An Open Letter on the Middle East to President Elect Barack Obama

Elza Maalouf, Barack Obama

An Open Letter on the Middle East

to President Elect

Barack Obama

From Elza S. Maalouf
Center for Human Emergence-Middle East
25 November 2008

Dear President Elect Obama,

Your election was celebrated by young Arabs all over the Middle East. In Syria they call you “Abu Hussein” an endearing term given to politicians they feel close to. Young people affiliated with our center in Kuwait, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Palestine wished they had the right to vote for you. Lebanese youth proudly wore Obama T-shirts. “Yes we can” quickly became a slogan heard on Arab streets and our young people added “Yes we will.” This enthusiasm for an American political figure is unprecedented in the Arab world. For this and for the sake of global well-being we hope that your administration seizes the moment to help facilitate emergence in the Arab world; an emergence that will be lead by young- progressive Arab leaders and supported by a US administration that is ready to pioneer fresh approaches in foreign policy.

It is no secret that the key to restoring our credibility in the Arab world, is by –first and foremost- resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For several years the Center for Human Emergence Middle East (CHE-ME) has dedicated its resources to uncovering the blockages that have prevented sustainable peace from taking root. We believe that in order for any Middle East peace road map to succeed a Palestinian Systemic Development Map has to be implemented first. Together with our Palestinian partners we have been working on a grass roots movement called “Build Palestine Initiative” in which we identified specific developmental steps that are congruent with the Palestinian value-systems and will be most effective in building capacities in Palestinian society. This movement has gained critical mass among progressive Palestinians who advocate self-reliance and we simply must continue supporting them.

Your choice of Chief of Staff and Secretary of State was met with a lot of apprehension in the Arab media. Polls show that over 60% of Arabs think that both Rahm Emanuel and Senator Clinton will be pro-Israel. The way we see it at the CHE-ME is that under the mandate for change that you are leading, pro-Israel should mean the following:

  1. A US administration that’s actively participating in creating a peaceful neighboring Palestinian state.
  2. A US administration that supports Israel in becoming a full development partner to the Palestinians in business, education, healthcare and progressive social programs.
  3. A US administration that supports the Palestinians in creating a vision of 21st Century Palestine where both states can thrive and let thrive.

The Center for Human Emergence-Middle East will be presenting to your administration a position paper detailing our culturally-fit approach to solving the conflict, the breakthrough results we have achieved so far on a grass roots level, and recommended systemic strategies for ushering in sustainable peace.

Real change in the Middle East and in Palestine must come from new ways of thinking, fresh approaches to understanding cultural dynamics, and innovative ways to actually meet the developmental needs of people. We are certain you recognized many of these principles in your work in community development in south Chicago. Simply "doing more of the same" that has produced this situation, will not bring the outcome we all desire.

As a proud Arab-American I am encouraged to see the most powerful democracy in the world having the potential to become the most conscious democracy under your leadership. My hope is that the enthusiasm you brought to Arab youths is sustained by a bold action-plan that can support transformation and emergence in the Middle East.


Elza S. Maalouf
Chief Executive Officer
Center for Human Emergence- Middle East

Elza MaaloufElza S. Maalouf is the CEO of the Center for Human Emergence-Middle East, a non-profit research and strategic design center that integrates different modes of thought and value-system priorities with geo-economic elements within the Arab world. She is leading innovation within the Islamic Arab world to identify complex thinking that will facilitate the emergence of Arabs into their 21st century Renaissance.

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hello presidente Obama ,im so happy because you won to pres.,lot hugs for you and your family
I admire the Center for Human Emergence-Middle East and all they stand for. They are indeed a prominent force that seeks peace, happiness and trust for both sides in equal amounts to be shared together at the same table. I fully support their purpose and goals.

However, neither the current administration, nor the incoming one, can do much to alter our path or to change the direction. For many years now American administrations have been guided by powerful forces that follow a separate path and a different speed. These forces have been gaining strength and momentum over the decades and have never been as powerful as they are today.

In order for the US to really change its role in Middle East affairs, and especially in all areas regarding the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, it is important to fundamentally address the real forces that are propelling the US administration in its current direction. Simple wishes and humanitarian pleas, while heart-warming for the soul and moralistic for the mind, are nothing more than tried and true failures which have never succeeded in the past, and which have little chance of succeeding now or in the future. I will be quite honest and state that I am sick and tired of being sick and tired of these same methods being employed every four years or so with the assured outcomes known by all even before the first word is typed. This letter, like so many others from the past, does little more than brighten someone's day for the amount of time it takes to read it until the time the daily news is turned on reporting on more abuses, more atrocities, and more suffering.

I am not trying to be a fatalist, nor a pessimist. Rather, I am being completely pragmatic and real. After 60 years of failed pleas and requests, I think we can all safely assume that this method, however noble and just, will never succeed. I don't think armed conflict is the answer either. More bloodshed on top of more bloodshed merely leaves more families with more pain and more suffering. Violence is not, and never has been, the solution. I think it was Gandhi who said, "An eye for an eye and soon the whole world is blind."

I feel very strongly that only by addressing this unstoppable force will any success ever be achieved. The only way to end our journey down this very path of ruin and destruction will be to go to the source of it, the very motor that motivates and propels it, and to change ITS direction. Changing the leader only changes the picture on the six o'clock news, changing the source will change the direction and impetus.

I am an eternal optimist and I pray daiily that our new president will succeed where all others failed. I cross my fingers and hope that the light of justice, truth and spiritual love will fill his heart and drive his pen. But I am also a realist and a pragmatist. I read about the poor, the suffering, and those who die daily because we haven't yet been able to change our direction. My soul cries out for peace, my heart pleads for love and understanding, but my brain speaks out about inaction, injustice, and false hope. Everyday that we content ourselves with these false and hopeless gestures of peace, another child is taken from us, another mother bleeds her last, and another brother or sister is crippled or killed. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired of nice eloquent words which mean very little and do little more than bring a false smile for a few seconds of false hope.

I pray your words may be the ones we've been waiting for to turn pixels into ploughshares and letters and meanings into love and understanding. I pray for peace and I pray that the suffering will stop, the killing will end and the love we all share will guide us going forward. But right now, it's only in a prayer.
What are these forces that the future President will have to face?
are you talking industry, finance markets, arms trade, health care, military stuff. I ask naively, I appreciate your pragmatism and your pain, I am familiar with both, I just didn't understand who you were referring to.
I would like to add that Barak Obama has already done enough, just by being elected, if we wait for change and sit comfortably at home and watch from the side, all this wonderful momentum will dissolve, it must be a cyclic thing, he leads we support and we also act.
and it's a great letter, will he read it?
Eu espero que ele consiga realmente, governar. Que Deus o proteja! Que suas metas sejam realmente alcançadas e o mundo que o aplaudiu, venha a aplaudir muito mais.
As a sayyid married to a Jew, I see both of my cultures so well. We are cousins with so much in common. It is heart breaking that this family is so dysfunctional.
I love the tone and style of this letter! How gracious and informative!
wow ty for sharing this
we hope that president obama...... was the right choies.4 the peace in Middel East
A very difficult situation that has not been resolved because of governments not the will of the people on both sides of the conflict. I am very aware of the terrible things that happen to the Palestinians and hope and pray that there is a fair and just resolution in the middle east. I wish you well in your endeavors and will pray for success Take care Elizabeth Kojder

Thank you.
It is not just governments it is also other forces within our society who tend to be aggressive.
and we (Palestinians and Israelis) need the help of the world to be brave and take the right actionbs of change and development.
Fantastic ! Just fantastic, no other comment !
What a very thoughtful letter. I hope President Obama will give it consideration. Your points are very valid & I hope that over the next 4 years, we will all have cause to be proud of our administration, & of the newly strengthened bonds which we will forge with the Palestinians and across the Middle East.


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