October 27, 2021

While Refusing to Support Hong Kong’s Democracy, Obama Strongly Condemns Israel

First, Hong Kong. Protests in that former British colony have grown massively since they started last Friday. The demonstrators– and, if opinion polls are correct, also the overwhelming majority of Hong Kong People– oppose the communist government in Beijing’s refusal to stand by provisions of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration that spelled out the conditions under which Hong Kong would be governed after its return to China from Britain. Hong Kong’s constitution, or Basic Law negotiated as part of the of Joint Declaration, guarantees Hong Kong’s right to govern itself on all non-defense or foreign affairs matters through 2047.

Protestors claim that China reneged on that agreement in June when it announced that Beijing would decide which candidates would be permitted to run in the 2017 elections to pick the self governing city’s next Chief Executive thereby insuring it would have full control over all the candidates that seek that office.

As up to a quarter million protestors peaceably took to Hong Kong streets demanding freedom last weekend, neither President Obama nor any other senior administration official said anything at all. It wasn’t until Tuesday that the US consulate in Hong Kong got around to issuing its first statement and it sided not with the protestors or their freedom cause:

We do not take sides in the discussion of Hong Kong’s political development, nor do we support any particular individuals or groups involved in it… We encourage all sides to refrain from actions that would further escalate tensions, to exercise restraint and to express views on (Hong Kong’s) political development in a peaceful manner.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was again forced to downplay harsh criticism against the Jewish state leveled by President Obama and other members of the administration during their White House visit Wednesday. Media reports claim that Obama harshly condemned the recent issuance of building permits for 2,610 apartment units inside the Israeli capital city, without seeming to understand that those decisions are made at the local, not the national level.

A Jerusalem real estate developer recently purchased seven apartment buildings in the predominantly Arab neighborhood of Silwan and purchased advertising to encourage Jewish families to buy them.

Netanyahu pushed back hard against the President’s condemnation. He told Spanish language Univisión TV that “Jews buy apartments in Arab neighborhoods. Arabs buy apartments in Jewish neighborhoods. I wouldn’t dream of interfering with that, and couldn’t even if I wanted to.” “It is a municipal issue,” he said.

Pointing out President Obama’s hypocrisy of siding with those who seeking to prevent Jews from certain neighborhoods in Israel’s capital city, Netanyahu pointed out “there would be an uproar” if neighborhoods in the US, Mexico, or anywhere but Israel tried barring Jews from moving in. In comments that also appeared aimed at the Obama Administration, Netanyahu seemed to chide the White House and State Department for thinking they were empowered to micromanage the Jewish state down its most granular bureaucratic level: “It would be worth at least learning the correct information before jumping to take a position like that.”

Both the White House and State Department issued harsh condemnations of the new Jewish housing units, going to so far as to threaten the Jewish state with abandonment if it continued allowing Jews to move into neighborhoods that are predominantly Arab.

Former Israeli Deputy Prime Minister and Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky writes and speaks regularly about how vital it is for freedom movements to know their struggles are neither desperate nor lonely. That they fight for values espoused by and embodied in the United States of America. When that support is not forthcoming, as in so many recent cases where President Obama has refused to offer even strong verbal support for freedom demonstrators in Iran and Venezuela, the effect can be devastating. Telling this author of the moment he heard of President Reagan’s denunciation of the Soviet Union as the ‘evil empire’ destined to fail while himself suffering a tortuous prison sentence in the Soviet Gulag abuses, Sharansky said: “It was one of the most important, freedom-affirming declarations, and we all instantly knew it. For us, that was the moment that really marked the end for them, and the beginning for us. The lie had been exposed and could never, ever be untold.”