. You know who your friends are and who the enemy is, and sadly Erdogan has joined the enemy. I can only hope the Turkish armed forces will topple him and restore democracy and sanity to Turkey. And yes, they need to take stock of their Armenian genocide and their Kurd oppression WAY before they meddle in other countries' business.

    June 8, 2010 at 12:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Abdullah

      Octavia is not a name usually associated with Islam. Are all Americans such geniuses? No wonder their country is in so much trouble.

      June 8, 2010 at 3:29 am | Report abuse |
  3. Ptica Govorun

    Of course it is frustrating. Nothing can be more frustrating than truth that is hard to digest.

    June 8, 2010 at 12:22 am | Report abuse |
  4. Have Passport will show

    If you are true Muslim you are not tolerant.
    What should we start out with it; well we could always use:
    1) Do not allow women to go out of the house without a man.
    2) Let us not forget marrying those little 12 year olds to the 50 year olds.
    3) Or maybe we could stone somebody to death for whatever.
    4) Or give somebody 50 lashes for having a beer.
    I could go on but you get the idea. The Muslim religion is Such a Tolerant Religion, Such a Tolerant Society; Such a Tolerant Law. I know Americans are not tolerant the first thing you see as you enter any American town or city is a sign that says zero tolerance. 🙂 But at least they do not stone you to death for it 🙂

    June 8, 2010 at 12:27 am | Report abuse |
    • TruthTeller

      Have Passport, you should have your Passport revoked for spreading propaganda and being a hypocrite. Wanna know why? Here is a little proof about your writing about Muslims "Stoning of death".

      Holy Bible : – Deuteronomy 22:21-23 – STONE TO DEATH – ADULTERY PUNISHMENT

      21 she shall be brought to the door of her father's house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death. She has done a disgraceful thing in Israel by being promiscuous while still in her father's house. You must purge the evil from among you.

      22 If a man is found sleeping with another man's wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die. You must purge the evil from Israel.

      23 If a man happens to meet in a town a virgin pledged to be married and he sleeps with her, 24 you shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death—the girl because she was in a town and did not scream for help, and the man because he violated another man's wife. You must purge the evil from among you.

      June 8, 2010 at 2:48 am | Report abuse |
  5. Wiseone

    The USA is run by Jews and corporations. Average Americans have no say in anything. All you stupid people making comments, you think anything will change?

    June 8, 2010 at 12:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Have Passport will show

      One man can make a difference or woman

      June 8, 2010 at 12:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Wiseone.... misnamed. "all you stupid people making comments" – that includes you, right? Average Saudis have no say in anything either. Do you think the average Palestinian in the West Bank or Gaza has a "say in anything" either? Maybe you delude yourself to believe that in the NON-democracies of the Muslim world, Iran and Saudi etc... that the "average" citizen has a say? Pray tell? A Kingdom does not even have a semblance of representation, thus no "say". The Iranian Supreme Council of mullahs... er... not average Iranians, rules. "Average" Iranians tried to take to the streets against Ahmedinijad's latest pretend-elections... and see what happened. They got shot.
      So governments use the pretense of inclusion, when in fact the rich rule the world. That means banks and billionaires. Not necessarily Jewish. If you think the US is ruled by Jews, why didn't the USA come in to WWII and PREVENT the slaughter of 6 million Jews? Why didn't they bomb the railways to the death camps? If the USA is run by Jews, why did
      Nixon wait 16 days during the Yom Kippur War to start helping Israel (even though there was a mutual defense treaty in place) when Israel came under attack from all quarters? Because .. money talks and .... walks. In every country. Corporations rule most of the world, Wiseone, not just America. And if the Saudi royal family and its billions (Bandar Bush etc) and the Emirates oil barons are not pulling the strings, and if Jews rule the US, why is Obama and Biden asking Israel for a commission of inquiry? Ahhhh now you get it.. .You were wrong. And none of us have a say in anything.. ahhhhh

      June 8, 2010 at 12:38 am | Report abuse |
    • ethan

      I am a Jew living in California. I sell real estate. I have a loving family and want to get a dog, but can't afford a yard big enough to have one yet. I love pizza. Also, I rule the entire American government. The White House is at my command..except for those pesky corporations that always try to challenge my jewish powers.

      June 8, 2010 at 1:40 am | Report abuse |
  6. Have Passport will show

    I thought originally the Israelites were on the land they were originally on in the Bible.

    June 8, 2010 at 12:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Wiseone

      yeah, sure 2000 years later.

      June 8, 2010 at 12:36 am | Report abuse |
  7. Ron

    even CNN coverage is slanted against Israel.They have innumerable stupid articles about how angry the Muslim in other middle eastern countries are
    about this "raid". But not one article about how poorly informed these Muslims are. Many if not most access only anti Israel government propaganda. Many cannot read at all. The propaganda fed to them would be expected to make them angry.Some do have access to the Western media and also can read.You
    would think CNN would explain to them that there is no country anywhere in the world that will allow itself to be hit by regularly by rockets and missiles from a foreign territory without retaliating. Instead it prints another nauseating article about how angry the Turks are.

    June 8, 2010 at 12:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Absolutely Ron. Information is only for the literate and access to ALL sides of a topic is vital to people wanting to understand it. That the Muslim world has one-sided coverage is true .. funny enough though, Israel with its Lefties and pro-Palestinian groups has BOTH sides. Ever wonder why we never hear of ANY Palestinians or Arab or Muslim group that is pro-Jewish or pro-Israeli? No "humanitarian" group worrying about the non-combattant Israelis who are targeted intentionally and incessantly by the Palestinians, the Hizbulla, Syria and Iran? No demonstrations by Arabs for Jews.
      Funny, that, eh? But you DO see Jews demonstrating for Arab rights, for the "poor Palestinians" and so on....
      Why is that? Could it be that Islam doesn't REALLY teach compassion or empathy, only convert the Kafirs or kill them? Huh, read that haddith then we can talk.

      June 8, 2010 at 12:43 am | Report abuse |
    • TruthTeller

      Hey Ron I agree with you, but would you agree with me that "There is no country in the world that would not like to be occupied for over 60 years". Would you Ron? And if any country is being occupied, its citizens will retaliate as well like the Palestinians. Now Zionists like you can call them terrorists for fighting back but to its people they are "resisting" the occupation and trying to end the occupation. But since they have no backing of powerful countries or "Western Media" which ONLY shows how Israel a "victim", The 6th Military power in the world with F-16s, Tanks, Laser guided missiles, and Nuclear power is a "victim" against a rock throwing and home made rocket firing people. You guys should do stand up comedy will do really well and these twisted silly facts are really accepted in the "Educated West".

      June 8, 2010 at 2:29 am | Report abuse |
  8. abdul

    These so called 'peace activists' got what they deserved. Did they expect to lynch some soldiers (regardless of whichever army) and get away with it. No army in the world would standby and let its boys get murdered.

    June 8, 2010 at 12:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Ram

      They should have sunk the boat.

      June 8, 2010 at 12:57 am | Report abuse |
  9. abdul

    I know Islam and it's evil to the core.

    June 8, 2010 at 12:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      I kinda agree with that assessment.

      June 8, 2010 at 12:56 am | Report abuse |
    • TruthTeller

      I know you too Abdul and you are a Zionists hiding behind a Muslim name. Now, the soldiers illegally came into the ships which were in International Waters not Israeli waters so the soldiers should have been shot and killed for trespassing and threatening the people in the ships, unfortunately they ONLY brought aid and didn't have guns but they should have brought some as it was said in "Israeli report". And of course Israel always speaks the truth right? They never kill innocents, or bulldoze homes, or destroy U.N. buildings, using white phosphorous, occupying other peoples' land and defy the International Law which is keep building settlements.

      June 8, 2010 at 2:55 am | Report abuse |
  10. Karen

    A reaction from Turkey:
    It makes me sad to see most of you judging so easy about something they probably don't know much about. Judging this Gaza-Israel-conflict. Telling how Turkey is, and the politics and people of Turkey while they probably never were here in Turkey. The western world always knows better, but they don't take the time to see the real Islam or middle-east.
    They never were in Gaza, never saw the refugees from Gaza. The young boys and girls who fled with 4 boats from Gaza to go to school, because they cannot study in Gaza. YOu cannot come in Gaza or go out in a normal way. There is not enough food or water, they cannot rebuild their houses because Israel is still blocking to give food, buildingmaterials, etc into Gaza. And ofcourse it is not safe there, you cannot be sure you will life.
    You maybe think all muslims are terrorist, but you are so wrong about that.
    Some of you said, you are happy to be American, but it was just your destiny to be born there. You could also be born in Gaza or Darfur. Don't be so vain to judge so easy! Don't think you know better because you live your life in de US, where you can have all human rights, but still judge people who cannot feed their own baby and promise a future for their children.
    Take off your coloured glasses please and open your eyes to the real world.

    June 8, 2010 at 1:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Palestinian for piece

      Karen, I'm a Palestinian living in Canada who had to escape Gaza in 2003 because I'm gay. As ironically as it sounds Israeli organization saved me from my family, who attempted to kill me. My heart is with the Palestinian people who suffer very much. But ISrael and US is not the only reason for this suffering.

      June 8, 2010 at 7:41 am | Report abuse |
  11. Karen

    Dave wrote about Turkey:.....WAY before they meddle in other countries' business...
    So explain me what America is doing in Irak, Afganistan, why they have army bases everywhere in the world, who's country is interfering in the world? America or Turkey? It was a Turkish humanitarian ship! Ofcourse they talk about this.

    June 8, 2010 at 1:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Xstrato

      Karen dont even try, they aint worth.. You r 100% right m8.

      June 8, 2010 at 6:28 am | Report abuse |
  12. MIKI

    all,, for those of u not versant in history, turkey is one of the most ruthless and has the most brutal army nations in the world. during their occupation of the middle east, they slaughtered thousands of jews and arabs too in palestime, forcefably enlisted and drafted thousands o jews into heir army, and ran a reign of terror on the population. the British under general alenby kicked them out, and sent them packing. but they hahve not changed today. their police and prison officers are the most brutal, and justice is never served.
    their application to the european community has been denied for years, and they are indeed angry about that. their swing to militant islam now will be their downfall.

    June 8, 2010 at 1:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Xstrato

      Did you c that in mickey mouse cartoons?

      June 8, 2010 at 6:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      There is a silent war within Turkey and secularizm is loosing ground due to birth rate of intellectuals and educated ones, We must be carefull not to give more ammunition to religious ones to rally more support from within.
      It might NOT be very pleasant if Turkey slides more east (2nd largest army in Nato), we have to awaken the secular ones.
      so be carefull with your comments, every negative comments might result one more secular vote will be lost towards radicals.
      Every country has their share of bloody history and every one of them has bad apples, some more rotten than others

      June 8, 2010 at 6:29 am | Report abuse |
  13. Unknown

    Why is it that we are intolerant of Islam when we rave about how intolerant Islam is? Does that make us more tolerant?

    June 8, 2010 at 1:58 am | Report abuse |
  14. ExRays1

    We have too much going on at home, the rest of the world is going to have to wait a minute.

    June 8, 2010 at 2:10 am | Report abuse |
  15. Josh

    Alex: So what if she is Musim mr bigot?

    June 8, 2010 at 2:42 am | Report abuse |
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