Letter from Arab/Muslim-Americans to Incoming Obama Administration
Assalam Allekum, May Peace be Upon you,
After hearing your now famous speech in 2004 about ending the war in Iraq - Arabs, Muslims and peace activists from all over were thrilled-and many worked tirelessly to support your Presidential ambitions. We witnessed you emerge from the grassroots arena as an ambitious community organizer and advocate for the poor and disenfranchised to the White House, likely the greatest political achievement this generation will see during its lifetime.
As a cross-section of the Arab and Muslim-American community, we are submitting this letter for your consideration as you embark on your challenging journey as our President. Although we want to believe in the hope and change you speak of, we are often targeted as scapegoats for our country's problems. We have watched as racist and derogatory comments about Arabs and Muslims dominated the media coverage during your campaign, and as you effectively distanced yourself from any association with our communities. During the past several months we have listened carefully to every supportive gesture, and unconditional promise you've made to Israel while condemning Palestinians - who have endured 60 years of ongoing Israeli aggression, Apartheid and expansionism. We therefore understand that hope alone is not enough, and are therefore committed to pursuing true change in your Administration's policies in the Middle East.
We would also like to ensure that your promise of "restoring America's moral stature in the world" is more than simple rhetoric. As a first step towards changing how the U.S. is viewed abroad we must understand how we are perceived, particularly in the Middle East. The vast majority of Arabs see the US as touting idealist values of freedom, equality and democracy in theory, but in practice acting as an Imperialist state that proliferates its military bases globally and provides Israel with unfettered military, economic, and diplomatic aid. Moreover, the U.S. Occupation of Iraq which, among its stated goals, intended to 'bring democracy', seems much more interested in privatizing the country's vast oil resources and establishing permanent U.S. bases in the region. Meanwhile, in the aftermath of Hamas' legitimate electoral victory the U.S. imposed a devastating embargo on Gaza, the most densely populated place on earth, and supported Israel's blockade of vital food, medicine and fuel to the Strip. The international community led by the United Nations has decried this policy as amounting to collective punishment and causing a humanitarian catastrophe. The rest of the world sees the major contradictions between the U.S.'s lofty rhetoric, and its inhumane approach. Such blatant contradictions work to strengthen, rather than weaken, radical elements of political Islam.
It is the belief of the below signatories, representative of the Arab and Muslim-American communities, that supporting ongoing Occupation, conflict, and war in the Middle East is not morally, politically, or economically viable. While spending on the military and prison industrial complex reaches unprecedented levels--domestically, society's needs in basic infrastructure, health care and education, are severely lacking. In order to push forward true change, the only solution is for the Obama Administration to undertake a review of its Middle East policies and military spending and truly uphold the ideals of equality, freedom and democracy, by issuing the following plan of action:
- End U.S. arms transfers and military aid to Israel, scheduled to increase to $30 billion, over the next decade;
- Set a time line for complete and immediate withdrawal of all American troops and private contractors from Iraq;
- Pursue diplomatic, multilateral solutions with Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, instead of escalating war.
Furthermore, insist Israel complies with the following principles of equality as enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights:
- An immediate end to the siege and blockade of Gaza, and Occupation of all Arab - including Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese lands;
- A complete dismantling of Israeli Apartheid, including 'Jewish only' laws, privileges, settlements, roads, and the Apartheid Wall; and recognize the fundamental rights of Palestinians to full equality and;
- Uphold the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.
There are moral and viable solutions to these difficult challenges we face globally and domestically. It necessitates a determined political will, on all our parts, to create the true change we need. For Middle East peace to realize viable change Israel, with the encouragement of its benefactor-our U.S. government-must become a secular democracy, in which all citizens have equal rights, and equal access to resources. For our nation to restore its standing in the world, we must make an honest and just assessment with regards to Israel, recognize the validity of Palestinian rights and put an end to the era of the U.S. double standards.
We are calling upon you to remember the grass roots from which you came, and consider becoming the "Organizer in Chief" as you proceed in the coming days. We hope you put your vast technological tools, and grassroots organizing skills to use to advance the cause of social justice in the world, and in our own country. In order for Middle East peace to be realized, the U.S. must push for true equality and continue - irrespective of how negotiations proceed on final-status issues - for justice based on equal standards and durable solutions, and not politics as usual.