Presidents Obama, Trump and the “complacency of hope”
Why change needs to be defined not by eloquent and inspiring promises, but by a new energy in the Arab World to define itself, defend itself and fight for its own justices. The Arab World can’t rely on American presidents, inspirational words or on foreign powers
Published in the Arab News Friday Jan. 20, 2017
By Ray Hanania
Somehow, Arabs have been herded into believing that we need “hope.”
We have been convinced that we, Arabs, should just sit back and do nothing because someone is going to do for us what we need to do for ourselves, to achieve justice, peace and achieve equality in the world.
The battle lines of freedom and justice have been twisted and distorted by politicians in America. We think that the answer lies in the presidency, those who sit in the White House.
We have been conditioned to believe that an American president is going to solve all our problems, right the injustices and hand us democracy and freedom.
So, we Arabs end up sitting back, reacting with emotion and empty gestures from the comfort of our complacency and our false hope.
The real enemy is the “complacency of our hope.”
Under President George W. Bush, we were told the real threat to the Arab people is Al-Qaeda and extremist Islam. We were soothed by his words of hope and promises of support, claiming that America is not against Islam.
That is true. America under Bush was not against Islam. But it was against the interests of the Arabs.
We were encouraged by President Barack Obama into believing there would be change. Many said that either Obama was a Muslim himself or, as a Christian, he better understood the challenges facing Muslims.
So we sat back with a new complacency of hope and waited for that change. But did it come?
Nothing has changed because the focus we have been handed is wrong. If we want justice, we Arabs must grab it ourselves. If we want peace, we Arabs must fight for peace ourselves.
If we want Palestine, we must rise up out of the comfort of the “complacency of hope” that we have found ourselves in. We have to re-energize our activism and our rights and do it ourselves.
When we compare the eight years of Bush to the eight years of Obama, we must realize there is no real difference except a change in the rhetoric. The rhetoric has softened, but the reality has not.
More Palestinian land was confiscated by Israel under Obama than under Bush. The number of illegal settlers and settlements grew faster under Obama than under Bush. Almost as many Palestinians were killed by Israel under Obama as were killed by Israel under Bush. Worse, Israel’s government has not become more willing to make peace. Israel has become more extremist and anti-peace in the face of Obama’s kind and generous words of support for the Muslim and Arab worlds as was expressed in Cairo in 2009.
Today, the entire Arab world is in violent danger of destruction because we have allowed others to define our destiny.
Donald Trump is not our savior, but he is cold water in our faces. His rhetoric has shattered the false senses that have numbed us into a complacency of hope. Trump’s rhetoric has broken the chains that have enslaved us in a belief that someone else is going to do for us what we need to do for ourselves.
Trump is saying what other American politicians think, but carefully restate to make us feel good.
If we Arabs want justice, we have to rise up and demand it ourselves. If we want peace, we have to fight for it.
No American president, no matter how eloquent their words, no matter how sweet their promises, no matter how kind their intentions can bring us what we need.
Only we, the Arab people, can bring what we need.
Trump’s vow to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is an admission that American policy that has fueled our complacency of hope toward the Middle East has failed.
Even though Obama and every president prior to him have prevented that symbolic change from taking place, the price has been enormous. In exchange for not moving the embassy, Israel has gotten everything that it wants.
Israel has received more money from the tax-burdened Americans. Israel has received the release of notorious spy Jonathan Pollard. Israel has seen its settlements grow, not stop. Israel has seen its relations in the Arab world expand, not chill.
All this has happened because we Arabs have become complacent. We have been conditioned to believe that hope is more important than reality.
Hope is so non-aggressive, yet around us is the most threatening extremist violence we have seen in generations.
We Arabs need to stop and rethink where we are and what we need to be doing. We need to stop playing the game — yes the game of American politics. We need to stop believing that a sympathetic president like Obama is going to give us what a not-so-sympathetic president like Bush failed to give us. We have to stop believing our destiny is in the hands of an American president, and stop using Trump as an excuse for what we have failed to do ourselves.
America has given everything to Israel. And in doing so, they have slowly begun a transformation of the Arab world to gut us of our dignity and our self-esteem. We have embraced a hostile, anti-Arab Israel that is today more brutal in its occupation of Palestinian lands and Muslim and Christian holy sites than it ever has been since its founding in 1948.
The failure to resolve the question of Palestine has singlehandedly fueled the rise of extremism, hatred and violence throughout the world.
We the Arab people are the main victims of that rising terrorism and violence, not the West. They are not the victims, we are.
Trump is a wake up call. We must awaken from our slumber. We must respect ourselves as Arabs, who are both Muslim and Christian — we are not just Muslim — and we must stand up and make change.
We must replace the “complacency of hope” with an “activism of reality” by doing for ourselves what we have wrongly believed others would do for us.
(Ray Hanania is a former journalist and an award-winning Palestinian-American political columnist. Email him at email@example.com.)