3rd Thursday Alert: Urge Congress to end the Gaza blockade, and to change broad U.S. sanctions and economic coercion

3rd Thursday Alert: Urge Congress to end the Gaza blockade, and to change broad U.S. sanctions and economic coercion

One year ago, Israel carried out its last major assault on Gaza, killing at least 253 Palestinians, including 66 children, and temporarily displacing over 113,000 people from their homes.  Despite the passage of time, Palestinians in Gaza are still struggling to recover from this attack.  Almost three-quarters of Gaza’s two million Palestinians are refugees, displaced from their homes as a result of the Nakba (Arabic for “catastrophe”) of 1948, which is commemorated the week of May 15.

The ability of Palestinians in Gaza to rebuild is inhibited by the blockade imposed on Gaza by Israel.  That blockade restricts Palestinian movement, limits the import of goods, and restricts most exports.  Building supplies, materials needed to run businesses, and other basic goods are not available in Gaza.  Factories that can produce goods cannot send their goods to market.  As a result, the unemployment rate in Gaza is nearly 50 percent and over 80 percent of the population depends on international assistance to survive.

Basic services are also impacted.  The Gaza medical system is regularly out of between 30 and 50 percent of basic medical stocks, most water in Gaza is undrinkable, and the sewage and electrical systems which have been damaged during attacks cannot be repaired.

Israel has said that the blockade is in place to punish and weaken Hamas, the Palestinian political party and resistance movement that governs Gaza, but more than 15 years after the blockade was first imposed Hamas has not been weakened.  The impact of the blockade is felt by the civilian population of Gaza whose rights have been systematically violated, not Hamas and other political players.

It is beyond time for the Israeli blockade of Gaza to end.  The U.S. should also reconsider sanctions and other means of economic coercion that it imposes there and in other places in the Middle East and beyond. 

Contact your representative today to tell them to support an end to the Gaza blockade and a change in broad U.S. imposition of sanctions and other acts of economic coercion.

While the situation in Gaza is somewhat unique, civilian populations in many other locations also suffer as a result of sanctions regimes imposed and enforced by the U.S. and other international actors. In Afghanistan tens of millions of people face food insecurity due to the U.S. initially withholding billions of dollars of the nation’s central bank reserves and imposing sanctions and other financial restrictions on the country.  In Cuba, U.S. sanctions have impoverished the population, leading Cubans to suffer from scarcity of food, essential medicines, and other needed medical equipment.  In Iran, Yemen, Syria, North Korea, and Venezuela sanctions have devastated communities and lives. 

This is why 24 organizations sent a letter to the Biden administration expressing their concerns about the human costs of broad-based sanctions and economic coercion on civilians around the world.  They noted that U.S. sanctions have caused significant harm to innocent people in targeted countries and that they violate basic humanitarian norms.  They asked the Biden administration to take action to limit the impact of Sanctions. 

Christian groups including Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Maryknoll Office of Global Concern, the United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society, the American Friends Service Committee, and more all joined this letter. 

Contact your member of congress and ask them to demand changes in U.S. Sanctions Policy

For decades the U.S. has imposed or supported sanctions regimes that have had a devastating impact on civilian populations but have had little to no impact on the policies of targeted governments.  It is past time for a reassessment of U.S. sanctions policies so that we move away from policies that isolate and punish and towards diplomacy and political engagement.

The people of Gaza, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, North Korea, Yemen, Venezuela and other targeted countries deserve change.