By Katherine Barwick
Dear Mr. President,
I am neither an expert on history nor a political activist; I am just an average American who is gravely concerned about the direction I see my country taking. I know you inherited a snake-pit of problems when you first took the oath just three years ago, but somehow when you said ‘Yes, we can!’ I believed you could find a way to return our country to its basic beliefs in liberty and justice for all.
I grew up being proud to be an American, inspired by Patrick Henry’s heroic words of ‘Give me liberty or give me death’, instilling in me a belief that liberty was indeed worth dying for. My grandfather enlisted in the army in 1914, thinking that his involvement would help make it the war to end all wars. Then just twenty-five years later, my father enlisted in the navy with the belief he was fighting against imperialism and tyranny. I am still proud of my grandfather and father for they left the safety of America to fight for the freedom of others.
Although neither my father’s nor my grandfather’s generations were able to being about the end to war, we as a nation have always been ready to fight for our own freedom as well as that of others. We have always admired any people who fought against the occupation of their nation, regarding the French resistance movement as especially inspirational. It seems the Palestinians who also live under occupation are not regarded as a people who have that same right.
Quite frankly, Mr. President, it appears to me that we no longer believe in justice and freedom for all, but only for those who can either be of financial benefit to us or for those who have the strongest lobby in Washington, D.C. How can we condemn UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and threaten to withhold millions of funds from them if they recognize Palestine as a valid member of the UN? Israel never had any problem when it asked for official recognition in the UN even though they were a nation created on land that was already populated by Palestinians. But Palestine, the land that is divided into shards of broken up city states, unable to even control who enters its own cities, its own borders or its own roads, is not seen as worthy of being part of the UN. And why? Because according to Israel, the Palestine Authority refuses to recognize it? I am sorry to tell you this, but they have recognized Israel over and over again. Are we suddenly deaf to anything a Palestinian says and open-eared for anything that comes from an Israeli? Why, might I ask, has Israel not recognized Palestine? Isn’t that a key to establishing a peaceful situation in the Middle East?
Just a quick look at UN Resolution 242 shows that Israel has been thumbing its nose at the UN for well over forty years. The preamble of this resolution makes it perfectly clear about the "inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East in which every State in the area can live in security." Does this not include Palestine or am I missing some tiny print that excludes them and only refers to Israel as having this right?
Let us not forget as well that this resolution also calls for the withdrawal of Israel’s armed forces from territories occupied in the 1967 conflict. Has that happened yet? All I see is the world turning a blind eye to what Israel continues to do, illegally entering into cities like Ramallah and Gaza claiming it is for security reasons. I wonder if we would feel the same if Mexican or Canadian troops violated the sovereignty of our borders with similar claims. I find it odd that Israel is the only nation in the world that is given carte blanche to do so.
I am confused between the America I thought we were, the nation that professes to stand for the rights of all, regardless of their religious beliefs, their color, their creed and the America I have seen over the past few years. I now see us as a 21st century Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde that one moment sends troops to fight for people’s rights and the next moment supports the strong-armed treatment of peaceful protesters when they stand against Israeli occupation.
Are we now a nation that stands like Caesar in the amphitheater of politics that either thumbs up or thumbs down the fate of a people? Is it thumbs up if we can benefit from what they have? Thumbs up if their lobby is so powerful we fear their power? Thumbs down if they are only fighting for freedom and independence? Thumbs down if they are Palestinian?
The people of Palestine need a voice in the United Nations which is an organization that my country fought very hard to establish in 1945. Let us not forget that all the Palestinians are asking for is to be recognized as the very nation the UN in Resolution 181 had tried to establish as far back as 1947. Yes, it was rejected by the Palestinians at that time because it meant giving up what was rightfully theirs in order to provide a safe haven for people who survived the holocaust in Europe. Now that the Palestinians have swallowed their pride, their wounds have scarred over and they are willing to accept that resolution, they are being denied. Have they waited too long? Was there an expiry date on the offer?
Why do we now oppose the recognition of Palestine if we tried to establish it over sixty years ago? What has changed? The people of Palestine lost everything when Israel came into being. They are an occupied people, like the French under the Nazis, but have we decided their resistance is wrong because it against the Israel? It can’t be because of religious differences because Palestinians are Jews, Muslims and Christians… but then you knew that already, right?
Why are we so afraid to stand up to Israel, the country that is the recipient of most of our tax money…the same country that blatantly ignores every UN Resolution concerning the Middle East…the same nation that contrary to UN orders, continues to build settlements and occupy land that is not rightfully theirs…the same country that openly practices state-supported terrorism of a people who, like David, throw stones at the Israeli Goliath who responds with tank fire, gas and bullets…the same country lead by a man who continues to openly insult you and our people? Netanyahu has consistently lied to the world about his intentions. He has done everything in his power to ensure that a Palestinian state is not created. Peace negotiations are nothing more than a cover to gain time to steal more land and water resources from the Palestinians. Mr. President, can you not see this or are you blinded by Israel’s control over whether you get re-elected or not?
Why do we allow ourselves to remain joined at the hip with a Siamese twin that is destroying our very core, our principles of human rights and justice? I am hoping you too can follow in the courageous footsteps of Presidents Eisenhower and Carter who stood up to Israel and said ‘No!’ Be the man who cuts this Gordian Knot and set us free!
Mr. President, do you really think our forefathers would be proud of what we have become? Don’t you think it is time to stand up to tyranny and break free of the chains that are holding us all back from supporting justice and freedom? Until that day, I shall weep for my nation and apologize to our forefathers for what we have become and for what we have done to our great nation.
With hope that you still can, I remain,
– Katherine Barwick is a concerned American citizen. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.