January 07 ,2016
BY Miko Peled
When America voted for you the first time, many people were very optimistic. A man with an African Muslim father, an African Muslim name and what seemed like a caring heart and a brilliant mind. That was both refreshing and promising. You came into office with big promises, your first inaugural address was heard around the world with ears anticipating change, but as it turns out it was merely a crescendo of rhetoric. You promised hope to the poor and disenfranchised in this country, reconciliation with the Arab and Muslim world and even peace and justice in Palestine.
But, unfortunately you have been a failure and a disappointment. As a black man, you had an unprecedented opportunity to address the issues of Blacks, but you didn’t. You showed no care for Black lives or for the lives of Blacks in America. You said little and did even less to stop the killing of Black men and the mass incarceration of Blacks. You said nothing and did nothing regarding the over due payment of reparations to the descendants of slaves, men and women upon whose backs the US economy was built. And, if any proof was needed, the outcry of the Black Lives Matter movement shows that your priorities were elsewhere.
As things stand today, even with a President whose middle name is Hussein, there has never been a worse time to be an Arab and a Muslim in America. As Commander in Chief you brought death and destruction on Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, and now Syria. You did little to promote peace or justice in Palestine.
In your inaugural address you said: “To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.” Yet you warmly held hands with Saudi dictators who silence dissent by death. Then in Egypt you allowed a military coup to depose the democratically elected President Mohammad Morsi, who now awaits execution while reinforcing the clenched fist of the dictator Abdel Fatah El-Sisi by allowing the flow of billions of dollars of foreign aid money into his pockets.
In your inaugural address you promised us: “America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity.” But even as you were preparing this address, going through these very words, Israel was bombing Gaza senselessly, causing the death of over one thousand innocent civilians and the injury of countless more, and you said nothing. In Palestine, the prime example of a place where people seek a future of peace and dignity, you allowed Israel to continue to bomb and kill with the full financial, military and political backing of the United States.
As President, for the last seven years you have given Israel your full support to kill, maim, arrest and torture men, women and children. The number of Palestinians made homeless, the number of Palestinian children arrested and abused and the number of Palestinian refugees waiting to return to their homes is getting higher by the minute, yet you supported Israel.
Mr. President, in the summer of 2014, when Israel murdered thousands of Palestinian civilians, and young Palestinians in Gaza fought bravely to defend their homes and their families, futile though it may have been, instead of supporting those who seek peace and dignity, you chose to provide Israel with more arms and more money.
Though you claimed, “for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken.” Then you allowed Netanyahu to disgrace you, to walk, like Cesar marching into Rome, his hands stained with Palestinian blood into Congress. He was a victor, while you cowered away in some corner and let him spew his hateful lies. Where, Mr. President was your spirit then?
But though you were a disappointment, though you have failed us, there is one window of opportunity available to you, if you wish to redeem yourself. For the past seven years, five innocent men sit in federal prison falsely charged and wrongly convicted on charges of material support for a terrorist organization. These five men are referred to as the HLF-5, or the Holy Land Foundation Five. If you take the time to review this case, you will see what I and many others have seen and said, that in this case, the entire judicial system had been taken hostage, the constitution, the laws that govern the land, the regulations by which government agencies are supposed to function have all been placed on hold in order to convict five innocent men.
In reviewing this case you, Mr. President will see what many have us have seen and continue to see, that pressure by Israel, post 9/11 hysteria, prosecutorial over reach and a cowardice of the members of the judiciary have led five good innocent men into a living hell. Five family men, men who came to this country and contributed to their community, men who wanted nothing but to help others, must now live caged like criminals.
President George W Bush using executive order 13224 shut down the Holy land Foundation, once the largest Muslim charity in this country, in December of 2001 and now you must reverse this order, reinstate the Foundation, exonerate the five men in federal prison and order that an apology be given to them, their families and the entire Arab and Muslim community in America. Then you must order that they be compensated and the money taken from them be returned with the appropriate interest.
The closure of HLF brought misery not only to the five men and their family. It brought fear and anxiety to America’s finest communities, the Muslim and Arab communities. Furthermore, this closure ended crucial help to the poor, the fatherless, the homeless and the needy in Palestine. In the words of Mohammad Abumoharam, a local social worker in Gaza, “I cannot possibly find words to convey the level of poverty and suffering that exists in Palestine in general and in Gaza in particular. HLF has been able to significantly alleviate the suffering of thousands in Palestine, giving them some hope for a better life.” The closure of the HLF and the freezing of their assets by the government stopped all that.
Until the seizure of its assets on December 4, 2001, the Holy Land Foundation provided charitable and humanitarian aid to refugees, orphans, victims of human and natural disasters, and other poor and needy persons and entities throughout the world, without regard to faith or political affiliation. Among its other charitable and humanitarian work, Holy Land has organized aid to victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks; it has provided assistance to victims and relief workers at the Oklahoma City bombing site; to victims of flooding in Oklahoma and Iowa; to victims of riots in Los Angeles; to tornado victims in Fort Worth; to the needy in Paterson, New Jersey; to earthquake victims in Turkey and India; to victims of the Bosnian and Kosovo conflicts; to victims of the conflict in Chechnya; to victims of flooding in Mozambique; and to refugees, orphans, and other persons and entities in need in the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Jordan.
Mr. President, this case is an embarrassment to the United States government, the US Department of Justice, and the entire US judicial system. In one year you will be out of office. At fifty-five you will have been a two term president, the first half African half American President, and you are undoubtedly going to be one of the richest men on earth. What will be your legacy? You sir, have the opportunity, indeed the responsibility to release without delay, Ghassan Elashi, Shukri Abu-Baker, Mufid Abdulqader, Abdulrahman Odeh and Mohammad El-Mezzaine, also known as the HLF-5. Please do not disappoint us again.
I am currently working on a book about the HLF, which I hope to publish in 2016. I hope I will be able to mention that as president you facilitated the freeing of these five fine men and righting this terrible wrong.
Miko Peled (born 1961 in Jerusalem) is an Israeli peace activist, author, and karate instructor. He has written one book, The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine, and he has travelled extensively, giving talks about his experiences to audiences across the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, Germany and Switzerland.