President of the United States
Dear Mr President:
In just over a month, you will receive the world's most prestigious honour; the Nobel Peace Prize. History will record your name alongside those of great men and women who strived all their lives to end conflicts and make peace.
As you rightly and ‘humbly' commented after the Nobel committee's announcement, there are in fact people more deserving. By your own admittance, you have yet to achieve something that could warrant such an award.
The Norwegian committee made it very clear that it was hoping the prize would encourage you to fulfil your promise in promoting multilateralism and peace.
Just a reminder, Mr President, this promise was made by you on your first day in office — it was prominent in your inaugural speech. You said: "America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity".
One need not actually have been there to speak of the relief the Palestinians must have felt as they listened to that speech in their besieged homes in the West Bank and Gaza. They probably felt, for the first time in a very long and bloody six decades, a glimmer of hope. A flicker at the end of the tunnel.
To be honest, the majority of Arabs experienced a similar feeling. Gulf News was among those who cheered as you confidently spoke of a new world order; one in which the great American nation is spearheading the pursuit of solutions to global crises, and not the mighty superpower that instigates problems and stirs conflicts.
We still cherish your words in Cairo, when you addressed the Arab and Muslim nations. "So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, and who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. This cycle of suspicion and discord must end," you proclaimed.
But what really defined that moment for this region, troubled and stressed by six decades of wars and tension, was when you declared that "America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own".
Many US presidents have paid similar tributes to the Palestinians. And some went beyond their words to attempt actual peacemaking. As you know, none of them has succeeded for reasons you are surely aware of.
But you have a historic opportunity today to make your mark, bring justice to the long-suffering people of Palestine and pave the way for a real and enduring peace in the Middle East. This opportunity has not come, Mr President, from the tired and long-abandoned ‘peace' initiatives but from an internationally acclaimed jurist who has placed between your hands what can be considered a key to finally deliver to the Palestinians "dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own", which you promised in the Cairo speech. It is called the Goldstone Gaza Report.
Richard Goldstone, a South African judge, and a team of international jurists were tasked by the United Nations to investigate the atrocities of the Israeli war on Gaza. After months of carefully probing the events of the war, which killed 1,400 Palestinians, of which more than a third were children, the team submitted an unprecedented report that accused both Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian movement that rules the Gaza Strip, of committing crimes against humanity.
The report recommended that national inquiries that are "independent and in conformity with international standards" be launched by Israel and the Palestinian Authority "within three months".
But the committee has expressed serious doubts about Israeli intentions. Actually, every rational human being should have doubts about Israeli intentions in relation to the Palestinian question.
Therefore, Judge Goldstone asked the S ecurity Council to "consider the situation and, in the absence of good faith investigations that are independent and in conformity with international standards having been undertaken or being under way within six months of the date of its resolution … [and] acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, refer the situation in Gaza to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court pursuant to Article 13 (b) of the Statute of the International Criminal Court".
This report could be the first time Israel is taken to task and faced with the scrutiny, and perhaps the reckoning, of international law.
Judge Goldstone has understandably come under attack by the Israeli government, which had refused to cooperate with the UN team from the outset. But what is perplexing is the scathing attack that came from your administration, which called the report "deeply flawed". A few days ago, Judge Goldstone said he was shocked by this comment and challenged you, Mr President, to identify the ‘flaws'.
"I have no doubt many of the critics — the overwhelmingly majority of critics — have not read the report", he told a TV station on Friday. This proves, Mr President, that the criticism levelled by Israel, your administration and other Western governments, has nothing to do with the substance of the report.
By the way, Judge Goldstone, who has been called in your country a ‘Jew-hater' and an ‘anti-Semite', is a Jew and a self-proclaimed Zionist. Thus, he cannot be accused of bias.
The report has been endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council, which has referred it to the Security Council, according to Judge Goldstone's recommendations. But your administration has for the past few weeks been lobbying to bury the report. American diplomats have assured Israel that the report will not see the light of the Security Council hall. They even talk about vetoing any attempt to get the report discussed in the Security Council. Is that, Mr President, the notion of justice you promised the Palestinians? Is that the promise of peace you said will define US-Arab relations?
Today, the future of peace in the region rests not on the much-appreciated and well-intentioned efforts of your envoy, Senator George Mitchell, but on the willingness of your administration to declare that war crimes will not stand; to declare that oppressive occupation must not be tolerated; and Israel, which has enjoyed international impunity, must be held accountable for its crimes in Gaza. To quote Judge Goldstone: "Justice and respect for the rule of law are the indispensable basis for peace".
It is going to be tough — nobody said it would be easy to confront the all-powerful Israeli lobby in the US. But this is a historic opportunity to stand up for peace and justice.
Your moral responsibility compels you to put the Goldstone report on the table, to debate it and act on it. This is the justice the Palestinians have long been waiting for.
Today you have a chance to right a wrong. This is your chance to pave the way for peace in the Middle East. This is your chance to address the long-entrenched Arab belief that America is just as guilty of atrocities in Palestine as Israel.
This is your chance, Mr President, to actually earn the Nobel.
Do you think the UN Security Council must act on the Goldstone Report? Do you feel the US will use its veto in favour of Israel when the report is presented at the Council?