A letter from an American resident of Jerusalem
by Allison Hodgkins, October 11 2000, Jordan Times

An American named Allison Hodgkins living in Jerusalem wrote the following letter to Hilary Rodham-Clinton who is vying for the US Senate seat. It is about the Palestine-Israel issue and it appeared in the Jordan Times on 11th Oct 2000. Although the letter appears critical about Hilary Clinton, the point of the letter is not the criticism; it is about Palestinian rights and justice.

Included also is a letter to the Editor of Jordan Times, from an American citizen, thanking Ms Hodgkins (below).

I AM writing to you with a simple question. Is your desire to become the senator for New York state worth the lives of all those who may die as a result of the cowardly positions, you and others in equal positions of power and influence, are taking in order to gain a few votes in the coming elections?

I feel I must ask you this, especially in light of the fact that you herald yourself as a champion of the rights of children. You have long promoted yourself as the champion of those who are weaker, who have had to fight and struggle for their basic rights, and sometimes their very survival. Yet, now, in the throes of an election, it seems that those principles that you once espoused, are only empty rhetorical statements which you can discard when they are no longer politically expedient.

Forgive my tenor, however I feel my exhaustion is contributing to my anger. I was kept awake the other night listening to the sounds of attack helicopters flying over head. I lay there wondering if they were deployed to make good on the promised threat of bombing houses. I lay there wondering if my nephew, who has just learned to walk, would see another sunrise, or would a missile from those helicopters take his life. I could not sleep for fear that the settlers rampaging the adjacent neighbourhood would reach my street. I lay there wondering if the new day would bring more newscasts of young boys being shot in the heart, head and stomach with bullets designed to explode on impact. I wondered if I would wake up tomorrow and be living in a region officially in a state of war.

And, when I began to read the morning news, I was greeted with your current position concerning the US abstention on the UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli acts of violence against Palestinians. If I am to take your words at face value, then I am to believe that you see parity between the violence committed against Palestinians and the violence against Israelis. I am to believe that [Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat is, not only responsible for the current violence here, but for the situation in Lebanon as well. Reading your statements, I found myself wondering if your statement reflected a real belief that despite the overwhelming number of Palestinian dead, the violence is not "especially" against Palestinians, or that you honestly believe that Ariel Sharon's visit to Haram Al Sharif was not a provocation. Or, I wondered, were your statements, so closely aligned to those of your opponents, motivated by a calculated desire to secure Jewish votes.

Mrs Clinton, you said once that peace in the Middle East required a Palestinian state. I remember this very clearly. It was in 1998, right before you accompanied your husband to a trip to this region, which included a historic visit to the Palestinian areas. Myself, and many other Americans, who care about peace in this region, rushed to support you when you made that statement. We sent letters and wrote editorials praising you for taking such a noble stand for peace. I was proud of your willingness to stand for justice and peace, even if it cost you in the polls. I was equally proud to see you come to this region and visit Bethlehem and the Gaza Strip, even at the height of an intensely painful personal crisis. I supported you for your bravery. I assumed your visit here moved you, as living here has moved me. I believed that you must have come to see what I have long learned: for peace in the Middle East, the suffering of the Palestinians must come to an end. I felt you were making a stand, backing the principle that all peoples have a right to be free.

Then you decided to test the political waters in New York. The pundits pontificated and postulated as to whether your statement about a Palestinian state would render you unelectable in New York. I held my breath, praying that you would stay firm and defend your statements. You are an educated and articulate woman with an extraordinary ability to convince people of the veracity of what you believe. I was at a speech you made in Austin, Texas called the Politics of Meaning. You talked about our duty to stand up for what we believed in. You inspired me. Thus, I believed you would trounce the pollsters and explain to the voters of New York and the world why you made that statement. I fantasised that you would come out and simply say. "While I support the right of the Jewish people to live in freedom and security, they can not do so at the expense of another people."

However, knowing the world of politics, I was able to rein in my fantasies of complete principle and hoped you would focus on the benefits of Palestinian statehood for the future security and prosperity of the state of Israel. I hoped you would argue that one can easily endorse a Palestinian state purely out of a commitment to the state of Israel. I had hoped you would point to Israel's overwhelming conventional military superiority and its stockpile of nuclear weapons, and be assured of Israel's survival.

Johnson knew this in 1967, as did Nixon in 1973. I am sure you can ask your husband to verify their military capacity now. One can quickly assess that the threat to Israel's security comes from the exact situation it is currently facing; violent demonstrations, the threat of domestic terrorism and guerrilla style border incursions. One can posit two alternatives for Israel to deal with this threat.

The first is for Israel to come to terms with itself and the reality of its founding. It can recognise that in its struggle to secure self-determination for the Jewish people it displaced another nation. It can then fulfill its obligations per UN Resolutions 194 and 242 and withdraw its troops from the territories they occupy including East Jerusalem, dismantle settlements, and facilitate the return or compensation of Palestinian refugees. It can allow for the creation of a Palestinian state in the occupied territories.

Although this would be internally painful, a solution is available which would bring them security and the legitimate right to call Jerusalem its capital. The stipulation being that they would share this capital with Palestine. The premise is that once the basic needs of the Palestinians are satisfied, Israel would have peace, and secure borders recognised by the world community. As current US policy also considers these territories occupied, you would have an official leg to stand on if you took this stand.

Of course, there is the other line of thinking. This rationale says the Arabs can never be trusted, Israel will always be in jeopardy and therefore it cannot relinquish another centimetre of land. However, if you are sincere in your convictions, then you must consider whether or not that option would bring Israel security? Israel was in Lebanon for 18 years, and to what end? Unless you believe the Palestinians will sit politely in squalid camps and bantustans, euphemistically called autonomous areas, and indefinitely endurethe humiliation of living without basic rights, then you must provide an alternative. How should Israel stop the violence? Tanks? Apache helicopters?

High velocity, laser -guided assault weapons wielded by snipers? Call it excessive, call it legitimate use of defensive force, the body count is instructive: 72 Palestinians, 6 Israelis as of last count. And, these casualties were incurred while the Israelis were exercising "restraint."

Without question, the military analysis is no different than it was at the beginning of the Intifada in 1987. A few tanks, a few helicopters and this revolution will be flattened in matter of a week. I would hazard that the casualty ratio would be roughly the same: 780:60, 7,800:600, and 78,000:6,000. Although costly, militarily, Israel would prevail. Yet would that bring peace? Would Israel then be secure? Or rather, would Israel be staring down this same precipice in another 50 years? If you are sincere in your commitment to the security and the survival of the Jewish State Mrs Clinton, which path do you advise?

I can do the math as easily as you can Mrs Clinton: 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank, 1 million in Gaza, 3 million in Israel proper and another 4 million in the Diaspora; several hundred thousand of those simmering in refugee camps in Lebanon. Whether you want to paint them all as a seething, fundamentalist, Jew-hating mass of terrorists, or acknowledge them as a people seeking self determination, they are 8 million people who will not disappear. Expecting them to sit quietly and carry themselves into political and physical oblivion in retribution for the crimes European history perpetrated against the Jewish people is not realistic. Whether you champion them or despise them, they will continue to rebel. There are two alternatives, a negotiated solution that satisfies the basic rights and aspirations of the Palestinians, or continued conflict.

I must confess Mrs Clinton; the survival of the state of Israel is not my main motivation for writing you. I have seen too much this week, and over the last few years that has made me bitterly angry against Israel's policies and our knee-jerk support of their positions. Which is not to say I rejoice when Israelis die or seek the destruction of their state. I can assure you, I grieve for them as well. Forgive my audacity, but I imagine I have sat Shiva with a grieving mother of an Israeli solider more times than you. No, I can honestly say that I believe in the right of any human being to live in peace and security. I simply take issue when the demands of one group for security necessitate the destruction of another.

What amazes me the most is that you have been here Mrs Clinton! A woman of your capacity and intellect must be aware that there is more going on here than radical Islam. Remember all those barefooted children who lined the streets of Gaza and greeted you with flowers and American flags? Remember the women's projects you visited? Do you remember the children's choir that greeted you with joy in Bethlehem? Do you remember the signs they were holding? Let me remind you - they said, "we have a dream." And that dream was, and still is, freedom. Were these people all irrational fundamentalist, drunk on religious fanaticism's or did not some of them look a lot like you and me? Could you not see then and can you not understand now that this uprising is not some unfathomable holy war, but the desperate acts of people who are simply yearning to be free? Are you blind Mrs Clinton, or is it the inability of the Arab-American lobby to get you votes which determines what you see.

I feel this way Mrs Clinton, because I am an American. I believe in the values I was taught my country is based on. I am someone who grew up saying the Pledge of Allegiance every morning in school. I learned about our brave struggle for independence from occupation and unjust tyranny, our bold constitution that guarantees me my basic rights. I am extremely proud of those values I learned, and I strive to maintain them and defend them. I was taught to decry injustice and to defend these principles as whatever cost.

Therefore, I ask you Mrs Clinton, did I take "liberty and justice for all" too seriously? Are these "truths" not "self evident?" Is all of mankind not created equal? Is the right of the Palestinian people to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" contingent on the current polls in a hotly contested Senate race? I certainly hope not.

Allison Hodgkins
US educator living in Jerusalem

Letter to the Editor thanking Ms Hodgkins

Thank you Ms Hodgkins!

IN RESPONSE to Ms Allison Hodgkins letter to US First Lady Hillary Rodham-Clinton published in the Jordan Times Oct.11, we would like on behalf of many Palestinians and Arabs to express our appreciation and thanks to Ms Hodgkins for her bravery and honesty in publishing her letter in the Jordan Times. This letter reflects the true facts and feelings of many freethinkers in the world who wish to have peace for both Palestinians and Israelis. The Palestinians have the right to live in peace and security just as the Israelis do, and unless they attain their basic rights in having a Palestinian state according to UN Resolutions 242 and 194, the Israelis will never have security and peace.

As to Mrs Clinton, who two years ago declared that peace in the Middle East could not be achieved unless a Palestinian state is established, she seems to have changed all her convictions and principles just to gain Jewish votes in her election campaign in New York. She cannot be sincere neither to the Palestinians nor to the Israelis. A principle should remain unchanged.

The time has come for the United States government to realise that the Palestinian people deserve the same rights to freedom and self-determination that it proclaims as the most basic of rights of other people around the world.

I think the tide is turning in America and everyday Americans are beginning to see through the one-sided media coverage that has often portrayed Israel as a besieged nation and every Palestinian as a “terrorist.” Intelligent Americans are wondering why one of the most technologically advanced armies in the world has killed more than 20 stone-throwing teenage boys.

When the Chinese turned guns and tanks toward protesters in Tiananmen Square there were calls in the US to break off relations with that country. Palestinians have a right to protest the conditions in which they live. Happy and contented people do not risk their lives throwing stones at heavily armed soldiers. Frustration and despair have reached an unbearable level when people resort to this.

The danger now, and the challenge to the Palestinian people, is to prevent their anger from escalating into a full-scale war with Israel.

They are on the verge, I believe, of achieving a good deal of what they have a right to expect. This is the time to rein in their anger and make their case to the world community. Perhaps I am naive but I think the world is ready to listen to them.

Mike McCarthy
Boise, Idaho

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