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Dear President Obama, Please Recognize Palestine Before You Leave Office

Dear President Obama, Please Recognize Palestine Before You Leave Office

Dear President Obama:

You have sent me many lovely emails over the past 8 years, to the extent where I have a folder named “Barack Obama” nestled right under “Mom”, and “Bills” (as in receipts, not Clinton) in ode of the three entities who email me the most — see screenshot of my inbox below. Like Mom, no matter how stressful your life became, you still took the time to remind me how amazing I am. This only shows what an extraordinary heart you have, and I thank you for remaining committed to our friendship. Also, thank you for the many invitations to meet up, I stopped trying to go as security never let me through the door.

Inbox Screen Shot

Screenshot of Sara El-Yafi’s Inbox

(Some friends tried explaining to me that these are mass-campaign emails that everyone receives, but jealousy always gets the best of people, especially my friends.)

Mr. President, I am writing you today what is perhaps the most important letter I have ever sent a friend. It is a letter pleading for peace in the Middle East that only you can still usher in. As a Lebanese woman who, like all my compatriots, endures the internal repercussions of the conflict with Israel on a daily basis in my own country, I speak on behalf of millions and millions of people around the world whose hearts beat for more humaneness to be shown from the United States towards our region. I ask you please to diplomatically recognize Palestine before you leave office, and help it achieve full United Nations membership.

Mr. President, if anyone said just ten years ago that a black man would be the U.S. President for 8 years running on a platform increasingly evolving in favor of women, ethnic minorities, gay rights, free healthcare, and action on climate change, they would have been begging to be fitted for one of those jackets where the sleeves tie in the back. (I know it’s called a straightjacket, but I find its description hilarious.) But you have turned yesterday’s delusions into today’s matter-of-facts through your rare ability to communicate hurting realities to the people, and encourage them to see truths in a new light.

You have a heart, Mr. President. And I write to you today with the purpose of encouraging you to display that same heart through this one diplomatic move that will have the power of bringing peace to the Middle East.

The recognition of Palestine has nothing to do with Israel, or the deep loyalty that the United States holds for Israel. It also has nothing to do with taking sides in the conflict. The recognition of Palestine has to do with the dignity of its people, and dignity only. And the recognition of this dignity is the only way to secure the advancement of peace for Israel. And if any President understands the power of dignifying others, it is you, Mr. Obama.

We’ve heard Secretary Kerry’s detailed speech on December 28th; the US administration understands all too well how grave the situation has become. There is a fierce deadlock between Palestine and Israel today mostly due to the unstoppable illegal settlements being built on Palestinian territory by Israel. A UN resolution abstention by the US will unfortunately do nothing to slow down the settlements because UN resolutions make no difference in the world of Israel, Mr. President. Israel has ignored and violated 32 UN Security Council resolutions, that, by law, are binding, which is a violation of the Charter, and by extension, international law. To illustrate the perils of a country violating a UNSC resolution in the world order, it is interesting to remember that the U.S. cited Iraq’s violation of two major UNSC resolutions as a major reason for its invasion of Iraq in 2003. Israel leads in the list of countries with the highest number of UNSC resolution violations to date, notwithstanding the additional dozens and dozens of UN General Assembly Resolutions that it regularly violates, all with total impunity since its creation. Israel simply pays no attention to any UN resolution, even though, ironically, the chief reason why it exists in the first place is because a UN Resolution was passed in its favor.

I am not stating these facts for the purpose of shunning Israel, I am stating these facts to point to the uneven quality of the conflict, and why it won’t get resolved by simply “leaving behind a set of principles” that we hope one day will emerge as the basis for talks. Urging both parties to make the necessary concessions, as Mr. Kerry did in his speech, will not serve us in our quest for peace because the negotiating weight is in the hands of Israel. Israel knows that the Palestinians will not settle for the meager peace conditions it has offered them, and Israel has no incentive to make any better offer since it commands all the diplomatic power, and doesn’t need anything from the Palestinians. It has everything it can ever need, and has all the time in the world. But not Palestine.

Israel shall continue with its hefty building of illegal settlements with the same impunity it has always enjoyed, until the Palestinians will have literally no space to thrive anymore that their place at the negotiating table will no longer exist. You know, as much as we do, that this is the ongoing Israeli strategy, which will be finalized within 20 years when the Israelis would have officially intercepted all Palestinian lands. The Palestinians are too small in their political appeal to consolidate a voice deemed attractive enough for the US to support, they keep being collectively punished for the awful rockets that land on Israel, yet the majority of them have no control over any of its decision-making forces. Palestine is set to disappear, Mr. President, and it will be at the hands of a United States that has continuously refused to come to terms with its existence.

You, singlehandedly, can change this for Palestine, and for Israel.

Dignity, Mr. President, is the key here. Evolutionary psychology, social neuroscience, the literature of psychology on trauma and recovery, the work of Immanuel Kant, William James, and other philosophers, and the field of conflict resolution all agree that dignifying others holds the key to peacemaking. Israel is dignified every day in the United States through diplomatic praise and adulation, deep friendship ties, the largest military aid in the world, and the most powerful U.S. lobby fronting it. Palestinians do not enjoy any kind of similar support, and that is not even what is asked, except for dignity. Dignifying Palestinians starts with recognizing their identity and their right to exist.

We cannot help advance peace by supporting Israel’s right to exist without supporting Palestine’s right to exist. The U.S. has been the biggest cheerleader of the right of Israel to exist, overlooking its countless human rights violations and multi-state illegal occupations, but has not supported Palestine’s right to exist. The U.S. vigorously shuns any Palestinian attack on Israel’s livelihood and its right to exist, but never shuns the incessant daily attacks of Israel on the right of Palestine to exist. Palestine gets reprimanded for harboring aggressive tactics to subsist, but Israel’s aggressive tactics are acceptable for its own preservation. The United States has decided that Israel’s right to exist is more important than Palestine’s right to exist, which is why, on maps, Israel exists, and Palestine doesn’t. Yet the U.S. says it wants to broker a peace agreement, how can there be peace when one of the sides is not seen?

The Palestinian people have suffered too much indignity; people whose dignity was so deeply violated will not concede until they feel they have recovered their sense of worth. They are ready to be broken, but they will not bend. In their attempt to get retribution from those who wounded them so deeply, they will even self-immolate, but they will not bend. The pain is too deep, and relying on their hopelessness to put an end to their own suffering is overlooking the disaster of that hopelessness: it is dense enough to swallow them whole, which is the preferred scenario for so many of them than to making peace with Israel, brokered by its American henchman, under the current conditions.

I have studied the Middle East and its conflicts for the better part of my life, including earning a Master in Public Policy at your very own Harvard University, and I can tell you that if the conflict with Israel and Palestine is a fire burning, the US policy towards the conflict has been the oil being poured atop the flames.

The people of Palestine live in some of the most horrid conditions, and they have no identity. The politics of the conflict has usurped their story, and Palestine today is boiled down to “Hamas” and “Fatah”, both of which are unfortunate choices for a people caught in the middle. Did you know that there is a growing non-violent resistance movement amongst Palestinians today vying to change the face of Palestine? But they have no power to grow more because they are not seen. Recognize their state, and you shall witness the peacemaking powers of the Palestinian people.

Watch the transcendental transformation that will occur in the region when they shall finally be diplomatically seen. The Palestinians’ efforts shall be diverted from the exhausting resistance to forging themselves into powerful, educated, dignified, and academically advanced intellectuals to match their brilliant Jewish compatriots — for proof, examine the greatness of the Arab population of Israel. On the other hand, the Israelis will finally have the richness of a real culture, the true camaraderie, that we all know they are looking forward to having with their neighboring countries. Only then will the Israelis finally fit amongst their neighbors. Your act will start the domino effect of expediting all peace processes in the region, and my country, Lebanon, who has suffered too much at the hands of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, will also be able to make peace with Israel once Palestine is dignified.

There is no way around this truth: the road to Israel’s security runs through Arab hearts, and the road to Palestinian liberation runs through Jewish hearts. Such an understanding will only happen once we stop choosing to see a humanitarian crisis based on whether we like the nation that is enduring it or not. Please don’t force the Palestinians to live with any more humiliation.

Recognize Palestine, Mr. President. Do it for the entire region. The more we delay this understanding, the more we delay peacemaking and democratic state building.

Mr. President, I may not agree with all of your choices, but I have never stopped admiring you for the way you conduct your politics: your ethics, and principles, which you employ at every level that you operate, have gotten the best of you. The simple fact that you’ve hardly ever resorted to mockery, defamation, or injury against your opponents to get ahead is proof alone that your soul is larger than your politics. In contrast, your opponents, every single one, democrat and republican, have regularly attacked your person, and said many hurtful, disgraceful, and injurious things about you, and they have covered it up with the game of politics, but you hardly ever retaliated in baseness. This characteristic is larger than the Nobel Peace Prize, and larger than your photo fist-bumping the janitor, it serves you in the priceless way you choose to live your life on the most intimate level. You see all humans for being humans, and that is not lost on us. Without taking away from your many achievements, your biggest legacy will be the quality of your person. Abraham Lincoln said “Nearly all men can stand the test of adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” What you did with yours is exemplary, but one more act is needed, and you still have the power to do it.

Please grant American diplomatic recognition to the state of Palestine, as 137 countries have already done, Mr. President, and help it achieve full United Nations membership. It is the right thing to do. We might not see a President with your moral character and courage in the Oval office for many generations to come, by which time it would simply be too late. Please don’t force the Palestinians to live with any more humiliation.

palestinian-flag-made-with-flowers-2-copy-2

Please accept this collage of the Palestinian flag made up entirely of flowers and plants that symbolize peace. The red poppy is the most notable flower that symbolizes peace in the world today, and serendipitously, it is the unofficial national flower of Palestine, as well as Israel. I’ve colored the black section of the flag with black poppies, the white section with white poppies and apple blossoms, and the green section with basil, which is used by folk in their teas for its soothing, and peacemaking powers, and make excellent pesto. “Treat people as they want to be, and you help them become what they are capable of being,” said Goethe. This is true for individuals, and it is true for nations. Dignify the Palestinians, Mr. Obama, in return, they shall dignify the peace process.

Written by Sara El-Yafi

79 Comments

  1. Nicholas Haddad · January 10, 2017

    Breathtakingly brilliant, Sara.

  2. Fida Krayem · January 10, 2017

    This is possibly the best thing I have ever read on the internet. How do we get this to Obama?

  3. Marwan Habib · January 10, 2017

    Great article Sara. I really hope this reaches him.

  4. Tareq Tamimi · January 10, 2017

    From Palestine with love

  5. Jaime Amieva Kobeh · January 10, 2017

    Please read and share this. Sara El-Yafi, the world thanks you.

  6. Rima Abed · January 10, 2017

    Yesssss!!!! For the love of God YES!!! Brilliant

  7. Adam Farrah · January 10, 2017

    Everyone must share this. Sara’s letter can really make a difference. SHARE.

  8. Harry Albright · January 10, 2017

    Astonishingly well-written. I’ll do my part in trying to get this to the right people. Everybody should do their part.

  9. EL yafi nahila · January 10, 2017

    Let God give you my dearest Sara enough strenght to continue your fight under the name of justice

  10. Bilal Khodari · January 10, 2017

    sublime

  11. Larry O'Connell · January 10, 2017

    What a sublime piece of writing. You are really, really talented. Let’s get this to our President.

  12. Stephanie Fawzi Maalouf · January 10, 2017

    Bless you Sara

  13. Mohamad Bitar · January 10, 2017

    Beautiful Sara El-Yafi!

  14. Bob Kretschmar · January 10, 2017

    Bravo, Sara.

  15. Fouad Dajani · January 10, 2017

    Wow. Just wow

  16. Joumana El-Yafi · January 10, 2017

    The Palestinian flag😍👏all done by your pretty hands with flowers of peace, and basil aroma for peace 🙏❤🌺

    I have tears in my eyes reading this, dreaming of its possibility, even my heart pounds thinking how miraculously and positively it would affect all the Middle East, the Arab world, and its people, as well as Israel who constantly ignores and refuses to acknowledge how great it would make her to recognise the so rightful Palestinian rights. Honouring other people’s dignity and self-worth will métamorphose the livelihood of its citizens…

    President Obama HAS to DO IT especially that, during his terms, horrible wars, indescribable terrors and horrors, agonies of entire nations, of entire peoples, destruction, killings, torture, horrors, horrors took place, and are still taking place in Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Yemen, Lybia, and he didn’t do enough to stop it.
    Now is the time to remedy, at least just this little… Obama’s foreign policy should have done more to stop the horrible war in Syria and the horrors in Iraq and Mosul, and the rest of agonies in the ailing Arab world… They wonder what to do with the fleeing people from such horror and destruction. The dignified peace loving people they call refugees, well you don’t need to wonder.
    He must do this for Palestine. Just stop the wars and the horrible destruction, keep the people dignified in their homes, their land, help them reconstruct and rebuild…🙏RESTORE PEACE.
    Please recognise Palestine. You must.

    I wonder President Obama (and any other president in the world), if your family was in Syria or in Baghdad or in Mosul or in Yemen or in Gaza, what would you have felt or done?

  17. Hana Samouri · January 10, 2017

    Hayati how your words go straight to the heart. Brilliant!

  18. Maya Barbir · January 10, 2017

    Sara El-Yafi very well said but when did u send this letter?a little bit too late ?no?

  19. Zeid Kawar · January 10, 2017

    Ur my hero

  20. Nadeem Marc Haddad · January 10, 2017

    Amazing, sara!

  21. Rima El Yafi · January 10, 2017

    Tu es geniale Sarah il n est jamais trop tard .. ta lettre est superbe!

  22. Samir Dabaghi · January 10, 2017

    Too late

  23. Johnny A. Fattaleh · January 11, 2017

    Dear Sara,
    I am a Palestinian born in Jerusalem before 1948 and before the establishment of Israel. I am proud to say the least and commend you for your courage, honesty and support of the Palestinian just cause. I do hope and pray that either President Obama or whoever can urge the Israelis to come to their senses in accepting the two States solution would definitely dominate peace in the Middle East in particular and the whole world in General.
    BRAVO, BRAVO SARA

  24. Rajai R. Masri · January 11, 2017

    Most eloquent, succinct, strongly gets the message across. Although no much hope of the US changing course, or being free and able to do so; however, it is wonderful that you register a point. As a Palestinian, I sincerely thank you for your kind initiative; yet, as an Arab, I fully recognize your deep sense of reality as to the common destiny that tie us all Arabs and Middle Eastern people together. Thank you again, Sara, as I have genuine hopes that you would carry the mantle to become, Inshallah, the First future Lebanese Female Prime Minister, most deservingly. With much love,

  25. Ghias El Yafi · January 11, 2017

    Bravo Sara. May I recommend that you also use 38degrees.org.uk which is an extremely effective platform to build petitions globally. Through it you can literally get millions signing the petition. It is also user friendly.

  26. Salma Beyhum · January 11, 2017

    Bravo Sara you are genius like your mum and dad proud of you

  27. Tarek Zeidan · January 11, 2017

    In 12 days letters like these will become impossible wishful thinking. A letter to President Obama on the necessity of recognizing #Palestine before leaving office, by my darling Sara. <3

  28. Omar Adi · January 11, 2017

    A brilliant childhood friend who’s trying to make a difference!
    Truly hope this reaches President Obama! Please read and share!

  29. Russell Patient · January 11, 2017

    And this is why I love Sara. Remarkable,intelligent, compassionate human being who I can only hope to aspire to be like one day❤

  30. Roberto Amieva Kobeh · January 11, 2017

    Must read.
    So proud to be your friend Sara El-Yafi.

  31. Hana S. · January 11, 2017

    The best you can ever read, truly.

  32. Ani Baboyan · January 11, 2017

    Sara your letter is brilliant, but the sad truth is that he will never recognize Palestine. Like he never recognized Armenian Genocide. Such Topics are and will remain opened and unsolved forever.

  33. Kailash Agnihotri · January 11, 2017

    Bless you Sara, daughter of Lebanon. I feel you have taken an important step.

  34. Leech Ko · January 11, 2017

    Bravo Sara El-Yafi!!!

  35. Assaad Thebian · January 11, 2017

    Worth spreading 🙂
    Thank you Sara El-Yafi

  36. Margaret A. · January 11, 2017

    Can Obama do that? Wish he would. (You know I am afraid even to write a moderate statement like that. The Bibi Mafia attacks are frightening.)

  37. Fred Baudin · January 11, 2017

    To say that you have a brilliant mind would be the understatement of the century. Barack Obama would benefit from meeting an enormously gifted and talented person like you, chère Sara. Your article is chilling. I had actually chills reading it.

  38. Serge Malak · January 11, 2017

    Ufffffffff I am bowing in awe at this piece of writing. No words. We must have done something right to deserve you, Sara El-Yafi.

  39. Sean Murray · January 11, 2017

    As an American, you have opened my eyes to the necessity of a change in our U.S. foreign policy. Thank you for educating me, and thank you for inspiring me and so many people around the world. You are truly an exemplary leader, and I hope you lead your country one day.

  40. Helen Love · January 11, 2017

    You should represent the Middle East in this world. You. Only you. America needs to meet you. I stand in deep admiration of your talent, your wisdom, your humor, your words. No matter what he decides to do, President Obama MUST read your incredibly powerful words, and respond.

  41. Norma Kobeh · January 11, 2017

    I’m with you Sara!!,

  42. Maya Khayath Anhoury · January 11, 2017

    Yalla Sara El-Yafi, Tu es une vraie amazone !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! <3

  43. Abdellatif Rayan · January 11, 2017

    Strong message and brilliant way of putting it Sara El-Yafi. Otherwise, the U.S administration along with the far right wing Israeli policies will lead only to an Apartheid One State in which Palestinians would be a second class citizens.

  44. Aaron Levin · January 12, 2017

    As a Jew, I believe we cannot assuage the pains of the Holocaust by incurring so much hurt on another people. I respect your words, Sara El-Yafi. Let’s dignify the peace process, let’s dignify all its peoples.

  45. Ghias · January 12, 2017

    Sara, why don’t you consider starting your letter in the form of a petition. I sent you earlier the link to 38 degrees which is a platform which backs progressive and human right issues and I have seen them gathering petitions with several hundred thousand signatures. This could be very powerful.

  46. Manal Ghandour · January 12, 2017

    Beautiful ! Beautiful ! Just beautiful with a twist of fun! Proud to be your friend on FB! Sara for president !!!

  47. Rima Houssami Khalaf · January 12, 2017

    My dear Sara ! You are an angel !! Never give up !! It’s with perseverance that you reach your goal !!what a big heart !!

  48. Rima Houssami Khalaf · January 12, 2017

    By the way , I love the flag!!

  49. Raquelle Dommage · January 13, 2017

    Beautifully written, eloquent and wise. Brava

  50. Fifi Dalati Reed · January 13, 2017

    Great letter Sara!!!

  51. Dana Mehyar · January 13, 2017

    Unlikely things happen all the time. Share it widely.

  52. Manal · January 13, 2017

    What an article full of truth!

  53. S.H. · January 13, 2017

    A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. I have goosebumps. I’ve never read a more eloquent article. I’ve read it twice. Will read a third time, after I forward this to everyone I know.

  54. Doris Yassine · January 13, 2017

    I am such a fan. The more I read your writings, the more I become a fan. I truly believe that only you will be able to make this happen.

  55. Hala Dajani · January 13, 2017

    I am in tears. Thank you Sara. Thank you.

  56. Patrick J. Hall · January 13, 2017

    I am an American. Proud of everything my country is, except for the way it has handled the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Your letter is so compelling. Our President should recognize Palestine. Many Americans like me want him to stand on the side of justice. He’s done more than enough for Israel. More than any other President. Now he needs to do something for Palestine.

    Mr. Obama, if you’re reading this, we have your back. Just do it.

  57. Youmna Oraybi Ghaziri · January 13, 2017

    Beautifully and wisely written. Dignify the Palestinians and they will dignify peace! A must read and share. Thank you Sara El-Yafi .

  58. Ahmed Alfarrah · January 13, 2017

    Please, Mr. Obama, recognize Palestine. This is our last chance at life with dignity. The next President seems to promise a more entrenched apartheid. Please recognize Palestine.

  59. Bassel Tabbiki · January 17, 2017

    Well, Sara may I say: “Please read it again, because it is worth reading and understanding” … This not for us (the people of the Middle East) only, this is for Americans also.
    Thank you Sara for your efforts.

  60. Maya Khayath Anhoury · January 17, 2017

    Sara, on est speechless. Tu as été parfaite, depuis ce drapeau jusqu’à ton Franc-parler clair, net et concis mais hilarant aussi. Cette lettre est mettre dans les annales et surtout a la transmettre au prochain président . Qui ne risque rien ne fait rien, n’a rien et n’est rien. Merci au nom de tous les moyens orientaux et l’important c’est cet acte de bravoure en accueillant toujours le resultat d’une façon positive . Chez toi en Amérique on dit “It’s not by lack of trying” ! Bless you Great Sara ! <3

  61. Raquelle · January 17, 2017

    Brava 👏👏👏👏🌹je l’ai partagee aussi

  62. Michael Vanselow · January 17, 2017

    Amazing! Sarah, become a leader and give this world a new vision!

  63. Talal Hakim · January 17, 2017

    I feel kinda bad now I didnt realise he sent those emails to you too.

  64. Diva Khoury · January 17, 2017

    What a beautiful, intelligent and smooth article. Sara for pres❤

  65. K. · January 18, 2017

    This article is worth going viral. It’s one of the best articles I’ve ever read.

  66. Ali Khaleel · January 18, 2017

    God bless you Sara. I have tremendous love and respect for your grandfather, Abdallah El-Yafi. What an honorable and righteous man he was. He is the most honorable Prime Minister to have graced your country. I am convinced that you will follow in his footsteps, and do even more. Please keep up your incredible work. What incredible talent you possess.

  67. Tisir Sasso · January 18, 2017

    I have no doubt once he leaves office he will recognize Palestine like all other presidents of USA

  68. Kingson King · January 18, 2017

    You are , you are a woman of steel. Sara El-Yafi……. I adore your knowledge!!

  69. Ahmad Fara · January 18, 2017

    We were not given our right by Mr. Obama. He should feel shame for moving on like this as there is no other chance with the next president.

  70. Asmar Noub · January 18, 2017

    What a strong message, but maybe in off time. Perhaps if you had sent it before, it would have had a good effect. Now we have reached the point of dissolving the state of Palestine and integrating Palestinians as second-class “citizens” in an apartheid state. What shame on the US for having stood by Israel’s illegal settlements for so long. They paralyzed the peace process. Shame on them.

  71. Khaled Abdelbaki · January 18, 2017

    God bless you Sara, and God bless Obama if he responds!!!!!

  72. Kaled Ahmad · January 18, 2017

    This is the Arabic dream.

  73. Hamza Shaikh · January 18, 2017

    This is exceptional. Exceptional.

  74. Jamal Kinj · January 18, 2017

    Love this so much

  75. Adam · January 18, 2017

    I have HOPE. Obama built his campaign on hope. I HOPE he responds, Sara. I really do hope so…

  76. Ihab Maher · January 18, 2017

    I love you. You are the hope of the Arab world.

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