So far, no high official of the current US administration has visited Gaza. Additionally, points out
Medea Benjamin, Obama has set conditions for any contact with Hamas which are completely one-
sided and counter productive.
It's time for Obama to abide by his own stipulation - that it's important to talk to everyone without
preconditions - and apply it to Gaza and Hamas. It's also important that he sees what US weapons
have been used for in the last winter assault on Gaza, as well as to witness the results of the inhumane
blockade on Gaza's population.
Code Pink has initiated a petition we can all sign, to pressure Obama to visit Gaza.
Additionally, I'm sending a post by the Israeli Coalition of Women for Just Peace, in collaboration
with Code Pink and the Coalition Against the Siege. It gives a glimpse into the varied acts of of
resistance taking place around the 42 anniversary of the '67 War, and is titled
Action Days Against Siege and Occupation.
Medea Benjamin: During His Trip to Egypt, Obama Should Visit Gaza
Friday, May 29, 2009
Obama will give a major policy talk at Cairo University on June 4, intended to start mending the rift between the United States and the Arab world. During the Bush years, many Arabs turned against the United States because of the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the abuses at Guantanamo and Abu Graib. But the issue that is really at the crux of the tensions with the United States is the intractable conflict between Israel and Palestine, and what many perceive as a one-sided U.S. policy in support of Israel.
The Obama administration has taken a positive stand on the Israeli settlements, calling for a complete freeze. "[Obama] wants to see a stop to settlements — not some settlements, not outposts, not 'natural growth' exceptions," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently told reporters.
But the administration has said almost nothing about the devastating Israeli invasion of Gaza that left over 1,300 dead, including some 400 children. To many in the Middle East, this is an unfortunate continuation of past policies that condemn the loss of innocent Israeli lives, but refuse to speak out against the disproportionately greater loss of Palestinian lives at the hands of the Israeli military.
The Israeli invasion of Gaza began on December 27, 2008, when Obama had just won the election but had not yet taken office. While he spoke out against the November 26 Mumbai terrorism attack, he refused to even call for a ceasefire in Gaza, saying coldly, "When it comes to foreign affairs it is particularly important to adhere to the principle of one president at a time."
Once inaugurated, Obama appointed George Mitchell as a special peace envoy and immediately sent him on a "listening tour" to key places in the Middle East—except Gaza. Mitchell returned for a second trip to the region in late February, visiting Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Israel and the West Bank but once again bypassing Gaza. The same thing happened on his third trip in April.
Hillary Clinton has never visited war-torn Gaza. She promised $300 million for rebuilding, but the aid won't get to Gaza as long as the administration insists on dealing only with Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority in the West Bank while shunning Hamas, which controls Gaza and was democratically elected.
Obama won great support from the American people during the presidential campaign when he said that America must talk to its adversaries, without preconditions. But his administration now puts ridiculous conditions on talking to Hamas: It must recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept previous international agreements. Israel, on the other hand, does not have to recognize Palestine, renounce violence or abide by past agreements. Putting preconditions on just one side of the conflict makes it impossible to move a peace process forward.
While Obama prepares for his trip to the Middle East, more than 150 people—mostly Americans—are trying to enter war-torn Gaza through both the Egyptian and Israeli borders. Organized under the umbrella of the peace group CODEPINK, this is the largest group of Americans to travel to Gaza since the siege began.
The delegations, invited by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), are bringing medicines, toys, school supplies and playground building materials. An estimated 1,346 Gazan children were left without one or more of their parents as a result of the Israeli assault and the majority were left traumatized and depressed.
That's why the peace group CODEPINK has launched an international petition (see www.codepinkalert.org) calling on Obama to visit Gaza and see for himself the devastation and deprivation that continues to plague the region's 1.5 million people almost 6 months after the invasion. Just this week, Obama just tacked a new stop to his upcoming Middle Eastern visit: Saudi Arabia. If he can make room for a private dinner with the King, then surely he can find the time to go to Gaza. Isn't it more important for Obama to visit a region where 1,300 people have recently been killed and thousands of homes, schools and mosques destroyed? Isn't it more important for him to see how the Israelis are using the yearly $3 billion in military aid from U.S taxpayers?
Obama should take the opportunity, during this visit to Egypt next week, to visit Gaza. He should express his condolences for the loss of so many innocent lives, call for a lifting of the inhumane siege that continues to imprison an entire population, and support an investigation of how U.S. military funds to Israel are being spent.
Those actions, more than any fine words he may speak during his talk at Cairo University, will do wonders to repairs our relations with the Arab world that were so tattered during the Bush years.
Action Days against the Siege and Occupation
Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Gaza Border
Coalition of Women for Peace with Code Pink and the Coalition against the Siege
A million and a half residents of the Gaza Strip have been suffering for years from ongoing siege and Israeli assaults, which peaked in the recent War. Israel's severe military aggression has become possible due to a gradual process of isolating Gaza – politically, geographically, economically and socially. While Israel portrayed the disengagement as if it were the end of occupation, it actually made Gaza into the largest prison on earth.
The Gaza Strip was occupied by Israel in 1967, along with the West Bank. Its residents are part of the Palestinian people which lost their lands in 1948. Since then, the state of Israel persists and intensifies its control over the Palestinians. By doing so Israel confirms that the Nakba is not yet over. Ending the occupation, lifting the siege and realizing the right of return are all vital elements in achieving a just peace.
Join us in action!
Saturday, 6.6 – Tel Aviv
18:00 large demonstration against the occupation, marking 42 years to 1967, with a large coalition against the occupation
Sunday 7.6, Monday 8.6, Tuesday 9.6 – Gaza Border
9:00 each morning – Protest actions near Gaza Crossings
· Sunday – Playgrounds for Gaza
· Monday – Convoy of prohibited goods
· Tuesday – Protest against the mass imprisonment of the Gazans
Starting at 15:00 on all three days – lectures and workshops
The Gaza Strip: Dependence of an isolated enclave (Ruhama Marton, Physicians for Human Rights)
Feminist Perspectives on Political Privileges and Responsibility (Yael Ben Yefet and Inna Michaeli)
Between Gaza, Yaffa and Ramallah – Gaza in the Larger Palestinian Context (Yasmeen Daher)
Restrictions on Freedom of Movement: A Legal Perspective (Tania Hary, Gisha)
For the Return: Against the Siege and the Wall (Raja Zuabi Omari)
Code-Pink Alert: Get to know Code Pink (Code Pink)
Gaza Today (Lubna Masarwa, Free Gaza Movement)
Jewish – Palestinian Coordinated Feminist Action (Arabiya Mansur)
Corporate Responsibility on the Israeli Occupation (Dalit Baum and Merav Amir)
Everything you always wanted to know (and never dared to ask) about the campaign for BDS (Rachel Giora)
BDS from a Feminist Perspective (Adi Dagan)
The Political Persecution of Palestinians in Israel (Lana Khaskia)
Refuse to Serve the Occupation: CO's Panel (Tali Lerner, Bar Rose, Sahar Vardi and Raz Bar David)
Closing Session: Feminist Networks of Action and Knowledge
Protest and tours in Jerusalem
Joining Popular Demonstrations against the Wall in Bil'n, Ni'ilin and Ma'asara
Tour on the Nakba with the Committee for Displaced Refugees
Notice: The workshops will take place at the ecological farm Adamama in Nir Moshe, near Sderot, where camping is optional. 3 Vegan meals a day will be prepared and served on all camping days.
Transportation: There will be a shuttle bus from Sderot Central Station every day (Sunday to Tuesday) at 8 am and 2 pm.
Arriving to Sderot in Public Transportation:
From Tel Aviv: lines 353, 351
From Jerusalem: line 443
From Be'er Sheva: lines 363, 351 and 366
A bus from Tel Aviv to Nir Moshe will leave from Tel Aviv on Saturday, 6.6, after the demonstration.
For logistical reasons, it is essential that you sign up in advance for buses, camping, meals, workshops and tours at: email@example.com
For more information regarding registration please contact Raz Bar David: 052-3730302
We are still seeking people who would be able to host Code Pink delegates in Tel Aviv (5.6 and 12.6) and Jerusalem (10-11.6). Please contact Sahar Vardi if you are willing to do it: firstname.lastname@example.org, 0545683419
For other queries and question regarding the program:
Eilat – email@example.com 0508575729
Lana – firstname.lastname@example.org 0509787894,
Full Name (for individual) or Name of Group ____________________
Number of people ____________________
Telephone and e-mail of contact person: ________________________
Would like to attend (Please mark):
· Workshops on Sunday / Monday / Tuesday
· Tours in Jerusalem
· Nakba Tour in the Galilee
I would like to sleep at the Nir Moshe farm [YES / NO] on the nights of [Saturday / Sunday / Monday / Tuesday]
Jewish Peace News editors:
Sarah Anne Minkin
Jewish Peace News archive and blog: http://jewishpeacenews.blogspot.com
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