Dear Mr. President,
Today the clashes at the Egyptian border have me thinking about Gaza. It's been more than a year since Operation Cast Lead. It has been one year, and still the reconstruction has not been allowed to move forward. One year and still the 1.5 million Gazans are kept near-starving by blockade. One year and still the people have not turned against Hamas. You, of course, already know all this. You know how much the people of Gaza suffer, you know the atrocities detailed in the Goldstone report, you know the role the US played in the conflict between Hamas and Fatah that led to the blockade in the first place. You know the punishment America and the rest of the international community were so swift to deal out when the Palestinian people held elections in 2006 & the results were not to our liking.
Not long ago you accepted the Nobel Peace Prize. You were awarded this honor due largely to your return to a diplomacy-based foreign policy, your belief in the power of non-violent solutions. You have reached out to the Muslim world in many ways, the most prominent of which being your speech in Cairo, in which you said "The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. And America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own."
But, of course, you know all that, too.
Why, then, am I writing you a letter about things that I know you already know? Why am I writing you a letter about a situation that must weekly, if not daily, require your attention? Because it has been more than a year, sir, and nothing is better. So much, in fact, is only getting worse. On your watch.
Not long ago, I sat in the living room of a Palestinian family in a small town outside of Nablus called Awarta. It was during the end of your primary race with Hillary Clinton, and already clear to us that the general election would be between you and Senator McCain. The father of the family, upon learning that I was an American, advised that I should vote for you. "Both would be bad for us," he said, sadly, "But at least Obama will give you health care."
I understand the political reality that makes supporting Palestine so difficult for you as a president. But that reality is not greater than one year of the needlessly prolonged suffering of civilians, of children, all because Israel may punish without fear of reproach from its allies. How are we acting in Israel's best interest by turning a blind eye to its transgressions? How are we serving peace when we undermine Abbas's authority by pressuring him to defer action on the Goldstone report? What does this accomplish, besides weakening the moderates and perpetuating the bleak reality that radical elements thrive upon?
You know the answer, sir. It has been more than a year. It is time to make your words in Cairo, the spirit of your Nobel Prize, and the promise of your presidency a reality. Do not let another year go by with no hope for Gaza.