Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Letters to Senator Clinton from an American Muslim and a Palestinian Christian

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Letters to Senator Clinton from an American Muslim and a Palestinian Christian

Article excerpt

Dear Hillary,

My name is Mike Odetalla. I am a Palestinian/American and a father of three, who was born in 1960 in my ancestral village of Beit Hanina, which is a suburb of Jerusalem, and according to internationally recognized laws, conventions, and resolutions, is considered part of the occupied Palestinian Territories that were invaded and captured by Israel in the 1967 war. I was a child of war, having lived through the 1967 war, whereby my mother, my siblings and I were forced to flee our home and seek refuge in the scorpion-infested caves that populate the hills that surrounded our village.

During the first night of the war, our family and the other 20-odd women, children, and the elderly, including my 6-day-old nephew, barely escaped getting blown to bits by an Israeli fighter jet that circled overhead, its metallic body glistening under the full moon-lit sky. It then proceeded to fire a missile into the mouth of the cave a mere few moments after my mother grabbed us, imploring the others in the cave to follow, as we scampered into a nearby olive grove, clinging to each other for comfort as the flash and deafening thunder of the blast rang in our ears.

We spent the next 20-odd days moving from cave to cave as my mother and the other women tried to sneak back into the abandoned houses in our village, managing at times only to gather flour and precious water for their children. Jews celebrate Passover by eating unleavened bread, which signifies their hurried Exodus out of Egypt when they took and baked the dough before it had time to rise. My mother baked our bread in the same fashion since we also did not have the luxury of waiting for the bread, as we were on the move, trying to stay one step ahead of the Israelis.

In 2002, when my American-born children were old enough to fully understand and comprehend, I took them back to the hills of Beit Hanina and to the very same caves that I huddled in with my family 35 years ago. We retraced our steps as we fled our homes in that June moonlit night, stopping in front of the cave whose mouth was destroyed by the Israeli missile. It was important for me to show my children and tell them of my experiences, as well as the experiences of their grandparents on their mother's side who were ethnically cleansed from their homes and lands by the Zionist founders of Israel in 1948, forcing them and more than 750,000 other Palestinians to become homeless refugees, living in squalid conditions in refugee camps. Their grandparent's home in the village of Lifta still stands today, even though their grandparents are not allowed to move back, contrary to U.N. Resolution 194, and other internationally recognized laws and conventions that deal with the right of refugees to return to their homes.

I know that these details might not be of importance to you, but they are very important to me and to the millions of other Palestinians, especially in light of your recent trip to the Holy Land, whereby you reiterated your support for the apartheid wall that Israel has been building to imprison my people into discombobulated walled-off ghettos and, in the process, steal their precious lands.

You stood with your back to the concrete wall and had the audacity to say to the Palestinians people, "This wall is not against the Palestinians. This is against the terrorists. The Palestinian people have to help to prevent terrorism. They have to change the attitudes about terrorism." Your words proved yet again that neither you nor anyone else in our government has any grasp of reality of what is actually happening on the ground in Palestine. The victim is once gain placed in the unenviable position of having to guarantee the security of his oppressor, while being denied his own basic human rights and security-or, for that matter, the freedom of movement in his or her own town or village.

Did you really believe the words that were coming out of your mouth? Did you actually give thought to those words before uttering them, or were you just going through the motions of being a politician, saying and doing anything to get elected without the burden of a conscience or sense of justice? …

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