An Open Letter to the President

Please, please read this recent blog post by my friend Abby Okrent. I will have more to write about Israel’s most recent outrages in Gaza very soon.

Dear Mr. President,

My younger brother was an early believer in you. He worked for your Senate campaign. At the age of 25, he ran the GOTV campaign in North Carolina, delivering an improbable victory for you in a Southern state that helped give you your first term. This year, slightly less bright-eyed but nonetheless a believer, he was working on your campaign again when he died suddenly, a brilliant, energetic 29 year old, dead in his tracks. You know this. You called my parents. Your campaign, to my greatest appreciation and respect, brought grief counselors for his coworkers, dedicated a corner of the office and much of your fundraising efforts to him, and bussed his coworkers to join the hundreds of others at his funeral.

You may not know that after his sudden passing, many of his friends quit their jobs, moved, changed their lives to continue working on your campaign in his memory. One of these friends ran your GOTV effort in Ohio, delivering a close swing state that resulted in the race being called for you early. My mom and I joined these efforts in Ohio, door-knocking until right before the polls closed, pounding the pavement in Alex’s memory and in hopes of your next presidency. Despite my disappointment in some of your stances, I proudly kept my Ohio for Obama sticker on my jacket.

Until yesterday. Mr. President, when the bombs began raining on Gaza again and you reiterated Israel’s “right to defend itself”, I took that sticker off my jacket. Later, you called Prime Minister Netanyahu and asked him to “use restraint,” as though he were a glutton at a feast, rather than an elected official of a powerful military nation, using your own country’s weaponry to engage in a one-sided assault. Mr. President, you are the most powerful man in the world. You do not need to politely request anything of Mr. Netanyahu; you can stop him by ending U.S. military aid to Israel until Israel complies with international and U.S. law. Mr. Netanyahu and his right-wing allies in the U.S. actively campaigned against your re-election, assuming that Governor Romney would be better positioned to give them carte blanche to violate Palestinian human rights and start regional wars. It is not to them that you now need to prove your allegiance, but to we the people who knocked doors for you, who made phone calls for you, who died getting you this 4 years more of opportunity.

My brother was an early believer in you. He knew, but disliked, that you would have to sway to right-wing Israeli interests. We watched you walk away from your Palestinian colleagues in Chicago. It became a painful issue in our Jewish family as we tried to support my brother all the while wondering how far you would go in continuing the charade that the American people and our interests, and not American money and its interests, really drove your Middle East policy. Mr. President, AIPAC’s star is fading. Not in your final term, maybe, but soon, politicians who hitch their ambitions to this tainted money will fall. You saw this at the DNC when Mayor Villaraigosa failed to get his 2/3 vote for an AIPAC-sponsored resolution but proceeded to pretend the support was still there; it’s not. My brother was an early American Jewish voice for Palestinians, but he was not alone and there are more of us than ever. And there are also Arabs now in your coalition; you saw them at the DNC in their “Yalla Vote!” t-shirts. You have a rainbow of supporters who worked to re-elect you. We voted for you. We fund-raised for you. We do not want to watch you pretend like it is for us that you allow these massacres to continue with our money.

My brother would be disappointed to see your impotence in the face of continuing Israeli aggression shortly after such a sweeping re-election victory. I am still proud of him. I am still proud of all of the Americans that worked so hard to deliver you this re-election. But I am so hurt and ashamed to watch you use restraint when you are the only person with the power to stop this massacre. Mr. President, I am barely over 5 feet tall and I am not afraid of AIPAC; why are you?


A bereaved sister

13 thoughts on “An Open Letter to the President

  1. penny rosenwasser

    Thanks so much for posting this eloquent, moving, right-on letter. Let’s all of us do every single thing we can to raise our voices to Obama to pressure Israel to stop this onslaught of Gaza!

  2. Kathleen

    Thank you for this letter. I stood in front of Israeli consulate last night along side my friend Mary. We were in Gaza in 2008. Traveled around the counrty lookiing at the prison called Gaza. Mohammed Omer this morning described Gaza as a fishbowl Israel shoots into at whim.
    I told the President call in line today Netanyahoo is bragging that Obama gave him the go ahead to rain this nightmare again on Gaza. But before this disgusting collaboration Israel had already killed 15 Palestinians prior to this so called retaliatory massacre. Israel assasinated the man who had just sucessfully achieved a ceasefire by negotiating in Egypt with Israel and the Palestinian faction. Israel’s word is nothing. Obama/US cannot continue to be a party to this policy of war crimes on steroids.

  3. Cotton Fite

    Thank you so much. It is so very painful to watch the tragic violence that has once again erupted in Israel-Paletine … and equally painful, maybe more so, to watch US leaders, particularly President Obama, unwilling to hold Israel accountable for continuing oppression and state-sponsored terrorism of the Palestinian people. Blessings, Cotton

    1. kathleenow

      This is one family’s experience.I sent to my family and friends. How do people do this to other human beings? Who can justify this family’s nightmare?

  4. Nancy Bruski

    Wow! What a powerful, deeply moving letter! I am so impressed by and proud of her stance and her eloquent, passionate expression of it!
    I hope the president will be moved to respond as well.

    1. zah

      Truly inspiring, especially coming from a jew ❤
      I wish the world could all have this mentality & eradicate these barriers once & for all. Justice NEEDS to be served. Palestine deserves to be free, to look forward to a new day, to waking up to th sounds of birds chirping. That day is coming.

  5. Ilene carson

    This letter brought me to tears.As I watch the tragic news unfold of a completely horrific act initiated by Israel.this has been one of the most horrendous acts that the Israeli right wing goverment has taken in years.With no thought for human life they have purged on with an intensity of a war mongering goverment.these action will lead to mostly civillian lives being taken on both sides with the residents of gaza taking the largest fatalities of all.I also voted for Obama with the hope that the promises he made once again would actually come to pass.his resistance in taking a stand to put pressure on the Isreli goverment is a huge dissapointment to me and a tragic one for the middle east.

  6. Marc

    This Rabbi is the kind who wants Israel destroyed. Israel is the ONLY Jewish country in the world surrounded by 57 Muslim countries. Israel is only defending themselves against an assault. Israel is only defending themselves from bombs from Gaza and the West Bank.. This guy is no Jew, he is what we call a J-Streeter, if he was really a Jew, he would want to protect Israel’s right to exist. These Palestinians aren’t even welcomed by other Muslim countries. They could go to Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, or Syria or they could have stayed in Israel. The Israeli government gives the same rights to Muslims that they give to Jews and Christians who want to live in Israel but the only reason they don’t want Israel to exist is because they want to wipe out the Jewish Religion. If you remember from WW2 there were hundreds of thousands of Muslims working for the Nazis and supported Hitler. There are over 20 Christian Countries, 57 Muslim Countries and several Buddhist countries. Why can’t there be only 1 Jewish Country that is only the size of Delaware? To keep peace Israel gave back the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt, shrank their boarders to give the Gaza Strip and the West Bank to Palestinians who want more and more land. That land was originally Jewish land. The Western Wall was from the 2nd Jewish Temple in Jerusalem and Judaism has been around for over 5700 years. Islam started in 600 AD and the only reasons why they want that land is to destroy all the Jews and because Israel found oil on their land which could keep the whole world in gasoline and natural oil for at least 800 years.

  7. Clif Brown

    A great letter that Alex would, I’m sure, approve. I attended the demonstration in Chicago on Thursday against the Gaza attack and was very pleased to see such a large turnout. The tide is definitely turning. I made a one minute video of the event.

  8. Rabbi Green

    With all due respect for you loss, I’m at a loss to understand why you don’t understand that American foreign policy is driven by American interests. PoliSci 101

  9. Lorrie Hall

    jA great letter. American interests are fairness, justice, freedom, and equality, none of which Israelis grant to Palestinians, either those citizens of Israel or those under the stifling occupation. It’s time to stop the siege of Gaza and end the occupation of the West Bank. It’s time for Israelis to build housing in Israel proper, and stop trying to move its population eastward on Palestinian land. It’s time to put conditions on aid to Israel.


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