Open Letter to President-Elect Barack Obama
The situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories continues to be dramatic, to say the least. The recent war on Gaza once again emphasizes that the Arab-Israeli conflict has not been resolved and that the two peoples, Palestinian and Israeli, continue to be at loggerheads. Occupation does not go with freedom, with basic human rights nor with the aspirations of people to live a dignified and decent life. The horrendous scenes coming out of Gaza call on all people, more so to leading people like your good self, to work towards a solution that will secure a lasting settlement to this one-hundred year conflict. The situation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is not any better than in Gaza, though not attracting the headlines.
Dear President-Elect Barack Obama,
The situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories continues to be dramatic, to say the least. The recent war on Gaza once again emphasizes that the Arab-Israeli conflict has not been resolved and that the two peoples, Palestinian and Israeli, continue to be at loggerheads. Occupation does not go with freedom, with basic human rights nor with the aspirations of people to live a dignified and decent life. The horrendous scenes coming out of Gaza call on all people, more so to leading people like your good self, to work towards a solution that will secure a lasting settlement to this one-hundred year conflict. The situation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is not any better than in Gaza, though not attracting the headlines. The West Bank is dissected by hundreds of checkpoints, the Separation Wall and by means and methods of population control that restrict our Palestinian people to their localities and make prospects for normal economic, political and social activity quite impossible. Even the five or six-mile distance between Jerusalem and Bethlehem become impossible to cross as Palestinians are required to have permits to go to pray, to visit hospitals or simply to contemplate visiting family members on sad and happy occasions.
Dear President-Elect Obama,
I am often asked by my American friends whether I have high expectations of you and of your incoming Administration. My answer is that we have grown accustomed to American Administrations coming and going without any solution to our predicament, caught as we are in the grips of a seemingly interminable conflict. But the change you have advocated for your great American people and your determination to be fair and to reach out to people, in your country and elsewhere, who are at a disadvantage encourage me to hope. I am also encouraged, Mr. President-Elect with statements that indicate that you will make the Arab-Israeli conflict a priority of your Administration after January 20th.
But I am afraid, Mr. President-Elect, that if you insist on promoting a fair and just solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, you would face insurmountable opposition from groups in your country and elsewhere pretending to have Israel’s interest at heart and using all kind of reasoning to keep you from pushing forth towards a settlement that will bring to an end this most painful and sorrowful episode in Middle Eastern, if not in world history.
The lesson learned from the tragic war on Gaza is that the Arab-Israeli conflict should come to an end; that Palestinians and Israelis need to live next to each other as neighbors and not as enemies; that military occupation and illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem will never secure the neighborly relations to which all peace loving people aspire; that the suffering of civilians and acts of war will never be a way out of conflict and will not secure peace in this troubled land.
Dear President-Elect Obama,
You have a special mission for peace in the Middle East. While the burden of overcoming the global financial crisis will weigh heavy on your shoulders, success in helping resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict once and for all will earn you and your great country appreciation and acknowledgement that will go down in history as one of the greatest achievements of the United States and its people. Relations between the American people and our Palestinian people have been varied and rich in human compassion and mutual acknowledgement. From the years when the King Crane Commission first visited Palestine in 1919 on behalf of the American government and heard Palestinians express their admiration to the United States and their willingness to have the United States as Mandatory Power to the help extended by the Quakers – American Friends and other American Churches and faith based organizations following the Arab-Israeli war of 1948 and the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians as refugees, important segments of the American people have touched base with our pain as a dispossessed people. There is indeed, Mr. President-Elect, an American tradition of concern, compassion and identification with our people that is often underplayed for a variety of reasons.
It is time for change, Mr. Obama, and change it must be if we, in this holy and yet divided and wounded land, want to live in peace and to lead normal lives that offer hope to our children and their children in the future. Peace in the Holy Land would not only be good to the people inhabiting the land but also to world peace and stability. Our Palestinian people are ready for peace and yet they see no results for the willingness of some of our leaders and politicians to engage their Israeli counterparts in tireless negotiations that unfortunately have shown no fruits, so far. Some among our people even argue that Israel does not understand but the language of force, citing what is happening in Gaza nowadays. While I do not discount the fear and injury that the launching of rockets cause to civilians, it must be mentioned that military occupation of our land by Israel remains the source of the persisting conflict between our two peoples. The Gaza Strip itself has been under a most severe blockade for some time now which made Palestinians there feel that they were in a big prison. The real test, Mr. President-Elect, is in how the incoming Administration and your acumen and charisma can be used to bring the two parties together and to start the process of healing wounds of a long history of war, violence and retribution. You have a wonderful command not simply of the spoken word but also of hearts that seek to see a different and better world.
It is my hope, and I am sure the hope of my Palestinian people, that you will bring your leadership qualities to bear on the situation in this land and that you will do your utmost to bring peace and stability to the Holy Land and to the entire Middle East region. If you fail, Mr. President-Elect, it would indicate that the future indeed would continue to be one of confrontation and of martial exchange. In such circumstances, all of us here, Palestinians and Israelis, will continue to suffer and to live in a vicious cycle of endless and senseless violence. Your election indicates that the American people are ready for change; we too in Palestine are ready for change and ready for peace.
Dear Mr. Obama,
Your election to the Presidency of the United States instills hope in all of us here in Palestine that the future would be one of change and that during your term of office Palestine will become a viably independent state preoccupied with the process of rehabilitation and reconstruction and determined to live in peace with all its neighbors. It is your leadership that could help make this happen and I trust that you will not let my people down. Your success will be a success to all of us here, irrespective of nationality, religion or particular background. I sincerely hope that the inspiration you have given to millions of your fellow Americans will also be shared with our people. Countless Palestinians and others in this region are willing to support you in your efforts and they are awaiting your leadership.
Dr. Bernard Sabella
Palestinian Legislative Council Member
Al Quds – Jerusalem
Friday, January 9th, 2009