Obama, Call for Peace & Justice for Palestine

Dear Senator Obama:

As Americans who will be voting in this year's presidential elections, we have welcomed your focus on the need for new thinking about America's role in the world and your insistence that peace and security depend on respect for international law and for the rights, dignity, and common humanity of all peoples.

Surely one of the areas where it is most critical to apply these values is Israel/Palestine, where the policies the United States has pursued for 40 years have brought about neither peace nor justice. We have hoped you would articulate a new approach to this issue, one built on respect for the rights of the Palestinians as well as the Israelis.

Unfortunately, all we have heard from you so far on this issue is an increasingly fervent repetition of the same bankrupt policies pursued by George W. Bush and his predecessors. In particular, we were shocked to read your letter of January 23, 2008, to Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, about a proposed Security Council resolution on the situation in Gaza.

In it you focused on condemning Palestinian rocket attacks against Israel, but made no mention of the ongoing Israeli bombardments and raids that have killed hundreds of innocent residents of Gaza, as well as the calculated Israeli policy of denying the necessities of life - food, clean drinking water, medicines, medical care, school supplies, and the energy needed to power sewage treatment plants and hospital operating rooms - to all 1.5 million residents of the area, of whom more than half are children.  When you say that "Israel is forced to do this," we hope that you are not condoning or encouraging Israeli human rights violations. You denounce Hamas as a terrorist organization, but ignore its repeated offers of a long-term truce with Israel - offers the Israeli government has summarily rejected, even though polls show that more 60 percent of Israel's own population favor negotiations with Hamas.

The brutal and disproportionate nature of Israel's recent actions in Gaza has been condemned around the world, including by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and by the European Union. Yet you, like Hillary Clinton and John McCain, have offered not a word of criticism of Israel, nor of sympathy for the people of Gaza.

This is not "change we can believe in."

We understand that you are under intense political pressure by those who consider themselves pro-Israel. But as your campaign leaflets say, "What this country needs is a President who won't just do what's right when the politics are easy, but will stand up when the politics are hard."

This is a time to show you mean that. We call on you to condemn the Israeli assault on Gaza and to outline a new policy on Israel/Palestine based on respect for international law and the rights and dignity of the Palestinian as well as the Israeli people.
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