Written by Dr. Bernard Sabella
March 25, 2013
Dear President Obama,
I wish that all of our people could have welcomed you with open arms, given your position as leader of a great nation and of your own personal attributes which could be a model to all those aspiring for a better, equal and humanitarian world.
Ever since our fathers and mothers became refugees in 1948 as a result of the creation of Israel with strong support from Britain and the United States, we Palestinians have looked for a fair solution to our problem. We remember as children the pain of our parents as they coped with the new status of being refugees while across, the returning newcomers took over the homes that our parents built with their own hands, sweat and tears. Our parents never cherished to be victims and for many of us they offered us, in spite of very difficult circumstances, the opportunity to have an education and to move ahead. We are proud of the fact that our parents instilled in all of us the value of a good education. Some of the lucky among us earned higher degrees in the United States and put the skills gained to the service of our people and its aspirations.
And yet with all of our achievements and our determination to move ahead, we remain sad that your great country, Mr. President, never responded compassionately to the plight of our parents. Compassion is not a question of financial aid to UNRWA for which we are thankful but for working to have justice and fairness applied. Some of our parents passed away with tears in their eyes as the United States and Europe that champion human rights have not delivered on the basic rights of our people. Our parents taught us that our predicament is not simply the improvement of living conditions but more important the application of justice and fairness with no double standards.
Your visit to Palestine, Mr. President, raises not only a flicker of hope that the United States may after all work diligently to apply standards of justice and fairness but that, with all your personal commitments, there may not be serious enough efforts on the part of the United States to move things forward. This fear that the United States will fail once again in meeting the standards of justice and fairness to our people and to our refugee parents’ memory is the reason why many of us did not line the streets to welcome you with the respect and warmth that you personally deserve, Mr. President.
Our parents taught us that dignity is imperative to live as proud and free people. We will continue to live with dignity irrespective of the impediments placed on us by the Israeli occupation and its control and restrictive methods and measures. A Palestinian popular saying reflects the dignity of our people, particularly among refugees, when it speaks of thyme and olive oil, both natural products of our landscape, as sufficient for our upkeep when confronted with conditional and unfair support that would deprive us of our pride and freedom.
The unresolved problem of our refugee parents lives on and we carry their sense of unfairness and injustice within us. Is it too much to expect from a person of your stature and from your nation instilled with the principles of justice and fairness to understand our pain and that of our parents? Or are we, as a Palestinian diplomat once put it, children of a lesser God and hence are fated to cry into the wilderness indefinitely?
Dr. Bernard Sabella
Palestinian Legislative Council Member
[Executive Director, Department of Service for Palestinian Refugees,
Middle East Council of Churches]
Al Quds – Jerusalem
Thursday, March 21st, 2013