An Open Letter to the PresidentPosted: November 16, 2012
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