Tuesday, May 4, 2010

An Open Letter to President Barack Obama

This open letter was written by Rabbi Shaul Marshall Praver of Congregation Adath Israel in Newtown, Connecticut. Rabbi Praver was CAMERA's Letter Writer of the Year in 2005.

Letters to President Obama may be addressed to:

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500.

They may also be entered into a form on the White House web site.

“For the Sake of Jerusalem I shall not remain silent.” {Isaiah}

Dear President Barack Obama:

There is one simple reason Jerusalem must forever remain an undivided city under the sovereign control of Israel. Only under Israeli jurisdiction have all religious institutions throughout the city remained accessible and protected. Only the Israeli administration recognized the historic connection all Abrahamic religions have to Jerusalem. Only the Israelis are committed to maintaining a pluralistic democratic society where all citizens’ rights are protected under the rule of law. I am not oblivious to short comings within the Israeli system and cases of human rights injustices in reference to Jerusalem Arabs---- yet notwithstanding, only Israel has enacted the rule of law that aims to maintain a pluralistic society bound by democratic principles and human rights. Israel is capable of holding at bay its own fundamentalists who lack respect for the rule of law. The same cannot be said, however, for the PLO and Hamas who both seek to build an intolerant society that will bolster only Islamic aspirations and deny any history connection Jews have to Jerusalem. This basic dichotomy is amply supported in the history of Jerusalem.

Concerning the phenomenon of Jews building homes in East Jerusalem, I am puzzled why you, Mr. President, are not likewise troubled by Arabs building homes in West Jerusalem. Israel is devoted to building a free and open society in Jerusalem, not a racist regime that prohibits any ethnicity from living in any part of its capital. Moreover, I am very surprised that you, Mr. President, ironically the United States’ first African American President, have joined in the chorus, “No Jews allowed.”

On another note, as an American, I hereby demand that you, my president, pay proper respect to all statespersons of allied countries that visit you in Washington. And furthermore, regarding Mr. Netanyahu, a towering intellect and highly respected world leader, I demand that you desist from willfully attempting to humiliate and harass him. In addition to being a seasoned diplomat, Mr. Netanyahu is a good and kind person you should seek to befriend, not alienate. You never know when you might need him! Moreover, it is not becoming for a man with your knowledge and standing on the world stage to conduct yourself in such an unattractive manner. You are so much better than that, Mr. President.

Let me, a simple small town Rabbi, offer you a word of wisdom: Israel is not your enemy, nor are the Jews. Don’t go out of your way to turn independent-minded people like myself into political enemies. We love you and helped you get elected. And allow me to share one more piece of wisdom. Israel was founded in large part by Holocaust survivors. Holocaust survivors have acquired a unique aspect of wisdom and perseverance that you and I will never attain; demanding that their grandchildren be forbidden to live in Jerusalem, Israel’s capital, is not exactly the best way to make friends and influence people.

Israel is the only party that has repeatedly demonstrated her willingness to sacrifice for peace. Israel has no totalitarian aspirations. Israel just wants to live in secure borders and be allowed to enjoy the quiet pleasures of life. The most progress toward peace within Israel has come about through diplomacy initiated by Israel. Did Israel not return the entire oil rich Sinai peninsula to Egypt for peace? Did Israel not make peace with Jordan? Did Israel not offer Mr. Arafat 98% of his demands in exchange for peace? Did Israel not unilaterally disengage from Lebanon and Gaza? Mr. President, Israel wants and needs peace. My suggestion is to give Israel the benefit of the doubt and you’ll get better results. Also Mr. President, you must consider that sometimes Israel is going to say “NO.”

In the recent past, I admired the way you were quick to acknowledge when you got it wrong. In fact I remember you even described the tact you took with Mrs. Clinton at one point during the election as “a bone-headed” thing to do. I admired you for that, Mr. President. Your quick recovery and ability to humble up to your mistakes are very endearing qualities. Likewise, when you got it wrong with Reverend Wright, you quickly acknowledged your mistakes and went on to win the election.

Mr. President, in conclusion, it is wrong to prohibit Jews from building homes for their families in Jerusalem. Your current tact vis-à-vis Israel is wrong and not only will it prove to be fruitless in terms of peace making, it will likely diminish your chances for re-election. Prior to your “peace initiative” things were quiet and peaceful. If this current conflict erupts into another intifada, the blood of the innocent will not be on Mr. Netanyahu’s hands, it will be upon yours.

Your kind consideration regarding this important matter is greatly appreciated,

Respectfully Yours,

Rabbi Shaul Marshall Praver

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