“People of the world -- look at Berlin, where a wall came down . . . and history proved that there is no challenge too great for a world that stands as one” -Barak Obama-
On July 24, Barak Obama stood where a 96-mile-long wall of barbed wire and concrete once separated the ideologies and lives of East and West Berlin. He told a crowd of 200,000 that “history reminds us that walls can be torn down” and that the “greatest danger of all is to allow new walls to divide us one from another.”
He reminded the crowd that sixty years ago this summer, the Soviet Union “cut off food and supplies to more than two million Germans in an effort to extinguish the last flame of freedom in Berlin. That [was] when . . . the largest and most unlikely rescue in history brought food and hope to the people of this city.”
American pilots nicknamed the rescue “Operation Vittles.” History knows it as the Berlin Airlift.
For the fifteen months of Operation Vittles, American C-47 and British Avro York cargo planes flew over the wall separating East and West Berlin 278,228 times, flying 92 million miles and delivering over 2,325,000 tons of food and vital supplies.
The Allies literally “flew to the sun” to save two million people.
The day before his Berlin speech, Obama stood at the 187-foot-long Western Wall that flanks the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem. This wall is the closest anyone can get to the “Even ha-shetiya” (Foundation Stone), the holiest spot in Judaism and the Biblical justification for the Israeli colonization of Palestine.
His presence at the wall so soon after his genuflection at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in Washington D.C. in June assured the Israelis that their “security” would remain the number one priority of U.S. Middle East Policy.
As a C-47 flies, Obama was standing less than two miles from the 400-mile-long wall of concrete and fear and hate that divides a land and imprisons hope and makes a mockery of the democratic pretensions of Israel. On the Israeli side it is a landscaped separation barrier. On the Palestinian side it is a bleak apartheid wall. Neither barrier nor wall was mentioned by Obama . . .either day.
The walls surrounding the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have turned these areas into open-air prisons. At the whim of the Israeli government or commanding officer or private soldier, entry/exit points are closed for hours, days, weeks or months.
Palestinians seeking life-saving medical attention are denied passage to hospitals on the landscaped side. Children are born just to die in the scorched dust while their mothers wait for permission to pass—mothers die as well. Workers are denied access to jobs, farmers to fields and students to school. A season’s worth of harvest rots in trucks broiling in the hot sun. Food, medical supplies, replacement parts for a deteriorating infrastructure and the stuff of daily commerce are permitted through in a trickle much too small to sustain the nearly four million people held beyond the reach of humanity’s conscience.
Fully eighty percent of people in Gaza live on less than two dollars a day and depend on food aid for their day-to-day survival. Many parents can provide only one meal a day for themselves and their children.
Dov Weisglas, a senior Israeli government advisor, was candid, if not boastful, regarding Israel’s unconscionable policy of cutting off food and supplies to the walled areas, “The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.” Anyone with an unblinkered view of the Weisglas vision will understand his words to mean, “The idea is to make their lives so intolerable that they lose hope and “choose” to go somewhere . . . anywhere . . . else.”
If ever there was a need for an airlift to breech a wall and succor a desperate people it is now. It is Palestine. Should Barak Obama become the next president of the world’s only superpower he will have an opportunity and the wherewithal to put his well-articulated Berlin vision into action. He will have an opportunity to walk his talk.