WE CAN STOP TURNING OUR HEADS AWAY
Open Letter to President Bill Clinton
Dear Mr. President:
Just a few days ago I listened to a portion of your speech apologizing to the remaining victims of a US government action taken in the 1930's to withhold treatment from a group of African American syphilis patients. As I recall your words, you said, "We cannot undo what has been done. But we can stop turning our heads away. We can look at you in the eye and finally say, on behalf of the American people, what the United States government did was shameful and I am sorry." Mr. President, I highly respect your willingness to publically acknowledge the injustice of an action taken by the US government 60 years ago and to publically express your regret for what the government which you represent has done in the past. I likewise respect your willingness to take significant steps to redress the wrongs which have been done by the US government. You have indeed "stopped turning your head away" from this particular and egregious injustice carried out by the US government.
There is, however, a far greater injustice, being openly or at very least tacitly supported by the US government, an injustice from which you still seem, to all appearances, to be "turning your head away." This is the plight of the Palestinian people, who, ever since 1948 and much more intensively since 1967, have been oppressed in ways large and small by the State of Israel. Without engaging in a lengthy review of historical events, I offer the following list of unjust and oppressive actions which the State of Israel is presently carrying out and which have led to the present breakdown of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority:
1. The Israeli government persistently and unilaterally confiscates lands belonging to the Palestinians, offering the Palestinians no legal means of redress for this injustice.
2. The Israeli government has built and continues to build thousands of illegal permanent dwellings in the West Bank and Gaza for Jewish "settlers," in contravention of international law which prohibits such permanent dwellings in occupied territory. The most recent of these settlements to be initiated, the settlement on Jabal Abu Ghneim/Har Homa, completes a "stranglehold" of Israeli settlements around East Jerusalem which cuts East Jerusalem off from the remainder of the West Bank.
3. The Israeli government refuses to grant permits to Palestinians to build badly needed housing for their families, then demolishes homes which have been built without these unavailable permits.
4. The Israeli government is engaged in a major action to demolish hundreds of Palestinian homes in the West Bank which lie too close to Israeli settlements and/or Israeli settler roads. Some 700 homes have been slated for demolition in 1997 alone.
5. The Israeli government is engaged in an action which could best be described as the "ethnic cleansing" of Arab East Jerusalem by depriving many Palestinians of their permits for living there.
6. The Israeli government maintains an ongoing "closure" of the West Bank which daily prohibits Palestinians from entering Jerusalem for purposes of work, worship, or commerce. Due to these travel restrictions Palestinian Christians and Palestinian Muslims have regularly been prohibited from participating in important religious celebrations which take place in Jerusalem. And due to these same restrictions Palestinians have at times died in medical emergencies while being stopped at checkpoints on their way to medical facilities.
7. The Israeli government engages constantly in acts which serve to harass and humiliate the Palestinian population which it "occupies." Such acts of harassment and humiliation range from verbal insults and indignities addressed to the Palestinians by Israeli soldiers to detention at Israeli checkpoints to physical assaults on unarmed civilians.
Mr. President, it is these injustices which the US government has tacitly supported through its refusal to support UN resolutions condemning the actions of the State of Israel. And it is these injustices which the US government has publically supportted through huge foreign aid packages offered each year to the State of Israel.
Mr. President, it is time for us as American people, and for you as our President, to "stop turning our heads away" from the Palestinian people and from the injustices carried out against them by the State of Israel! It is time for us to "look them in the eye" and to say, "What we have done against you, and what we have failed to do on your behalf, has been shameful; and we are sorry!"
Mr. President, you are our spokesperson! These words need to come from you! And they need to be accompanied by actions which make it clear that the US government will not continue to sit back and do nothing (or worse than that, provide both its tacit and its public support) while the State of Israel continues its apparent project--in a highly ironic twist of its own history--to rid Palestine of the Palestinians.
Mr. President, I implore you to take swift and positive action on behalf of the Palestinians, before the Israeli/Palestinian conflict regresses to the stage of outright "warfare" between the two parties! Yours is the only voice that has the authority necessary to bring about meaningful change in the relationship between the Israelis and the Palestinians whom they "occupy." I plead with you to "look the Palestinians in the eye" and use your voice and your authority to bring about justice for them and, by the same token, security for the State of Israel!
Thank you for your prompt and serious attention to this matter!
Dorothy Jean Weaver
7 Village Square Harrisonburg, VA 22801
(540) 433-3336 (home)
turning.htm (540) 432-4276 (office)