For a year now, Palestinians in Gaza have been creatively and bravely protesting for their freedom by marching towards the fence with Israel to demand an end to the blockade of Gaza and respect for their rights.. In response, Israel has met unarmed civilians with live sniper-fire, killing over 200 and injuring tens of thousands, including paramedics, journalists, children, and people with disabilities. In total, 45 children have been killed.
When it convened in Geneva in March, the UN Human Rights Council condemned Israel’s “apparent intentional use of unlawful lethal and other excessive force” against protesters in Gaza. A commission of inquiry formed by the human rights council found that Israel’s use of lethal force against protesters warrants criminal investigation and prosecution and may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. The US must take these findings seriously and should take action to both hold Israel accountable for its actions and respond to the concerns of protesters, including by working to end the blockade.
These protests come in the context of a severe humanitarian crisis in Gaza which has been made worse by cuts in US funding to Palestine. The lack of employment opportunities, power, clean water, and adequate medical care create a situation of despair and suffering in Gaza that contribute to long term instability and violence. Over 80% of the population of Gaza rely on international assistance to survive. Over 40% of the population is unemployed. Breakdown in the water and sanitation systems in Gaza increases the risk of a serious health crisis including the proliferation of cholera and other similar diseases which will not stop at the Gaza border.
In 2012 the UN warned that Gaza would be unlivable by 2020 without change. We are now only months away from that date and the situation in Gaza continues to deteriorate. To avoid a more severe crisis, change in policy is needed immediately but rather than working to ameliorate this situation US aid cuts and political support for the blockade have only made the situation worse.
Humanitarian assistance must never be politicized, and the US should immediately resume providing needs-based aid to Palestine.
After 12 years it is time to end the blockade. Israel has said that through the blockade it seeks to force political change in Gaza. However, after a decade with no political change and immense suffering, it should be clear that the blockade is failed policy.
The blockade is the source of the crisis in Gaza and ending the blockade is necessary for ending the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. But ending the blockade is not enough. There must also be accountability for both the blockade and violence against Palestinian civilians. Join us in calling on congress to change policy by resuming aid to Palestine and demanding an end to the blockade and accountability for violence against civilians by Israel.
Please contact your representatives in Washington, urging them to restore US funding for UNRWA and humanitarian assistance, to work to end the blockade of Gaza, and to insist upon accountability of Israel for violence used against Palestinian civilians there. The following sample letter may be used:
Dear Senator (or Congress person),
The situation for the people in Gaza continues to grow worse. In 2012 the UN warned that Gaza would be unlivable by 2020 without change. Unfortunately, the main change in the interim has mostly been for the worse - e.g. the 2014 bombings of Gaza left about 2200 dead (most civilians) and over 10,000 Gazans injured. The UN estimated that more than 7,000 homes for 10,000 families were razed, together with an additional 89,000 homes damaged, of which roughly 10,000 were severely affected by the bombing. Rebuilding costs were calculated to run from 4-6 billions dollars, over 20 years. Rebuilding of homes and infrastructure for water, electricity and other basic human needs have been slower than predicted.
As a person of faith, during this holy season where we remember this area of the world that Christians, Jews and Muslims consider to be holy places and roots of their origins, we ask that you work help all the people of the Holy Land live in peace with justice and human rights. Specifically, for the people of Gaza, we ask that Congress:
- Immediately restore UNRWA and other bi-lateral aid to the Palestinians and demand that the administration unfreeze the funds that Congress previously allocated but which the current administration is withholding;
- Demand that Israel allow for greater and faster re-building in Gaza so that people have a safe place to live and that basic services such as clean water and electricity are once again available more than just sporadically;
- Demand that Israel allow Gazans to travel freely in and out of Gaza and to sell and buy goods freely with their neighbors (including Israel) as they once were able to do just a few decades ago. The economic blockade that has existed by land, air and sea for over a decade is slowly killing the people of Gaza.
By helping the people of Gaza survive, we are also making it more possible for Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace. I hope you will be able to act on all of these humanitarian matters as soon as possible.