From: Mohammed Rafiq Lodhia
To: President Barack Hussein Obama
THE WHITE HOUSE
Washington D.C. 20500
Dated: October 6, 2012
Subject: A COMMON HEART TO HUMANITY
Dear Honorable President Obama,
We Americans are deeply saddened by the recent assassination of a great American Ambassador, Christopher Stevens, in Benghazi, Libya along with three brave Americans, Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith and embassy security personnel Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods. From all that we read in the news, Chris had a “Human Touch” and he showed compassion towards many who crossed his path. Chris was a role model to young diplomats. He was down-to-earth and often sat down with Libyans on mats and ate their national dish – barzin – as reported by The Tripoli Post.
Mother Teresa once reminded that “Joy is a net of love in which you can catch souls.” Well, we can say that our beloved Ambassador who we Americans are proud of, possessed a joyful heart and was able to embrace many friends while working in North Africa and is bound to leave behind a long lasting legacy of Americans’ “Service To Humanity.” Better yet, we cannot agree with you more when in your speech at the United Nations, you said that “Chris Steven embodied best of America.”
All such “Spirit Of Acting As Good Samaritans” took root when President John F. Kennedy, as a presidential candidate, challenged American youth to devote a part of their lives serving in foreign service in Asia, Africa and Latin America under the banner of Peace Corps. Ambassador Chris Stevens followed the footsteps of so many students who heard President Kennedy speak in the early hour of 2 a.m. at the University of Michigan on October 14, 1960. Revisiting those glory days of America and comparing them to today’s world, an ordinary American like me cannot help but wonder as to “Why ‘Anti-Americanism’ has spread throughout the Islamic world?” Well, allow me as a “Moderate Muslim” to sum it up in three words: “The Forgotten Palestinians.”
With about a month left to the Election Day and here I am trying to ponder over your response to a University of South Florida student who directed a question about “America’s Support For Human Rights.” No doubt, the Middle East has been plagued for centuries, but one should keep in mind that it is bound to, as David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel, once said that “The Jews do not budge, and the Arabs do not change.” A recent provocative article in The New York Times titled, “Israeli Settlers Are Here To Stay,” by Dani Dayan, Chairman of Yeshi Council of Jewish Communities in Judae and Samarai, explicitly states that “we aim to expand the existing Jewish settlements in Judae and Samaria.” Delightfully, another pragmatic article “Stopping Extremists Settlers” by Danial Byman and Natan Sacks from The New York Times is worthy to be read too. In their article, they recommend that “The United States, like Israel should consider designating violent settlers as terrorists.”
“Terrorists”. This so-called “Politically Sensitive” word as observed by many Americans have been rarely used by you. Perhaps, it is high time for Israels to reflect upon the words of David Ben Gurion which he wrote in his book “Rebirth and Destiny of Israel” as follows:
“What is wrong for Arabs is wrong for Jews; if we insist upon Government
suppressing Arab terrorism, how can we not insist on it suppressing Jewish
terrorism? If no Jew is to be handed without the testimony of two witnesses
and a previous warning, as the code of Sanhedrin requires, no Arab must
either. So far our legal luminaries have made no outcry against the hanging
of Arabs, but the Yishuv has a conscience, and will never agree to whitewash
murderers, Jews or not, or justify their crimes. Those of us who dread the
internal disruption that Jewish terrorism may create, who are not to be
provoked into dereliction or beguiled by ‘patriotic’ clamor, believe the
commandment to be binding on Jew and Arab alike, that if an Arab ‘patriot’
who kills a Jew is a murderer, so is the Jewish ‘patriot’ who kills harmless
We humans must always be reminded of our moral conscience in order to awaken the spirit of humanity in us. By referring to the tragic death of a street vendor named Mohamed Bouaziz of Tunisia is a moral reminder to awaken the conscience of our fellow humans. Many in the Islamic world are fully aware that by being publically humiliated by the local police who ruthlessly confiscated Bouaziz’s scales and produce and fined him, he decided one day to torch his body with fire which triggered what the world now terms as the “Arab Spring.” His close friend, Hajilaoui Jaafer, has this to say: “What really give fire to the revolution was that Mohamed was a very well-known popular man. He would give free fruits and vegetables to poor families.” This should remind us Americans of your speech to the United Nations wherein you stated that A COMMON HEART TO HUMANITY was vigorously stirred by this one incident into the hearts of many around the world. Yet, no one at the recent United Nations Assembly gathering uttered the name of Rachel Corrie, a twenty-three year old young lady from Olympia, Washington. Rachel travelled to Gaza on March 16, 2003 and within two months, she was crushed to death by a caterpillar D9R Israeli bulldozer in the City of Rafah, the Gaza Strip.
“No Justice For Rachel Corrie” wrote Neve Gordon, a professor at Ben Gurion University in his article that was published in The Nation on August 31, 2012. Richard Silverstein of “truthout” opined that “The Obama Administration should be speaking up on behalf of Rachel and her family and demanding justice.” “Silence is not an option,” Mr. President. You are famous for giving eloquent speeches, may I ask, “Why is there a silence?” Richard A. Falk, UN Special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories rightly concluded that the verdict “is a defeat for justice and victory for the impunity of the Israeli Army.” Even President Jimmy Carter who has played a role of an elderly statesman in the Middle East crisis called for “Accountability” after hearing Corrie’s verdict, and so did Rachel’s mother, who also expressed a deep regret over the verdict. The statements of both President Carter and the parents of Rachel are as follows:
President Jimmy Carter: “The killing of an American peace activist is
unacceptable. The court’s decision confirms a climate of impunity, which
facilitates Israeli human rights violations against Palestinian civilians in
the Occupied Territory.”
Cindy Corrie & Craig Corrie: “We are deeply saddened and troubled by
what we heard today in the court of Judge Oded Gershon. This was a bad
day, not only for us, but for human rights, for humanity, the rule of law,
and the country of Israel … Rachel was a human being who deserved
accountability, and we as her family deserve that too.”
Rachel Corrie, may God rest her soul in peace, being young was wise to comment that “it is amazing that people hold on to their humanity as much as they have.” Palestinians are humans, Mr. President. We simply cannot keep on ignoring their plights out of the fear of the U.S. election campaign season. “In man’s thinking and in his cognition of what is to come, he must be mindful to walk humbly. Reason bids us to be modest,” reminded David Ben Gurion. He also cautioned his fellow Israelis that “The responsibility is great, the time is short.”
Timing of the riot and rampage witnessed by our fellow humans in the Islamic world was not caused by a single YouTube film defaming the Prophet of Islam. “Moderate Muslims” are profoundly aware of the importance of striking on the United States Embassy in Benghazi, Libya on a symbolic day of September 11th, This is exactly what “The Muslim Terrorists” were after. They wanted to humiliate America and make us look totally helpless and at their mercy. Your administration’s sheer failure to pronounce the killing of our Ambassador Chris Stevens by the “Terrorists” is mind boggling for many Americans including me. Ben Gurion and his comrades were all too aware of the act of “Terrorism” when he correctly defined “Terrorism” in his book “Rebirth and Destiny of Israel” as follows:
Terrorism that is mere ideology we might counter with ideological retaliation;
but we have to deal with terrorist acts – and acts are the only answer. Gangsters
comprehend no language – be it of justice, of Zionism, of socialism, or any
known medium of reason. All they understand is the language of force, the show
of strength. It is no longer enough to clarify in talk; their operations must be
stopped and their organization broken up. I do not mean that the men themselves
be liquidated; I want no bloodshed and pray they do not provoke it. I want no
single life lost. And I believe, if we enlighten them soberly, we can yet save some,
the younger ones especially, who were misled and crazed by distortions and
misrepresentation of Jewry’s disasters, anguish and wrath. Today’s gangsterism
serves these heady draughts to its new recruits, but it was not itself born of the
happenings of recent years, and argument alone will not exterminate it; let there
be no mistake on that score.
Undoubtedly, “Terrorists” comprehend no language except the language of force. Israeli Defense Forces have used numerous forces and have not been able to quell the terrorists acts since the independence of Israel. Many intellectual and wise leaders of the world know about the brutal force that was visible in the Sabra and Shatila massacre of 1982, and not to forget the recent manslaughter in the Gaza strip by the Israeli Defense Forces in 2008-2009. All such acts can legally be termed as “An Act Of Defense” by the Israeli Defense Forces, but for how long, Mr. President? The truth of the matter is, the Israeli Defense Forces sorely failed to grasp the very wisdom of David Ben Gurion when he wrote the following words:
To differentiate between good and evil we need draw on our own moral genius,
which has ever made luminous our lives. We will make ours the true way to
freedom, justice and fraternity, in absolute intellectual and moral independence,
neither servile nor plagiarist.
This then is our intellectual struggle, never to be decided by force of arms, but
by the spirit only. Fear not, for the spirit of Israel will not betray us. Of that
surety, four thousand years of history are witness.
Reading these words of wisdom, one is left wondering where is the spirit of Israel? Here it is, Mr. President, in the words of Norman Finklestein who emotionally answered a Jewish girl with his humane response:
I will not be silenced when Israel commits its crimes against the Palestinians,
and I consider it nothing more despicable than to use their suffering and their
martyrdom, to try to justify the torture, the brutalization, the demolition of
homes, that Israel daily commits against the Palestinians. So I refuse, any
longer, to be intimidated or browbeaten by the tears. If you had any heart in
you, you would be crying for the Palestinians.
Interestingly enough, an article titled “Facts On The Ground” written by Irfan Husain, a well known Pakistani journalist was published in Dawn on October 1st makes use of the word “budge.” Mr. Husain wrote, “Soon after his election, Barack Obama made a major address to the Muslim world from Cairo. The centerpiece of his eloquent speech was the promise to use American influence to re-start the peace process. He also called on Israel to halt settlement activity to give the peace process a chance. He was immediately snubbed by Netanyahu who refused to budge.” There you go, Mr. President, the Muslim world is keenly observing and does possess an ability to give a fair assessment of the current stalling tactics of the negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians.
“Intellectual Dishonesty” has always remained a part and parcel of any negotiation between Israels and Arabs. The three oft-repeated words, “Holocaust, Nukes, Drones,” should be temporarily suspended. Instead, “Hearts, minds and souls” should dominate and be the basis of resolving the decade long conflict in the Holy Land of Jews, Christians and Muslims. Caving in to pressure is a sign of weakness in leadership. A leader has to be “Intellectually Honest” to discern between his rhetoric and deeds. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel can warn the leaders of the world about “Drawing A Red Line” on Iran to which Trudy Rubin, a columnist of Philadelphia Inquirer, calls it “A Dangerous Scrawl.” Truthfully, before such verbal warnings were given to the member countries during his speech at the United Nations, Prime Minister Netanyahu ought to have given an utmost priority to easing the hardships experienced by the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza strip. Great speeches must be followed by wholehearted actions. It should not be hollow words to influence the world’s opinion. Simply, ponder over the ending remarks of the Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech:
“Throughout history, we have been at the forefront of efforts to expand liberty,
promote equality, and advance human rights. We champion these principles not
despite of our traditions but because of them. We heed the words of the Jewish
prophets Isaiah, Amos, and Jeremiah to treat all with dignity and compassion,
to pursue justice and cherish life and to pray and strive for peace. These are
the timeless values of my people and these are the Jewish people’s greatest
gift to mankind. Let us commit ourselves today to defend these values so that
we can defend our freedom and protect our common civilization.”
“War is an invention of the human mind. The human mind can invent peace with justice,” declared Norman Cousins, an American political journalist and world peace advocate. We certainly have in our midst a few brilliant minds among Jews, Christians and Muslims. President Jimmy Carter, Elie Weisel, Rabbi Michael Lerner, Ilan Pappe, Norman Finkelstein and Rashid Khalidi to name a few. These wise and intellectual leaders and human rights activists can comfortably sit across the table with the Israeli and Arab political leaders to find a peaceful resolution to the Middle East crisis. Surely, you will agree that the need of the hour is for the political and military leaders of Israel to be reminded of David Ben Gurion’s words, “Let us cherish our own opulent inheritance and take to ourselves as all the finer value and assets of humanity, for we are part of humanity and nothing human is alien to us.” I urge you, the respectable members of the Senate and the House of Representatives to attentively listen to the YouTube links of President Carter, Ilan Pappe, Norman Finkelstein and Rashid Khalidi so as to help gain knowledge about the gravity of the Middle East situation. Of course, the one that deserves the most attention is an outstanding lecture about “The Forgotten Palestinians” by Mr. Pappe. I am afraid the labeling of “Anti-Semitic,” and/or “Jew Hater” on any human who roundly criticizes the actions of the Israel Defense Forces will not help bring in peace to the Middle East region.
One of the greatest teachers of mankind, Prophet Jesus (Peace Be Upon Him) proclaimed, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God” (Mathews 5:9). Two such Israeli and Arab peacemakers are Mike Peled and Nader Elbanna from the city of San Diego. These two outstanding peace activists raised U.S. $ 84,000 to send 1,000 wheelchairs to both Israeli and Palestinian children in the Holy Land. A COMMON HEART TO HUMANITY can clearly be awakened by thinking through the remarks of President Jimmy Carter while accepting Nobel Peace Prize in the Oslo City Hall (Year 2002) who said, “We will not live in peace by killing each other’s children,” and with the same passionate Mike Peled described his own sister Nurit Elhanan whose beloved daughter Smadar was killed in a suicide attack greeted the mourners not with the talk of “Revenge” and “Retaliation,” but with these moving words, “No real mother would want the same horror to happen to another mother.” The point I am making here, Mr. President, is that the finer value and asset of humanity as stated by David Ben Gurion is to be found right in our midst. We Americans need to listen with a compassionate heart, the narrative of Mike Peled, the author of the book, “The General’s Son” in order to grasp the true nature of the situation in the Holy Land.
Last but not least, I have been blessed to work with some of the finest Jewish textile merchants in our country. They remain my dear friends. In fact, one of my Jewish friends planted ten trees in the “Hills of Jerusalem” in the loving memory of my mother, Fatima Lodhia (May God rest her soul in peace), who passed away in April 2004. With immense pride, I must honestly admit that a personal letter from our respected President Jimmy Carter expressing condolence on my mother’s death will always be forever cherished by “The Lodhia Family” members. What more respect can an ordinary American Muslim ask for from a respectable and honorable Jewish friend and a former President of the United States of America? If the textile merchants have a heart to strike business deals during a course of a year, then why do the political leaders of Israel and Arab countries have such a difficult time negotiating peace treaty in good spirits for decades? “Mistrust” and “Deception” are the only two key words that comes to mind. As a Muslim, I feel awfully sad about the death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens. Nonetheless, listening to the YouTube video by a young Arab, you of all will agree that together “WE CAN” not only hunt down the killers of our ambassador, but can also engage in honest and intellectual negotiations to bring a permanent peace in the Holy Land. Amen.
Rest in peace Ambassador Christopher Stevens! We will always cherish your heartfelt services to the people of Libya and the Muslim world at large.
May God bless you, your beloved family and America. I remain,
Very respectfully yours,
Mohammed Rafiq Lodhia
Ilan Pappe: The Forgotten Palestinians
President Jimmy Carter on Palestine
Norman Finkelstein: There was NO WAR in GAZA, it was a MASSACRE
Rashid Khalidi – Palestine: 40 Years of Occupation, 60 Years of Dispossession
Blessed are the Peacemakers: Ron Paul’s Christian Foreign Policy