Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the 2016 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference at the Verizon Center, March 21, 2016. Evan Vucci/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.President-elect Trump, this is very awkward. I did not vote for you, but I find myself with a burning desire to thank you from the bottom of my heart.
You may be unaware, but by winning this election you have unleashed and unified progressive voices from every corner of American society. The same unifying phenomenon is taking place in all corners of the world. It would have never happened without you. If it was not for you, we would still be buried in mediocre politics-as-usual, with the majority of citizens totally uninterested in getting involved, and even more people willing to suffice with being keyboard activists. So, thank you Mr. Trump.
When all is said and done, I promise you that Bernie Sanders is going to look like a Wall Street conservative. What you have set in motion may not break the two-party monopoly in US politics, or even bring the Democratic Party to its senses, but what you are about to witness is much more ground-breaking: it is the will of the people to act collectively in the service of the public good.
Allow me to introduce myself.
I’m an American from Youngstown, Ohio. You will recall this city because it’s made history a few times. In the first half of the twentieth century, we were the heart of the US steel industry, part of the Steel Belt. My maternal grandfather worked a furnace at one of the mills. At the time, this economic boom attracted a lot of immigrants, my father being one of them. Then, much of the steel industry moved production overseas. In no time, we became known as part of the Rust Belt. We’ve never recovered, but we keep fighting.
My sister still lives in Youngstown and is a Licensed Professional Counselor at a private psychiatric clinic and reports that work has never been busier, with more people seeking mental health care for anxiety and fear of the future. The largest increase in her clients has come since your election on November 8 and has been children, unable to find comfort in their parents’ words. The kids are trying to reconcile how it's now acceptable to make racist and sexist comments and to make fun of the disabled after being taught that such behavior is unacceptable.
I’m also a Palestinian. My father was born and raised in Al-Bireh/Ramallah, Palestine. He left to the US before the 1967 war. Once the war was over, Israel prohibited any Palestinian who was abroad from returning home. Consequently, my father built his life in Ohio, running small businesses and employing people for decades. After the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords were signed between the Palestinians and Israelis, I relocated to my father’s birthplace to help end the Israeli military occupation and build the state of Palestine. My tools of resistance were, and remain, economic development and education.
In addition to being a Palestinian-American and businessperson, I’m also a long-time rights activist. Social and economic justice and peace are not just slogans to me. I grew up in a household that taught if you see injustice, don't just talk about it, work to do something to change it.
I must be honest with you; in the two worlds where I operate, Palestine and the US, things were getting rather stagnant. It has been like pulling teeth to get people to get up and activate themselves in their civic duties, be it resisting the Israeli occupation or bringing hope and jobs back to US inner cities. Organizations were so stuck that one wondered if they had been reduced to serving as employment vehicles, bereft of any drive to advance the greater good. But this has all changed, thanks to you.
I have never seen so many young people wanting to understand the political system, becoming engaged and mobilizing to act against what they expect will be your administration’s implementation of the demagogic rhetoric that you repeated ad nauseam on the campaign trial.
The New York Times columnist, Nicholas Kristof, put together a good starter for people to get up and get busy, A 12-Step Program for Responding to President-Elect Trump (Nov. 17, 2016). I can’t even start to explain to you the communications happening in activist circles everywhere. I’m hearing from so many Latinos Americans, Jewish Americans, Arab Americans, and African Americans, who are expressing that they stand ready to mobilize against any racist polices coming from you, that I have lost count.
For decades now progressives have failed to build a mega mailing list of all the progressives out there, but you seem to be coming to the rescue again with your proposed Muslim Registry. Many of my Jewish and Christian friends are waiting for this to happen so they can add their names to this registry along with mine. This will be such a service to the progressive community. Thank you again.
Merry Christmas Donald.
Given that the holy days of Christmas are approaching, and as an expression of my gratitude for your unifying skills, I wanted to gift you something from Palestine, the Holy Land. It sounds like a straight-forward task, but living under Israeli military occupation makes it a bit complicated.
First, I wanted to upload to my mobile phone and message you this beautiful Christmas card of the nativity scene in Bethlehem. It represents the scene of the birth of Jesus. You are aware that the Church of the Nativity and the city of Bethlehem are in the State of Palestine? Of course you are. Well, it did not work. The file requires data communication service on my mobile phone and Israel blocks the ability of Palestinians to have any legal access to 3G or 4G. So, I scrapped that.
Next, I found this beautiful Palestinian embroidery scarf that I thought your wife Melania would literally fall in love with. I stopped at my local post office to see if it would make it in time for Christmas and learned that I was late, by 6-9 months. Yes, our postal system is under Israeli military control, so although I can go to my neighborhood post office, be served by a Palestinian postal worker, purchase beautiful Palestinian stamps, and send the package on its way, the package will need to pass through Israeli security and bureaucratic control. That means a simple package from Palestine to New York could take months on end. So, I scrapped that.
Having failed thus far, I got a little bolder. I thought, why not just get a ticket and jump on a plane and deliver the gift in person? I’m sure my mother in Ohio would love to see me too. Then reality hit again, our Jerusalem airport in Qalandia, located at the northern tip of Jerusalem, is under total Israeli military occupation and off limits. So, flying from the West Bank is impossible without an operational airport.
Then I thought, no problem, I’m a US citizen, I’ll just fly from Israel’s airport in Tel Aviv, as I did for most of my life. Reality hit again. Although I was born and raised in Ohio and am only a US citizen, Israel refuses to recognize me as an American because they issued me a West Bank residency card.
Yes, Israel, our strategic ally, is the only country in the world, and that includes Iran and North Korea, that outright discriminates against American citizens based on their backgrounds. So, like all Palestinians under Israel’s occupation, I’m prohibited from using Israel’s airport. The Democrats were told all about this blatant discrimination by Israel and did nothing but pay lip service to Israel, but I’m sure your administration will get Israel back in line with common sense.
Finding myself at a loss on how to get a gift to you in the normal ways, I chose to write you this public thank you and invite you to Palestine once things settle down for you. I can’t wait to show you what a real refugee camp looks like, how Israeli checkpoints humiliate thousands of Palestinians daily, how Israeli settlements are acts of sustained violence, how Muslims and Christians live peacefully in the same towns, how our US tax dollars to Israel are being used, and so much more.
I also want to show you how a people under five decades of military occupation strives to build for the future, despite all odds, hoping the international community, especially the US, will stop being blind to Israel’s illegal actions.
No need to bring your checkbook on this trip as no amount of money can resolve this bitter reality. It merely requires political will to hold Israel accountable. As we await your arrival, we’ll be mobilizing across America and Israel—Christian, Jewish and Muslim—to make sure the ground is ripe for action on the day you enter office.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Palestine.