Ma'an News Agency, June 3, 2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an Exclusive – An American group returning from Gaza says it will deliver a letter from Hamas to US President Barack Obama who is to give a landmark address to the Muslim world in the Egyptian capital on Thursday.
Hamas official Ahmad Yousef confirmed that he wrote the letter, which the US women's antiwar group CODEPINK plans to deliver on Thursday.
Yousef sent a copy of the letter, in Arabic, to Ma'an. The following is a translation:
Mr. President Barack Obama,
President of the United States of America,
June 3, 2009
We welcome your visit to the Arab world and your initiative to break the problems between you and the Muslim world. One of the most important points causing tension between the United States and this part of the world is the failure to find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Unfortunately, you won’t visit the Gaza Strip and listen to our point of view during your visit to the Middle East. The minister of foreign affairs and [envoy to the Middle East] Mr. George Mitchell also will not visit the Gaza Strip.
We have received in the recent period many foreign delegations of different political backgrounds, including representatives from the US Congress and European parliamentarians, as well as the Chairman of the [UN] Fact-Finding Commission Mr. [Richard] Goldstone, in addition to many groups. The latest was CODEPINK from America.
It is very important to visit the Gaza Strip and to witness the results of the Israeli war and these crimes that lasted 22 days. So many people were killed by Israel, which has the encouragement of the United States.
Human Rights Watch documented that the use of the white phosphorus by Israel against United Nations schools and it was discovered that it is made in the US … they concluded by stating that Israel's use of white phosphorous is a war crime ... The question is for Americans: If you are the makers of such weapons and you are the owners of this weapon and you support Israel, how did Israel violate international law and used this weapon!?
Before becoming the president of America you were a distinguished university professor in law, and your administration has indicated that it will work to strengthen the rule of law in the Arab and Islamic world.
The International Court of Justice ruled in June 2004 that all of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem belong to Palestinians and they are the ones who have the right to decide the future of their political existence and that the settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories are illegal. Fifteen judges and representatives of the highest international judicial authority did not add any conditions or dissent to these statements.
We have also noted that the most important and international organizations; such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, supported the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and receive compensation.
The human rights organizations noted also that the siege imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip is a punishment that violates international law.
We are, in the Hamas government, committed to a just solution to the conflict in keeping with international law and the rulings of the International Court of Justice and the [UN] General Assembly and human rights organizations. We are ready to continue with all parties on the basis of mutual respect, without any prior requirements or conditions.
Again, we would welcome President Obama to the Gaza Strip, in order to see the damage done. Such a visit will put the United States in a higher position in the view of the entire world in order to solve the conflict.
Dr Ahmed Yousef
Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
At 9am on Thursday the delegation of journalists, social workers, professors and activists will carry the letter to the US Embassy in Cairo along with a petition signed by more than 10,000 Americans asking Obama to go to Gaza to witness the impact of the recent Israeli invasion there and its ongoing blockade.
“Obama should go to Gaza and see the devastation for himself, or send envoy George Mitchell,” said Medea Benjamin in a statement.
Benjamin is co-founder of CODEPINK, which led the group through Gaza. “There will be no significant improvement in relations between the United States and the Arab world until the U.S. begins to deal directly with Hamas and shows its commitment to the rights of both Palestinians and Israelis.”
Egypt allowed the 66-person delegation through the Rafah crossing into Gaza on 30 May. The group brought toys, school supplies and playground building supplies, and built three small playgrounds there.
The group said in a statement that it was "shocked by the brutality of the Israeli invasion that killed more than 1,400, displaced more than 50,000 people and destroyed approximately 4,000 homes." They were also appalled by the effects of the 21-month siege that has "virtually sealed the borders and constitutes a form of collective punishment, which is illegal under international law."
Approached by Ma’an, US officials in Jerusalem have not yet responded to this report. The US officially considers Hamas a “terrorist” organization and thereby refuses to deal directly with it.