My Open Letter to the President:
Dear Mr. President
You may have recently “received” an open letter from a Jewish supporter of yours who lost her brother. Like her, I am Jewish, supported your candidacy, and happen to have just lost my brother. While she and I have all that in common, the message of my open letter will be quite different than hers.
Her letter appears on a blog that expresses her grief over the loss of her brother Alex and pays tribute to his memory. I would imagine that anyone who reads her heartrending and poignant entries cannot help but be moved. I know that I was. Apparently her brother was an articulate, bright young man with a great sense of political awareness and social responsibility. I read with admiration of his energetic and idealistic activism in support of your campaign. Alex’s sister (I could only find her brother’s name on the blog), seems to be no slouch herself. She writes beautifully and intelligently; all the entries that I saw are worth reading. Yet her most recent piece has gotten exponentially more exposure than the others – hundreds of tweets and 4,000 plus facebook shares.
After reading it, I felt I had to write to you too. You see, Alex’s sister expressed the disappointment that she and her brother felt over your positions and policies regarding Israel. Your reiteration of Israel’s right to defend itself in the wake of the latest round of hostilities with Chamas was the last straw for her. She is hurt and ashamed. She suggests that you are betraying the growing pro-Palestinian Jewish constituency of your coalition that gave money and energy to your campaign. She thinks you are kowtowing to big business interests against those of the American people.
While Alex’s sister feels shame and disappointment, I feel a sense of relief. For me your statement was a validation of the vote I cast for you. Now you might not peg me as an obvious supporter. I am an orthodox Jew living in Israel – not your strongest demographic. Many of my friends claimed that your policies would be bad for Israel’s security. I carefully read the links they posted on facebook and the arguments they made against you. None of them were convincing to me. Don’t get me wrong, I think you have made some mistakes, but overall I felt that you were a friend to Israel. I cast my vote for you because I thought your presidency would be a better one than your opponent’s – better for the U.S., better for the world, and better for Israel.
I took a lot of flack for my position. So when I returned to Israel this past week I became anxious about what your response would be to this latest round of hostilities. I had been in the states with my family mourning the loss of my brother and had completely tuned out the news. When I got caught up, my first thought was, how will President Obama respond. Having just won the election, will the president continue to express the support and understanding for Israel’s security needs that were part of his campaign? Well, you quickly allayed my concerns.
Mr. President, I am not pleased with your response because I am a right-winger – I wouldn’t have voted for you if I was. I consider myself sympathetic to both Palestinian suffering and national aspirations. I have travelled to Bethlehem to meet with Palestinian leaders and activists to hear their side of the story. Like you, I would like to see a Palestinian state thriving alongside a Jewish one. I just don’t think that sympathy for the Palestinian plight gives Hamas a right to indiscriminately bombard Israel with hundreds of rockets on a daily basis. You seem to agree.
Towards the end of her blog piece, Alex’s sister implores you to “prove your allegiance... to… the people who knocked doors for you, who made phone calls for you, who died getting you this 4 years more of opportunity.” Mr. President, I didn’t knock on doors for you, I didn’t make phone calls for you, and I certainly didn’t die for you. However, I did vote for you. That vote was based on my belief that when you said that Israel has a right to defend itself, you would stand behind it. Thank you for coming through. I hope you will continue to express these sentiments as Israel struggles to find the balance between self-preservation and co-existence.
Kibbutz Maale GilboaIsrael