Posted by on March 20, 2013 in Blog

Rena Zuabi, posting on behalf of a group of Palestinian Americans living in the West Bank, published an op-ed in the Huffington Post calling on Obama to fulfill his own promises of “tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice,” and break from Washington’s politics-as-usual that have undermined the peace process for decades.

The piece comes as Obama begins his first-ever trip Israel and Palestine. After a meeting with Arab American leaders, the President promised to use the trip as an opportunity “to demonstrate the United States' commitment to the Palestinian people—in the West Bank and Gaza—and to partnering with the Palestinian Authority as it continues building institutions that will be necessary to build a truly independent Palestinian state.”

Zuabi’s letter, however, demonstrates that US policy has largely been working in precisely the opposite direction:

I am an American of Palestinian descent, raised in the United States, educated at an American university and now living and working in the West Bank. Today, I live under policies with such disregard for human rights and dignity that they rival the darkest days of the U.S. Jim Crow South. I witness and experience, on a daily basis, discrimination against an occupied population, which I help fund with my U.S. tax dollars.

She goes on to mention the difficulties faced by Palestinians inside of Israel as well:

This includes over 30 separate laws that discriminate against and disenfranchise Palestinian citizens. These laws facilitate the forced transfer of non-Jewish citizens in the southern Naqab (Negev) region, criminalize political expression, and provide government services to Jewish citizens above Palestinian citizens. These institutionalized forms of ethnic discrimination permeate every facet of life for Palestinians in Israel and have reduced their communities to isolated and neglected ethnic enclaves.

But it is Zuabi’s ending that is perhaps the most compelling part of her piece:

As an American of Palestinian ancestry, I call for accountability regarding the government's use of my tax dollars to facilitate the continued dispossession and forced displacement of the Palestinian people. I call on President Obama to respect the United States' third-state responsibility to value and ensure Palestinian rights under international law. It is crucial that President Obama push Israel to respect the rights of all Americans regardless of race or ethnicity, and revise State Department policies on support for Arabs coming to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory.

In his 2013 inaugural speech, the president proclaimed that "our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom," and that "peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice." President Obama must heed his own call -- to advance these common principles for the Palestinian people and acknowledge that we too have rights inherent to that reality.

You can read the letter in its entirety on her Huffington Post blog.


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