Newspapers around the world are abuzz with headlines announcing Barack Obama’s first visit to Israel as President of the United States. “Obamamania” has taken over Jerusalem; whose city council has already strung up approximately 1000 Israeli and US flags throughout the city.
The Office of Netanyahu held a vote on Facebook to decide on a slogan and logo for the visit. The winning design features a US and Israeli flag fused together with the words “Unbreakable Alliance” placed underneath: continuing the exceptional relationship the US has had with Israel for many years.
Many headlines, however, are leaving out the fact that stuffed into Obama’s busy itinerary in Israel are two visits to the Palestinian territories: one to Ramallah to meet with President Mahmoud Abbas, and one to Bethlehem to visit the Church of Nativity.
These past few months have been filled with stories of tension between the Israelis and Palestinians. What is most disturbing is that much of this tension is coming from younger generations. Obama’s visit has the potential to have a huge impact within this realm, especially since he is the first Black president, an achievement that would have been impossible without the works of his idol, Martin Luther King Jr.
©IDOC & John Applegate
Obama was sworn in as President for his second term on the day Dr. King would have turned 84 years old. Both are recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize, and both of their acceptance speeches viewed the pursuit of non-violence as the most rational option for conflict resolution in the world.
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In 1964, Dr. King stated:
“This award which I receive… is profound recognition that non-violence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time – the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression… Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts.”
In 2009, President Obama echoed these ideas, praised Dr. King, and highlighted that violence should always be viewed as a last resort:
“As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King’s life’s work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there is nothing weak – nothing passive, nothing naïve – in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.”
Palestinians today continue to face racist policies of segregation that eerily remind us of apartheid. Injustice is widespread, and Palestinians and Arabs are oftentimes treated as second-class citizens who have no right to be there. Illegal settlement building has not been stopped. UN resolutions are still ignored. Unnecessary civilian casualties continue.
So here’s hoping that President Obama holds the words and works of Martin Luther King close to his heart during this visit, and reminds both the Palestinians and Israelis of the importance of nonviolence. A peaceful solution to this conflict cannot be achieved if these principles of nonviolence are forgotten.
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