Saturday, June 21, 2008

Dear Senator Obama,

As an avid Obama supporter, I regretfully condemn your comments made in the article “At 60, Israel has much to celebrate.”

As a 20something biracial teacher from New York with wide international experience and a passion for human rights, I ask you to look deeper.

I ask you, Senator Obama, have you ever been to Israel? With its wide cobblestoned streets, plush outdoor cafes, and beautiful people dressed in the latest fashion. On the surface, it can seem like a paradise; an oasis of western values in the desert of the Middle East. But I guess the more important question is, have you ever been to the West Bank or Gaza Strip? As of the summer of 2006, this is what I saw: half blown out buildings standing like skeletons bordering severely potholed roads. I heard the stories of citizens of all ages suffocating due to economic, political, and military oppression. Israeli soldiers, 18 or 19 years old, wielding machine guns and screaming insults, herding grandparents, parents, children, infants through a mess of metal poles, like cattle. That is a checkpoint, of which there are hundreds. Against Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, Israel has constructed hundreds of settlements and along with those settlements come checkpoints. Both severely obstruct freedom of movement for the inhabitants of the West Bank and reduce them to being prisoners in their own cities. The number of injustices done to the Palestinian populace is tremendous. If you would like further examples, you may contact me or read the copious amount of literature published on the matter. Or see it first hand yourself.

When you say that Israel has built “one of the world’s most vibrant democracies,” this simply is not true. In order to maintain its Jewish-homeland status it must repress a great number of Arab (Christian and Moslem) inhabitants. The discrimination of people based on their religion is something the United States has opposed for years. Then why is it okay to support it now?

To play Israel as the victim of the terrorist groups Hamas and Iran, is a completely one-sided approach to foreign policy. I thought of you as an innovator of new ideas in Washington, but I see that portraying Israel as the beacon of shining light amid neighboring bully Arab or Persian states is still a popular idea. What surprises me is that politicians like yourself still consider Israel the victim even though it has strongly and violently asserted itself in 1948, 1967, 2006, and today. In fact, looking at the conflicts of the past 60 years, I would say that Israel has proven to be a bigger, more aggressive bully. These military endeavors would not have been possible without the ridiculous quantity (and quality) of U.S. aid to Israel. This aid, which you have promised in the form of a blank check, is providing new means by which Israel can continue its aggressive, oppressive, and violent behaviors.

Upon doing my research, I found that you were once in support of the rights of the Palestinian people. I always thought you to be true to your beliefs. I’m sorry if you are now “proud to be [part of the legions of admirers of Israel],” but I guess it goes to show how easy it is to succumb to the political pressure exerted by prominent pro-Israeli figures.

What I ask, Senator Obama, is that you remember why it is that you are running for the presidency. If one of those reasons is because you want to change the face of politics, if it is to put an end to the tiring game of old politics, then I suggest you practice what you preach and don’t lose sight of your values to become more like your opponents.

In response to those who may make unfair judgments of me, I would like to end by saying that I am no way anti-Semitic nor am I anti-Israel. I am, however, anti-Israeli foreign and domestic policy. I am anti-violence, in all of its forms and I am a proud supporter of human rights.

For change that all the citizens of the world can believe in,



N8 said...

Amen. Well said. I hope this gets to Obama himself. And others. There was a good article by Kristof I believe in the NYTimes today. Hm. Depressing. Maybe a trip coming soon will yield an arrival nearby to see what we can do to help, if anything. Or spreading word. This is a start, Alisa!

Anonymous said...

Solid letter. It's a shame all the smart young people are running off to Patagonia and leaving the rest of us behind to change Mr. Chaney's oil sodden diapers. I hope many sets of eyes see your letter, and I'll check out the article N8 mentioned.


Upper West Side said...

Thanks for articulating your thoughts on this very important issue. I trust that an Obama administration will not waste seven years in inaction and I hope that more people will speak up for a reasoned solution based on reality not on emotion.

Please keep up your advocacy on this and other key issues.