PEACE PROBE by Gene Stoltzfus

Gaza Letter: To President Elect Obama by peaceprobe
January 6, 2009, 8:32 pm
Filed under: Gaza, Islam, Palestine - Israel

“You cannot solve a problem with the same thinking that caused the problem.”

                                                                                                 – Albert Einstein 

Dear President Elect Obama,

Here and in the Middle East there is plenty of evidence that the paradigms of our analysis are entrenched.   But the thinking of the past has not brought peace to the Middle East.   In organizing work you already know that without new thinking there is no hope for renewal.  Einstein was right, the solutions to old problems require new thinking.  

For 25 years I lived in Chicago’s neighbourhoods and I know a little bit about the problems of neighbourhood violence.  I know you do too.  Even handedness, honest words, respect and confidence building actions that reach across divides help create the way to resolution.  Eventually all episodes of human violence do end, either by burnt out buildings and abandoned civilizations or by way of the mystery of new vision. 

Last week I wrote a little piece where I encouraged people of faith to pray for a break through to arise from the 2008-9 war in Gaza.  Activist do not often call for prayer, although there is a tiny secret that I know about activists.  We do pray a lot more than people think we do.  Sometime I hope you can tell me if that is your experience too.  

I know ethical conviction and balance is part of your character that was fashioned over a lifetime of trying to do what is right.    Unlike you, I don’t need to worry about getting elected or preserving my electoral covenant.  However, I do worry about my spiritual covenant to think new thoughts and to follow through. 

Today I believe you made a start by acknowledging your concern for the civilian casualties in Gaza and Israel.  A good start!   You will survive the people with iron clad ideas from the past who are already grumbling that your statement of sympathy for civilian casualties favoured one side over another.  These won’t be your last words and millions of people here, in the Middle East and around the world are waiting for what you will say and hoping for a new thought path that can create an environment where rigid enemies are invited to become mutual winners.  All the fire power of the United States or any other nation can not make this happen.  However, less heavy handedness will help.  Authentic respect for all the people of the Middle East will also help.  Setting aside the violence of bombs, tanks, military supplies and the bribery of misplaced aid programs is another part of the new era.  

The world is waiting for new, practical and realistic signals from our nation.  By such fairer gestures in your first months in office you will help create the path for a journey towards respect, confidence and peace.  You will be creating the space for development of all peoples, particularly the nations of the Middle East and our own nation.  By the content of your message you will be able to help fabricate decades of growth that are free of violence and empty enemy talk.  

Mr.  President Elect, there may be no single matter in the world where your nudge towards new thinking could do more to rebuild confidence in the future.  There are millions of us, Christians, Muslims, and Jews who are praying, protesting and hoping that our hands might touch into the strengths of one another in ways that are long overdue.  We want to believe in the future.  And we will continue to pray that the great hopes of all peoples might be awakened with a new paradigm that wants to become visible in you and your co-workers in these coming months.   

I speak for many who want to be ready with prayer and active support.  


Gene Stoltzfus


5 Comments so far
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The spirit which pervades your letter might itself be the un-same element so badly missing in approaching the struggles and griefs of Israel/Palestine. I hope your letter gets to Mr. Obama, for everyone’s sake. “Weary, weary is the world / And here’s the world’s desire.”
Greg Foote

Comment by peaceprobe

Thanks Gene. Well stated. The events of the past few weeks in Gaza have saddened everyone, but few understand the history and culture well enough to have any clear insight about solutions. Unfortunately it is easy to point to the rocket barrage as the cause of Isreal’s response and therefore be less demanding on Israel to break the impasse. It is easy to say that the Palestinians should be controlling Hamas, without
really understanding the dynamics of sub groups within Palestine. One thing that is clear is that violence is not the answer, and for me Non
Violence is not only mandated by our Christian heritage but is also tactically effective in solving problems. Dick

Comment by peaceprobe

Thanks Gene, we need millions more like you and yours ; as Tavis Smiley
says :” keep the faith” !!! LS

Comment by LS

Thank you for your words of truth. Military power is NOT the way of justice and peace. It is my prayer that they will open the borders of the open air prison they call Gaza. I was in Palestine and Israel last February. I too am a peacemaker, and prayer keeps me focused. JM

Comment by Joan Mahon

Dear Sir,
I sure hope the President-elect reads this and is inspired by it, but I fear not. He is surrounded by Israel-firsters like Rahm Emmanual, David Axelrod, Hillary Clinton, and many others in whom the line between American and “Zionist” is thinly-drawn. I hope for and will push for President Obama’s success in every endeavor; but I oppose him firmly on expanding the Afghanistan War into Pakistan. This country’s shaky government suspects the West wants to dismantle Pakistan as “a failed state,” accuses India of “encirclement” with its deep involvement in Afghanistan, and once again stands on the brink of war with India over the Mumbai incidents and the ongoing Kashmir situation. CIA bombing in western Pakistan is creating hundreds of thousands of refugees. Pursuit of Taliban into so-called “sanctuaries” will not work anymore than pursuing North Vietnamese into “sanctuaries” in Cambodia did. Nixon’s bombing in that country destroyed its government and led to the Pol Pot-massacre of 2.5 million Cambodians. Moreover, by supplying nuke fuel to India–which could not buy it legally–the US has clearly tilted toward India in their conflict, despite protestations of even-handedness. President-elect Obama, in his first public statement about Gaza, came down heavily on the side of the Israelis, condemning rocket attacks on Israel, but saying nothing about the continued blockade of Gaza by sea and land, depriving frustrated Palestinians of scarces resources and basic necessities of life. I believe that more than requests for enlightment will be needed to pressure the new Administration to “change” the direction of our failed policy in the Middle East.

Comment by Mike Havenar

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