USF Student questions Obama on human rights in the Middle East

01/28/10 Joshua Lee Holton
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President Obama answered questions from the audience during his speech today at University of Tampa. USF student Laila Abdelaziz asked Obama the first question.

Laila Abdelaziz: "Hello Mr. President, my name is Laila Abdelaziz. I'm a student at the University of South Florida."

President Barack Obama: "Hey Laila"

[crowd boos]

President Barack Obama: "Uh oh, Uh oh, Uh oh. We can all get along here. Tampa, behave yourselves."

Laila Abdelaziz: "First of all I'd like to say I did work on your campaign. I think it's great what you did for the community, because you involved us, as the youth, to understand the grassroots movement and the impact it can make."

President Barack Obama: "That's right. Thank you."

Laila Abdelaziz: "My question is, um- Last night you spoke in your State of the Union address you spoke of America's support for human rights."

President Barack Obama: "Mm, hmm"

Laila Abdelaziz: "Then, why have we not condemned Israel and Egypt's human rights violations against the occupied Palestinian people? And yet we continue supporting them financially with billions of dollars from our tax dollars?"


President Barack Obama: "Ok, everybody's got to be courteous. Everybody--answer the question. Let me just talk about the Middle East generally."

Obama took a few moments to respond.

President Barack Obama: "The Middle East is obviously an issue that has plagued the region for centuries, and it's an issue that elicits a lot of passions as you have heard. Here's my view. Israel is one of our strongest allies, it has...[applause] let me play this out. It is a vibrant democracy. It shares links with us in all sorts of ways. is critical...for us...and I will never waver from ensuring Israel's security, and helping them secure themselves in what is a really hostile region. I make no apologies for that."

He then acknowledged the troubles of the Palestinians in his answer.

President Barack Obama: "What is also true, is that the plight of the Palestinians is something that we have to pay attention to, because it is not good for our security, and it is not good for Israel's security if you've got millions of individuals who feel hopeless, who don't have an opportunity to get an education, or get a job, or what have you. The grievances on both sides of the issue. What I have said, and what we did from the beginning when I came into office, is to say we are seeking a two state solution."

WMNF spoke with Abdelaziz after the speech. She said that negotiations for a two state solution are complicated.

Laila Abdelaziz: "Of course we love a two state solution, but there has to be trust and dialogue between two sides. The Palestinian people are ready for a two state solution, but the Palestinian people are the ones being occupied by Israelis. How are the Palestinian people supposed to do anything if they're the ones being occupied? The occupiers have to allow for something to happen which they have not yet allowed to happen. I asked President Obama why he says America as a nation supports human rights, but at the same time, one of our greatest allies is Israel, a country that does not support human rights, and has many human rights violations. President Obama did not really answer my question or address it, so I'm really disappointed right now."

Obama said that the aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians are best realized by seeking understanding, instead of demonizing either party.

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yea laila

I wish this question would be asked every time Obama appears. A vibrant democracy?? Shares our values?? You mean values like dispossessing people and burning them with white phosphorus when they complain? I'm really glad that people like Laila are here.

Obama on the Middle East

In addition, President Obama pointed with emphasis to his earnest bid to reign in the nuclear threat, and proposes to reinstate a binding non proliferation treaty. But how will Israel figure in this broad picture? Will the present US administration allow Israeli stock piles of nuclear weapons to stay in the closet under its to date "Don't ask Don't tell policy...??? Or finally force them out..? Lets hope for the latter, once and for all!

Bingo laila

i am from egypt and i support all what u said, Egypt has low level of human rights and no democracy , despite that US considered Egypt as Ally and moderate state , only for serving its agenda Unfortunaltely Obama is just a rhetorics machine. he evaded the excellent question clearly and poorly.

Bravo Leila

You asked a good question Leila and Obama gave you an honest answer. Human rights are not a concern of the US.. and certainly not in a "very hostile region" like ours in the Middle East... where US and Israeli occupiers expect to be welcomed with flowers and candy. As an Egyptian Leila, I would suggest that you first start working on liberating the US and Mr. Obama from Israeli occupation. Obama's reaction to your simple and clear-cut question says volumes about the running of Washington.

here's why

Because one the one hand, israel's lobby is so powerful that if Obama tired to abandon them, he would get creamed, especially as many people are "liberal", but their synagogues preach that the only thing keeping a second holocaust from happening is the fact that the Jews finally have a country. However, there is an equally valid part two. Laila, I believe you when you say YOU are for a two party solution, however, the fact is, many of the Arabs are not, Hamas most certainly is not, and have plainly stated they are not. So the problem comes in when both sides of Jerusalem are populated by people who really would rather kill each other than be in peace, especially as both Imam and Rabbi preach that is how God likes it. Granted, you and I may know that voice the preachers hear is really that of Satan, but sadly, if we tried to tell them otherwise, we would get a bullet to the head. As for America, the problem is sticky as, truth be told, which power would really care if all the Jews were killed? Let's be honest, Europe would not shed many tears, any more than they would for Muslims. The Europeans are the same people that praised a hack cartoonist because he defamed Mohammed, and then followed it up with a cartoon showing Anne Frank in bed with a Nazi; they hate Jew and Arab alike. Asia has no horse in the race, so there we have the reason why America leans towards Israel; who else would?