Dear Mr. President,
I am writing to you on behalf of the American Federation of Ramallah Palestine (AFRP), a national Palestinian nonprofit representing more than 50,000 Palestinian Christians throughout the country, to express our collective outrage and alarm over the violence being carried out in Gaza and the West Bank, and the United States’ unwavering support for Israel’s actions despite the massive death toll and destruction.
The AFRP was founded in 1959 by a group of Palestinian immigrants living in the U.S. in diaspora. The goal of the AFRP was to create an organization to unite the families from Ramallah, Palestine, in various cities throughout the country, through a multitude of diverse programs and initiatives aimed at preserving and sharing our rich, Palestinian heritage. These programs bring us together and help strengthen our sense of Palestinian identity, while also teaching Palestinian history.
One of the most critical components of our identity is our Christian faith. Our faith has instilled in us certain values towards others that make Hamas’ and Israel’s attacks against innocent civilians–and the U.S’s decision to not stop this violence by calling for a ceasefire–extremely disturbing. As people of faith, we were raised to respect the sanctity of life, and seeing more than 18,000 people, including more than 8,000 children, killed by Israel’s indiscriminate and disproportionate bombing of Gaza, shocks us to our core as Christians. As a man of faith yourself, we would expect the same from you. Do you not wish to see an end to the suffering and unnecessary loss of innocent life? Israel itself does not seem interested in mitigating the loss of innocent life, as Israeli government officials have clearly and consistently announced their intentions to the world–the collective punishment and complete annihilation of the people of Gaza, with full U.S. military and financial backing for Israel’s heinous crimes against humanity. The U.S. has the power to stop the atrocities in Gaza, and needs to be more forceful and leverage its power to hold Israel accountable for its actions.
While Gaza suffers unimaginable losses, the West Bank, unfortunately, has not been spared from the violence. Settler attacks have only increased since October 7th, while Israel has also ramped up its offensive in the region, forcing Palestinians from their homes and killing hundreds. Israel has promised accountability for settler extremists’ actions, but that has not come to fruition. We thank you for expressing concern over settler extremists and calling for sanctions against them. Would you be able to share more details regarding U.S. sanctions against settler extremists attacking Palestinians in the West Bank?
Additionally, we are increasingly alarmed by the rising occurrence of hate crimes and discrimination against any who express pro-Palestinian or anti-Israel sentiments. The U.S. needs to make it abundantly clear that criticizing Israel and its government is not akin to antisemitism. This conflation of legitimate criticism of Israel with antisemitism significantly impedes our ability to combat and condemn actual cases of antisemitism occurring throughout the U.S. Even more needs to be done to protect the rights of those who express solidarity with Palestinians. People expressing their support for the Palestinian people are routinely labeled as terrorists and Hamas sympathizers, and many are losing their livelihoods and even lives due to this rise in discrimination, as seen in Chicago with the murder of 6 year-old Palestinian American Wadea al-Fayoume and the recent shooting of three Palestinian American students in Vermont. Hate has no place in the U.S., and the first amendment rights of ALL U.S. citizens must be protected.
This problem will not go away simply by allowing Israel to carry out its mission and destroy Gaza and its people. The only way forward is through a negotiated, political solution that addresses the root cause–the 75-year occupation of Palestine by Israel. That means being more forceful in condemnation of Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank. That means exploring placing conditions on aid to Israel and adhering to the requirements outlined under the Leahy law. Until that is addressed, this unfortunate cycle of violence will repeat, and more innocent lives will be lost, while others will become more radicalized, making the goal of peace even more difficult to attain. As fellow Christians, we ask you as a man of faith to stand by your purported values and call for a permanent ceasefire, not only to allow Palestinians time to mourn and rebuild, but also to save what little hope remains for a peaceful solution to this decades-old problem.
The American Federation of Ramallah Palestine