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Insights into imperialism: Obama’s UNGA speech

Obama’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly was replete with imperialist references based upon the mainstream interpretation of history. Commencing with a glorification of the UN within a context which supports US foreign policy, Obama asserted that ‘as a result of this work and cooperation with allies and partners, the world is more stable than it was five years ago’. This assessment is based upon the president’s legacy – a conglomeration of promises and misconstrued realities which omit the humanitarian aspect exacerbated by imperialism.


According to Obama, the US has shifted from ‘a perpetual war-footing’. A statement which fails to take into account collateral damage and extraordinary rendition for the sake of alleged security concerns. The striking aspect of Obama’s speech is the manner in which the universal concept of humanity is applied within the general context, only to be fragmented within an instant as the endorsement of international law violations is discretely defined as a necessity to prevent turmoil – the euphemism for undesirable autonomy in US rhetoric.

The same concepts have been applied to Obama’s statements regarding Palestine. Unlike his previous address in Israel where Palestinians were entirely obliterated from his discourse, Obama attempts to weave Palestinian concerns within the concept of humanity and concern for human rights. “The United States remains committed to the belief that the Palestinian people have a right to live with security and dignity in their own sovereign state.” The assertion is swiftly contradicted by the usual glorification of the occupying power. Embarking upon generalisations, Obama declares that Palestinians recognise that ‘two states is the only real path to peace: because just as the Palestinian people must not be displaced, the state of Israel is here to stay”.

Conveniently ignoring historical memory prior to Israel’s realisation of the Nakba, Obama stereotypes Palestinians by enforcing an imperialist perspective upon the indigenous people while neglecting the various memory trajectories which create a chronology of Palestinian collective memory. It is impertinent to assume that all Palestinians support the notion of two states, and absurd to imply that any alleged feedback from Palestinians living in Ramallah represents a single opinion which, coincidentally, reflects US and Israeli interests within the usurped territory and the Middle East. By forsaking a mere acknowledgement of Palestinian collective memory and the multitude of experiences culminating into the indisputable right to return and autonomy, Obama has provided further evidence of the imperialist disdain for freedom which does not pertain to its influential allies.

Imperialist interest in the two states proposals is advocated solely because it pertains to the coveted status of inequality. Yet Obama expects Palestinians and the international community to abandon the significance of discernment and pivot towards discourse which has not only sought to further the displacement of Palestinians within contemporary history, but also attempted to manipulate the principles of international law within the neoliberal territory. According to Obama, America seeks a community ‘where nations do not covet the land or resources of other nations’. As evidenced throughout history, the privilege of the aforementioned usurpation pertains only to the designated powers which bestow a semblance of autonomy as a component of a negotiated surrender.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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