There are many opinions on the Mideast conflict,
but one thing is certain: the situation in Gaza is a humanitarian
and human rights disaster, and it cannot continue.
the Israeli blockade, the following items are not allowed into Gaza:
cars, refrigerators, computers, cement, concrete, wood, glass, light
bulbs, candles, matches, books, musical instruments, crayons, clothing,
shoes, mattresses, sheets, blankets, pasta, tea, coffee, fruit juice,
chocolate, nuts, shampoo, conditioner, and toilet paper. And it
takes 85 days to deliver shelter kits into Gaza, and 68
days to send health and pediatric hygiene kits.
Linda Holtzman of congregation Mishkan Shalom in Philadelphia has
taken a stand on Israel’s policies in Gaza. In a recent Rosh Hashanah
sermon, she discussed the need for people to set limits, and to
challenge ourselves to set limits with those we love. “The men and
women who have formed the settlements on the West Bank love Israel.
All of those who have built barriers, set up roadblocks, and stopped
humanitarian aid from entering Gaza, love Israel,” Rabbi Linda said.
“I too love Israel, but under no circumstances can I condone these
actions, and my understanding of love and the limits love demands
will not let me sit quietly by while this is taking place.”
Rabbi Linda is a part of Jewish
Fast for Gaza (Ta’anit Tzedek), an ad hoc group of Jewish, Muslim
and Christian clergy, as well as other concerned individuals, who
have undertaken a monthly daytime fast for Gaza. Founded by activist
Rosen and Brian
Walt, this association grew out of the Jewish tradition
of communal fasting in times of crisis, as a form of mourning and
repentance. “As Jews and people of conscience,” the group declares,
“we can no longer stand idly by Israel’s collective punishment of
the Palestinian people in Gaza.” Their efforts have been endorsed
by the Association
for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI).
Fast for Gaza seeks several goals, including: lifting the blockade
that prevents civilian goods and services from entering Gaza; calling
for the delivery of humanitarian and developmental aid to the people
of Gaza; calling on Israel, the U.S. and the world community to
negotiate without pre-conditions with all relevant Palestinian parties,
including Hamas, to end the blockade, and calling on the U.S. government
to engage Israelis and Palestinians toward a just and peaceful settlement
of the conflict. Participants are asked to donate the money they
save on food to the American Near Eastern Refugee Aid (ANERA), a
relief agency combating Gazan preschool malnutrition.
and international human rights groups alike were shocked by the
most recent Israeli military operation in Gaza - the disproportionate
and indiscriminate use of force against a civilian population, the
massive civilian deaths, and the level of destruction of property
and infrastructure it created. As a result of Operation Cast Lead
- which was conducted between December 27, 2008 and January 3, 2009
- over 1,400 Palestinians were killed.
Of these, 773 were non-combatants (over 60%), including 320 children.
These statistics fly in the face of the official narrative that
the operation was part of the war on terror, and that those who
were killed were the terrorists.
could not flee the combat, and there was no safe place to hide,
as Fred Abrahams, senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, noted.
In a recent
report on Operation Cast Lead, Human Rights Watch documented
the Israeli Defense Force’s (IDF’s) illegal use of white phosphorous
artillery shells in densely populated areas, and the shooting of
unarmed Palestinian civilians - including women and children - waving
white flags. Warnings the IDF sent to Gaza residents in the form
of fliers and phone calls fell short of international humanitarian
law standards. Further, according to a UN
report recently issued by South African Justice Richard Goldstone,
“houses, factories, wells, schools, hospitals, police stations and
other public buildings were destroyed.” Around 240 of the Gazan
deaths were police officers. And the Palestinian Legislative Council
and a prison were bombed as well.
the Gaza population suffers significant trauma, including insomnia,
depression, childhood bed-wetting, and other medium- and long-term
mental health problems.
Jessica Montell, Executive Director of the Jerusalem-based human
rights group B'Tselem recently said, “when there is wrongdoing,
there must be a remedy”. For Montell, justice is to be done at home.
This includes not only the individual behavior of Israeli soldiers,
but people throughout the chain of command, both military and government,
who dictated policy and decided what to target. B’Tselem and all
11 Israeli human rights organizations are calling for a nonpartisan
body to examine Israel’s conduct in Operation Cast Lead.
Hamas’ electoral win in January 2006, Israel imposed the crippling
blockade on Gaza, turning the territory into the functional equivalent
of a prison. The blockade severely limits Gaza's ability to import
essentials such as food and fuel, and to export finished products.
The result has been a complete devastation of Gaza’s economy, and
the closing of most of its industrial plants. Increased unemployment,
poverty and childhood malnutrition now plague an already economically
crippled and depressed region.
human rights abuses are committed throughout the world, someone
must be held to account. And no longer can we turn our backs and
close our eyes when injustices occur. Depriving human beings of
basic necessities, food, water, employment, and freedom of movement
in their own land cannot and will not make Israelis more secure.
Maintaining a culture of impunity in the region, and denying people
their basic rights and sense of dignity will not bring peace to
anyone. It will only result in what Justice Goldstone calls “a situation where young people grow up in a culture
of hatred and violence, with little hope for change in the future.
Finally, the teaching of hate and dehumanization by each side against
the other contributes to the destabilization of the whole region.”
Indeed, Gaza is a walled prison, seemingly out of
sight and out of mind for some. But the Jewish Fast for Gaza is
committed to tearing down the walls that separate us, and allowing
justice to flow.
Editorial Board member David A. Love, JD is a journalist and human
rights advocate based in Philadelphia, and a contributor to The Huffington Post, The Progressive Media Project, McClatchy-Tribune News Service,
These Times and Philadelphia Independent Media Center. He also blogs
at davidalove.com, NewsOne,
and Open Salon.
to contact Mr. Love.