Q Hello, Mr. President. My name is Layla (phonetic), I'm a student at the University of South Florida. (Applause.)
Of course, it becomes immediately clear that it was because they knew what she would be asking about:
My question is, last night in your State of the Union address you spoke of America's support for human rights. Then why have we not condemned Israel and Egypt's human rights violations against the occupied Palestinian people and yet we continue to support financially with billions of dollars coming from our tax dollars?
The video can be viewed below.
I find it somewhat funny that whatever Palestinian activist group planned to act the question had the "normal white American" girl ask the question rather than the far more "Arab-looking" guy next to her who eventually chimes in to repeat her final "our taxes" line.
Of course, as it turns out, the girl, Laila Abdelaziz, is one of my fellow Palestinians, though her most recent Palestinian ancestors were Muslim, while mine were Jewish; of course, I would not be surprised if it turned out Ms. Abdelaziz is in fact descended from Jews 2000 years back.
To be fair to Ms. Abdelaziz, from what I can tell, she seems relatively moderate, quite possibly among the group of Palestinians to whom I could come to an agreement with on parameters for ending the occupation of the West Bank and the creation of a Palestinian state, depending on her views on the Old City and the "right of return"
Though I can't see what groups she belongs to, the only Palestinian politician among her pages is Mustafa Barghouti (not to be confused with his relatively distant cousin Marwan), head of the Palestinian National Initiative. The PNI, unlike the three top-vote-getting parties in the last Palestinian election that took place several months after Israel withdrew from Gaza, Hamas (which is itself a terrorist group), PFLP (ditto) and Fatah (which still maintains significant affiliations with the terrorist group Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade), have no ties to any armed militant groups. I could wish she supported Ray Hanania's candidacy-awareness campaign, of course.
On the other hand, I certainly have several criticisms/questions that I'd like to hear her and other similar-minded people answer.
For instance, in her interview afterward with Florida radio station WMNF, she said:
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.
Regarding dialogue: Abbas and the PA have refused to even come to the table for dialogue. It's worth noting that Israeli opinion columnists from Akiva Eldar on the pretty far to the left to Barry Rubin on the right have pointed out (or predicted months ago) that this refusal on Abbas' part would majorly curtail any pressure Obama would put in Israel.
As for her question arguing hypocrisy about human rights-because one of our greatest allies in Israel? Seriously? Not "at the same time, one of our greatest selves is the United States of America." After, all the US is not occupying a country; we're occupying three countries-Afghanistan, Iraq, and (according to several countries, including France) Haiti.
Denying civil rights to people born in our territories? I'm sitting right now in the capital of this great nation, which still suffers from "taxation without representation;" of course, this Obama cannot be blamed for; we really need a constitutional amendment to remedy this, and a president has no part in it.
Finally, I found it rather interesting that she brought in Egypt in addition to Israel in terms of violating the human rights of Palestinians. While Egypt is hardly innocent of human rights violations, when it comes to Palestinians, not so much. Human Rights Watch didn't mention them in their latest report on Middle East human rights, though they did call out majority-Palestinian Jordan as well Lebanon on their violations of human rights of Palestinians.
As for Obama's response, I liked it just fine.