Our lives begin to end the day we becoem silent about things that
matter. – MLK
January 21, 2009
Dear President Obama,
With your historic inauguration as the 44th President of the United
States, we share our sincerest congratulations and hope that you will
uphold your commitment to change.
As American citizens we are deeply concerned that our nation’s
one-sided approach to the Middle East crisis compromises America’s
ability to act as a fair negotiator. Our foreign policy has upheld the
interests of Israel, but has failed to do the same for the Palestinian
people. Israel—the fourth largest military power in the world—has
devastated a population of 1.5 million people, one without an army,
navy, or air force. As the attacks in Gaza demonstrated, the outgoing
administration chose to defend Israeli aggression even though the
violence resulted in the disproportionate deaths of more than 1,300
Palestinians, including 300 children, as compared to 13 Israelis.
Indeed, the loss of all of these lives cannot be justified.
As you embark upon your presidency, we offer your administration the
following recommendations for an evenhanded policy that ensures
sustainable peace in the region:
End the longstanding blockade and allow humanitarian aid to reach Gaza.
– Since January 2006, Israel has blocked entry into Gaza, preventing
delivery of food, medicine, fuel, and basic necessities. Cardinal
Renato Martino, President of the Vatican’s Council for Justice and
Peace, called on the world to, “Look at the conditions in Gaza: more
and more, it resembles a big concentration camp.” On December 30,
2008, the humanitarian relief boat “Dignity”, carrying a former U.S.
Congresswoman, was rammed and shot at by the Israeli navy and could
not deliver its aid. On January 8, the International Committee of the
Red Cross relief workers found four starving
children sitting next to their mothers’ dead bodies. The ICRC reported
that, “The Israeli military must have been aware of the situation but
did not assist the wounded. Neither did they make it possible for us
or the Palestinian Red Crescent to assist the wounded.”
Demand that Israel adhere to international law.
– Israel is in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions,
including Resolution 242, which calls for Israel to withdraw from the
Occupied Territories, and Resolution 446, which calls for Israel to
remove and stop building all illegal settlements on Palestinian land.
Israel must also abide by Resolution 1860, passed on January 8, which
calls for an “immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire,
leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza” and “the
unimpeded provision throughout Gaza of humanitarian assistance within
Gaza, including food, fuel and medical treatment.”
Call for a lasting and enforceable ceasefire respected by all parties.
– In June 2008, Israel and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire, which,
according to CNN, Israel broke by killing 6 Palestinians in Gaza on
November 4, 2008. Hamas retaliated by firing rockets into Israel, and
the carnage in Gaza was Israel’s response. Israeli military veteran
and professor of international relations, Avi Shlaim, has stated that
Israel’s “response to the pinpricks of rocket attacks was totally
” According to Amnesty International, hitting
residential streets with shells that blast shrapnel over a wide area
constituted “prima facie evidence of war crimes.” While Israel and Hamas
agreed separately to a ceasefire this weekend, it is not permanent nor
does it include mutually agreed upon terms.
Re-evaluate the $3 billion of annual U.S. aid to Israel.
– The U.S. Arms Export Control Act mandates that American weapons not
be used to attack civilian populations in offensive operations.
However, American tax dollars have helped finance the attack on Gaza
and paid for the guns, ammunition, and aircraft used to kill innocent
Palestinians and collectively punish an entire population. Human
Rights Watch recently reported that the Israeli military fired
artillery shells with white phosphorous into the Jebaliya refugee
camp, burning Palestinian civilians. On July 29, 2007, the U.S. agreed
to continue military aid to Israel with a 25% increase, amounting to
$30 billion over the next ten years.
Congressman Dennis Kucinich recently stated, “Using U.S. planes,
helicopters and munitions to attack a wounded, starved and thirsty
civilian population of mostly children trapped in a box called Gaza
has become acceptable,perhaps because we have already accepted the
deaths of over one million innocent civilians in Iraq in a war based
on lies. When we recognize the humanitarian disaster in Gaza, when we
come to grips with the reality of suffering on both sides, we may yet
find a way to save ourselves.”
Mr. President, we respectfully urge you to consider our
recommendations to rescue the people of Gaza from this humanitarian
disaster. We also hope that during your Presidency you will strongly
encourage Israel to withdraw from the Occupied Territories and return
to pre-1967 borders, and that you will support the establishment of a
viable Palestinian state. While we have always insisted that the
Palestinians meet their obligations in seeking a resolution to this
conflict, the time to insist on the same from Israel is long overdue.
Muslim Public Affairs Council – New York (www.mpac.org)
Council on American-Islamic Relations – New York (www.cair.com)
American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
California Council of Churches
Jews Against the Occupation
LA Jews For Peace
Pax Christi Metro New York
U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation
United for Peace and Justice
Arab Muslim American Federation • Association of Muslim American
Lawyers • Brooklyn For Peace • Islamic Circle of North America – New
YorkMuslim American Society of New York • Muslim Bar Association of
New York • Muslim Consultative Network Muslim Finance Professionals
Association of New York • Muslim Foundation of America, Inc. • Muslims
for Progressive Values Network of Arab-American Professionals of New
York • New York Community of Muslim Progressives • Women in Islam, Inc.