Friday, February 6, 2009

From Jewish Voice for Peace

Dear Philip,

While waiting in line at the only open bakery he could find, Gaza resident Mohammed Salman said, "I'm going to buy something that my family can keep for only two days because there is no electricity and no refrigerator. We cannot keep anything longer than that."

This was in January - of last year.

Today, many Gazan bakeries are closed because, like Mohammed's family, they don't have power either. Some don't even have flour.

The Israeli blockade of Gaza had already made it impossible for Palestinians to live in dignity and have access to the barest of essentials: bread, clean water, medical supplies and electricity.

This is no coincidence. This is official policy. In a moment of candor, Dov Weissglas, a top aide to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was quoted as saying, "the Palestinians will get a lot thinner, but [they] won't die."

His prediction was true. Last April, UNICEF reported that more than 50% of children under five in Gaza are anemic, and that many children are stunted due to a lack of vitamins.

And now?

As Gaza is smoldering from the siege that killed 1,285 people - nearly 70% of them civilians, destroyed at least 4,000 homes, and sent more than 50,000 people to temporary shelters, the Israeli blockade has not been lifted.

A tenuous cease fire is in now place. Humanitarian aid is starting to pour in.

But the civilian infrastructure is crippled. The borders of Gaza remain controlled by Israel. And just as Gazans could not leave during the siege to escape the bombing and shelling, they cannot leave now to get food and fuel.

There is not enough electricity for the bakeries that are left standing to produce bread, or for families that still have homes to refrigerate food.

Palestinians cannot even feed their children with the fish from the nearby sea. Israeli gunboats offshore have been enforcing the blockade with rounds of cannon and bursts of heavy machine-gun fire, to warn keep Gaza fishermen out of the sea.

Unless we end the blockade, long after the world's attention has shifted to some other crisis, some 1.5 million Gazans will still be under-nourished, without proper medical care, fuel and water - and trapped. Israelis too, who live in the south, will be even less safe from the threat of Hamas' Qassam rockets falling on their heads.

Lasting peace and stability in the region is simply an impossible dream while Palestinians in Gaza are denied the right to protect their children, feed their families, and expand their worlds beyond the few feet in front of their homes, or for many, tents.

You already signed the letter to Obama. Thank you. Now please ask your friends to tell Obama: "Lift the blockade."

Check out JVP's website.

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