Arab Media: ‘Obama Just Talked the Talk’

Arab Media: ‘Obama Just Talked the Talk’

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It’s been a year since President Barack Obama made a major diplomatic statement by traveling to Cairo in a highly public effort to directly address the Arab and Muslim world. In making the address, Obama sought to heal the rift that had developed under his predecessor between the United States and the Arab world.

A year later, many Arab American commentators say they’re disappointed. All they’ve seen is talk, they say, but no action.

New America Media asked ethnic media representatives to grade President Obama on his performance.

Fatima Atieh, publisher, Al Enteshar Al Arabi Newspaper, Los Angeles, Calif.

I can’t give him a grade, he can’t be evaluated like that. When he was first elected, I didn’t expect him to repair everything right away. He took over a country that was in economic despair and that was involved in two wars. His speech last year was good effort, but it was just a speech, nothing has changed. He is trying to reduce misunderstandings and hatred between the Arab, Muslim world and the West, but there has been no action and he has not done anything for Arabs or Muslims. U.S. foreign policy is very hard and inflexible. It’s hard for us to expect him to change it. He’s trying, but it’s out of his reach. A very important point that cannot be ignored is the recent raid on the aid ship bound for Gaza. We should at least expect him to openly condemn Israel. These are innocent human beings who were killed and injured, civilians coming to help and provide humanitarian aid, they’re not some dirty pack of animals or roaches.

Ray Hanania, Arab Writers Group, host, Radio ChicagoLand, Chicago, Ill.

I would give him a "B" and base that on two categories: an "A" for effort and a "C" for achievement. His message is very inspiring and I believe that he is genuinely truthful. But I also think he’s too nice. For example, healthcare in the United States: his vision was different than what we got because he had to compromise…he compromised with pharmaceutical companies, and he’s done the same thing in the United States as in the Middle East. Today, we’re no closer to Mideast peace than we were when he was first elected into office. A president has a lot of power his first year, and he should have pushed the two sides harder. I think he missed his first year. He had that power, but never acted on it. I’m not going to give up on him. I hope he gets re-elected, the last two years he’ll have that power he had his first year, and he’ll be able to do it. He promised more than he could deliver, but at least he tried. What he’s offered is better than what we’ve seen before.

Bassam Maheawi, publisher, Watan Newspaper, Anaheim, Calif.

I can’t grade him. I don’t think he did anything. It was just the speech and all we got was talk. I know he is doing what he can to fix the relationship between the Arab and Muslim worlds and the West and provide opportunities to Arabs and Muslims. I wish him luck and I think he is the best president the United States has had and his priority should be America.

But I’m disappointed because I voted for him and have not seen any action as far as foreign policy. Arabs and Muslims are disappointed. He has not put any pressure (on Israel) to stop building settlements. They’re still building settlements and displacing Palestinians. This is the main issue for the Middle East. It’s not just an issue for "Palestine” or “Israel” – it’s an issue for all Arabs and Muslims. He should also bring the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan back home.

Osama Siblani, publisher, The Arab American News, Dearborn, Mich.

I don’t think we can give him an overall grade. Muslims and Arabs (in the U.S.) can see some kind of involvement. In the past you never saw people who reflect you, sit on the other side of the table. He has brought in Arabs and Muslims into certain departments, and we have seen efforts from the administration to reach out to the Arab and Muslim community.

For example, both CIA Director Leon Panetta, and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke have visited Dearborn. But there is no plan to rescue small businesses that we know of, our community is especially affected, and no money is coming to them.

The President came full circle in his Cairo speech and hopes were high that he would improve ties. One of the most important issues is the Israeli occupation of Palestine, but nothing is different than from previous administrations. One year after the speech what has happened? Israel’s attack on the flotilla. This is an act of piracy, there is no way around it. After one year, he will take an "F," for not attempting, not just because there have been no changes, there has been no attempt. There is carte blanche unquestionable support of Israel and Israel is unwilling to compromise. There is also more killing in Iraq and conflicts with Sunnis and Shiites. There has been slow change domestically, but it cannot be seen internationally.

Antoine Faisal, publisher, Aramica Newspaper, Brooklyn, N.Y.

I believe he has good intentions. Once a politician told me that governments are like big ships, it takes them a long time to change their course. I didn’t have high hopes that he would make any radical changes in one year. Obama based his campaign on promises he hasn’t delivered yet, such as closing Guantanamo and bringing home the troops and immigration. He went to the Middle East for his speech last year, but there has been no drastic change yet. But then again, I still put more hope in him compared to his predecessor. And at this point, I’ll take anything positive as an Arab.

I understand he is also dealing with diplomacy with Iran regarding nuclear weapons, but at the same time, nuclear power in the Middle East is permitted in one place and that’s Israel, and that is unfair.

Marwan Ahmed, publisher, Arab Voice and Muslim Voice, Phoenix, Ariz.

President Obama’s progress in the Arab and Muslim world since the famous Cairo speech has been less than expected. I didn’t expect miracles but seeing some results would have built some hopes. Not to say that there has not been some change but we need more tangible results to truly believe this administration is serious about building better relations with the Arabs and Muslim world.