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The Daily Star | January 12, 2009

Dear President-elect Obama

Editor‘s note: The following is a letter addressed to US President-elect Barack Obama calling for the United States to change its policies vis-a-vis the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, especially in light of Israel‘s current onslaught against the Gaza Strip. It was signed by more than 900 academics, most of them based in the United States, and made available to The Daily Star by the campaign‘s organizers.

Once, in what was perhaps an unguarded moment, you stated that: "Nobody's suffering more than the Palestinian people". After days of relentless Israeli bombing in the Gaza strip that has already killed over seven hundred people, most of them civilians or policemen, and injured over three thousand, many of whom may yet die for lack of medical supplies and facilities, your words have never rung more true. And yet, so far, your signal response to this latest assault on the Palestinians, that the UN Secretary General diplomatically calls "disproportionate", has been to defend Israel's right to respond to rocket attacks that, while rightly condemned, are mere pinpricks in comparison to the horrific consequences of Israeli bombardment and of the ongoing blockade on Gaza.

Does this mean that on the long way to the White House you have trimmed your sails and, for the sake of securing the power you will soon assume, fear now to speak truth to power? Does this mean that, unlike Dr. King, your sense of justice is adjustable for the sake of political expedience? Those who supported you from the early days of your primary campaign did so not on account of your response to economic crisis, but because they believed in your sense of justice and your commitment to put an end to business-as-usual in Washington, and because they believed in your genuine desire to shape a new and different world order.

In 1981, while you were an undergraduate at Occidental College, you were among the first of a courageous group of students and faculty who, while the cause was still unpopular or unheard of, spoke out for divestment from the apartheid regime in South Africa. You knew then that it was imperative to place pressure on a racist regime which shamefully oppressed a black and coloured population that was discriminated against, subject to pass laws and control of its every movement, parceled into Bantustans, and subject to detention, torture and extra-judicial execution. When the black population protested, like the school children of Soweto, they could be summarily shot down by police or army. The ANC, under Nelson Mandela, was proscribed as a terrorist movement, its leaders were imprisoned, tortured or killed, its guerillas faced the overwhelming power of the South African army, equipped and trained in part by the United States and its European allies. A regime that was so unafraid to use violence in the defense of its discriminatory and racist regime, and so unashamed to do so in the face of international condemnation, could only understand the language of force. The divestment movement in which you so actively participated understood that the euphemistically and cynically named policy of "constructive engagement" was a moral and practical failure and that only the non-violent force of a financial boycott on the South African regime had any hope of bringing an end to apartheid without an horrific bloodbath.

Public figures as diverse as Bishop Desmond Tutu and President Jimmy Carter have recognized that Israel too maintains an apartheid regime, in practice if not in name. South Africa, now a functioning multi-racial democracy, was a white state for a white people. Israel is a Jewish state for a Jewish people. Its non-Jewish, mostly Palestinian Arab citizens are discriminated against in numerous ways, economically and civilly. The dispossessed and ethnically cleansed Palestinian populations, dispersed in the diaspora and in the refugee camps of Gaza, the West Bank and Lebanon, are denied the internationally recognized right of return. They have had their lands and homes taken from them by armed and "legal" force, are subject to collective punishment, prolonged states of siege, the absolute and deliberately destructive control of their daily movements. Where South Africa instituted the pass laws, the checkpoints that have proliferated all over the West Bank and at the exits from Gaza prevent students from reaching their schools and hospitals, workers from reaching their places or work, keep farmers from their fields, the sick from the few hospitals that survive to serve them. The illegal settlements, that in contravention of all international laws regarding occupation have proliferated across the West Bank, are designed to be permanent "facts on the ground" and have divided recognized Palestinian territory into segmented islets, into besieged Bantustans, with the intent of preventing a contiguous Palestinian state. A so-called security wall, illegally built, as even the Israeli Supreme Court recognized, on Palestinian territory, has cut farmers from their lands and turned formerly prosperous villages into isolated prisons. Regular Israeli military incursions into Palestinian cities and refugee camps, and bombings from the air, have killed innumerable civilians, many of them children. Since the election of Hamas, in fair and open elections, Israel has subjected the civilian population of Gaza to a prolonged state of siege, designed to suffocate them into submission, depriving them at will of water and power, medical supplies and food, and of access to the outside world. The most recent, all-out assault on Gaza, the disproportionate and bloody use of excessive force, is no act of self-defense, but the dramatic extension of an insidious policy of extermination of a people that refuses to disappear.

Every one of these acts is a crime against humanity. In their ensemble, they constitute one of the most massive, ethnocidal atrocities of modern times. Almost alone among nations, Israel acts in flagrant violation of international law and UN resolutions and does so with impunity. That it can do so is in large part the consequence of the uncritical support offered to Israel by a succession of American administrations. Without the military and economic aid of the United States, which amounts to more than a third of all US foreign aid, Israel could not have mounted its violent offensives against the Palestinians or Lebanon, could not maintain its security apparatus, could not afford the illegal settlements that seek to expand Israel into what remains of Palestinian territory. The United States has supplied the F-16s that are bombarding the Palestinians, their schools, police stations and mosques, and the cluster bombs that continue to kill and maim children and farmers in southern Lebanon. America continues to support Israel to the tune of billions every year at the expense of US taxpayers and at the expense of its moral standing in the world.

You will continue to do so, according to your own web page, because "our first and incontrovertible commitment in the Middle East must be to the security of Israel, America's strongest ally in the region." You and your Vice-President, Joe Biden, not only "defend and support the annual foreign aid package that involves both military and economic assistance to Israel", but moreover "have advocated increased foreign aid budgets to ensure that these funding priorities are met." In doing so, you lend your support, in the name of the United States, to a regime no less criminal in its acts and in its policies towards its own minority population and its dispossessed Palestinian neighbors than South Africa was in the 1980s. Then, it was argued, South Africa was our strongest ally in the region, a bulwark in the war against communism, a crucial supplier of uranium and other minerals, a prosperous Western-style democracy, if not the only democracy on the continent. To bring down the South African apartheid regime, it was argued, would be to create chaos in southern Africa, unleash a bloodbath in which whites and blacks alike would suffer, and pave the way for a communist or dictatorial postcolonial regime. The divestment movement, a non-violent coalition of students and academics, union members and churches, came together in the spirit of the Civil Rights movement to challenge those self-serving assumptions. It changed the direction of US foreign policy, disgracing its support of a racist regime, and placed effective pressure on the apartheid regime to begin serious negotiations with the ANC. Through a combination of diplomacy and divestment, we did end apartheid, making way for a functioning multi-racial democracy that confronts its challenges, indeed, but has not dissolved into chaos or tyranny.

It is time for the United States to place a similar pressure on Israel. That Israel has been America's beneficiary, unchallenged in its war crimes and in its acts of terror, uncontested for its racist civil constitution and illegal occupations, has not been to the United States' advantage. On the contrary, such unquestioning support of Israel has fuelled the legitimate anger of the Islamic world, supplied the justification for terrorism, and continually tarnished the United States' reputation among the democracies of the world. That the United States has stood so often alone in defending Israel before the court of world opinion in the United Nations is not a sign of its virtue, but of the obstinacy and arrogance of its stance. But it is not for the sake of the reputation or advantage of the United States that you should take a new path in relation to Israel. It is in the name of justice. It is not just to support the territorial ambitions, realized settlement by settlement, of a Zionist minority in the region. It is not just to continue to supply Israel with the most advanced weapons and the most deadly arms in order that it may murder civilians, children and policemen. It is not just that we should support Israel with all our diplomatic force and financial aid, while leaving Israel's victims to die slowly for lack of food, medicine, water and power. It is not just that we should sacrifice a dispossessed people for the security of a state that discriminates and expropriates, continually and violently ignores UN resolutions and international appeals, collectively punishes those whose right to resist occupation is recognized in international law.

There is no road to peace through such injustice. It may be that the compromise in the end will be the establishment and security of two separate states. Almost certainly, the only hope of a lasting solution is a single state in Israel/Palestine, committed to the civil and human rights of all peoples within its boundaries, irrespective of religion or ethnicity. That is, after all, the standard to which we hold all other states in the world, Israel alone excepted. But no solution at all will be possible until we hold Israel accountable for its criminal violence and its illegal acts, until we cease to supply it with the means to pursue a course of domination and expansion, with arms and warplanes, with finance and diplomatic support. In wake of the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, your recent expression of "deep concern" is not enough. It is time for constructive disengagement from Israel, financial, diplomatic, military. What worked in the case of South Africa, divestment and pressure, may finally work in the Middle East.

Without such justice, there will be no peace.

David Lloyd

University of Southern California Los Angeles

January 1, 2009

Maher Abdelqader, St. Johns University

Butool Abdullah, University of California (UC), Riverside

Khadeeja Abdullah, UC Los Angeles

Wadad Abed, Palestine Aid Society

Diana Abouali, Dartmouth College

Thomas Abowd, Wayne State University

Matthew Abraham, DePaul University

Raed Abughazaleh, Hennepin County Medical Center

Janet Abu-Lughod, Northwestern University

Lila Abu-Lughod, Columbia University

Fida Adely, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service

Dorothy Aguilera, Lewis & Clark College, Portland

Sanjam Ahluwalia, Northern Arizona University

Barry Aidlin, UC Berkeley

Andrew Aisenberg, Scripps College

Maha Akhtar, Macaulay Honors College at Queens College

Daniel Alarcn, UC Berkeley

Lisa Albrecht, University of Minnesota

Linda Mart'n Alcoff, Hunter College/CUNY

David Alderson, University of Manchester

Hamid Algar, UC Berkeley

Kimberly Alidio, University of Texas at Austin

Dina Al-Kassim, UC Irvine

Amany Al-Sayyed, American University of Beirut

Evelyn Alsultany, University of Michigan

Abbas Al-Tonsi, Georgetown University

Andrew Altounyan, Concerned citizen

Atif Alvi, Lahore University of Management Sciences

Candice Amich, Rutgers University

T.R. Amsler, June Jordan School for Equity

Sriram Ananth, University of Minnesota

Patrick Anderson, UC San Diego

Gil Anidjar, Columbia University

Sinan Antoon, New York University

Nausheen H Anwar, Harvard University

Ibrahim Aoude, University of Hawaii

Juan Manuel Arbona, Bryn Mawr College

Stephen Carl Arch, Michigan State University

Elizabeth Archuleta, Arizona State University

Jacqueline Armijo, Zayed University

Anjali Arondekar, UC Santa Cruz

Nadim Asrar, University of Minnesota

Mohamed G. Atta, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

Robin Attfield, Cardiff University

Elsa Auerbach, University of Massachusetts Boston

Tim August, University of Minnesota

Idelber Avelar, Tulane University

Sufia Azmat, Noor-Ul-Iman School

Paola Bacchetta, UC Berkeley

Gabeba Baderoon, Pennsylvania State University

Susan Bain, Promenade Elementary School

Amit Baishya, University of Iowa

Jennifer Bajorek, Goldsmiths College, University of London

Christine Bacareza Balance, UC Irvine

Ian Balfour, York University

Wanda S. Ballentine, Retired

Asma Barlas, Ithaca College

Tani Barlow, Rice University

Barbara Barnes, Brooklyn College

Lynne Barnes, Colorado State University

Ryan P Barone, University of Connecticut

Valerie Barr, Union College

Harry Bastermajian, Lake Forest College

Angela Ixkic Duarte Bastian, Universidad Autnoma de Mexico

Edward Batchelder, SUNY, Buffalo

Janet Bauer, Trinity College

Anis Bawarshi, University of Washington

Rosalyn Baxandall, SUNY, Old Westbury

Moustafa Bayoumi, Brooklyn College, CUNY

Toby Beauchamp, UC Davis

Michael Beck, Queens College

Adam H. Becker, New York University

Joshua A. Bell, Smithsonian Institution Jonathan Beller, Pratt Institute

L. Kent Bendall, Wesleyan University

Lourdes Bener'a, Cornell University

Sylvia Benini, Austin Center for Peace and Justice

Rick Berg, University of Southern California

Brook Bernini-Galup, University of Minnesota

Tamara Bhalla, UMBC

Jess Bier, CUNY

Anna Bigelow, North Carolina State University

Laure Bjawi, Santa Clara University

Jody Blanco, UC San Diego

Barb Blazej, University of Maine

Steven Blevins, Florida International University

Katherine Blouin, University of Toronto

Van Bluemel, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Jason N. Blum, University of Pennsylvania

Lawrence Blum, University of Massachusetts, Boston

Abigail Boggs, UC Davis

Mallory Bolduc, University of Florida

Catherine Bolten, University of Michigan Victoria Bomberry, UC Riverside

Marion G. Bontrager, Hesston College

Papori Bora, University of Minnesota

Rozalinda Borcila, University of South Florida

Eileen Boris, UC Santa Barbara

Purnima Bose, Indiana University, Bloomington

Daniel Boyarin, UC Berkeley

Marylee Bradley, California State University, Stanislaus

Amy L. Brandzel, University of New Mexico

Bruce Braun, University of Minnesota

Lundy Braun, Brown University

Gray Brechin, Univesity of California, Berkeley

Laura Briggs, University of Arizona

Mary Shannon Brooks, University of Texas

Jayna Brown, UC Riverside

Nathan Brown, UC Davis

Wendy Brown, UC Berkeley

Karl Bryant, SUNY, New Paltz

Lotte Buch, University of Copenhagen

Susan Buck-Morss, Cornell University

Jericho Burg, UC San Diego

Emily Burrill, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Jessica B. Burstrem, University of Arizona

Antoinette Burton, University of Illinois

Snjezana Buzov, Ohio State University

Layla Cable, the Curley School

Jeffrey Cabusao, Bryant University

George Constantine Caffentzis, University of Southern Maine

Andrew Calabrese, University of Colorado at Boulder

Asli Calkivik, University of Minnesota

Jordan Camp, UC Santa Barbara

Corey Capers, University of Illinois, Chicago

Cesare Casarino, University of Minnesota

Eugenia Casielles, Wayne State University

Noel Castree, University of Manchester

Keith Catone, Harvard Graduate School of Education

Paul Catterson, Chicago State University

John Paul Catungal, University of Toronto Eric Cazdyn, University of Toronto

Marija Cetinic, USC

Aditi Chandra, University of Minnesota

Nandini Chandra, University of Minnesota Ryan Chaney, Columbia University

Sylvia Chan-Malik, UC Berkeley

Tina Chanter, DePaul University

Ignacio Chapela, UC Berkeley

Piya Chatterjee, UC Riverside

Ruchi Chaturvedi, Hunter College, CUNY

Jolie Chea, UC Los Angeles

Mel Y. Chen, UC Berkeley

Thomas Chen, Brown University

Eva Cherniavsky, University of Washington

Anita Chikkatur, University of Pennsylvania

Kyeong-Hee Choi, University of Chicago

Sylvia Chong, University of Virginia

Elora Chowdhury, University of Massachusetts, Boston

Peter Chua, San Jose State University

Kandice Chuh, University of Maryland

George Ciccariello-Maher, UC Berkeley

Christina E. Civantos, University of Miami

Diana Claitor, Texas Jail Project

Beth Cleary, Macalester College

Patricia Ticineto Clough, Queens College and Graduate Center CUNY

Nanette Le Coat, Trinity University

Lawrence Cohen, UC Berkeley

Matthew Coleman, Ohio State University

Martha Collins, Oberlin College

Patricia Connolly, University of Minnesota

Sheila Contreras, Michigan State University

Paula M. Cooey, Macalester College

Karin Cope, University of Nova Scotia

Roselyn Costantino, Penn State University

Clare Counihan, Nazareth College

Margaux Cowden, UC Irvine

Robert Cowles, Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Corey Creekmur, University of Iowa

T.J. Cribb, Churchill College

Charles Crittenden, California State University, Northridge

Stephen Crowley, Oberlin College

Denise Cruz, Indiana University

Michael Cucher, USC

Ofelia Ortiz Cuevas, UC Riverside

Kate Cummings, University of Washington

Chris Cuomo, University of Georgia

Kavita Daiya, George Washington University

Marlowe Daly-Galeano, University of Arizona

Mahendra Damarla, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Maria Damon, University of Minnesota

Bucker Dangor, Imperial College London

Huma Dar, University of British Columbia

Susan Muaddi Darraj, Harford Community College

Atasi Das, Keene State College

Rochelle Davis, Georgetown University

James Davis, Brooklyn College, City University of New York

Ashley Dawson, CUNY Graduate Center

Iyko Day, Mount Holyoke College

Colin Dayan, Vanderbilt University

Jodi Dean, Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Lara Deeb, Scripps College

Randi Deguilhem, CNRS, IREMAM

Chela Delgado, UC Berkeley

Anneke DeLuycker, Butler University

Manan Desai, University of Michigan

Lynne DeSilva-Johnson, City College, CUNY

William Dewey, UC San Francisco

Vicente M. Diaz, University of Michigan

Colin Dickey, USC

Linda Dittmar, University of Massachusetts, Boston

Naazneen Diwan, UCLA

Tayyab S. Diwan, Mayo Clinic

Jennifer Kwon Dobbs, St. Olaf College

Sharon Doetsch-Kidder, UC Santa Barbara

Thomas John Donahue, Saint Joseph's University

Andy Doolen, University of Kentucky

Roxanne Lynn Doty, Arizona State University

Simon Doubleday, Hofstra University

Roberta L. Dougherty, University of Texas at Austin

Anne E. Duggan, Wayne State University

Lisa Duggan, New York University

Kevin C. Dunn, Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Bud Duvall, University of Minnesota

William Duvall, Willamette University

Robert Ellis Dye, Macalester College

Andrew Edgar, Cardiff University

Eduardo Cadava, Princeton University

Ben Ehrenreich, Otis College of Art and Design

Kaveh Ehsani, De Paul University

Mushira Eid, University of Utah

John Eisele, College of William and Mary

Zillah Eisenstein, Ithaca College

Muhammad S. Eissa, University of Chicago

Hisam Elaqad, Ohio State University

Nada Elia, Antioch University

Marie-Therese Ellis, Mills College

Maryam El-Shall, UC Irvine

David G. Embrick, Loyola University-Chicago

Zachary Noffsinger Erbaugh, Bethany Theological Seminary

Colleen Eren, CUNY Graduate Center

Jenny Ernst, Park Day School

Adriana Estill, Carleton College

Nava EtShalom, University of Michigan

Sylvanna M. Falcn, UC Riverside

Nahyan Fancy, DePauw University

James C. Faris, University of Connecticut

Grant Farred, Cornell University

Munis D. Faruqui, UC Berkeley

David Faust, University of Minnesota

Silvia Federici, Hofstra University

Ilana Feldman, George Washington University

James Ferguson, Stanford University

Roderick A. Ferguson, University of Minnesota

Allan Fisher, City College of San Francisco

Elllen Fleischmann, University of Dayton

Colin Flint, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Courtney G. Flint, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Amy Foerster, Pace University

Claudio Fogu, UC Santa Barbara

Alessandro Fornazzari, UC Riverside

Noha Forster, University of Chicago

Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes, University of Michigan

Claire F. Fox, University of Iowa

Anne-Lise Fran ois, UC at Berkeley

Cynthia Franklin, University of Hawaii at Manoa

Cary Fraser, Pennsylvania State University

Carla Freccero, UCSC

Nathaniel Freiburger, UC Davis

Lezlie Frye, NYU

Gloria Frym, California College of the Arts

Dan Fulton, San Lucas Toliman Hospital

Gary Gaffney, Art Academy of Cincinnati

Nancy Gallagher, UC Santa Barbara

Catherine Gallou't, Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Anthony Galluzzo, Clark Library

Ritika Ganguly, University of Minnesota

Matt Garite, SUNY Buffalo

Matthew Garrett, Wesleyan University

Adriana Garriga-Lpez, Columbia University

Leo Gerweck, Harvard Medical School

Bishnupriya Ghosh, UC Santa Barbara

Vinay Gidwani, University of Minnesota

Stephanie Gilmore, Dickinson College

Rachel Giora, Tel Aviv University

Reda E. Girgis,, Johns Hopkins University

Abbott Gleason, Brown University

Carolyn Goffman, DePaul University

David Theo Goldberg, UC Irvine

Catherine Tracy Goode, University of Massachusetts, Boston

Priyamvada Gopal, University of Cambridge

Gayatri Gopinath, New York University

Sumanth Gopinath, University of Minnesota

Avery Gordon, UC Santa Barbara

Jeffrey Gore, DePaul University

Melanie Gould, Voluntary Service Overseas

Stephen Graham, University of Durham

Lucy Graham, Stellenbosch University

Ronald Walter Greene, University of Minnesota

Mary Jo Grennan, Keene State University

Zareena Grewal, Yale University

Pamela Grieman, USC

Larry Gross, USC

Sarah Gualtieri, USC

Patricia Guizzetti, Chicago Public Schools

Andrew Paul Gutierrez, UC Berkeley

Ferit Gven, Earlham College

Khristina Haddad, Moravian College

Mathew Hadley, University of Minnesota

Elaine C. Hagopian, Simmons College

Jeanne Hahn, Evergreen State College of Liberal Arts

Jennifer Haidar, Des Moines Public Schools

Samira Haj, CUNY Graduate School

Paula Hajar, Bronx Charter School for Better Learning

Semya Hakim, St. Cloud State University

Judith Halberstam, USC

Sondra Hale, UCLA

Lisa Kahaleole Hall, Wells College

Susanne E. Hall, Duke University

John Halman, Macalester College

Jeff Halper, Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions

Raja Halwani, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Brian Hand, Wexford Campus (IT Carlow, Ireland)

Margaret Hanzimanolis, De Anza College

Michael K. Hardy, Rutgers University

Molly O'Hagan Hardy, University of Texas at Austin

Marguerite Hargrove, retired citizen

Gillian Harkins, University of Washington

Barbara Harlow, University of Texas at Austin

Laura Harms, Earlham College

Gillian Hart, UC Berkeley

Janet Hart, University of Michigan

George Hartley, Ohio University

Michelle Hartman, McGill University

Barbara Harvey, lawyer, Detroit, Michigan

Salah D. Hassan, Michigan State University

Wail S. Hassan, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Frances Hasso, Oberlin College

Paul M. Hassoun, Johns Hopkins University

Nola J. Heidlebaugh, SUNY-Oswego

Courtney Helgoe, University of Minnesota

Peter Henry, Seattle Schools

RDK Herman, Smithsonian Institution

Jocelyn Claire R. Hermoso, San Francisco State University

Caroline Herzenberg, Argonne National Laboratory

Devin Hess, Park Day School

Nik Heynen, University of Georgia

Annie Higgins, Wayne State University

Edwin Hill, USC

Brenda Hillman, Saint Mary's College of California



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