Open Letter to President Obama
October 9, 2009
Dear President Obama:
Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us that “change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom.” President Obama, you promised us change and we believed in that promise. Now is your opportunity to show us you meant it.
We have frequently heard the question over the years, “Where is the Palestinian Gandhi? Where are those working for justice through non-violence?” We must look no further than the jails and cemeteries to find Palestinian peace activists leading the fight against injustice. This is where we will find Mohammad Othman: locked in solitary confinement in a military prison, and held for nearly a month after his arrest without charge or trial. His initial detention has been extended twice thus far, and there remains the possibility of it being renewed indefinitely.
On September 22nd, 33-year-old Mohammad was arrested by Israeli soldiers while trying to reenter the West Bank after spending several days at a conference in Norway. For more than 10 years Mohammad has been an activist for Palestinian human rights. During that time, he has been a leader in the Palestinian grassroots movement against the Wall that has swallowed up his community’s lands and livelihoods.
Mohammad, in the spirit of great human rights defenders like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., has worked tirelessly over the years to bring his people’s voice to the world. He has embraced and advocated non violent means to effect change – a tactic that was instrumental in bringing about the end of apartheid in South Africa. Freedom from occupation, oppression and discrimination are human rights to which all people are entitled. Mohammad, and many others like him, have done nothing more than work to secure these most basic guarantees – to give his people a chance to live.
Unfortunately, what is happening to Mohammad is all too common. Palestinians working for justice are constantly threatened with arbitrary detention, bodily injury and torture, and even death. Imagine having to fear speaking the truth, knowing that by doing so you put your very freedom at stake, simply because you stand up for what is right and what is just. History has shown us that peaceful activists are often the target of such policies, if only because they pose the most severe threat to the status quo. It happened in South Africa, it happened in India, and it happened in the United States as well.
Mohammad is another casualty of this tactic. It is up to us, the international community, to defend him and all those who struggle for peace and justice. President Obama, if you are serious about forging peace, then we call on you to defend the right of Mohammad and all Palestinians to resist their oppression through non-violent activism. We implore you to pressure Israel for the immediate release of human rights advocate Mohammad Othman and all prisoners of conscience who are being held solely for their work towards justice and freedom.
Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor & Professor of Linguistics, MIT
George Bisharat, professor of law, University of California Hastings College of the Law
David Lloyd, Professor, University of Southern California
Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies, Columbia University
Huwaida Arraf, Lawyer and Founder of International Solidarity Movement
Jewish Voices for Peace
Sight the Petition:
Here are some recommended actions:
• Sign the online petition for Mohammad.
•Sign and send a message to President Obama through Jewish Voice for Peace. JVP has launched an online campaign to pressure President Obama to pressure Israel to free Mohammad.
• Encourage others to join this campaign through petitions, demonstrations and/or letter writing/phone calling. Please provide them with contact information and details;
• Urge your representatives at consular offices in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem/Ramallah to demand the immediate release of Mohammad Othman. (Click here for your consular contacts). Sample letters in English and French are below.
• Let the Israeli Embassy in your country know that you are campaigning for Mohammad’s release and for a just and lasting peace based on international law. (Click here to find the Israeli Embassy in your country)
•Bring the case of Mohammad to the attention of local and national media outlets;
For more information contact: email@example.com
Sample letter to embassies and foreign ministries in English:
I am writing to you to express my deepest concern about the detainment of Mohammad Othman on, September 22, at the border between Jordan and the West Bank. He was returning home from a human rights education tour in Norway.
I fear that the detainment of Mohammad Othman is a result of his peaceful criticism of violations of international law by Israeli authorities. The charges against him have not been made clear, but there is reason to believe that he is a prisoner of conscience, arrested solely for his human rights work through legal organizations.
I ask you to take all appropriate measures, including official inquiries and protests, to ensure Mohammad’s immediate and unconditional release. Furthermore, whilst being held, he should be protected from any form of torture or ill-treatment, and the conditions of his detention should fulfill the requirements of international law.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this urgent matter.
Sample letter in French:
Madame, Monsieur le (consul, ambassadeur de France à Tel aviv, Jérusalem)
Je vous écrits pour vous exprimer ma plus grande préoccupation concernant la détention de Mohammad Othman depuis le 22 Septembre survenu à la frontière entre la Jordanie et la Cisjordanie.
Il rentrait d’un séjour de sensibilisation aux droits de l’homme en Norvège.
Je crains que la détention de Mohammad Othman soit le résultat de sa critique pacifique de la violation des lois internationales par les autorités israéliennes.
Les charges retenues contre lui ne sont pas clairement établies, mais il y a raison de croire qu’il est un prisonnier de conscience, arrêté seulement pour son travail sur les droits de l’homme dans des organisations légales.
Je vous demande de prendre toutes les mesures appropriées, y compris des requêtes et protestations officielles afin d’assurer la relaxe inconditionnelle et immédiate de Mohammad Othman.
En outre, durant sa détention, il doit être protégé de toute forme de torture ou de mauvais traitement conformément aux lois internationales.
merci de votre prompte attention concernant cette affaire urgente.
veuillez agréer Madame, Monsieur le consul/ambassadeur mes sincères salutations.