CNI Urges a Complete End to the Political and Economic Siege of Gaza
January 23, 2008
The situation in Gaza is bleak and awful. John Ging, director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Gaza said two days ago the civilian population was living in "abject misery" and had been stripped of their human dignity (as reported in AKI).
"People here in Gaza have been living in abject misery and hardship now for a long time," Ging told the Arab TV network, Al-Jazeera. "On top of that they are living in darkness. You have to see how miserable the situation is. The civilian population is under occupation. It is collective punishment - they are victims."
In a photo-op of humanitarianism, Israel momentarily relented and allowed in tanks of diesel fuel so that the generating pumps could begin providing electricity to Gaza's 1.5 million inhabitants. But this was hardly enough to prevent thousands from massing at the Rafah Gate bordering Egypt in an attempt to get through. At first the Egyptian army stood them off, but today, tens of thousands - the Egyptians are reporting as many as 200,000 - stormed through the Rafah Gate, which had been blasted down by the Palestinians, to purchase food, fuel and other items made scarce by the six-month Israeli siege.
President Mubarak said he permitted it because the Palestinians were starving, but he was also responding to Egyptian popular anger at the condition of Palestinians. Scores of protesters had already been arrested in Cairo and other cities for demonstrating against the siege, according to today's al-Jazeera, and the Gazans' desperate situation -- living without electricity, with shortages in food, water, and medical supplies -- was not being lost on the rest of the Arab world. The Arab League condemned the Israeli actions. Secretary General Amr Moussa has called it a war crime. The European Union condemned the siege.
In contrast, the U.S. has said little other than they are "in touch" with the Israelis about the situation and "hope" that a humanitarian crisis will be avoided. The State Department under the Bush administration holds Hamas responsible for all violence in Gaza,
Amira Haas wrote in today's Haaretz that the Israelis have not learned that escalating the level of violence against Palestinians is not the answer to dealing with them. It has the direct opposite effect. In Gaza they answer military violence with Qassam rockets aimed at Israeli civilians. The cycle of violence cannot be broken by such tactics.
The humanitarian situation in Gaza needs to be addressed immediately by the United States. This is another instance in which Israel should not be allowed to set policy, as it did in Lebanon in 2006. CNI urges it members to write their senators, congressional representatives, the Secretary of State, and leading presidential candidates to protest against the escalation of violence against the Gazans and ask for an end to the collective punishment of innocent people.
We should not stop with temporary humanitarian aid. That is only a band-aid approach. The only way to stop the Qassam rockets and the Israeli retaliations - which only feeds more violence - is for Israel and the United States to negotiate, perhaps through international agencies or the EU, a complete ceasefire with Hamas. That means ending the political and economic siege.
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