June 6th, 2009

Chris Keeley


Published on Thursday, June 4, 2009 by CommonDreams.org
Hamas Delivers Peace Letter to President Obama

by Medea Benjamin

The Hamas government in Gaza reached out to President Obama on the occasion of his visit to the Middle East, announcing that Hamas was willing to talk to all parties “on the basis of mutual respect and without preconditions.” CODEPINK cofounder Medea Benjamin, who carried the letter out from Gaza, said that the letter represented a significant development and an effort by Hamas to present a new face to the Western world. “While Osama bin Laden used the occasion of President Obama’s visit to deliver a scathing attack, Hamas reached out to a feminist U.S. peace group to deliver a letter to Obama urging dialogue, mutual respect and adherence to international law,” said Medea Benjamin.
In the letter, Hamas urged Obama to visit “our ground Zero” in Gaza and bring about a “paradigm shift” in the Israel-Palestine conflict based on enlightened world opinion and international law.
 “This is a people who have just been subjected to a vicious attack that left over 1,300 dead and thousands wounded, and there is not a word here about armed resistance or Zionism. They are reaching out and actively seeking a resolution to the conflict based on the findings of the world’s leading international legal bodies and human rights organizations from the United Nations and the International Court of Justice to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. This is a major breakthrough and the U.S. government should take advantage to begin a dialogue with Hamas.”
The letter was signed by Ahmed Yusef, Deputy Foreign Minister and hand-delivered to Benjamin, who was in Gaza headed a 66-person delegation representing 10 nations. Benjamin and representatives of CODEPINK are delivering the letter to the U.S. Embassy in Cairo today, June 4, during Obama’s visit to Egypt.
The text of the letter is below.
His Excellency President Barack Obama,
President of the United States of America.

June 3rd 2009

Dear Mr. President,

We welcome your visit to the Arab world and your administration’s initiative to bridge differences with the Arab-Muslim world.
One long-standing source of tension between the United States and this part of the world has been the failure to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict.
It is therefore unfortunate that you will not visit Gaza during your trip to the Middle East and that neither your Secretary of State nor George Mitchell have come to hear our point of view.
We have received numerous visits recently from people of widely varied backgrounds: U.S. Congressional representatives, European parliamentarians, the U.N.-appointed Goldstone commission, and grassroots delegations such as those organized by the U.S. peace group CODEPINK.
It is essential for you to visit Gaza. We have recently passed through a brutal 22-day Israeli attack.  Amnesty International observed that the death and destruction Gaza suffered during the invasion could not have happened without U.S.-supplied weapons and U.S.-taxpayers’ money.
Human Rights Watch has documented that the white phosphorus Israel dropped on a school, hospital, United Nations warehouse and civilian neighborhoods in Gaza was manufactured in the United States.   Human Rights Watch concluded that Israel’s use of this white phosphorus was a war crime.
Shouldn’t you see first-hand how Israel used your arms and spent your money?
Before becoming president you were a distinguished professor of law.  The U.S. government has also said that it wants to foster the rule of law in the Arab-Muslim world.
The International Court of Justice stated in July 2004 that the whole of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem are occupied Palestinian territories designated for Palestinian self-determination, and that the Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories are illegal.  
Not one of the 15 judges sitting on the highest judicial body in the world dissented from these principles.  
The main human rights organizations in the world, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have issued position papers supporting the right of the Palestinian refugees to return and compensation.
Each year in the United Nations General Assembly nearly every country in the world has supported these principles for resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict.  Every year the Arab League puts forth a peace proposal based on these principles for resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Leading human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch have also stated that Israel’s siege of Gaza is a form of collective punishment and therefore illegal under international law.
We in the Hamas Government are committed to pursuing a just resolution to the conflict not in contradiction with the international community and enlightened opinion as expressed in the International Court of Justice, the United Nations General Assembly, and leading human rights organizations.  We are prepared to engage all parties on the basis of mutual respect and without preconditions.
However, our constituency needs to see a comprehensive paradigm shift that not only commences with lifting the siege on Gaza and halts all settlement building and expansion but develops into a policy of evenhandedness based on the very international law and norms we are prodded into adhering to.   
Again, we welcome you to Gaza which would allow you to see firsthand our ground zero.  Furthermore, it would enhance the US position; enabling you to speak with new credibility and authority in dealing with all the parties.

Very Truly Yours,
Dr. Ahmed Yousef
Deputy of the Foreign Affairs Ministry
Former Senior Political Advisor
to Prime Minister Ismael Hanniya

Medea Benjamin (medea@globalexchange.org [1]) is cofounder of Global Exchange (www.globalexchange.org [2]) and CODEPINK: Women for Peace (www.codepinkalert.org [3]).

Chris Keeley

obama mentioned the arab peace initiative

"Finally, the Arab States must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities. The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems. Instead, it must be a cause for action to help the Palestinian people develop the institutions that will sustain their state; to recognize Israel's legitimacy; and to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past."

This portion of President Obama's Cairo speech came toward the end of the section on the Arab-Israel conflict. I have searched in  vain for any mention of this quote in mainstream media and even on the blogosphere. Nothing. Nowhere. Not even a mention.
   Perhaps the reason is that it was a misstatement. It is not the Arab States that must recognize that the API was an important beginning, but rather the U.S., Israel and the rest of the world that should have recognized it as a comprehensive, just, balanced and complete offer that would bring peace to the Middle East and end this specific conflict. Obama did not spell out what the offer would proivide. Instead he moved on to a total non sequitur about the Arab nations using this conflict to distract their people from other problems. No sir, they were offering a truly remarkable solution to this conflict, one that would end it, not distract anyone.
   Full page ads in the NY Times and the WashPost last week informed people what it was all about, including that it was first offered in 2002, that it has repeatedly been endorsed by all 22 members of the Arab League (including the Palestinians), and by 57 majority Muslim countries around the world. The ad was paid for by the Negotiations Affairs Department of the PLO. Further information is available on the Organization of the Islamic Conference (http://www.oic.org).
The plan does not call for any concessions by Israel. It does call for their ending the occupation and withdrawing from the territories they have annexed, occupied, terrorized, and in which they have implanted illegal settlements. This is not a concession. It is obeying international law, numerous relevant UNSC Resolutions, the laws of war, the Geneva Conventions, and elementary human decency. Obeying the law is not a concession in international relations. The Palestinians have already made a huge concession, in claiming for their state only the 22 percent of Mandate Palestine that had been left to them by the start of the 1967 war. This was much less than the somewhat under 50 percent that had been allotted to them by the original UN Partition Plan.
This was the key provision of the API: that Israel withdraw to the 1967 boundaries. The Palestinian refugee problem would be settled by an agreement to be negotiated by the parties. In return Israel would be recognized de jure by all Arab states, normal relations would be established, peace treaties signed, and a final end to the conflict established. This is the way to confirm and entrench short and long term security for the State of Israel.
What are we waiting for? For Obama to get on board this concrete plan, with no more eloquent observations needed.

Bob Keeley
Chris Keeley

patrick Seale

Comment on the interesting Patrick Seale analysis (see article below):

My first reaction is that Patrick Seale is getting quite far ahead of the curve here.  On the other hand, it also seems to me that
IF Seale IS on the right track, this development that could in fact be quite beneficial to regional stability.  When you have states like Iran and Syria that have roguish tendencies, it seems to me very desirable that they enter into multilateral relationships with potential rivals.  History certainly shows that cooperative associations among regional neighbors engenders moderation in international relations, especially when the alternative is defiant isolation.

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