3rd Thursday Action Alert: Tell Congress to call for support for the people of Gaza

3rd_Thursday_logo.jpgRecent days have seen rockets fired from Gaza into Israel and Israeli military strikes on Gaza, resulting in injuries to Palestinians and Israelis and the deaths of Palestinians including a pregnant woman, her 18-month-old child, and a 30-year-old man.

UN Middle East envoy, Nikolay Mladenov, said in an August 9 statement, “I am deeply alarmed by the recent escalation of violence between Gaza and Israel, and particularly by today’s multiple rockets fired towards communities in southern Israel. For months I have been warning that the humanitarian, security and political crisis in Gaza risks a devastating conflict that nobody wants… If the current escalation however is not contained immediately, the situation can rapidly deteriorate with devastating consequences for all people.”

This violence comes on top of months of protests in Gaza which started out as largely nonviolent and were met with lethal force by the Israeli military.  The protests themselves grew out of the suffocating siege imposed on Gaza for the past decade, the 50-year Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, and 70 years of dispossession and displacement for Palestinian refugees.

The escalation in violence is as predictable as it is tragic – for the sake of all people in the region, an immediate and lasting ceasefire is essential.  Violence against civilians is unacceptable by any person or party.

Beyond this, the dire situation in Gaza must be addressed. In July Israel added restrictions to the blockade including, according to a UN report, “restricting imports to mainly food and medicine; a complete halt to the exit of all goods; and a reduction of the fishing area from six to three nautical miles from Gaza’s coast.” The additional restrictions were said to be in response to flaming kites and balloons sent from Gaza into Israel where they ignited numerous fires.

The two million people living in Gaza are already suffering from severe shortages including electricity, water and adequate sanitation, and these new restrictions worsen their circumstances by increasing the collective punishment of the Gaza blockade.  A statement by several humanitarian organizations titled, “Israel tightens Gaza blockade, civilians bear the brunt,” explains, “While Israel has legitimate security concerns – including indiscriminate rocket fire from within the Gaza Strip by armed groups, which constitutes a violation of IHL [International Humanitarian Law]– its response should not contravene international law. Measures implemented as a response to incendiary kites and balloons - the actions of selected groups and individuals inside the Gaza Strip - have a severe, detrimental impact on civilians who have done nothing to deserve it.”

The additional restrictions must be reversed to avoid further harm to civilians.  Reversing the new restrictions should be a step toward fully lifting the Gaza blockade.

Contributing to the dire situation in Gaza is the severe funding shortage for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) due to the US freezing most of its funding for the agency.  Donations from other sources have helped, but UNRWA still faces a $217-million-dollar shortfall for this year.  Roughly five million Palestinian refugees in the occupied Palestinian territory, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon are at risk including over 500,000 children in UNRWA schools.

The US should immediately restore UNRWA funding to provide jobs and essential services to Palestinian refugees.

When Palestinians in Gaza began the Great March of Return on March 30, they were calling attention to the right to return to the lands from which their families were displaced in 1948 and to the ongoing siege of Gaza.  Responding to the protests and the use of force against them, 15 US churches and Christian agencies upheld the rights of Palestinians and called for accountability for Israel’s use of force in an April 12 statement on “Right of Refugees, Right to Demonstrate Peacefully, Right to Dignity.”

The call for accountability for Israel’s use of force against protesters who did not pose a threat should not be lost and must be reiterated.  Nonviolent expressions of protest should be affirmed, even as violence by all parties is condemned.

As people of faith who work and pray for a day when Palestinians and Israelis will live in peace and security, call on your elected officials to:

  • Call for an immediate and lasting ceasefire between Israel and Gaza,
  • Ask the US State Department to call on the Israeli government to reverse recent restrictions on Gaza and to work with the relevant parties to fully lift the Gaza blockade,
  • Call on the Trump administration to fully fund UNRWA,
  • Call for an end to the use of violence by Israeli forces against nonviolent protesters and for an investigation by the State Department to ensure that US military aid to Israel is not used in ways that contravene established US and international laws.

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Please feel free to use this sample letter when contacting your representatives.  Note recent letters from representatives and senators calling for releasing US aid for Palestinians in Gaza. If your member of Congress signed one of these letters, consider adding a note of thanks.

Dear Senator/Representative,

I am writing to you out of deep concern for the dire situation in Gaza.  I believe the US can and should play a constructive role in alleviating the suffering of the people in Gaza and promoting peace and security for both Palestinians and Israelis.

Recent days have seen rockets fired from Gaza into Israel and Israeli military strikes on Gaza. This violence comes on top of months of protests in Gaza which started out as largely nonviolent and were met with lethal force by the Israeli military.  The protests themselves grew out of the suffocating siege imposed on Gaza for the past decade, the 50-year Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, and 70 years of dispossession and displacement for Palestinian refugees.

The escalation in violence is as predictable as it is tragic – for the sake of all people in the region, an immediate and lasting ceasefire is essential. Violence against civilians is unacceptable by any person or party.

Beyond this, the dire situation in Gaza must be addressed.

As a person of faith who works and prays for a day when Palestinians and Israelis will live in peace and security, I urge you to:

  • Call for an immediate and lasting ceasefire between Israel and Gaza,
  • Ask the US State Department to call on the Israeli government to reverse recent restrictions on Gaza and to work with the relevant parties to fully lift the Gaza blockade,
  • Call on the Trump administration to fully fund UNRWA,
  • Call for an end to the use of violence by Israeli forces against nonviolent protesters and for an investigation by the State Department to ensure that US military aid to Israel is not used in ways that contravene established US and international laws.

Thank you for your consideration, and I offer you my prayers for your service.

Sincerely,


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