Al-Ahram Weekly Online   11 - 17 June 2009
Issue No. 951
Press review
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

After the words

Doaa El-Bey examines the reaction to Barack Obama's speech in Cairo and the consequences of Lebanon's parliamentary elections

All Egyptian newspapers were inundated with comments about President Obama's speech. Some regarded it as a new beginning while others thought it too good to be true while still others showed scepticism towards his address.

The front page headlines of the official daily Al-Ahram read, "A new beginning from Cairo between America and the Muslims; The summit between Mubarak and Obama underlines the depth of the strategic relations between Egypt and America; Obama calls for overlooking 11 September and advocates the principles of Islam and its civilisation; Obama urges both Palestinians and Israelis to make difficult concessions to achieve peace in the region."

Abdullah Abdel-Salam wrote that Obama brought us a mirror in his address and said: "this is your image. How are you going to improve it? We immediately responded that our image is great; it is only you, Americans and Westerners, who have to change and improve your image."

Magdi El-Daqqaq wrote that Obama's balanced speech opened a new page in the relationship between the US and the Islamic world. "He cleverly put the Islamic world before a historic option. On his part, he uprooted all causes for mistrust and fear that used to govern the Americans in their ties with the Islamic world. Then he requested the Islamic world to do the same in order to meet on common ground of justice, tolerance and dignity."

Salah Montasser wrote that for the first time, a US president showed clear respect for Islam and the Quran which he repeatedly referred to during the speech. It is also the first time for an American president to talk about the suffering of the Palestinians and adopt a clear stand on Israeli settlement construction.

Akhbar Al-Yom 's main headline read "Obama entered history". Ibrahim Seada wrote that Obama indicated a real will to show that his administration is different than his predecessor's and that it is imperative to boost the peace process on the basis of a two-state solution. The Palestinian Authority welcomed the speech but questioned how the US president could transform his words into deeds in spite of the objection of Binyamin Netanyahu and his rightist extremist government. Seada pointed out that the US administration has not answered that question yet.

Gamal Abdel-Gawad wrote in the independent daily Nahdet Masr that Obama not only addressed the Islamic world but also the entire world in his speech. He was sure that his speech will not appeal to all the trends, but he aimed to gain the support of moderates worldwide. And in that, as the writer added, he succeeded. "Obama managed to gain the support of moderate public opinion. That support would give him the power to protect his policies from extremists."

Al-Wafd 's front page read "Obama appeals to everybody in his address to Muslims". Mohamed Amin wrote that the speech managed to change the picture of the US and did not ignore any of the issues that Obama was supposed to tackle. "The speech tackled facts, like America's strong ties with Israel and democracy and issues like the right of Copts and Maronites, and even Iran's right to possess nuclear power for peaceful purposes."

The newspaper, which is the mouthpiece of the opposition Wafd Party, published a number of pictures showing the empty streets on the day of Obama's visit and satirically asked Obama about the whereabouts of the Egyptians.

The independent daily Al-Masry Al-Yom said, "Obama, the awaited... a reconciliatory speech that awaits mechanisms for execution". In an interview with the newspaper, he was quoted as saying, "I ask the Middle East states to assume the responsibility in order to guarantee cooperation between Israel, the Gulf states and Palestinians."

Tariq Abbas wrote that Obama is not the legendary Antar Ibn Shaddad and cannot enforce change. He himself cannot take decisions except after referring to his advisors and executive and legislative authorities. The congress, influenced as it is by the Zionist lobby, controls many decisions especially those related to the Arab region, US aid, oil, security and the threat of Islamists.

Thus, he added, whatever Obama said, or would say in the future is controlled by US interests. And Israel is the US tool in controlling the region. Abbas concluded by asking, "Will the US give up its support for Israel for the sake of Egypt or the Arabs, or will it engage in human rights or the rights of the minority issues at the expense of its hegemony over the region?"

The newspaper expressed its frustration that all the flowers and plants planted in the streets for the visit were removed just a few hours after the end of Obama's visit while people started throwing garbage next to Magra Al-Oyoun wall, as usual.

Galal Amer satirically wrote that Egypt does not need a six-hour visit from Obama, but Obama every six hours is a special diet... after a probation period, change could probably take place. "Obama cannot uproot corruption or torture," Amer summed up.

Rose El-Youssef wrote "goods words, awaiting deeds", and "a good beginning from Egypt... a balanced speech that satisfied Muslims".

Mohamed Abdel-Nour, who cordially welcomed Obama, wrote that the tumultuous applause that repeatedly interrupted his speech was an indication of the spectators' satisfaction with the terms and the direct clear language that he used. In addition it showed a new face of the US, a face that knows no arrogance.

Abdel-Nour pointed to the positive points in Obama's speech like his confirmation that the establishment of the Palestinian state is not only in the interests of the Palestinians but in the interests of the Israelis and the US as well. He also declared his rejection of illegal Israeli settlements.

Al-Arabi, the mouthpiece of the democratic Nasserist Party, viewed the speech from a different point of view, saying it allowed the Israelis to enter Cairo University (a large number of Israeli journalists and cameramen were in Cairo University to attend the speech).

Eid Saleh wrote that Obama's speech contained words rather than seeds. And the question is what could force the US -- the state whose interests are organically linked to Israel -- to achieve the two-state solution? The answer, as Saleh added, is not in Obama's hands but in the hands of the Arabs, if they want. They have the card that can press on the US if it is used properly -- oil. "Obama's speech, regarded by some as a compulsory plan of action, pointed to the difficulties and asked for the help of the Arabs. However that help means more pressure on the Palestinians to accept a fragmented state that has no right to possess weapons," he wrote.

Ehab Hassan described the speech as soft words that are not followed by action. It is a mere moral sermon that has the effect of plastic surgery. He asked what the Arabs should do so as not to aggravate their defeat. "If they carry on banking on illusions they will get weaker and more divided," Hassan stated in Al-Arabi.

© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly. All rights reserved

Issue 951 Front Page
Front Page | Egypt | Special | Focus | Region | Economy | International | Opinion | Press review | Reader's corner | Culture | Heritage | Sports | Cartoons | People | Sky High | Listings | BOOKS | TRAVEL
Current issue | Previous issue | Site map