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Speech Reaction From The Arab World

Eric Calderwood is a Ph.D. student at Harvard University. His research focuses on Muslim-Christian relations in the Mediterranean.

Earlier today, Obama addressed the Arab and Muslim worlds from Cairo, and the Arab press is flooded with responses. Al Jazeera's initial coverage of the speech was absolutely glowing. Their website featured a large picture of Obama in Cairo, with the caption: "America is not at odds with Islam." In their article, the Qatari network also reported that Obama has called for a "new beginning" for American relations with the Arab and Muslim worlds.

In the past couple hours, though, Al Jazeera has published a more ambivalent article, reporting on the mixed response in the Palestinian community. Under the same picture that graced their first article is a new caption: "Hamas considers that many contradictions tarnish Obama's speech." The beginning of the article develops this idea: "The Palestinian Authority welcomed the speech of the American President Barack Obama in Cairo, and considered it a new beginning, while the Islamic resistance movement Hamas considered that [the speech] evinced a palpable change, but [Hamas] said that many contradictions tarnish Obama's speech. As far as Israel is concerned, it emphasized that its safety would be at the top of its priorities, but it expressed its hope that Obama's speech would be the foundation for the beginning of peace with the Muslim and Arab worlds."

The newspaper Al-Quds Al-‘Arabi , an independent pan-Arab newspaper published in London, registered a similar ambivalence. It praised Obama's call for a "new beginning" but also stated: "Obama didn't offer any new initiative for ending the conflict between Israel and Palestine, an omission that frustrated many."

One of the most surprising responses is from the Tehran-based Arabic-language news site Al-Alam, which is owned and run by Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting. I would have expected them to criticize Obama for failing to offer a new initiative for the Israel-Palestine peace process. Instead, the headline of their lead story reads "Obama underscores the implementation of a two-state solution." The article goes on to say that Obama "asked the Israeli entity to stop building settlements, indicating that the United States does not consider the Israeli occupation and settlements legal. Obama also said that the Israeli entity must recognize the right of the Palestinian people, and that it is not possible to deny the Palestinian people's right to stay." Certainly, Obama made conciliatory gestures to the Palestinians in his speech; nevertheless, the official Iranian coverage gives one the impression that Obama's speech was a wholesale denunciation of Israeli policy vis-