President Obama: Visionary in Cairo, Provincial in Jerusalem

It's hard to believe it is the same Barack Obama who delivered a compelling speech in Cairo in June 2009 and last week's speech in Jerusalem at the funeral service of Shimon Peres. The two speeches were the products of completely different mind-sets.

The Cairo speech was characterized by a depth of knowledge of the Middle East, its history and the preoccupations and aspirations of its people, while the Jerusalem speech was a rehash of distorted bits of history that even Zionist propagandists have increasingly shunned in recent years.

Take, for example, his reference to Israel's neighbors' threats to throw Israelis into the sea. Such a claim was fashionable in the 1960s and 70s, but there has never been a shred of evidence produced to support that accusation.

In fact, after exhaustive research in Israeli State archives, a number of leading Israeli historians concluded that with the balance of power overwhelmingly in its favor, at no time in its existence was the state of Israel under any serious threat from its Arab neighbors. Even before the creation of the state in 1948, the armed groups of the Zionist movement had a collective fighting force that was well-equipped, well-trained and even numerically exceeded the combined armed forces of all the surrounding Arab countries put together.

Thanks to constant flow of financial and economic aid, arms, and cutting-edge technology from the United States, Britain, France, and Germany, Israel's military superiority remains intact.

Another unsubstantiated and controversial polemic included in President Obama's eulogy was his praise of Shimon Peres for never giving up his dream of "returning home" to Palestine.

Eminent Israeli historians, such as Shlomo Sand have ruled out any possibility that those European Jews who immigrated to Palestine ever had or could have had any ancestry link with the ancient Hebrews who had for less than a hundred years ruled over historic Palestine some 3,000 years ago.

Missing here is any analysis of the enormous ethnic cleansing that men such as Peres contributed to when over 700,000 Palestinians were forced out in the Nakba, or catastrophe, of 1948 during and after the creation of Israel.

Zionism is a colonialist movement that masqueraded under the banner of religious aspirations and has set back the cause of equal rights in the region. Palestinians to this day live with inferior rights, both in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

Most incomprehensible of all was President Obama's likening of Shimon Peres to Nelson Mandela. Shimon Peres helped arm the apartheid state against black South Africans trying to advance equal rights and freedom! Nelson Mandela, on the other hand, was a freedom fighter who devoted his life to fighting colonialism and its racist legacy in South Africa. For many observers, this comparison will be a low point in the rhetoric of the Obama presidency.

A few hundred yards away from where President Obama poured his praise on the Zionists' dream is East Jerusalem, illegally annexed by Israel, and where Christian and Muslim Palestinian Arabs are subjected to rampant discrimination. Their children are forced to learn the Zionist narrative and negate their own history and their attachment to the land of Palestine where they and their ancestors have lived for centuries.

Within East Jerusalem and beyond are the illegal settlements, or more accurately colonies, built on confiscated Palestinian land where only Jews can live using Israeli-only roads and amenities. Their armed militias subject neighboring Arabs, mostly previous owners of the land on which these colonies are built, to raw forms of apartheid.

President Obama's frequent references to Peres, the father of the Jewish colonies, as a man of peace must have been jarring to the ears of the families of the 106 Lebanese civilians, half of them children, massacred by the Israel army at a UN compound in Qana when Peres was prime minister in 1996. Eleven years earlier, also under Peres's premiership, Israeli air force and commandos reigned havoc on Tunisia, a sovereign state, leaving 75 Tunisians and Palestinians dead.

In Cairo nearly eight years ago, President Obama looked and sounded presidential. With elegance and grace, he expressed his vision of a future built on mutual respect between the United States and Arab and Muslim countries.

In Jerusalem, however, that vision shrank to electoral considerations back home in the United States. Obama brazenly laid a tomb stone on any hope of building the bridges of understanding that he ruminated about in Cairo.