Obama’s Failed ‘Hope’ in Gaza

Eight years ago, President Obama offered “hope” for change in the world, but politics and pressures won out, with his failure nowhere more obvious than in Gaza, as Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer explains in this open letter.

By Mohammed Omer

To President Barack Obama

Dear Mr. President,

As president of the most powerful country on the planet; the loving and protective father of two children; and a man fully aware of the human struggles of so many in the down-trodden communities of many lands, including your own, your eyes must have been opened during the last three — of many — Israeli assaults on besieged Gaza, where I live with my wife and young son.

I recall being in the Netherlands when you were first elected president. Like so many millions around the world, I cheered loudly for you, believing that a fresh wind was blowing through the narrow halls of U.S. politics. I dared to hope that a brave man — a champion of good people who were neglected and abused — had arrived to stand up and ease the pain and injustice inflicted on so many, including my people in Palestine, long tormented and driven from their ancient land, deprived of their human dignity.

Children play on the ruins of demolished homes in Shejayeh, an area which was heavily hit by Israeli cannon shells and F-16 missiles during Israel’s 51-day war on Gaza in the summer of 2014, when more than 2,200 Palestinians were killed and around 100,000 became homeless. (PHOTO M. OMER)

Children play on the ruins of demolished homes in Shejayeh, an area which was heavily hit by Israeli cannon shells and F-16 missiles during Israel’s 51-day war on Gaza in the summer of 2014, when more than 2,200 Palestinians were killed and around 100,000 became homeless. (PHOTO M. OMER)

Sadly, however, I perhaps dared to believe too much. As I look around Gaza today and see only the aftermath of more Israeli cruelty and evidence of ever more bloodshed, pain, sadness and destruction, the words “Yes, we can” now drift away with the dust, carried by the winds of despair.

This despair has hung over our heads for at least the past 10 years, the result of Israel’s harsh collective punishment of the 1.9 million human beings who struggle to survive in Gaza. Half of them are children younger than your Sasha and Malia; many are babies, like mine, held in their parents’ arms.

Perhaps, being so far removed from it, you cannot empathize with the effects of collective punishment. Having studied law and worked closely in community projects, however, you surely have an intellectual and historical understanding. I think you know that Israel’s intentions extend beyond removing Hamas — or any other group that would resist an occupier’s expansion and invasion of their homes and leaders.

The U.S. Constitution does not call for the punishment of an entire population simply for voting for the “wrong party.” It and the Bill of Rights guarantee Americans the freedom to express themselves freely and the right to struggle and defend their inalienable rights. The American Revolution was an act of rebellion against oppression and the denial of “self-evident” rights and freedoms.

In Gaza, we are struggling against similar oppression. Israel increasingly confines and punishes us for our struggle, as we use whatever meager means we have to attain the same freedom and human dignity your forbearers fought for.

“Do Americans like us? Does Obama like us?”

What is the bond that binds U.S. politics and power to Israel’s ongoing cruel oppression? How can the U.S. justify its unconditional patronage of Israel escalating infliction of pain upon innocent others? What satisfaction and reward does Israel gain for punishing every aspect of human life for nearly two million good Palestinian people in Gaza, who just want their freedom again?

Three recent wars have whipped, beaten and left homeless many families who are still waiting for short- and long-term protection from cruelty. I met with Ahmed Al Kafarneh, an elderly man of dignity, living with his wife, son, daughter-in-law and three grandchildren. Before the 51-day war in 2014, he, like 100,000 other Palestinians, had built a beautiful home after 20 years of working in Israel — no easy task indeed. Now everything is gone, and he lives with his extended family in a rusty metal shipping container.

Mr. President, it is a cold and wet winter here — the coldest in years. Try to imagine yourself, Michelle, Sasha and Malia sitting on cold metal floors with rain dripping in from more holes in the container roof than you can count.

Are you not the same president who, when proclaiming Israel’s right to defend itself, vowed that you would do everything to protect your children? Does that same determination to protect not apply to our Palestinian children?

It seems you have forgotten our right — not only as Palestinians, but as human beings — to exist in freedom and safety from oppression and disproportionately heavy attacks from the Israeli military. In Gaza, our youngest generation knows only war, displacement, loss, trauma and pain. It faces even more obstacles in the path of “Yes we can” in the form of massive unemployment, repression and isolation caused by Israel’s U.S.-sanctioned economic blockade, denying an entire people free movement and a normal life of choices.

Does that not sound like slavery, Mr. President?

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a security meeting with senior Israeli Defense Forces commanders near Gaza on July 21, 2014. (Israel government photo)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a security meeting with senior Israeli Defense Forces commanders near Gaza on July 21, 2014. (Israel government photo)

We are locked behind walls, contained like cattle, spied on by armed drones, with Israeli-army snipers patrolling barbed-wire fences, and placed on a “diet” meted out by occupiers and thieves. Is that not extremism? Would you not resist it?

A few days ago, I met with 13 brave and dedicated U.S. doctors who came here to assist the local hospitals — a rare occasion when American doctors get to meet face to face with our own courageous doctors and Hippocratic Oath colleagues. A 24-year-old Palestinian fine arts student paused when she heard of the delegation and asked, “Do Americans like us? Does Obama like us?”

This is why I am writing this open letter to you, Mr. President.

Human beings, of all generations, live here in Gaza, waiting for your replies to these questions. “Change we can believe in,” Mr.President — but it must include our freedom of choice.

Gaza is the size of Manhattan Island. We are human beings like you and your fellow Americans — but we are trapped behind walls and fences we have never lived behind before and don’t want to wake up to tomorrow. Our southern borders are now fenced off by Egypt, locking down Rafah crossing. To the west, our beaches — frequented by children, families and fishermen — are threatened by Israeli naval vessels armed with missiles and water cannons. They confine our fishing boats to 6 nautical miles offshore instead of the designated 20 nautical miles.

Are you aware that 73 Palestinian fishermen were fired upon and arrested in 2015? Or that 55 percent of Gazans suffer from clinical depression, that 43 percent are unemployed, 40 percent fall below the poverty line, and 60 percent are food insecure? Do you know how few hours of electricity we are allowed in 24 hours, with no power for 12 to 16 hours?

The same shortage applies to water, cooking gas and many other basic essentials. As you are served your meal this evening, remember we have half a million gas cylinders waiting to be filled before we can cook or boil water for washing and drinking (a human right).

This is all the more tragic because Gaza could be the perfect neighbor for Israel, living in peace and harmony and sharing mutually beneficial economic and trade relationships. We have many skilled workers and a well-educated young generation. Palestine has always been progressive. The only thing we need is a chance to grow, develop and contribute with dignity and equality.

We want to build bridges of understanding, instead of separation walls of bigotry and hatred. We don’t want Israel experimenting with its new hi-tech weapons on the children of Gaza. Your American-made missiles have been used to attack U.N. schools and shelters — the very schools which offer quality education and steer our children away from extremism. This is usually something to be applauded, not targeted.

You have not seen Khuza’a and the massive destruction that Israel’s war machine left behind. Its children’s feet are cold this frigid winter because water continues to drip from their shell-pocked ceilings onto their beds. You are welcome to visit us at any time, should you choose to place humanitarian considerations over political ones.

It is time for you, Mr. President, to provide the children and youth of Gaza with hope they can believe in. You can do it before you leave office, and all your promises, behind. You can reignite the enthusiasm we felt when you stepped up to address the world, and strengthen your legacy for promoting peace after you leave the Oval Office.

President Barack Obama talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as they walk across the tarmac at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 20, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as they walk across the tarmac at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 20, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Meanwhile, you are among the very few people on earth who could influence Israel and Egypt to open borders and end the collective blockade. Is not a decade enough? Especially when we know that the ones who suffer from the siege are ordinary people, not political groups such as Hamas. If the aim is for people to look beyond Hamas, they must be given options for the future.

The children and parents of Gaza are waiting for a solution, and you can revitalize the positive energy that came with you and your speeches early in your presidency. Make all people proud — including Americans — of your long-lasting achievements.

Stand up for Gaza, as you always do for Israel, regardless of how badly they treat their fellow man (including yourself). We don’t want or need extremism in any form. We want stability, peace and to live in our homes without drones and tanks threatening us day and night. The young people of Gaza are seeking a better future.

Can we do this? Yes, we can! Step up Mr. President—please.

Award-winning journalist Mohammed Omer reports from the Gaza Strip. Follow him on Twitter: @MoGaza. [This letter was adapted from an article in Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.]

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14 comments for “Obama’s Failed ‘Hope’ in Gaza

  1. Vesuvius
    April 19, 2016 at 11:40 am

    Dear Friends appearing above, Author Mr Omer included: Haven’t you got it? It’s no longer a big, Mighty U.S.A. supporting a poor Little ally far away in the M.E., today America has once again become a Colony, like in the Days of British King George III, however now under the thumb of King Bibi — doing whatever King Bibi orders — allowing the King’s opression and massacring of the Natives in “The Land Without a People”.

  2. David Smith
    April 17, 2016 at 10:17 pm

    Mr. Mohammed Omer, why would you place any faith in the cowardly, treacherous scum President Obama, or even waste time writing him? Have you not listened to your great patriot Sheikh Ahmad Yassin? Every word and deed of Sheikh Yassin shows you the path to victory: self reliance and the unity of Greater Syria, with was illegally divided against the will of its people into four sub-mandates. The zionist scum are correct in the wrong way when they say there is no Palestine, because there is only Greater Syria. Study Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, look at his face, which is illuminated with the light of truth and love for his people. When I look at Sheikh Yassin’s eyes, his gaze clearly sees his people’s future victory.

  3. Jill
    April 17, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    Obama is not the person to ask about this situation. He is bashed 24/7/365 by the party that dominates both Houses of Congress, for having Muslim and terrorist ties, for being more loyal to the Muslim world than to the U.S. etc. etc, none of which is true, of course– because of the nuclear deal with Iran, because he doesn’t want Congress to pass a law that claims Saudi Arabia is responsible for the 9/11 attacks and on and on.

    Next time, address your letter to the U.S. Congress and to the CIA and other agencies in the American Deep State. See book below, that explains the Deep State.

    The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government Hardcover – January 5, 2016
    by Mike Lofgren

    http://www.amazon.com/Deep-State-Constitution-Shadow-Government/dp/0525428348/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1460915328&sr=8-1&keywords=Deep+STate

    I realize that American government is difficult to understand. Even many American think that the president has a lot more power than he actually has. But Congress, the military, the CIA, the military industrial complex, and the large banks, have far more power than the president. The president can’t even get Congress to even give a hearing to his Supreme Court nominee– not to approve him, just to give him a hearing. The president does not have the power to help Palestinians the way they might like.

    Influencing Israel is also a problem. Israel influences the U.S. But the U.S. influence Israel? Given our political system, that is heavily influenced by neocon donors such as Adelson and others, I’m not sure if that is possible.

  4. Truth
    April 17, 2016 at 11:55 am

    I feel bad for everyone who bought Obama’s snake oil back in 2008 and feel even worse for those who are about to get Berned. I also feel bad for those who are deluded by their so called democracy since they are farther away than any truths than people like Gazans who have to confront them on a daily, hourly, by the minute basis.

    Since the history books people grow up with are littered with lies and Truth was suppressed like it always has been, especially in the 20th century where electronic media allowed for an onslaught of propaganda, let’s start with the following re-education of society. To keep it relevant to the article, it will start with how Palestine was hijacked from Palestinians via premeditated world wars and “anti-Semitism”, using quotes from the founders of Zionism circa 1900:

    According to the Diaries of Theodor Herzl (1890s), the Ottomans refused to sell Palestine to the Zionist Jews. A war with the Ottomans was needed to end the Ottoman empire and fragment it so they could get it. The “Young Turk Revolution” was backed by Zionists and was the Beginning of the End of the Ottoman Empire as the Young Turks decided to enter the war (in secret) allying with the Central Powers. On starting World War 1 and getting the Balfour Declaration, planning years in advance. Max Nordau, cofounder of Zionism states in 1903, before the events above transpired:

    “Let me tell you the following words as if I were showing you the rungs of a ladder leading upward and upward: Herzl; the Zionist Congress; the English Uganda proposition; the future world war; the peace conference where with the help of England a free and Jewish Palestine will be created.”
    – Max Nordau, Co-Founder of Modern Zionism, 1903, 6th World Zionist Congress, Excerpt from “When Prophets Speak”, by Litman Rosenthal, American Jewish News, New York, Vol. 4, No. 2, September 19, 1919. p. 464

    It does not end there though. Zionists hated any Jews that wanted to live and stay in the West, since this weakened the support they would get for Israel and would hurt their plans to grow the population and state. They wanted a Purely Jewish state. To foster emigration of Jews to Palestine, Zionists promoted “anti-Semitism” in Gentile lands. Since any Jews that stayed behind were against Zionism, they were enemies anyhow. Herzl states it is also necessary to “increase the suffering of Jews worldwide”. Theodor Herzl states in his diaries:

    “It would be an excellent idea to call in respected, accredited anti-Semites as liquidators of property. To the people, they would vouch for the fact that we do not wish to bring about the impoverishment of the countries that we leave. At first, they must not be given large fees for this; otherwise we shall spoil our instruments and make them despicable as “stooges of the Jews.” Later their fees will increase, and in the end we shall have only Gentile officials in the countries from which we have emigrated. The anti-Semites will become our most dependable friends, the anti-Semitic countries our allies. We want to emigrate as a respected people.”
    – Diaries of Theodor Herzl, late 1890s

    So at this point, we have WW1 and the emigration of Jews into Palestine, but what about WW2? We have Max Nordau again, threatening German Jews with the Holocaust, almost 50 years in advance:

    “A day will come on which Zionism will be needed by you, you proud Germans, as by those wretched Ostjuden (Eastern European Jews), who you fear and hate! A day will come on which you too will beg our help and be suppliants for asylum in that land (Palestine) which you now scorn!…I warn you of the future!”
    – Max Nordau, 1903, 6th Zionist Congress

    Also mentioning the “6 million figure” which would surface nearly 40 years later:

    “How dare the smooth talkers, the clever official blabbers, open their mouths and boast of progress. … Here they hold jubilant peace conferences in which they talk against war. … But the same righteous Governments, who are so nobly, industriously active to establish the eternal peace, are preparing, by their own confession, complete annihilation for six million people, and there is nobody, except the doomed themselves, to raise his voice in protest although this is a worse crime than any war …”
    – Max Nordau, 1911 World Zionist Congress, Biography of Max Nordau by his wife and daughter

    Both Herzl and Nordau both refer to Gentiles (non-Jews) as the enemy of all Jews and refer to them as Goyim (cattle) while the wife of Nordau and his daughter applaud him for “Restoring the Race”.

    So in all, no one should be surprised by the Zionist Jews treatment of the Palestinians and the US backing of it. This Zionist Ideology of a “Pure Race” came up way before Nazis, and the Nazis were aware of it, and basically said, “if they are going to try making a pure race, we are too.” The whole point of “Israel” is to create a Pure Race of Jews. When the Ashkenazi Jews were emigrating to Palestine 100 years ago, the already existing Sephardi Jewish population was excommunicated from the (Zionist) Jewish community if they went to the same schools as Christians and Muslims or even intermingled with them. The message was “You’re either with us, or against us” as US Supreme Court Louis Brandeis stated:

    “Organize, organize, organize, until every Jew must stand up and be counted—counted with us or prove himself, wittingly or unwittingly, of the few who are against their own people”

    • Truth
      April 17, 2016 at 12:03 pm

      To add to the above regarding restoring the race, Herzl also expresses concerns in his diaries about Jews losing their “racial identity” and becoming mixed in the age of globalization, which is why they felt the need for the creation of a Jewish state, purely on racial grounds, not on religious grounds.

      • J'hon Doe II
        April 17, 2016 at 4:32 pm

        (Gaza) A MEANINGLESS INSTITUTION

        I was given my bedding, and a bunk
        in an enormous ward.
        surrounded by hundreds of weeping,
        decaying men and women.
        I sat on my bunk, three tiers up
        next to the ceiling,
        looking down the grey aisles.
        Old, crippled, dumb people were
        bent over sewing. A heavy girl
        in a dirty dress
        stared at me. I waited
        for an official guide to come
        and give me instructions.
        After awhile, I wandered
        off down empty corridors
        in search of a toilet.

        Dream 1948
        Allen Ginsberg

      • Curious
        April 18, 2016 at 12:32 am

        Thank you Truth, as you have presented many items culled from our History books. If I may add something the seekers of truth, who only want links to support an idea, I will mention only two ideas (sans links) which border on racism and attempts to purify the race as you mentioned.

        If one were to take the time to research the DNA medical research of many Jews who seem the first to claim “anti-semitism” the DNA will show many of the Jews in Israel are not even Semite, as it is properly defined in blood work. Stalin created the Jewish Autonomous Oblast in Russians far east (a member I am familiar with from that area) and many have traveled from such exclusion, but were not always Semite. As far as racism goes, the TV show of a Jew kissing a Palestine human on TV created a furfur not unlike the US cinemas’ version in the 50s. It is still a curse and never should be shown on TV, as many say it’s a sin.

        The anti-semitism is false, until they can show their purity of blood work, which they will not do. Speaking of purity, it is well known Hitler forced the remaining theologians willing to stay alive throughout the purge in Germany to prove Jesus was an Arian. It baffles me still, if one were to browse a supermarket full of candles, that there are many Jesus votifs who paint Jesus with long hair and BLUE eyes, knocking on the door of some unsuspecting answerer. The myth continues.

        For those with time on their hands, research ‘Semite’ and you will determine the use is Israel propaganda in it’s highest form. In fact, the blood lines approximate the Palestine more than the Jews. But after 100 tears and years of bloodshed, those who back the purity of the Jews in Israel, have no idea.

        • Curious
          April 18, 2016 at 1:15 am

          ps Please start with a hair analysis of Bibi and trace his genes. Then, provide a comprehensive blood test on his genetics and his origins. This may be an eye-opener to the pom-pom raising support he so desires. So much for the purity of the race.

  5. Zachary Smith
    April 17, 2016 at 11:39 am

    Mr. Mohammed Omer needs to understand the context of American Slavery. The kidnapped Africans were actually being blessed by their opportunity to Come To America where they would get to co-exist with their betters and have a chance to acquire a superior religion – Christianity. Even modern apologists continue with this argument – how much better off American Blacks are to be in the US with paved roads and running water than their brethren back in Africa who didn’t have similar good luck. So wearing that sort of blinders means Slavery was OK after all.

    Switch to Palestine. Or what used to be Palestine. There was this situation of some subhumans with an inferior religion illegally squatting on Holy Land. When God’s Favorite People took control of the place in 1948, they started setting things right. All the ethnic cleansing and endless terrorizing of the beasts walking on two legs is the way things ought to be.

    During the most recent debate between Hillary and Bernie, the Jewish Senator declared that the murder spree was “disproportionate”. Extended quote from Sic Temper Tyrannis:

    In last night’s verbal savagery in Brooklyn there were several striking moments.

    Hillary Clinton’s pandering to the supposed “toughness” of the denizens of New York City was pathetic in its demonstration of her universal appeals to any group that might ever have thought itself wronged. Well, pilgrims, I suppose we expect that of her now.

    But the very “best” was the moment frozen in time for me in which Sanders, in the sure knowledge that this would hurt him politically, told the audience that the 10,000 Palestinians wounded and 1500 Palestinian dead at Gaza in 2014 was a “disproportionate response” to the garage built rockets fired into Israel from Gaza.

    A voice in the crowd then cried out “We are proud of that!” The voice seemed to be that of a woman. My wife thinks it was a woman.

    She is proud of that? I can understand that one might think this butchery was necessary, but how can a human, any human, be proud of something like that?

    Is there anything that could be done to the Palestinians that the voice in the crowd would not be proud of? Please tell me that we did not understand what she said.

    http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2016/04/were-proud-of-that-you-are.html

    Any fundamentalist christian will tell you that the Yahweh-directed murder spree described in Exodus was a good thing because the old Jews were so very good and the old pagans were so very evil.

    Too many modern Americans are exactly like that unnamed woman. She knows that there is no possibility of “excess” when it comes to abusing Palestinians. They must leave the Holy Land, and it doesn’t matter to her breed whether the vermin are walking to the borders or staying as rotting meat for the local buzzards.

    • Rikhard Ravindra Tanskanen
      April 17, 2016 at 12:49 pm

      You are a white supremacist idiot. Your defence of slavery is despicable – and therefore you have no right to criticize the beast known as Netanyahu.

      • Rikhard Ravindra Tanskanen
        April 17, 2016 at 12:51 pm

        Oh, I forgot. Even though African-Americans are better off than those in Sub-Saharan Africa today, the slave-traders slaveowners didn’t enslave them for that. They enslaved them to make a profit.

      • Bart
        April 17, 2016 at 2:18 pm

        Rikhard, those first two paragraphs drip with sarcasm.

      • Larry
        April 17, 2016 at 7:36 pm

        Dear Rikhard, I admire your defense against slavery, but the commenter above whom you criticize was only using sarcasm to make his excellent point against treating the Palestinians as something less than human, just as it is evil to have treated Africans as slaves. His comment above was actually very effective, apparently.

      • Dosamuno
        April 21, 2016 at 11:11 am

        Rikhard:

        Please read the entire comment before you run in with both guns blazing.
        And look up the word “irony”.

        You may be new to CONSORTIUM.
        I welcome you.
        I invite you to examine Mr. Zachary Smith’s other comments at this site before denouncing him.
        I suspect you would agree with him on most issues.

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