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Hamas Delivers Peace Letter to President Obama

Medea Benjamin

Hamas government in Gaza reached out to President Obama on the occasion
of his visit to the Middle East, announcing that Hamas was willing to
talk to all parties “on the basis of mutual respect and without
preconditions.” CODEPINK cofounder Medea Benjamin, who carried the
letter out from Gaza, said that the letter represented a significant
development and an effort by Hamas to present a new face to the Western
world. “While Osama bin Laden used the occasion of President Obama’s
visit to deliver a scathing attack, Hamas reached out to a feminist
U.S. peace group to deliver a letter to Obama urging dialogue, mutual
respect and adherence to international law,” said Medea Benjamin.
In the letter, Hamas urged Obama to visit “our ground Zero” in Gaza and
bring about a “paradigm shift” in the Israel-Palestine conflict based
on enlightened world opinion and international law.
 “This is a people who have just been subjected to a vicious attack
that left over 1,300 dead and thousands wounded, and there is not a
word here about armed resistance or Zionism. They are reaching out and
actively seeking a resolution to the conflict based on the findings of
the world’s leading international legal bodies and human rights
organizations from the United Nations and the International Court of
Justice to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. This is a
major breakthrough and the U.S. government should take advantage to
begin a dialogue with Hamas.”
The letter was signed by Ahmed Yusef, Deputy Foreign Minister and
hand-delivered to Benjamin, who was in Gaza headed a 66-person
delegation representing 10 nations. Benjamin and representatives of
CODEPINK are delivering the letter to the U.S. Embassy in Cairo today,
June 4, during Obama’s visit to Egypt.
The text of the letter is below.

His Excellency President Barack Obama,
President of the United States of America.

June 3rd 2009

Dear Mr. President,

We welcome your visit to the Arab world and your administration’s initiative to bridge differences with the Arab-Muslim world.
One long-standing source of tension between the United States and this
part of the world has been the failure to resolve the Israel-Palestine
It is therefore unfortunate that you will not visit Gaza during your
trip to the Middle East and that neither your Secretary of State nor
George Mitchell have come to hear our point of view.
We have received numerous visits recently from people of widely varied
backgrounds: U.S. Congressional representatives, European
parliamentarians, the U.N.-appointed Goldstone commission, and
grassroots delegations such as those organized by the U.S. peace group
It is essential for you to visit Gaza. We have recently passed through
a brutal 22-day Israeli attack.  Amnesty International observed that
the death and destruction Gaza suffered during the invasion could not
have happened without U.S.-supplied weapons and U.S.-taxpayers’ money.
Human Rights Watch has documented that the white phosphorus Israel
dropped on a school, hospital, United Nations warehouse and civilian
neighborhoods in Gaza was manufactured in the United States.   Human
Rights Watch concluded that Israel’s use of this white phosphorus was a
war crime.
Shouldn’t you see first-hand how Israel used your arms and spent your money?
Before becoming president you were a distinguished professor of law.
 The U.S. government has also said that it wants to foster the rule of
law in the Arab-Muslim world.
The International Court of Justice stated in July 2004 that the whole
of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem are occupied Palestinian
territories designated for Palestinian self-determination, and that the
Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories are illegal.
Not one of the 15 judges sitting on the highest judicial body in the world dissented from these principles.  
The main human rights organizations in the world, Amnesty International
and Human Rights Watch, have issued position papers supporting the
right of the Palestinian refugees to return and compensation.
Each year in the United Nations General Assembly nearly every country
in the world has supported these principles for resolving the
Israel-Palestine conflict.  Every year the Arab League puts forth a
peace proposal based on these principles for resolving the
Israel-Palestine conflict.
Leading human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch have also
stated that Israel’s siege of Gaza is a form of collective punishment
and therefore illegal under international law.
We in the Hamas Government are committed to pursuing a just resolution
to the conflict not in contradiction with the international community
and enlightened opinion as expressed in the International Court of
Justice, the United Nations General Assembly, and leading human rights
organizations.  We are prepared to engage all parties on the basis of
mutual respect and without preconditions.
However, our constituency needs to see a comprehensive paradigm shift
that not only commences with lifting the siege on Gaza and halts all
settlement building and expansion but develops into a policy of
evenhandedness based on the very international law and norms we are
prodded into adhering to.   
Again, we welcome you to Gaza which would allow you to see firsthand
our ground zero.  Furthermore, it would enhance the US position;
enabling you to speak with new credibility and authority in dealing
with all the parties.

Very Truly Yours,
Dr. Ahmed Yousef
Deputy of the Foreign Affairs Ministry
Former Senior Political Advisor
to Prime Minister Ismael Hanniya

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