Backing Hope With Action

If you’ve been following this or my other blog, Alternate Witness, you will know that I have been following two causes very closely in the last few year, one which gives me great hope, and one which gives me great pain.

I have followed with great hope, though equal amounts of skepticism, the campaign and now presidency of one Barack Obama. Since the very beginning, I have admired in him a humility one doesn’t see in many politicians. Where other politicians, most notably our recently departed president, choose a political line and toe it against all opposition, Barack Obama is willing to admit when he doesn’t know, and even when he is wrong, and is willing an eager to seek out the opinions of experts and hear all sides before reaching a conclusion.

I have also been following, since I was an undergraduate, the situation in the Palestinian Territories. I have been particularly concerned since Hamas won free and fair elections and the serious blockading and humanitarian crisis began. If you’ve been reading carefully, you’ll understand that I am concerned about both sides of this conflict, both the Palestinian and Israeli victims. They are both victims of birth, of circumstance, of history, of violence, of intolerance, of religious extremism, of poor governance, and of propaganda on both sides. There are children dying in this conflict who did nothing wrong but be born on the wrong side of some arbitrary line in the dirt. That pains me in ways I can’t describe.

Recently, I’ve started following an organization that unites those two causes. Jewish Voice for Peace is encouraging Americans, Israelis, Arabs and others to speak together in calling for a resolution to the conflict in Palestine. They started Thank You Jon Stewart, which I’ve seen posted on a number of my friends’ blogs and Facebook pages. They petitioned President-elect Barack Obama to support a ceasefire in Gaza. Now that there is a ceasefire (of sorts), they are preparing an open letter to President Barack Obama about the situation in Gaza. I received the following as part of an email encouraging me to sign the open letter, and the words express very accurately how I am feeling right now:

Every time I saw one of those Obama posters with “HOPE” on it, I felt it. Hope, that is. Hope against hope that perhaps this new President would pursue a just peace with the same fervor that he pursued hope before he was elected.

And in the short time since the inauguration, we’re seeing reasons to believe our hope was justified. But, here’s the big challenge: Israel, Palestine, Gaza. Turning hope into reality comes down to how President Obama deals with this ongoing tragedy. This week’s announcement of George Mitchell as Middle East envoy — the man who helped broker peace in Northern Ireland– signals that Obama is serious about even-handed diplomacy. For so many, our hope is that Mitchell and Obama will now take serious and meaningful steps towards a just and true peace.

I am also quite passionate about the idea of balanced journalism, not just in regards to Gaza, and I thank Amina for forwarding me information about a campaign by Avaaz to improve fair journalism vis a vis Gaza.

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