When President Barrack Obama was declared the winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace 2009, there were mixed responses from the International and US communities. The black were ecstatic, the whites sighed, and the browns like me only hoped that the Nobel laureate Obama would usher in change in a world where his country is seen more of a tormentor than anything else. Unfortunately nothing changed. More American soldiers were commissioned in Afghanistan; more drones killed innocent civilians than Al Qaida members in the tribal areas of Pakistan; more “development” work was sanctioned to American companies in Iraq and even more hysteria was generated against the weapons of mass destruction with Iran. It appeared that the Nobel Prize for Peace to Barrack Obama was as much a waste as it was a hoax in those six years when the real champion of peace, Mahatma Gandhi was denied its bestowment (We were told that Gandhi was nominated six times for the prize).
The Israeli attack on the Turkish boats carrying humanitarian aid to the caged people of Gaza is an opportunity thrown by history towards President Barrack Obama to earn his Nobel Peace Prize. The merciless killing of nineteen innocent humanitarian aid victims by Israeli forces aboard the Freedom Flotilla is not new. Israel is known for similar brutalities in the past. Who can forget the killing of innocent Muhhamad Al Durrah, the little boy who hid behind his father to avoid the Israeli bullets at a sleepy Gaza junction? Or for that matter can we ever forget the thousands murdered at the Sabra-Shatila camps in Beirut? So what is so big if Israel has committed murder again? To an ordinary citizen of the world like me, it is the audacity with which Israeli authorities perpetrated these crimes, right in front of world attention, knowing the consequences! It was murder planned and executed in broad daylight, right in our drawing rooms. The iron cold savagery of Israeli authorities has even taken its allies by surprise. Never have we seen such a global outcry over an Israeli atrocity.
In the opening remarks of his Noble lecture, President Obama had said, “It is an award that speaks to our highest aspirations – that for all the cruelty and hardship of our world, we are not mere prisoners of fate. Our actions matter, and can bend history in the direction of justice”. Undoubtedly strong, soul stirring words. But actions to bend history in the direction of justice never come easy. We know President Barrack Obama is an excellent orator. He weaves his words to make the listener believe in him. His popular Cairo University speech to Muslims is an epitome of rhetoric manufactured to the tune of popular Muslim sentiments. But for how long? Words sound good only if they are followed by firm actions. Actions are fortunately impervious to rhetoric. They have the accuracy to hit where it hurts. We know what Martin Luther King meant in his I Have a Dream speech because his actions and subsequently his sacrifice were proof enough to nurture the meaning of each and every word- truthful and heavy with purpose.
It’s interesting that President Obama’s second book Audacity of Hope derives its inspiration from the famous painting Hope by G.F. Watts. Obama had attended a sermon by his mentor, Jeremiah White who had then described the painting - "with her clothes in rags, her body scarred and bruised and bleeding, her harp all but destroyed and with only one string left, she had the audacity to make music and praise God ... To take the one string you have left and to have the audacity to hope ... that's the real word God will have us hear from this passage and from Watt's painting." How much more will President Barrack Obama wait? Palestine as a geopolitical entity is in rags. Its landmass divided by unjustified borders and fences. Its body scarred, bruised and bleeding. Every day brings new wounds and fresh death. The harp of hope for millions of Palestinians is long broken. The identity of Palestine has been untimely aborted by cruel hands of the Israeli establishment.
There are moments in history which demand change in our perceptions and attitudes to what looks routine. We have become immune to the siege and violence of Gaza. We have become deaf to the cries of mothers and lamenting of daughters. The complex power equations of the Middle East have muddled the cost of human suffering which is an inevitable part of the package. With each day the darkness around Gaza deepens. Peace talks, war crimes and peace talks again. The cycle goes on with a status quo which suites the perpetrators more than the victims. The attack on Freedom Flotilla is one such moment which has thrown a chance not towards Barak Obama, the President of the most powerful country in the world, but towards Barak Obama, the Nobel Laureate for Peace 2009. There is no paucity of options on Barak Obama’s platter. Israeli economic blockage, redefining biased territorial divisions, UN sanctions, maybe use of force or even freedom for the people of Palestine in general and Gaza in particular. President Obama was criticized by many for being given the Nobel Prize prematurely. This is the opportunity to justify the award and to reaffirm the faith of people in hope and humanity.
We know the cost of standing up against Israel and the Zionist agenda can be exorbitant and pure dangerous, but then the cost to maintain status quo is already deadly. We hope Barack Obama, the first black President of the United States of America stands up to what he writes and thinks. We hope that his actions, not rhetoric, will manufacture global consent against any further Israeli oppression. We hope that he frees the prisoners of Gaza not only from their brutal masters but from their fates as well. President Barak Obama, we will wait to see if you are just one of them or are you a rare breed.