Friday, January 16, 2009

Solidadrity with Gaza

We've been very disturbed here lately to hear of the situation in Gaza, the killing of over 1,100 people and injuring over 5,000, the vast majority of whom are civilians. Yesterday while UN personnel were on the phone with the Israeli military, pleading to be kept safe, Israeli bombs dropped on their center, where hundred of Gazans refugees were living and where food and medical aid were being stored. There are reports that Israel is using experimental new weapons created by the US military called DIME bombs that are ripping through the limbs of people. Those lucky enough to survive with amputations are at risk for cancer in the long term because of the kind of particles left in their bodies by the bombs. White phosphorus is being dropped on people, which is illegal according to international law. White phosphorus burns through the skin of people and cannot be put out with water or fire extinguishers. Many of the Israeli targets are school, mosques, hospitals and other civilian targets. Israel is not allowing food aid and medicine into Gaza. They are not allowing journalists and aid workers either.

I encourage you all to stay current on the situation on Democracy Now or other non-mainstream news sources. The picture to the right is a photograph of Ali and Ahmed, whose father was killed, with their mother from Free Gaza. Below left is the bombing of the UN in Gaza, and the funeral of a 2-year old child.

This slaughter is reminiscent for many of massacres of civilians by US-backed troops that have happened in Nicaragua and throughout Latin America, especially in the 80s to root out "communism."The real underlying motivations at that time were protecting US economic interests, such as securing open markets in Central America. Despite lofty US rhetoric, the motivations behind military intervention were economic. Nicaraguans remember the Contra War of the 80s and US bombs dropping on their homes.

Today "communism" has been replaced by "terrorism" as an excuse to persecute and wipe out civilian populations in order to bring them "democracy" and "freedom." Since the fighting has begun, 13 Israelis have died. 4 of them were killed by "friendly fire" (meaning that their own Israeli troops accidentally killed them). Over 1,100 Gazans have been killed, 5,000 wounded.

One lesson we must learn from Nicaragua is that President Reagan wanted to launch a full U.S. invasion of Nicaragua in the 80s to overthrow the Sandinistas. What stopped him? He didn't have the support of the American people. Americans who came to work in solidarity with Nicaragua and those who came on short-term trips through Witness for Peace and other organizations went back to the US and lobbied for a change in U.S. foreign policy. They spoke out in their schools, churches, local communities, and in the media and increased the awareness about the reality of Nicaragua--the reality that was not printed newspapers.

According to an interview on Democracy Now with Avi Shlaim, who once served in the Israeli military and who is one of the world's leading experts on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, half of Gaza's 1.5 million inhabitants are refugees. Gaza is the most crowded piece of land on earth and some term it the "world's largest prison." In 2006 there were 8,000 Jewish settlers living in Gaza, yet they controlled 25% of arable land and the largest share of the scarce water resources. According to the UN, Gaza has the world's highest unemployment rate at 45%. Right now the basic needs of most Gazans are not being meet--most have no food, water, electricity, medical supplies, and nowhere safe to seek shelter.

For the Americans reading this, we must remember that our tax dollars are financing this genocide. Israel is the #1 recipient of US foreign aid-- over $2 billion each year. As Americans we must demand an end to this unjust military aid. Jews of conscience must speak out to demand a change in Israel's policies. Victims of one of history's most horrific genocides should not be perpetuating such violence.

We must remind others that speaking out against US foreign policy doesn't make us "un-American," nor does criticizing the state of Israel make one "anti-semitic." For those of us who are American, Israeli, or Jews of conscience it is our obligation to demand higher ethical standards from our leaders and peaceful solutions to this crisis.

I wanted to share with you a message sent my Muhammed Abed Rabbo, a Palestinian friend and also member of the Oxfam Youth Partnership Program:

"We, as Palestinians, don't need other countries to fight with us against the brutal Israeli attacks, the only thing we need is that they don't support the Israeli organized terrorism and bring our cause to the international level so that everybody knows the truth far from the completely biased western propaganda. Let the whole world see the heart breaking pictures of young children being burnt by the white phosphorous bombs, it's very difficult to watch the news, but if every person imagines that those children were his children, he/she will understand our pain."

You can sign a pet
ition to call for an end to the violence at:

Amnesty International Petition