3rd Thursday Middle East Action Alert: Call on Congress to support Gaza aid and an end to the blockade

Monthly advocacy alert to promote peace in the Middle East

Seven weeks of war between Israel and Hamas has left Gaza in ruins.  “The scale of damage…is unprecedented since the beginning of the Israeli occupation in 1967,” according to a UN report, which continues, “All governorates in Gaza witnessed extensive aerial bombardment, naval shelling and artillery fire, resulting in the widespread loss of life and livelihoods. Damage to public infrastructure was also unprecedented, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without adequate services, including electricity, clean water and quality healthcare.” 

Financial support for reconstruction is urgently needed.  Adequate oversight will be important to ensure that materials are used for their intended purposes, but restrictions should not be so onerous that they tie the hands of those seeking to rebuild.  In addition, to end the cycle of violence, underlying causes must be addressed, including the lifting of the Gaza blockade.

In January of 2009 the UN Security Council called for “…arrangements and guarantees in Gaza in order to sustain a durable ceasefire and calm, including to prevent illicit trafficking in arms and ammunition and to ensure the sustained reΓÇæopening of the crossing points…” (UNSC Res. 1860).

For Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace and security, it is essential that this and other calls to address root causes be heeded.  Hamas and other groups must stop firing rockets, and at the same time, the people of Gaza must be allowed to live normal, free lives.  The best way to shut down illicit tunnel traffic is to open the monitored Gaza borders for aid, commerce, and movement of people.

As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated in July, “Going back to the status quo ante won’t solve the problem, it will only defer it for another day.  It will not stop the bloodshed, it will make it even worse the next time the cycle rolls over the people of Gaza and plagues the people of Israel.  Gaza is an open wound and Band Aids won’t help.  There must be a plan after the aftermath that allows Gaza to breathe and heal.”

In the same vein, Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, while acknowledging the importance of Israel’s security concerns, also reportedly said, “We need to permit the opening of the Strip to goods.  In the end, there are 1.8 million people there, with Israel and Egypt surrounding them.  These people need to live.”

Recently Congressman Danny Davis of Illinois, wrote, “Now would be a good time, the right time, to end the blockade.”  Rep. Keith Ellison (MN) and Rep. Barbara Lee (CA) had earlier called for a lifting of the blockade in a 2010 letter to the president, and both have since reaffirmed that call – Lee in a written statement in August to a California radio station and Ellison in a July piece in the Washington Post.

As these members of Congress and many others recognize, the security and welfare of Israelis and Palestinians depends on addressing root causes.

Tell Congress:  For the peace and security of all people in the region, Israelis and Palestinians alike, Gaza must be rebuilt and the blockade must be lifted.

Ask your members of Congress to support funding for Gaza needs.  Insist that while security controls are necessary, they should not obstruct the urgent delivery of aid, and should allow for commerce and movement of people.  And ask them to make public a statement calling for an end to the Gaza blockade now.

Send them an e-mail or making a phone call to your Senator and Representative.

Please feel free to use this sample letter. (Be sure to thank your congressperson if he/she has called for lifting the Gaza blockade.)

Dear Senator/Representative,

I am writing to urge you to support funding for the rebuilding of Gaza which is in ruins following seven weeks of war between Israel and Hamas.   According to a UN report, ““The scale of damage…is unprecedented since the beginning of the Israeli occupation in 1967. All governorates in Gaza witnessed extensive aerial bombardment, naval shelling and artillery fire, resulting in the widespread loss of life and livelihoods. Damage to public infrastructure was also unprecedented, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without adequate services, including electricity, clean water and quality healthcare.”

While security controls will be necessary to ensure that materials are used for their intended purposes, they should not obstruct the urgent delivery of aid, and should allow for commerce and movement of people.

In addition, to end the cycle of violence, underlying causes must be addressed, including the lifting of the Gaza blockade.  Hamas and other groups must stop firing rockets, and at the same time, the people of Gaza must be allowed to live normal, free lives.  The best way to shut down illicit tunnel traffic is to open the monitored Gaza borders for aid, commerce, and movement of people.

To this end, I urge you to make a public statement calling for an end to the Gaza blockade now.

For the peace and security of all people in the region, Israelis and Palestinians alike, Gaza must be rebuilt and the blockade must be lifted.

I am grateful for your consideration of my views, and I thank you for your service.

Respectfully,