I write to you as an American, as a Muslim and as an individual who is feeling a great sense of betrayal in the what was termed “The Audacity of Hope.”
Congratulations on your re-election a few weeks back, I feel that it should be noted that much of your electoral success hinged on the unprecedented level of support you received from communities such as mine. Statistics show that as much as 85% of the Muslim community voted for you – which means that they felt that you would be more fit to address the most pressing issues better than your rival. The “issues” that Muslim-Americans vote on are quite diverse – most are in alignment with the vast majority of American voters – as in jobs, economic growth, healthcare and taxes. Yet one major issue strikes at the heart of our community as well: Human Rights.
I remember back after your inauguration – you made quite an impact in your address in Cairo. In addressing the Muslim world, you stated that you were looking to build a “new way forward.” For the world’s 1.5 Billion Muslims weary and reeling from the aftermath of the Bush years, this was music to many of our ears.
But as we progressed through your first term – many of the promises both stated and unstated remain unfulfilled. Yes there has been a great deal of upheaval and growth in democracy in the Middle East – but to steal one of your own lines:
“You didn’t build that.”
The promise of reform – from a former Constitutional scholar as our leader – in the realm of prosecuting torturers, closing Guantanamo, and closing the loop on indefinite detention of American citizens were all within grasp for your administration, yet you failed to execute –and in some cases (as in the NDAA) – you all have made the situation much worse. On the home front, Muslim and Arab-Americans have endured an unprecedented upswing of Islamophobic rhetoric and attacks on houses of worship. Yet, these issues have been glossed over by your administration and to date you have not visited a single American mosque. Arguably the most disturbing development is the exponential growth of “targeted” extrajudicial killings at the hands of our drone fleet, which has resulted in hundreds of innocent civilian deaths. The adoption of such policies has shifted our focus away from the “pursuit of justice” – to more closely resembling the “pursuit of vengeance” that your ally Israel has made so famous.
Pillar of Genocide
As I write this letter, we are ending the first week in what guarantees to be an increasingly bloody attack on the citizens of Gaza – known by the IDF as “Pillar of Defense.” To date, over 100 civilians have died in continuous Israeli bombing, while nearly 900 have been injured. A huge proportion of those killed have been small children – some as young as 10 months old.
An increasing number of people in this world are able to view this situation with clarity, yet our elected officials seem to be the ones living in the veil of ignorance when it comes to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It is an indisputable fact that the residents of Gaza have been living in what amounts to a prison camp for the better part of the last half-decade. We saw the utter bloodshed that resulted from the 2008 massacre known as “Operation Cast Lead.” The international community spoke up in condemnation of the egregious war crimes that were committed by your stalwart ally, Israel. If not for political posturing – and our nation’s veto power in the U.N, Israel would have suffered much greater consequences after the findings of the Goldstone Report.
Fiscal Cliff or Moral Cliff?
As you enter into your final term as U.S. President – your legacy is undoubtedly being written. In the infamous “47% Video” – your former opponent Mitt Romney promised his donors to “kick the ball down the field” on the Israel and Palestinian issue. However morally depraved his words were, at least for one moment – Romney was telling the unbridled truth as to what U.S. strategy has been in dealing with this issue.
It is also clear from your statements in the last few days, that “We defend Israel’s right to defend itself” – is essentially the same as “Kicking the ball down the field.” By uttering these robotic and toothless words – your administration has given license for Benjamin Netanyahu and the IDF to commit murder and wage destruction far beyond that of “Cast Lead.”
And while you are rightfully addressing our nation’s fiscal issues, it has disheartened so many in our nation the coldness and disengagement from the human rights of the resilient and vibrant population of Gaza. Perhaps our expectations of you were forged out of false hope.
It must be said that those who are conducting the most egregious oppression often do so under the guise of “fighting terror.” This excuse has been used by Bashar al-Assad is responsible for the deaths of 40,000 of his own citizens, however he blames “the terrorists” for the violence. The IDF possesses one of the largest nuclear arsenals in the world, as well as the most sophisticated weaponry – and has transformed the West Bank and Gaza into something rivaling Leavenworth or Folsom Prisons. Yet, the faulty specter of “terror” by the nearly defenseless Palestinian people allows the IDF to inflict collective punishment upon a whole nation of people for generation upon generation.
Our nation cannot stand by and allow Israel to continue its never-ending cycle of violence, occupation and repression of the Palestinian people. Think back to that promise of “a new way forward” from the Cairo speech. Now juxtapose that against what the citizens of Gaza have experienced. Generations have lived under this occupation – and the bomb blasts, drones, and funerals are undoubtedly causing post-traumatic stress among these innocent civilians.
With each passing hour – more and more children and infants are being reported dead. Twelve members of the Dalu family were killed in the “pinpoint” bombing that your allies conducted today. For what crime was this family being punished? What about their 5 small children? There is no way forward for the citizens of Gaza, if your administration sanctions this one-sided massacre. Sadly, this will only foment feelings of bitterness and violence – perpetuating this cycle for generations to come.
In the end, your administration’s cold and emotionless words speak the loudest to the communities that came out for you the most on Election Day. The continual shift from the “Ideal Obama” to the “Real Obama” has opened the eyes of many. There was a hope that you would break the mold of so many before you – yet you have come up short on most, if not all of these promises. There are still lives that can be spared – there are words that can be spoken that can help further the cause of human rights on so many of these fronts. The question is, are you willing to speak these words?
Imraan Siddiqi is the Editor of StopIslamophobiaNow.com, an Entrepreneur CAIR-AZ Board Member. He writes on the experiences of Muslim Americans as well as the subject of Islamophobia. He has been published in outlets such as The Dallas Morning News, The Oregonian, Huffington Post, CounterPunch, SuhaibWebb.com, altMuslim, among many other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @imraansiddiqi.