Reflections from Palestine: Missed Opportunities

Posted on Jul 30, 2016

As the Presidential campaign unfolds in the United States, Palestinian Christian Samia Khoury writes:

As Palestinians, we have always been blamed for having missed on many opportunities and generous offers that could have guaranteed our liberation and independence. It is always easy to claim so in hindsight. But the choices we have been offered were always either bad choices or worse choices. So no sane Palestinian would have accepted any of those offers, whether it was the partition plan of 1947 or the “generous offer” of Ehud Barak, or the ongoing peace negotiations under which new realities have been created and which had obliterated the Palestinian right of return in accordance to UN resolution 194 on December 11, 1948. But the history of the partition of Palestine and the process of the ethnic cleansing of its indigenous Palestinian population is well known by now. Thanks to the many historians, including Israeli historians, such as Ilan Pappe and others who refuted the Israeli claim that the Palestinians left their homes and towns in 1948, on their own and basically at the request of Arab leaders.

Britain and the USA played a major role in the Palestinian Nakba in 1948, and despite all UN resolutions to redress the glaring injustice done to the Palestinians at that time, they continue to hinder any action towards granting the Palestinians their legitimate rights, including the right of return. That is why I felt that rating Mr. Obama should be related to the many missed opportunities during his two-term office as president of the USA. Without putting an end to that grave injustice, there will never be peace or security for the whole region.

The election of Mr. Obama was a turning point in the tradition of the US elections, and the American people were ready for that change. Nobody could have done that better than Mr. Obama, especially that we were hoping he would live up to the responsibility granted to him by the Nobel peace prize that he was awarded a priori. Of course there was the Iran deal, and the reconciliation with Cuba as well as the closure of Guantanamo, but the real test to make him deserve that prize would have been by solving the Palestinian problem, a grave historical injustice which we all felt at the beginning of his term that he would genuinely address. Yet he eventually fell in the same pattern of his predecessors, caving in to Israeli demands and vetoing any resolution that was not in favor of Israel, as well as shielding Israel continuously from any measures for violating international law and United Nations resolutions, despite the personal humiliation that he was exposed to by the Israeli Prime Minister.

Of course we realize the strength of the Israeli lobby in the USA, without which no president gets elected, but once Mr. Obama was elected for a second term, there was his missed opportunity. He could have been an honest broker, abiding by the same standards wherever human and political rights were violated. He would have gone down in history had he been able to stand up for the Palestinian legitimate rights against the ongoing Israeli aggression and dispossession which according to international law are illegal, and his Nobel peace prize would have been well earned. Dare we hope that he will seize the opportunity of the remaining period of his term to take a courageous stand and really make a difference???

Some of you might have read my letter to Mr. Obama which was published as Appendix VIII in my book Reflections from Palestine: A Journey of Hope. I had written it to Mr. Obama after watching his inauguration speech in January 2009, while I was visiting the US at the time. It is below.

January 22, 2009
Mr. Barack H. Obama
The President of the USA
The White House
Washington, DC

Dear Mr. President:
I watched with awe and great respect your inauguration ceremony while I was visiting the USA. You were indeed an inspiration and a source of hope not only for the Americans but for me as a Palestinian, especially when you focused on the issue of justice. An issue which was also stressed in the sermon of Rev. Sharon Watkins during the National Service, the day after your inauguration. At last, I thought that the USA as a super power, and its good and genuine people deserve a leader of your intelligence and stature.

But somehow, Mr. President I was rather disappointed when you spoke after the announcement of the appointment of Senator Mitchell as a special envoy to the Middle East. You highlighted your commitment to the security of Israel without any reference to the word “justice.” The grave injustice that was inflicted on the Palestinians upon the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 and the occupation of the rest of the Palestinian Territories in 1967 is at the core of the Middle East conflict. So without justice, and peace no security can be granted to Israel or the whole region. In fact without the justice that was granted to your people in the aftermath of the civil rights movement, you would not be where you are Mr. President. So my heartiest congratulations to you Mr. President. The world is looking forward to that great change under your leadership.

So please do not let us all lose the spark of hope that was rekindled with your inauguration speech, and let justice be at the back bone of your domestic as well as foreign policy, especially for us Palestinians who had lost hope when Israel failed to withdraw from the occupied territories in compliance with UN resolution 242, and after the Oslo peace accords withered in thin air despite all the futile negotiations. Had the injustice inflicted on the Palestinians been redressed without delay there would have been no reason for Hamas to surface and to resort to arms struggle twenty years after the occupation. Surely Israel has the right to defend itself, but not when it is occupying and oppressing other people. In your speech this morning Mr. President you did not even allude to the occupation, and you put the occupier and the occupied on the same level. You are a well learned and well informed leader, so you certainly are aware that the Palestinians did accept to establish their state on only 22% of historic Palestine. The Arab initiative which you referred to in your speech is based on that offer as well. It is up to Israel now to prove that it is genuinely serious about peace.

So if you are truly committed to the security of Israel Mr. President, please do help Israel end its occupation of the Palestinian Territories. You have enough resolutions, peace agreements, and initiatives for Mr. Mitchell to work with, which could cut down the time and expense of another American shuttle diplomacy. Then you Mr. President, the secretary of state and Mr. Mitchell will go down in history for ushering a new era of justice, peace, and security for both the Israelis and Palestinians.

Respectfully yours,

Samia Khoury
A Concerned Palestinian Mother