Friday, November 21, 2008

What does a Palestinian American Man Married to a Jewish American Woman Tell President Elect Obama?

Dear President Elect Obama,

I am a Palestinian-American Moslem who grew up in Shatila refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon

I voted for you because I was voting for hope and change. I am sure that you will assemble a good team of AMERICANS to help take us out the current financial mess.
However, I have a deep concern that foreign policy is another story, Americans who served this country before and many from whom you will make your selection, already have a twisted idea about the Middle East. These same politicians have already shown their 100% support to Israel despite there being two sides to the story. Many in the American political circle forget that peace takes place between two peoples, not ONLY one. A just peace is the only smart way to end the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis.

Given the decisions and behavior of many others who have preceded you in office, I want to resist the temptation of having a very low expectation that you will have the will, against all odds, to contend with the tremendous pressures which come your way and stand up for fairness and justice. I am a man who believes that only peace will start the healing process that is badly needed.

I came to this country just like many immigrants including your father with the hope of a better life and yearning to accomplish more than was possible in the land and circumstances in which I was born. It appeared that in the United States I would be away from a war and freer and capable of achieving more. Similarly, before the election some people thought that they would not see a black president in their lifetimes; we have and thank God it is you. The idea that a black man has become the president of the USA is the definition of hope.

Another definition of hope comes from my own life. I took my 12-year-old son to watch me vote so he can remember this historic time and be inspired by the idea that what seems impossible may not eventually be so. I hope that when he is able to vote in few years that we have helped Peace become a reality in the Middle East. I am married to a Jewish woman whom I love very much, and with whom I have three children. I am reminded of all that is possible when people put their prejudices to the side and let their love guide them.

Just like I know there are people who are waiting for you to fail, there are people who are waiting for our 17 year loving marriage to fail. I know that the U.S. policies towards the Middle East have been anything but fair. Just as in marrying a Jewish woman against all odds, I had to contend with the resistances from people in both cultures, I am sure people are capable of changing to allow Peace to take place between Palestinians and Israelis. Whether they like or not their lives are intertwined. Sometimes people go out of their way to help a neighbor that they do not like. They do it because it will have a negative effect on their own life if they do not. If your neighbor’s house is on fire, and you are forced to help them, you are really helping yourself. Helping them saves their home will help you also save yours.

Palestinians and Israelis are in similar situation; they need each other to survive. There must be a just peace between our peoples. The USA can play an important role in being a friend and guide for them BOTH through the difficult decisions. Without peace, life is a continuous cycle of hate, killing and suffering for all and a squandering of human potential.

I say enough is enough. Being who you are, you can be part of a legacy that would allow Palestinians and Israelis to live in peace and work to advance their societies, cultures and not kill each other. Let us give Peace a Chance, God knows we have tried everything else. Yes We Can!

Kayed Khalil, D.C.

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