Advocate for Peace in Gaza 

From the Presbyterian Office of Public Witness:

Ask Congress to Support a Lasting Ceasefire and an End to the Gaza Blockade

On March 11 three Palestinian members of Islamic Jihad were killed in southern Gaza, with their deaths reportedly attributed to an Israeli airstrike. The next day, Gaza fighters launched dozens of rockets into southern Israel, and the Israeli military conducted numerous airstrikes on Gaza.  Rockets and airstrikes continued later in the week.

The latest violence takes place following recent Palestinian civilian casualties in Gaza.  In a March 4 report, “Spike in number of Palestinian civilians killed near Gaza perimeter fence,” the Israeli human rights organization, “B’Tselem,” describes incidents of civilian deaths. Amneh Qdeih, 57 was shot and killed “when she approached Gaza’s perimeter fence. Her relatives told B’Tselem field researcher Khaled al-‘Azayzeh that Qdeih, who was mentally ill, had been at a family wedding in the town of Khuza’ah, not far from the perimeter fence in the southeastern Gaza Strip.”

Also in March, the European Union released its report, “EU Heads of Missions’ report on Gaza 2013.”  The report details deteriorating conditions for the 1.7 million Palestinian residents of Gaza.  Power outages last up to 16 hours per day. Fuel shortages result in severely compromised water and sanitation facilities and disruption to hospital services.  The water situation is particularly dire, as the report details. Due to an  “over-abstraction of water from the aquifer—the principal water source in Gaza—the groundwater level has been sinking.  This causes salty seawater to seep in, rendering 90% of the aquifer’s water unsafe for drinking without treatment.  According to a UN study, the aquifer may become unusable by 2016 and damage to it may be irreversible by 2020.”

Click here to send a message to your members of Congress today!

The Heads of Mission warn that “the human rights situation in Gaza is worrying,” The ongoing closure policy means that movement and access for Palestinian residents of Gaza is strictly limited. As a result, Palestinians in Gaza are rarely able to visit family members, study at universities, and access holy sites in the West Bank and Jerusalem. The report notes a lower number of rockets in 2013 than in previous years, but “indiscriminate firing of rockets towards Israel by extremist groups in Gaza has continued, in violation of international law.”

The recent deaths of Palestinians in Gaza and the firing of rockets into Israel, as well as the deteriorating living conditions there, demonstrate in tragic way that the blockade of Gaza is suffocating for its residents while not bringing security for Israel.  As energy and attention focus on the ongoing peace negotiations, it is also critical to address the Gaza situation.

While Israel, as the occupying power, bears primary responsibility for ending the blockade, the Palestinian Authority and the de facto leadership in Gaza also must be held accountable.  While the Egyptian government has taken measures to curtail tunnel traffic, they should also be encouraged to work with the parties to facilitate use of the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza.

Click here to send a message to your members of Congress today!

In 2005 Israel and the Palestinian authority signed an agreement on movement and access contained in two documents, “Agreement on Movement and Access,” and “Agreed Principles for Rafah Crossing.”  This agreement should be immediately updated and implemented, to alleviate the suffering and collective punishment of the people of Gaza and to provide for the security of the people of southern Israel. The need is urgent for a lasting ceasefire and an opening of the monitored crossings for humanitarian assistance, transit of persons, and imports and exports for the Gaza economy. It is time for a new strategy toward Gaza – a strategy that is based on human rights, international law, and respect for the dignity, freedom, and security of all persons.

At the 219th General Assembly, the PC(USA) expressed its opposition to a blockade on Gaza which prohibits adeaquate levels of food, medicine, building supplies, and humanitarian assistance from entering Gaza. In addition, the denomination affirmed its support for the necessity of allowing “free commercial exchange in and out of Gaza.” As part of this recommendation, the General Assembly specifically called upon the U.S. government to “end any support for the blockade that interferes with the adequacy such items or such exchange.” As Presbyterians we are guided by a concern for a just and lasting peace that will reach all people in Israel-Palestine, including the citizens of Gaza.
Click here to send a message to your members of Congress today!
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