(FinalCall.com) – Pre- and post-reaction to President Obama’s speech delivered in Cairo to the Muslim world was overwhelmingly favorable and seemed to take on new meaning as time progressed.
According to the British daily, The Guardian, though the president didn’t reveal any new policy programs June 4, the speech will go down in history for its tone–the vocabulary–he used that will have the greatest impact. For the thread that ran through every paragraph was a simple but radical idea: respect for the Arab and Muslim world.”
An overall description of the speech in the Turkish on-line publication Hurriyet DailyNews.com, said America’s first Black president won “praise from Muslim leaders … (as) he touched on many core issues Muslims want to hear. However, not everyone is impressed. While Israelis are divided over Obama’s outreach to the Muslim world, some insist they need to see action to back up his words.”
Muslim leaders in President Obama’s father’s birthplace, speaking in Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper, “received cautiously” his remarks. “Although the clerics welcomed Obama’s overtures … some expressed guarded optimism, insisting that his words must be backed by actions and clear policy changes from Washington.”
A similar sentiment was expressed by the Palestinian co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, Ali Abunimah. In The Guardian, he cited “blindspots” in Obama’s “statements about Palestine/Israel,” which were used to “justify the creation of Israel.”
“It is also undeniable,” he noted, “that the Palestinian people Muslims and Christians have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than 60 years they have endured the pain of dislocation.”
The portion of the speech that received the most ink was Obama’s call for Israel to put an end to the building of settlements. In the days leading up to the speech, and after the speech, several publications–including The Forward, a Jewish weekly based in New York–cited polls that discovered that the majority of Israelis are against the building of settlements.
“Pollsters at Tel Aviv University found on June 1 that the majority of Israelis are prepared to dismantle the settlements,” it reported.
A piece in the June 8 edition of the Jerusalem Post all but called U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a turncoat for her supportof President Obama.The piece said Mrs. Clinton went from junior senator from New York and supporter of Israel to “now… enthusiastically support(ing) an unconditional increase in U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority and Gaza, of $900 million annually, a significant increase. She also demands” the Post said, “a total freeze on all Jewish building in Judea and Samaria and eastern Jerusalem.”
Other reports suggested Israel understood Obama’s “catering” to Palestinian interest would be at the Jewish state’s expense. After the speech many political pundits predicted an eminent clash between President Obama and Israel’s hard-line Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Officially a conciliatory statement from the Israeli government appeared in many dailies, “expressing hope that President Obama’s important speech will lead to a new period of reconciliation between the Arab and Muslim world, and Israel.” The government shares “Obama’s hope that the American effort will bring about an end to the conflict and to pan-Arab recognition of Israel as the Jewish state,” the statement said.
The best headline should go to the British daily Financial Times, which described the U.S. president’s ability to reach his audience as “Obama cracks code to reach Islam.”
For Africans the most telling headline may have been the Western media references suggesting Egypt was not in Africa, as mentioned in the online Pan-African publication The Zeleza Post, and notes that President Obama’s “second trip” to Africa would be a July trip to Ghana, West Africa. The first Africa trip was to Egypt, the website said. There was also the media’s failure to mention that Africa has over 300 million Muslims–as though they weren’t listening to the Obama speech.
Speaking on condition of anonymity to the Cairo based weekly Al-Ahram, Egyptian diplomats said Obama’s “visit is a clear indication that there is a possibility ‘to do business’ with the US president, which was not the case with his predecessor.”
The same publication predicted heightened talks in the coming “weeks and months,” between Cairo and other Muslim capitals.
At the same time according to the UK-based Economist magazine, “the constant refrain, heard on Cairo’s streets as well as from media pundits, is that Arabs and Muslims would like to see Mr. Obama’s words matched with deeds. ‘To win our hearts, you must win our minds first, and our minds are set on the protection of our interest,’” was a regular theme in editorials and letters to the editor from across the Middle East.