3rd Thursday Middle East Action Alert: Let light shine from Bethlehem to Gaza! End the Occupation!

Monthly 3rd Thursday advocacy alert

"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness–on them light has shined."  (Isaiah 9:2) 

Lights blazed from the Christmas tree in Manger Square next to the Church of the Nativity as Bethlehem mayor, Vera Baboon, lit up the 15-meter tree in the annual ceremony on December 6.  The mayor offered a simple message on the occasion, saying that what is needed this Christmas is justice.

As has been the case for years now, the town of Bethlehem remains cut off from Jerusalem by the separation wall, and more and more land around the town is threatened with confiscation by the Israeli government.  Israeli settlements expand in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, while Palestinian homes and other buildings are demolished.

On December 10, Palestinian cabinet minister Ziad Abu Ein died after a confrontation with Israeli soldiers during a West Bank demonstration.   While the exact cause of Abu Ein’s death is unclear, the US State Department called for the Israeli investigation to be “swift, fair and transparent.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for a three-day period of mourning, and in support, the lights on the Bethlehem Christmas tree were turned off.

Meanwhile in Gaza, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) declared an emergency on November 27 in the Gaza City area because of flooding.  

21 organizations sent a Dec. 15 letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, expressing “serious concerns related to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza,” and noting that “the situation in Gaza was already dire and is now worsening considerably with the onset of winter.” 

The letter highlights, among other problems, the lack of adequate shelter for an estimated 100,000 people, electricity blackouts, and the state of disrepair of key infrastructure including water treatments plants.

The signers state, “This humanitarian crisis is unconscionable and is the clear result of policy inaction and failure,” and request the U.S. government to:

  • Increase the U.S. financial commitment for Gaza reconstruction,
  • Urge Israel to fully lift the Gaza blockade,
  • Urge Egypt to allow full freedom of movement through the Rafah crossing,
  • Work with the Palestinian government, the Israeli government, and the UN to resolve several issues related to the recently established Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM). 

To break the dark cycle of violence that causes so much suffering for both Palestinians and Israelis, the underlying causes must be addressed. This Christmas, let light shine by calling for justice.  Contact your elected officials to underscore the call for help in Gaza in the Dec. 15 letter, and to support US policy that works to end the Israeli occupation.

Click here to call on Congress to support an end to Israel's occupation.