Weekly Letter to President Obama
Copyright © 2010
ofthisandthat.org. All rights
INAUGURATION, January 20, 2009
Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape
To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.
The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.
Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.
--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
--- Native American proverb
August 1, 2014
Mr. President: Amidst the ongoing horror of shelling a heavily congested urban area,
there is heartrending tragedy: Last week a couple of dozen (including many children)
were killed in a school shelter; this week the same. Pierre Krahenbuhl,
Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said the
coordinates of the school, a UN designated shelter, were relayed to the Israeli military
seventeen times, the last time just hours before the shelling. He went on to say,
"Children killed in their sleep; this is an affront to all of us, a source of universal
shame. Today the world stands disgraced ... This is the sixth time one of your
schools has been struck ..."
Let's be specific. By 'world', he means Europe and North America who have done
little to stop the horror. (Most of the geographic world is appalled and horrified. For
example. Ecuador has just declared Israel a terror state). Continental Western
Europe remains in angst over its prior anti-Semitism; Britain and North America
remain beholden to the electoral funding heft of Israel's supporters -- many no longer
in tandem with the usually left-leaning Jewish voters.
"The US condemns the shelling of an UNRWA school in Gaza ..." was the statement
made by Bernadette Meehan a spokesperson for the President's National Security
Council. Yet on the same day CNN reported the US will be honoring Israel's request
for more heavy ammunition. If there is a principle here, it remains highly elusive; the
hypocrisy, however, is overwhelming.
While politicians continue to mouth reflexively the mantra of "Israel's right to
self-defense", the opposition to the nauseating slaughter is becoming mainstream.
Columbia University Professor Rashid Khalidi writing for the New Yorker two days ago
draws upon the history of Gaza, its pitiful state, the myriad pretexts for numerous
invasions of what is under international law occupied territory, the UN attestations of
war crimes. After the latest carnage in the UN school shelter, the seasoned UN
spokesman in Gaza was reduced to tears as he recounted the events.
There is stronger opposition to Netanyahu's government in Israel than in the US.
Ruth Fowler, a California based Welsh woman of Jewish and Christian background,
writes this week in AlJazeera of the economic consequences (loss of work, job, etc.) to
individuals for voicing opposition to Israeli government policy. It brings to mind the
story of Professor Juan Cole (whose views are often opposed on this website) and
It is customary at universities for departments to choose their own faculty. There is,
of course, the approval by Deans and higher level administrators, but that is just a
formality -- usually. In Cole's case, he was selected by Yale history and sociology
faculty for a joint Professorship, only to have his appointment blocked (as reported by
the Nation, Tikun Olam and others) by right wing pro-Israel forces. Neocons,
including some professors, and groups like Campus Watch orchestrated a campaign
impugning his scholarship and falsely accusing him of antisemitism, while direct
pressure was brought to bear through wealthy donors.
Cole is not the only victim. Rashid Khalidi, mentioned earlier, was targeted when he
was in the running for a chair at Princeton. Stephen Walt, who coauthored The Israel
Lobby and who stepped down from his Harvard Deanship shortly after its publication,
is resigned to no further advancement in his career.
The question to ask ourselves is exactly what manner of democracy does a country
have when basic tenets like privacy and freedom of speech are badly eroded. Is this
the type of country envisioned by its founding fathers?
Armies are a blunt instrument, killing many times more civilians than combatants. In
the twenty-first century, what the world wants is peace, and peaceful resolution of
conflicts. Could the answer lie in automatic inclusion in an international justice system
tied to UN membership? But the Court of Justice will have to be truly international.