An Open Letter to President Obama, by Dr. el Sarraj

Dear President Obama:

Our wounds in Gaza are still open, our justice still denied. Israel’s 23 day offensive (28 December 2008- 19 January 2009) has left our children afraid to return to school, and feeling unsafe in their beds. The war, and the continued closure of the Gaza Strip, has undermined the capacity of mothers and fathers to act as protectors and providers. As a community, we will struggle for decades to live with the consequences.

Along with our children we feel that justice has been too long abandoned. For many reasons we Palestinians have felt that the world has ignored us. The international attention following the war on Gaza gave us hope. The investigation led by Justice Goldstone was a cause for optimism. We felt that this respected judge and prosecutor who has served at the highest level and consistently demonstrated his independence in upholding the rule of law was one of the few people who had the credentials and experience to take on this legally complex and politically charged mission. We came to believe that the world actually cared. The statement of your ambassador to the UN, Ms. Susan Rice, sent a different message: that the world, or at least the United States, does not care.

Ms. Rice suggested that the focus should be on the future and not the past and that the task at hand must be to cement progress towards the resumption of the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. This separation of justice and peace is misguided; the two are intertwined. If there is one thing that history teaches us, it is that when the powerful are allowed to escape accountability, they will continue to violate the law, and innocent people will pay the price.

In Cairo you said that America “will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.” You also spoke of the desire for the rule of law and the equal administration of justice, stating that these “are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.” These were welcome words, but they demand action. Accountability and criminal responsibility are fundamental components of justice. All those responsible must face trial; victims’ rights must be upheld; suffering cannot be ignored.

President Obama, as you once said quoting Dr. Martin Luther King: “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice, but it doesn’t bend on its own unless each and every one of us puts our hands on the arc.”

Support the recommendations of the UN Fact Finding Mission.

Dr. Eyad El-Sarraj