Global, Israel, Politics, Religion

Full text of Obama's Cairo Speech, Hamas' letter via CODEPINK

Full text of Obama’s speech to the Muslim world below the jump, here is the clip about Israel and Palestine. (Note how “Palestine” and not “the future state of Palestine” is used conclusively.) Mr. President, we applaud you.

Below the speech is a letter from Hamas to Obama on the occasion of his visit, delivered via Medea Benjamin of the US-based CODEPINK.

June 4, 2009
Cairo University
Cairo, Egypt
1:10 P.M. (Local)
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you very much. Good afternoon. I
am honored to be in the timeless city of Cairo, and to be hosted by two
remarkable institutions. For over a thousand years, Al-Azhar has stood as
a beacon of Islamic learning; and for over a century, Cairo
University has been a source of Egypt’s advancement. And together, you
represent the harmony between tradition and progress. I’m grateful for
your hospitality, and the hospitality of the people of Egypt. And I’m
also proud to carry with me the goodwill of the American people, and a
greeting of peace from Muslim communities in my country: Assalaamu
alaykum. (Applause.)
We meet at a time of great tension between the United States and Muslims
around the world — tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any
current policy debate. The relationship between Islam and the West
includes centuries of coexistence and cooperation, but also conflict and
religious wars. More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that
denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which
Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard
to their own aspirations. Moreover, the sweeping change brought by
modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile
to the traditions of Islam.
Violent extremists have exploited these tensions in a small but potent
minority of Muslims. The attacks of September 11, 2001 and the
continued efforts of these extremists to engage in violence against
civilians has led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile
not only to America and Western countries, but also to human rights. All
this has bred more fear and more mistrust.
So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower
those who sow hatred rather than peace, those who promote
conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people
achieve justice and prosperity. And this cycle of suspicion and discord
must end.
I’ve come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States
and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual
respect, and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not
exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and
share common principles — principles of justice and progress; tolerance
and the dignity of all human beings.
I do so recognizing that change cannot happen overnight. I know there’s
been a lot of publicity about this speech, but no single speech can
eradicate years of mistrust, nor can I answer in the time that I have this
afternoon all the complex questions that brought us to this point. But I
am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly to each
other the things we hold in our hearts and that too often are said only
behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each
other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek
common ground. As the Holy Koran tells us, “Be conscious of God and speak
always the truth.” (Applause.) That is what I will try to do today — to
speak the truth as best I can, humbled by the task before us, and firm in
my belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more
powerful than the forces that drive us apart.
Now part of this conviction is rooted in my own experience. I’m a
Christian, but my father came from a Kenyan family that includes
generations of Muslims. As a boy, I spent several years in Indonesia and
heard the call of the azaan at the break of dawn and at the fall of dusk.
As a young man, I worked in Chicago communities where many found dignity
and peace in their Muslim faith.
As a student of history, I also know civilization’s debt to Islam. It was
Islam — at places like Al-Azhar — that carried the light of
learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s
Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities —
(applause) — it was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the
order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our
mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and
how it can be healed. Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and
soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant
calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout
history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the
possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality. (Applause.)
I also know that Islam has always been a part of America’s story. The
first nation to recognize my country was Morocco. In signing the Treaty
of Tripoli in 1796, our second President, John Adams, wrote, “The United
States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or
tranquility of Muslims.” And since our founding, American Muslims have
enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, they have
served in our government, they have stood for civil rights, they have
started businesses, they have taught at our universities, they’ve excelled
in our sports arenas, they’ve won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest
building, and lit the Olympic Torch. And when the first Muslim American
was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our
Constitution using the same Holy Koran that one of our Founding Fathers —
Thomas Jefferson — kept in his personal library.
So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region
where it was first revealed. That experience guides my conviction that
partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not
what it isn’t. And I consider it part of my responsibility as President
of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam
wherever they appear. (Applause.)
But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America.
(Applause.) Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not
the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire. The United States has
been one of the greatest sources of progress that the world has ever
known. We were born out of revolution against an empire. We were founded
upon the ideal that all are created equal, and we have shed blood and
struggled for centuries to give meaning to those words — within our
borders, and around the world. We are shaped by every
culture, drawn from every end of the Earth, and dedicated to a simple
concept: E pluribus unum — “Out of many, one.”
Now, much has been made of the fact that an African American with the name
Barack Hussein Obama could be elected President. (Applause.) But my
personal story is not so unique. The dream of opportunity for all people
has not come true for everyone in America, but its promise exists for all
who come to our shores — and that includes nearly 7 million American
Muslims in our country today who, by the way, enjoy incomes and
educational levels that are higher than the American average.
Moreover, freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice
one’s religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state in our
union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That’s why the United
States government has gone to court to protect the right of women and
girls to wear the hijab and to punish those who would deny it.
So let there be no doubt: Islam is a part of America. And I believe that
America holds within her the truth that regardless of race,
religion, or station in life, all of us share common aspirations — to
live in peace and security; to get an education and to work with
dignity; to love our families, our communities, and our God. These things
we share. This is the hope of all humanity.
Of course, recognizing our common humanity is only the beginning of our
task. Words alone cannot meet the needs of our people. These needs will
be met only if we act boldly in the years ahead; and if we
understand that the challenges we face are shared, and our failure to meet
them will hurt us all.
For we have learned from recent experience that when a financial system
weakens in one country, prosperity is hurt everywhere. When a new flu
infects one human being, all are at risk. When one nation pursues a
nuclear weapon, the risk of nuclear attack rises for all nations. When
violent extremists operate in one stretch of mountains, people are
endangered across an ocean. When innocents in Bosnia and Darfur are
slaughtered, that is a stain on our collective conscience. (Applause.)
That is what it means to share this world in the 21st century. That is
the responsibility we have to one another as human beings.
And this is a difficult responsibility to embrace. For human history has
often been a record of nations and tribes — and, yes, religions —
subjugating one another in pursuit of their own interests. Yet in this
new age, such attitudes are self-defeating. Given our interdependence,
any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another
will inevitably fail. So whatever we think of the past, we must not be
prisoners to it. Our problems must be dealt with through partnership; our
progress must be shared. (Applause.)
Now, that does not mean we should ignore sources of tension. Indeed, it
suggests the opposite: We must face these tensions squarely. And so in
that spirit, let me speak as clearly and as plainly as I can about some
specific issues that I believe we must finally confront together.
The first issue that we have to confront is violent extremism in all of
its forms.
In Ankara, I made clear that America is not — and never will be — at war
with Islam. (Applause.) We will, however, relentlessly confront violent
extremists who pose a grave threat to our security — because we reject
the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent
men, women, and children. And it is my first duty as President to protect
the American people.
The situation in Afghanistan demonstrates America’s goals, and our need to
work together. Over seven years ago, the United States pursued al Qaeda
and the Taliban with broad international support. We did not go by
choice; we went because of necessity. I’m aware that there’s still some
who would question or even justify the events of 9/11. But let us be
clear: Al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 people on that day. The victims were
innocent men, women and children from America and many other
nations who had done nothing to harm anybody. And yet al Qaeda chose to
ruthlessly murder these people, claimed credit for the attack, and even
now states their determination to kill on a massive scale. They have
affiliates in many countries and are trying to expand their reach. These
are not opinions to be debated; these are facts to be dealt with.
Now, make no mistake: We do not want to keep our troops in Afghanistan.
We see no military — we seek no military bases there. It is agonizing
for America to lose our young men and women. It is costly and
politically difficult to continue this conflict. We would gladly bring
every single one of our troops home if we could be confident that there
were not violent extremists in Afghanistan and now Pakistan determined to
kill as many Americans as they possibly can. But that is not yet the
And that’s why we’re partnering with a coalition of 46 countries. And
despite the costs involved, America’s commitment will not weaken.
Indeed, none of us should tolerate these extremists. They have killed in
many countries. They have killed people of different faiths — but more
than any other, they have killed Muslims. Their actions are
irreconcilable with the rights of human beings, the progress of nations,
and with Islam. The Holy Koran teaches that whoever kills an innocent is
as — it is as if he has killed all mankind. (Applause.) And the Holy
Koran also says whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all
mankind. (Applause.) The enduring faith of over a billion people is so
much bigger than the narrow hatred of a few. Islam is not part of the
problem in combating violent extremism — it is an important part of
promoting peace.
Now, we also know that military power alone is not going to solve the
problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That’s why we plan to invest $1.5
billion each year over the next five years to partner with Pakistanis to
build schools and hospitals, roads and businesses, and hundreds of
millions to help those who’ve been displaced. That’s why we are
providing more than $2.8 billion to help Afghans develop their economy and
deliver services that people depend on.
Let me also address the issue of Iraq. Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq was a war
of choice that provoked strong differences in my country and around the
world. Although I believe that the Iraqi people are ultimately better off
without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, I also believe that events in Iraq
have reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build international
consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible. (Applause.) Indeed,
we can recall the words of Thomas Jefferson, who said: “I hope that our
wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us that the less we use our
power the greater it will be.”
Today, America has a dual responsibility: to help Iraq forge a better
future — and to leave Iraq to Iraqis. And I have made it clear to the
Iraqi people — (applause) — I have made it clear to the Iraqi people
that we pursue no bases, and no claim on their territory or resources.
Iraq’s sovereignty is its own. And that’s why I ordered the removal of our
combat brigades by next August. That is why we will honor our agreement
with Iraq’s democratically elected government to remove combat troops from
Iraqi cities by July, and to remove all of our troops from Iraq by 2012.
(Applause.) We will help Iraq train its security forces and develop its
economy. But we will support a secure and united Iraq as a partner, and
never as a patron.
And finally, just as America can never tolerate violence by extremists, we
must never alter or forget our principles. Nine-eleven was an
enormous trauma to our country. The fear and anger that it provoked was
understandable, but in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our
traditions and our ideals. We are taking concrete actions to change
course. I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United
States, and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early
next year. (Applause.)
So America will defend itself, respectful of the sovereignty of nations
and the rule of law. And we will do so in partnership with Muslim
communities which are also threatened. The sooner the extremists are
isolated and unwelcome in Muslim communities, the sooner we will all be
The second major source of tension that we need to discuss is the
situation between Israelis, Palestinians and the Arab world.
America’s strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is
unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the
recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a
tragic history that cannot be denied.
Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and
anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust.
Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps
where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third
Reich. Six million Jews were killed — more than the entire Jewish
population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, it is
ignorant, and it is hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction — or
repeating vile stereotypes about Jews — is deeply wrong, and only serves
to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while
preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.
On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people —
Muslims and Christians — have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For
more than 60 years they’ve endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in
refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of
peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure
the daily humiliations — large and small — that come with occupation.
So let there be no doubt: The situation for the
Palestinian people is intolerable. And America will not turn our backs on
the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a
state of their own. (Applause.)
For decades then, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with
legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes
compromise elusive. It’s easy to point fingers — for Palestinians to
point to the displacement brought about by Israel’s founding, and for
Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its
history from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this
conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the
truth: The only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met
through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and
security. (Applause.)
That is in Israel’s interest, Palestine’s interest, America’s interest,
and the world’s interest. And that is why I intend to personally pursue
this outcome with all the patience and dedication that the task
requires. (Applause.) The obligations — the obligations that the
parties have agreed to under the road map are clear. For peace to come,
it is time for them — and all of us — to live up to our
Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and
killing is wrong and it does not succeed. For centuries, black people in
America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of
segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It
was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of
America’s founding. This same story can be told by people from South
Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It’s a story with
a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign neither of
courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old
women on a bus. That’s not how moral authority is
claimed; that’s how it is surrendered.
Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The
Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with
institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support
among some Palestinians, but they also have to recognize they have
responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations,
to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence,
recognize past agreements, recognize Israel’s right to exist.
At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel’s right to
exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine’s. The United States does
not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.
(Applause.) This construction violates previous agreements and
undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to
stop. (Applause.)
And Israel must also live up to its obligation to ensure that
Palestinians can live and work and develop their society. Just as it
devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in
Gaza does not serve Israel’s security; neither does the continuing lack of
opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the
Palestinian people must be a critical part of a road to peace, and Israel
must take concrete steps to enable such progress.
And finally, the Arab states must recognize that the Arab Peace
Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their
responsibilities. The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to
distract the people of Arab nations from other problems. Instead, it must
be a cause for action to help the Palestinian people develop the
institutions that will sustain their state, to recognize Israel’s
legitimacy, and to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past.
America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and we will
say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and
Arabs. (Applause.) We cannot impose peace. But privately, many
Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away. Likewise, many Israelis
recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on
what everyone knows to be true.
Too many tears have been shed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us
have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and
Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy
Land of the three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it
to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians
and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle
peacefully together as in the story of Isra —
(applause) — as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed,
peace be upon them, joined in prayer. (Applause.)
The third source of tension is our shared interest in the rights and
responsibilities of nations on nuclear weapons.
This issue has been a source of tension between the United States and the
Islamic Republic of Iran. For many years, Iran has defined itself in part
by its opposition to my country, and there is in fact a
tumultuous history between us. In the middle of the Cold War, the United
States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian
government. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts
of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians. This
history is well known. Rather than remain trapped in the past, I’ve made
it clear to Iran’s leaders and people that my
country is prepared to move forward. The question now is not what Iran is
against, but rather what future it wants to build.
I recognize it will be hard to overcome decades of mistrust, but we will
proceed with courage, rectitude, and resolve. There will be many issues
to discuss between our two countries, and we are willing to move forward
without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect. But it is clear to
all concerned that when it comes to nuclear weapons, we have reached a
decisive point. This is not simply about America’s interests. It’s about
preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that could lead this
region and the world down a hugely dangerous path.
I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that
others do not. No single nation should pick and choose which nation holds
nuclear weapons. And that’s why I strongly reaffirmed America’s
commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons.
(Applause.) And any nation — including Iran — should have the right to
access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its
responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That
commitment is at the core of the treaty, and it must be kept for all who
fully abide by it. And I’m hopeful that all countries in the region can
share in this goal.
The fourth issue that I will address is democracy. (Applause.)
I know — I know there has been controversy about the promotion of
democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to
the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: No system of government can or
should be imposed by one nation by any other.
That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect
the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its
own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not
presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to
pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding
belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak
your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule
of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is
transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you
choose. These are not just American ideas; they are human rights. And
that is why we will support them everywhere. (Applause.)
Now, there is no straight line to realize this promise. But this much is
clear: Governments that protect these rights are ultimately more stable,
successful and secure. Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go
away. America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices
to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them. And we will
welcome all elected, peaceful governments — provided they govern with
respect for all their people.
This last point is important because there are some who advocate for
democracy only when they’re out of power; once in power, they are
ruthless in suppressing the rights of others. (Applause.) So no matter
where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a
single standard for all who would hold power: You must maintain your
power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of
minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you
must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the
political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections
alone do not make true democracy.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Barack Obama, we love you!
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you. (Applause.) The fifth issue that we must
address together is religious freedom.
Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. We see it in the history of
Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition. I saw it firsthand as a
child in Indonesia, where devout Christians worshiped freely in an
overwhelmingly Muslim country. That is the spirit we need today.
People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith
based upon the persuasion of the mind and the heart and the soul. This
tolerance is essential for religion to thrive, but it’s being challenged
in many different ways.
Among some Muslims, there’s a disturbing tendency to measure one’s own
faith by the rejection of somebody else’s faith. The richness of
religious diversity must be upheld — whether it is for Maronites in
Lebanon or the Copts in Egypt. (Applause.) And if we are being honest,
fault lines must be closed among Muslims, as well, as the divisions
between Sunni and Shia have led to tragic violence, particularly in Iraq.
Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live
together. We must always examine the ways in which we protect it. For
instance, in the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it
harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation. That’s why I’m
committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill
Likewise, it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim
citizens from practicing religion as they see fit — for instance, by
dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. We can’t disguise
hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism.
In fact, faith should bring us together. And that’s why we’re forging
service projects in America to bring together Christians, Muslims, and
Jews. That’s why we welcome efforts like Saudi Arabian King Abdullah’s
interfaith dialogue and Turkey’s leadership in the Alliance of
Civilizations. Around the world, we can turn dialogue into interfaith
service, so bridges between peoples lead to action — whether it is
combating malaria in Africa, or providing relief after a natural
The sixth issue — the sixth issue that I want to address is women’s
rights. (Applause.) I know — I know — and you can tell from this
audience, that there is a healthy debate about this issue. I reject the
view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is
somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an
education is denied equality. (Applause.) And it is no coincidence that
countries where women are well educated are far more likely to be
Now, let me be clear: Issues of women’s equality are by no means simply
an issue for Islam. In Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, we’ve
seen Muslim-majority countries elect a woman to lead. Meanwhile, the
struggle for women’s equality continues in many aspects of American life,
and in countries around the world.
I am convinced that our daughters can contribute just as much to society
as our sons. (Applause.) Our common prosperity will be advanced by
allowing all humanity — men and women — to reach their full potential. I
do not believe that women must make the same choices as men in order to be
equal, and I respect those women who choose to live their lives in
traditional roles. But it should be their choice. And that is why the
United States will partner with any Muslim-majority country to support
expanded literacy for girls, and to help young women pursue employment
through micro-financing that helps people live their dreams.
Finally, I want to discuss economic development and opportunity.
I know that for many, the face of globalization is contradictory. The
Internet and television can bring knowledge and information, but also
offensive sexuality and mindless violence into the home. Trade can bring
new wealth and opportunities, but also huge disruptions and change in
communities. In all nations — including America — this change can bring
fear. Fear that because of modernity we lose control over our economic
choices, our politics, and most importantly our identities — those things
we most cherish about our communities, our families, our traditions, and
our faith.
But I also know that human progress cannot be denied. There need not be
contradictions between development and tradition. Countries like Japan and
South Korea grew their economies enormously while maintaining
distinct cultures. The same is true for the astonishing progress within
Muslim-majority countries from Kuala Lumpur to Dubai. In ancient times
and in our times, Muslim communities have been at the forefront of
innovation and education.
And this is important because no development strategy can be based only
upon what comes out of the ground, nor can it be sustained while young
people are out of work. Many Gulf states have enjoyed great wealth as a
consequence of oil, and some are beginning to focus it on broader
development. But all of us must recognize that education and innovation
will be the currency of the 21st century — (applause) — and in too many
Muslim communities, there remains underinvestment in these areas. I’m
emphasizing such investment within my own country. And while
America in the past has focused on oil and gas when it comes to this part
of the world, we now seek a broader engagement.
On education, we will expand exchange programs, and increase
scholarships, like the one that brought my father to America.
(Applause.) At the same time, we will encourage more Americans to study
in Muslim communities. And we will match promising Muslim students with
internships in America; invest in online learning for teachers and
children around the world; and create a new online network, so a young
person in Kansas can communicate instantly with a young person in Cairo.
On economic development, we will create a new corps of business
volunteers to partner with counterparts in Muslim-majority countries. And
I will host a Summit on Entrepreneurship this year to identify how we can
deepen ties between business leaders, foundations and social entrepreneurs
in the United States and Muslim communities around the world.
On science and technology, we will launch a new fund to support
technological development in Muslim-majority countries, and to help
transfer ideas to the marketplace so they can create more jobs. We’ll
open centers of scientific excellence in Africa, the Middle East and
Southeast Asia, and appoint new science envoys to collaborate on
programs that develop new sources of energy, create green jobs, digitize
records, clean water, grow new crops. Today I’m announcing a new global
effort with the Organization of the Islamic Conference to eradicate polio.
And we will also expand partnerships with Muslim communities to promote
child and maternal health.
All these things must be done in partnership. Americans are ready to join
with citizens and governments; community organizations, religious leaders,
and businesses in Muslim communities around the world to help our people
pursue a better life.
The issues that I have described will not be easy to address. But we have
a responsibility to join together on behalf of the world that we seek — a
world where extremists no longer threaten our people, and American troops
have come home; a world where Israelis and Palestinians are each secure in
a state of their own, and nuclear energy is used for peaceful purposes; a
world where governments serve their citizens, and the rights of all God’s
children are respected. Those are mutual
interests. That is the world we seek. But we can only achieve it together.
I know there are many — Muslim and non-Muslim — who question whether we
can forge this new beginning. Some are eager to stoke the flames of
division, and to stand in the way of progress. Some suggest that it isn’t
worth the effort — that we are fated to disagree, and
civilizations are doomed to clash. Many more are simply skeptical that
real change can occur. There’s so much fear, so much mistrust that has
built up over the years. But if we choose to be bound by the past, we
will never move forward. And I want to particularly say this to young
people of every faith, in every country — you, more than anyone, have the
ability to reimagine the world, to remake this world.
All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time. The question is
whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart, or
whether we commit ourselves to an effort — a sustained effort — to find
common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children, and to
respect the dignity of all human beings.
It’s easier to start wars than to end them. It’s easier to blame others
than to look inward. It’s easier to see what is different about someone
than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path,
not just the easy path. There’s one rule that lies at the heart of every
religion — that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.
(Applause.) This truth transcends nations and peoples — a belief that
isn’t new; that isn’t black or white or brown; that isn’t Christian or
Muslim or Jew. It’s a belief that pulsed in the cradle of
civilization, and that still beats in the hearts of billions around the
world. It’s a faith in other people, and it’s what brought me here today.
We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the
courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been written.
The Holy Koran tells us: “O mankind! We have created you male and a
female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know
one another.”
The Talmud tells us: “The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of
promoting peace.”
The Holy Bible tells us: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be
called sons of God.” (Applause.)
The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God’s
vision. Now that must be our work here on Earth.
Thank you. And may God’s peace be upon you. Thank you very much. Thank
you. (Applause.)
END 2:05 P.M. (Local)
Letter from Dr. Ahmed Yousef, Deputy of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Hamas
His Excellency President Barack Obama,
President of the United States of America.
June 3rd 2009
Dear Mr. President,
We welcome your visit to the Arab world and your administration’s initiative to bridge differences with the Arab-Muslim world.
One long-standing source of tension between the United States and this part of the world has been the failure to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict.
It is therefore unfortunate that you will not visit Gaza during your trip to the Middle East and that neither your Secretary of State nor George Mitchell have come to hear our point of view.
We have received numerous visits recently from people of widely varied backgrounds: U.S. Congressional representatives, European parliamentarians, the U.N.-appointed Goldstone commission, and grassroots delegations such as those organized by the U.S. peace group CODEPINK.
It is essential for you to visit Gaza. We have recently passed through a brutal 22-day Israeli attack. Amnesty International observed that the death and destruction Gaza suffered during the invasion could not have happened without U.S.-supplied weapons and U.S.-taxpayers’ money
Human Rights Watch has documented that the white phosphorus Israel dropped on a school, hospital, United Nations warehouse and civilian neighborhoods in Gaza was manufactured in the United States. Human Rights Watch concluded that Israel’s use of this white phosphorus was a war crime.
Shouldn’t you see first-hand how Israel used your arms and spent your money?
Before becoming president you were a distinguished professor of law. The U.S. government has also said that it wants to foster the rule of law in the Arab-Muslim world.
The International Court of Justice stated in July 2004 that the whole of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem are occupied Palestinian territories designated for Palestinian self-determination, and that the Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories are illegal.
Not one of the 15 judges sitting on the highest judicial body in the world dissented from these principles.
The main human rights organizations in the world, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have issued position papers supporting the right of the Palestinian refugees to return and compensation.
Each year in the United Nations General Assembly nearly every country in the world has supported these principles for resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict. Every year the Arab League puts forth a peace proposal based on these principles for resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Leading human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch have also stated that Israel’s siege of Gaza is a form of collective punishment and therefore illegal under international law.
We in the Hamas Government are committed to pursuing a just resolution to the conflict not in contradiction with the international community and enlightened opinion as expressed in the International Court of Justice, the United Nations General Assembly, and leading human rights organizations. We are prepared to engage all parties on the basis of mutual respect and without preconditions.
However, our constituency needs to see a comprehensive paradigm shift that not only commences with lifting the siege on Gaza and halts all settlement building and expansion but develops into a policy of evenhandedness based on the very international law and norms we are prodded into adhering to.
Again, we welcome you to Gaza which would allow you to see firsthand our ground zero. Furthermore, it would enhance the US position; enabling you to speak with new credibility and authority in dealing with all the parties.
Very Truly Yours,
Dr. Ahmed Yousef
Deputy of the Foreign Affairs Ministry
Former Senior Political Advisor
to Prime Minister Ismael Hanniya

26 thoughts on “Full text of Obama's Cairo Speech, Hamas' letter via CODEPINK

  1. 1) Per the Hamas letter:
    “It is therefore unfortunate that you will not visit Gaza during your trip to the Middle East and that neither your Secretary of State nor George Mitchell have come to hear our point of view.”
    Because their point of view is that the state of Israel should be replaced by an Islamic regime, in the entire land between the River and the Sea. This is indisputable. They say it all of the time, clearly. The only people who seem to think that they are liars are certain Jewish “Progressives.”
    2) Why did you not comment on the portion of the President’s speech where he described the nuclear arms race that is sure to come, after Iran obtains its bomb?

  2. Jonathan, I think you’re misrepresenting the desire to engage Hamas. Their view might be an Islamic republic, but they know they’re not going to get one. They know they only had 40% of the voting public at last election, and who knows what will happen in the next elections, post-Gaza. All the same, they run Gaza and need to be engaged. Israel doesn’t have a choice if it wants to avoid another Gaza incursion.

  3. Their view might be an Islamic republic, but they know they’re not going to get one.
    Really? They told us that they know they’re not going to get what they want? When did this happen? Please provide some evidence to this. It seems pretty clear that they DO think they will get want they want eventually–if I were them I would too.
    they only had 40% of the voting public at last election, and who knows what will happen in the next elections, post-Gaza.
    This is a reason to strengthen them politically? To show the Palestinan public that rejectionism and violence pay? Is this not the argument to strengthen Fatah?
    All the same, they run Gaza and need to be engaged. Israel doesn’t have a choice if it wants to avoid another Gaza incursion.
    It’s not clear if the choice is between strengthening an organization that sits at our doorposts (and very clearly wants to destroy us )or another Cast Lead. But is this is the choice, we should choose the latter option 100 out of 100 times…although it’s not clear that this is the choice.

  4. Ughh, Look people. No Jew no matter how liberal wants to live with arabs. (If they weren’t there to begin with, would you allow them to settle?)
    So if ethnic cleansing upsets your stomach just PAY the Arabs to leave. The money you will save from the military will easily pay for the relocation of 30 million palestinians, let alone 3 million.
    Why for the love of G-d can’t Israel do this. Is the world going to be upset about it? Are they going to threaten military action or economics boycotts because, ghassp, the jews are giving money to arabs?
    And if you think the pals will be too proud to accept your money, do it anyway. Just let them know they at least have the option. It will start with a trickle and turn in a flood.

  5. “Ughh, Look people. No Jew no matter how liberal wants to live with arabs. (If they weren’t there to begin with, would you allow them to settle?)”
    Wow. I was hoping to find a note of sarcasm in your post, but I cannot find it. Thankfully you do not speak for me, a Jew – a moderate liberal.

  6. Doesn’t anyone find it a bit strange that CodePink is fronting for a fundamentalist Islamic group that very definitely does not believe (or act on the belief) that women are equal to men? And also, if CodePink is so in favor of piece, why are they shilling for a group that lobs rockets at Israeli civilians? I lost respect for CodePink a long time ago – now I wonder if the FBI ought to be investigating them for being so cozy with a terrorist group.

  7. I had an pre-trip exchange with Medea Benjamin and find CODEPINK’s situation rather peculiar. She said they wanted to visit Sderot but their Israeli allies advised against it. That said, she also said CODEPINK was trying to stay away from Hamas. Not that I discourage third-track diplomacy at all, if Israel refuses to talk to Hamas, then this kind of act is quite expected.
    Though the other way around is JUST as interesting: how does HAMAS explain its use of CODEPINK as a communications channel? Surely they must see some irony in their use of, as Rebecca said, a women’s feminist group.

  8. cantorpenny, the only reason Israel gave citizenship to arabs is because they already have their foot in the door. They don’t want them there but ethnic cleansing is yucky so they can’t do anything about it. Except pay them to leave which Israel should have done 61 years ago.
    But I guess in the name of humanity you would want this conflict to simmer on for another 100 years. That would be the moral thing to do.

  9. I live in Europe and I am not an American. I am barely politically literate. I don’t watch television or receive newspapers:- But I have never read such a moving and radiant political speech on the Palestinian/Israeli situation as that found in the speech of Barack Obama in Cairo published above. I read it here first, as they say.
    There will be many other Jews who disagree with what Barack Obama said- both on religion and on politics- but on this particular website there must surely be many, many of you who will join me in seeing the USA President’s statements on the Israeli Palestinian situation, on the Abrahamic religions, and his call for religious tolerance generally as being little short of prophetic- almost, dare I say it, with a spark of Moshiach dancing between his words.
    Why am I writing this?
    Because I think that we have a chance in this comments box to state our JEWISH support of the Obama speech and I believe that we should focus on that rather than on anything Hamas may have written or said. Many non-Jews will find their way to the “Cairo Address” on this particular site: in the presence of such a momentous and historic speech, we ought not to squabble: Those of you who agree should not let this speech pass without saying amen to it publicly. I would like to be the second (after Kung Fu Jew) to say publicly on this page:- “Thank God, Barack Obama has said all that”
    As it says in our new (UK) Reform Siddur:
    “May it be your will, our living God, that we witness in our day peace amongst all the descendants of Abraham, peace in Zion and tranquility in Jerusalem, a place of prayer for all peoples.”
    Seder Tefillot page 283
    Amen, anyone……?
    Norman R Davies
    (Jewish hermit in Spain)

  10. Maybe I’m missing something. I watched the clip above (and read the rest of the speech) and found it – particularly the section on Israel and Palestine – the most banal, cliched, milquetoast piece of prose I’ve heard in awhile. People are getting their houses demolished and their heads shot off and living in abject poverty, and we’re nattering on about peace and love? I don’t get it.
    At this point, I really can’t respect rhetoric like “if we see this conflict one from side or another, we will be blind to the truth.” Wow, Mr. President – you mean it’s not all black and white, but gray? Tell me more!!! And he’s certainly not the first one to call for the two-state solution.
    I apologize for the sarcasm, I guess, but I seriously can’t comprehend the drooling that accompanies this speech. Even if you agree with the policy directives – if they can be called that – amidst the banality, I’d hardly describe the whole thing as “moving and radiant” as the above poster did.
    And personally, I’m way past tired of hearing people say that violence never solves anything or advances any causes. Yes, it does. Even apart from the tremendous amount of violence that the US perpetrates every year (does that solve anything, Mr. President?), I would venture to say that the willingness of some to commit murder for their cause has been extremely helpful for them.
    I doubt very much that Israel would ever have begun making the kinds of concessions it has if they weren’t confronted with the fact that some people were willing to take huge, violent steps against them. (I’ve seen a number of polls that indicate this).
    To say nothing of the speech’s bullshit historical revisionism that ignores the more radical uprisings by slaves throughout history. (See Revolution, Haitian, just for starters). As well as possibly my least favorite rhetorical tactic, the “all of our sacred scriptures preach peace” one, which ignores the many, many violent and disturbing passages in each of them.
    If reading or watching this speech makes us feel all warm and snuggly in our nice houses and comfortable liberalism, then…good for us, I guess. But I see very little value in it beyond that.
    So, yeah. I don’t get it.

  11. formermuslim, Not that I’m furthering the idea because I think it’s ridiculous and have no intention of promoting ethnic cleansing of any kind…but where pray tell would you “pay” all these people to go? Jordan won’t have any more Palestinians then they already do…the Bedouin King is already attempting to control an “apartheid ” situation so to speak, and Egypt certainly doesn’t want them.
    So what, we should pay all the residents of the land to move to America, where the streets are paved with gold…oops, I mean debt?

  12. formermuslim: I’m a Jew and I wouldn’t mind living with or near Arabs.
    Currently, the people down the row are loud, obnoxious, play their music at ear-shattering volumes at all hours of the night and frequently host drunken parties. I don’t care if the person is Arab, Muslim, Christian, White, Black, Hispanic, whatever. All that I really care about is whether or not they’re being loud at 3 am.
    I’d go out of my way to get an Arab to move in if it would get rid of those people.

  13. formermuslim:
    Let’s put your words another way in another scenario:
    Brooklyn (yes, *Brooklyn, NY*) Ca. 1940’s …. signs go up in the subways announcing new high-rise residences in a neighborhood including, “RESTRICTED.” Code word for: no Blacks (sorry, “Negroes” at the time), Jews, Catholics. Didn’t mean there were no Blacks, Jews or Catholics living in the area (my family certainly was and had been for quite some time), just that they weren’t wanted in the new apartments.
    Or consider the following comment made by a former teacher (nice Greek Orthodox lady) in a Brooklyn “mixed neighborhood:” “they’re” moving in – they’re going to destroy the neighborhood. Guess who “they” were? Orthodox Jews.
    By your way of thinking, Israelis/Jews have the same small minded, racially bigoted attitudes as those ignorant people in my neighborhood back in the good old days of homogeneity. IMO, that’s not the Jewish way of thinking – at least not any kind of Judaism that I want passed down to my children.

  14. Exactly Mriri, Obama needs to support the resistence and be forceful with Israel. We have to remember that Bush called for the freeze of settlements as well and never followed through.

  15. Cantorpenny:
    Pay.. Them.. TO.. Leave. Give..Them..Money. Let’s not turn this into a reenactment of Schindler’s list.
    The Greek and Orthodox christians generally hate Jews dogmatically. Literally. After the holocaust the catholic and protestant churches did some soul searching while the orthodox just said “go f**k yourselves”. So I am not surprised hearing your story. Orthodox christians are the biggest a**holes in the christian world.
    “they” would be thrown the hell out of Israel if it was up to me.

  16. Even if Hamas only receives 40% of the vote, they’ve shown a willingness to use political violence against their own people in order to adjust election results.
    Again, all the more reason to strengthen Fatah’s claim as the government of Palestine.
    Unfortunately Obama’s speech contains many historical myths alongside the historical facts, designed to ingratiate the U.S. to the Arab world. I don’t know if these amount to new policy statements or the sorts of flowery words one says in public while speaking frankly behind closed doors.
    As far as “formermuslim”‘s statements about liberal Jews living with Arabs:
    Anyone who acts as a good neighbor to me will be treated in kind.

  17. Not one blog post on the Fatah convention? Really? Is it because the convention’s results dampen the “We have to engage Hamas” arguments?
    Recent news . . .
    1) Marwan Barghouti won a top post in Tuesday’s Fatah elections.
    2) Fatah convention opens, with movement backing two-state idea
    3)Abbas emerges stronger after Fatah convetion, to the consternation of Hamas leadership.

  18. Jonathan1,
    Check out Barry Rubin’s blog about the Fatah elections (H/T Yaacov). I find Rubin to be a disjointed writer, and his post is very “inside baseball”; on the other hand, how many “experts” on the conflict can credibly speak with such intimacy about the Palestinian leadership?
    His overall conclusion: The new leadership will work with Israel on day-to-day issues. It does not have the authority, unity or legitimacy for final status negotiations with Israel. There is open contempt for reuniting with Hamas, and given the frequency of Palestinian elections, that means the Fatah/Hamas geographic and political split is more or less a permanent reality.
    The rising star within the leadership, considered to be the successor to Abbas, is a hardliner who rejects Oslo and favors violence – Ghuneim. The “Young Guard” consists of people we already know – Dahlan, Rajoub and Barghouti – whose major experiences were not in negotiations or competent administration but violence.
    He lists the handful of “moderates”, mostly realists or technocrats with strong business interests, but their impact on final status issues is marginal.

  19. I, too, can’t stand Barry Rubin’s writing, Victor.
    If we can’t come to an understanding with Fatah, where will that leave us? There seems only two Palestinians with whom Israel can cut a deal: one is buried in Ramallah; and one sits in prison.
    I hate to call you out, but is it the nature of Fatah’s leadership that is the problem . . . or is the problem the endgame of negotiations?
    If Thomas Jefferson were reincarnated as a Palestinian, and he had the people’s support to sign an agreement (along the lines of the Clinton Ideas, say), would you support such a deal?

  20. With the recent rhetoric, I am confused today if Clinton/Barak had promised Arafat East Jerusalem – a move which I do not support. Outlying Arab villages are one thing, but the Temple Mount is non-negotiable.
    Details notwithstanding, but basically adopting the framework Netanyahu laid out in June, whereby Jerusalem remains united, yes, I would support such a deal.
    I would also support peaceful, but rapid native Jewish growth in the new Palestinian state, in the hope that one day there is an unassailable Jewish majority “from the river to the sea”. Even if this majority is not achieved in the near or medium terms, a Judenrein Palestinian society will more easily focus resources on a future conflict with Israel than one where a sizable, native Jewish population has economic and political leverage.
    Perhaps that seems cynical, and it is, I suppose.
    Allow me to explain why.
    I’ve spent a lot of time with Palestinian Americans who grew up in the first intifada. Palestinians are not evil, they simply look at their reality and read the tea leaves. Palestinian culture, society, economy and polity cannot peacefully resist Israel, but more specifically the Jews of Israel. This is not about gloating; it is the reality and they feel it viscerally.
    Jewish identity washes away the purpose of Palestinian existence. This is why the denial of Jewish origins is gaining so much strength in Palestinian and Arab circles. They have all these theories – the Torah is not the true Torah, we’re from Turkey, we’re not the REAL Jews, look at our skin, our eyes, our hair… as though, if the REAL Jews came, they would relinquish the land without a question.
    Palestinians in 1900 didn’t question Jewish identity. They didn’t think they had to – Jews were a defeated, vanquished people since 500 years before Islam. Not vanquished by the Romans; Arabs are too spiritual for such an explanation. Islam has an entire tradition about the the sins of Israel and the withdrawal of G-d’s support for the Jews. In two thousands years, who ever conceived, in Arab lands, that the Jews would reconstitute their nation in the Levant?
    A secure, vibrant Israel means a renewal of traditional Jewish culture, combined with Western hypermodernity – remarkably, for Jews the two are not mutually exclusive. Palestinian society has been reeling under this dual pressure since masses of Jews first set foot in the Levant. Without their culture – particularly land culture – the Palestinians are just a bunch of Nouris. This is not a war over religion, but identity, and identity is something no “peace process” or political agreement can secure.
    I have a running conversation with one my closest Palestinian friends, who I trust on these matters, about the Islamification of Palestinians. It’s not just the youth, although it is most pronounced in the youth. You can see it in the clothing. The young women don’t wear a traditional Palestinian head dress, like a smadeh, they opt for hijab. There is little to no interest in traditional embroidery or working the land; everyone wants to leave for the cities, Europe, etc.
    The young are turning their back on traditional Palestinian culture. To them, to be a Palestinian is to be a failure. For that matter, with today’s last gasps of Pan Arab nationalism, to be an Arab is to be a failure. They cannot synthesize tribal culture and modernity. With Islam, there is hope. With Islam, they don’t have to tie themselves to the land or to the tribe. Islam is a native, legitimate force. Islam can adapt to modernity, and Islam was always intended to holistically supplant local tribal culture anyway.
    Without Palestinian culture, however, Palestinians have no connection to the land, and no reason to fight for it. Israel – the dual pressures of Jewish culture and modernity – is the attacker on Palestinian identity. Without violent resistance to Israel, the Palestinians will cease to exist.
    The Fatah elections have highlighted the insurmountable divisions within the Palestinian nationalist movement, and this has been the general focus of media coverage. What is rather more important, however, is the cross-generational continuity in overall Palestinian strategic thinking. Where in the Fatah conference was there discussion of the failure of 40 years of armed conflict? Where did a single member voice resignation to exist without “struggle”?
    Whether “moderate” or “fundamentalist”, Islamist or secular, the Palestinian leadership, for all its divisions and corruption, is committed to existential war against the Jews of Israel, in stages. On this, there is unity. This war is about identity. This war IS their identity.
    Peace, partition and normalization will only quicken the loss of Palestinian identity. Perhaps that outcome will result in true peace, but we should be honest about it, and prepare for the Palestinians to fight tooth and nail all the way to cultural extinction.

  21. Khaled Abu Toameh mostly confirms Rubin’s analysis
    The power struggle between the old and new guards in Fatah has never been over ideology or the future of the peace process. On these issues, there’s almost no difference between Barghouti’s views and those of Sha’ath and Qurei.
    Rather, it’s a power struggle between a camp that for two decades denied young guard activists a larger say in decision-making and access to public funds and jobs, and those younger activists.

  22. Yaacov Lozowick has a great post up today about where the conversation is heading:
    The lines of discussion are indeed becoming ever more clear, even if the team at the White House doesn’t see it. The issue is the right of the Jews to sovereignty in their ancestral homeland. Not the right of the Palestinians; that has already been accepted by any fair minded person. It’s the right of the Jews which is being discussed, evaluated, and in many cases rejected. This is what the Jews need firmly to keep in mind.
    As Glenn Reynolds says, read the whole thing.

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