An open letter to the President from a bereaved sister

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
on 6 Comments

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

About Abby Okrent

Abby Okrent is a lawyer and a former board member of Jewish Voice for Peace.

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6 Responses

  1. DICKERSON3870
    November 18, 2012, 11:05 am

    RE: “Mr. President, I am barely over 5 feet tall and I am not afraid of AIPAC; why are you?” ~ Abby Okrent

    FOR ONE POSSIBLE REASON, SEE: “Why the U.S. Media Barely Covered Brutal Right-Wing Race Riots in Tel Aviv”, By Joshua Holland, AlterNet, 6/17/12

    [EXCERPTS]. . . Recently, Middle East analyst MJ Rosenberg appeared on the AlterNet Radio Hour to discuss the Tel Aviv riots, the stand-off over Iran’s nuclear program and how the Israel lobby helps narrow the discourse around Israel in the United States. Below is a lightly edited transcript of the discussion (you can listen to the whole interview here.)
    • JOSHUA HOLLAND: From your inside perspective on that organization [AIPAC], what did you see as far as their tendency to call out criticism that they think is illegitimate or beyond the pale?
    • MJ ROSENBERG: They [AIPAC] consider all criticism of Israel illegitimate. It’s all beyond the pale. I suppose their definition would be if by some miracle someone like Joseph Lieberman made a statement critical of Israel it would be legitimate. When I worked there in the ’80s, back before everyone had computers, they had a big war room where all they did was assemble every bit of data on members of Congress, on candidates, but also on writers, celebrities – anyone in the public eye.
    In those days they would just put them in these folders. They always had at hand all this negative information — what they considered negative information — to tar people as being anti-Israel or even anti-Semitic. That stuff would be given to reporters if something came up. They were either initiated on their own to give to reporters or some reporter called them because they had a treasure trove of information.
    They still operate that way. In those days they did it directly; now they have former staffers and people who are close to the organization in the blogging world and political world who do it for them. They do it so much. When you read that someone is anti-Israel they’re the ones putting it out there. They’ve got the data. . .


  2. Reuben_Manhattan
    November 18, 2012, 11:11 am

    I like Obama , and supported him. I cannot for the life of me understand how he stands behind these Israelis in such a manner. In Selma he made a speech decrying the treatment of his grandfather under occupation having to have papers to move from place to place and to work & live. How does one who KNOWS that suffering allow it to continue to someone on a constant basis? How do we, a country that is supposed to represent freedom from oppression, veto against our own foreign policy on behalf of the Israeli occupation in the UNSC and then complain about Chinese and Russian vetoes on behalf of the Syrians? Do they really believe that people that are not parts of governments do not see the double standard, the obvious hypocrisy?

    When Obama first ran for office he gave me great hope. He claimed he was going to be fair in the Middle East conflict. How has he been fair when he openly declared his partiality to Israels security? If we are to be world cops then we need to stop being partial. No one respects a dirty cop who will arrest the mafia gambling hall across the street from your mafia buddy’s gambling hall that stays open and untouched.

    If we align ourselves with nation states that practice terrorism openly and freely as Israel has done, then people are going to form their own little “war on terror” operations and come after us! Oops hasnt that happened already? Oh wait they are only Muslims they are not entitled to justice…how silly of me to forget .

  3. Citizen
    November 18, 2012, 3:29 pm

    A sitting POTUS will do anything to retain his office, it seems. Look at Truman’s capitulation to the Zionists, who directly threatened him in his oval office they’d throw their media and dollars behind Dewey if he did not unilaterally recognize the newly forming Jewish state. Johnson acted 2 leave the #USS Liberty open 2 Israeli attack in ’67, & Obama acted 2 leave US Embassy open 2 attack

    Truman “stood down” his own extreme displeasure at Zionist treatment of himself, and as well, he “stood down” the seriously concerned US State Dept and US Diplomatic Corps (the latter sat at the UN, oblivious); Johnson called back (literally “stood down) US air forces on the way to attack the IDF attackers, and Obama (Axelrod?) also literally stood down CIA special forces bound to attack the Embassy attackers. All three US presidents did this, and covered it up, to retain their job at any cost. PR image control uber alles.

    Look at what these little men have cost America over the years. Now add Bush Jr, who did not “stand down” but stood up to fictional WMD to sink the US in the most infantile, stupid war imaginable in this day and age. Irony is the two female minority Rices, each a parrot for banal evil, along with General Powell.

    Real Americans? How about the two guys who killed 60 Arab terrorist attackers at the embassy such a short time ago? How about our Ambassador himself, whom the natives there actually had learned to love and respect, who should have got a prize for “winning hearts and minds,” Obama’s signaled intent?

    How about the new sort of bipartisan Uncle Toms at the highest levels of US government?

    No wonder the native Palestinians don’t stand a chance.
    No wonder US reputation spirals down in the world.
    Isn’t it time for a real US leader to start playing “crazy Uncle”?
    But who?

  4. Citizen
    November 18, 2012, 3:50 pm

    We need an updated version of Birth Of A Nation and Gone With The Wind.
    I think somebody has taken over the romantic role of arch villain and nebulous hero.

  5. Citizen
    November 18, 2012, 3:53 pm

    Quite a lot more objective discussion in last two days on CNBC and MSNBC re the I-P conflict as breaking news in Gaza. Of course nobody discusses the role of AIPAC in Obama (Axelrod, Godfather to Rahm I’s kid) decisions.

  6. kalithea
    November 19, 2012, 2:02 am

    “Mr. President, I am barely over 5 feet tall and I am not afraid of AIPAC; why are you?”

    When Obama was first elected after being anointed by Aipac in June 2008 in the presence of Rahm Emanuel; I got a very bad feeling and then as President-elect when he deferred to Bush on a press question regarding the rising number of civilian casualties during Cast Lead, I wrote a comment in the Huffington Post basically stating that the greatest threat to Obama’s integrity and in turn his Presidency would be the dragon lobby. Navy Seals and drones won’t help him get rid of that monster. This is a challenge he can’t delegate. After having thrown friends under the bus over the issue; I seriously doubt he’s got the metal to confront this dragon.

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