|ACTION ALERT |
November 29, 2007
A Call From Gaza Asking for Your Help to End the Siege
By News Editor Delinda C. Hanley and Managing Editor Janet McMahon
Todaythe 60th anniversary of the passage by the U.N. General Assembly of the nonbinding resolution partitioning Palestineis the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. Weve been hearing speeches about peace all week from politiciansbut talk, as weve learned, is cheap. Weve seen photos of Gazans demonstrating in the streets against the Annapolis conference, to which the elected government of Palestine was not invited, but with few reporters in Gaza Americans arent getting the entire picture.
Yesterday our Gaza correspondent, Mohammed Omer, called us to discuss a story idea for the next issue of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. Speaking on his cell phone from the office of a taxi cab company in Gaza City, Mohammed told us that hed have to spend the night in Gaza City because there were no taxis available to take him home to Rafah.When we put him on speaker phone, we could hear the two other men in the officeImad, the owner of Imad Taxis, and Mahmoud, who works for the municipalities departmentask who he was talking to. When Mohammed explained that he was speaking with his editors in Washington, DC, the floodgates opened. Our correspondent proceeded to translate what two everyday Gazans want the outside world to know. Their words were spontaneous, unpolished, and spoken from their hearts. Its extremely urgent that Americans listen and respond.
Israel has kept Gazas borders sealed since June, when Palestine effectively was divided between Hamas-ruled Gaza and the Fatah-ruled West Bank. But since January 2006, when free and fair elections resulted in a Hamas parliamentary majority, Gazas borders have only rarely been opened. That means 1.5 million men, women and children are trapped there.
The owner of Imad Taxis told us that, because of the closure, if one of his cabs breaks down there are no spare parts to fix it. Drivers cant work, he said. Gas is getting very expensive. I cant even pay my telephone bills, so soon customers cant call to book a taxi.
Mahmoud chimed in: Weve run out of everything. After every Israeli attack something more is ruined. Electrical poles, wires, water pipes, and we cant replace them. Why are we being punished? What is our crime? Is it because we were born Palestinian?
We cant fix generators or even keep them running, he continued. When there is no electricity we cant distribute water. Weve run out of chlorine to clean the water. Its full of bacteria. A water heater used to cost 10 shekels, but now it costs 40 or 50 shekelsif you can find one. So we dont have hot water for bathing. Our sewage system has collapsed. Theres no power to pump sewage out and no chemicals to clean it. Look at the garbage in the streets. There is no fuel for the trucks to come to haul it away.
Israel is only allowing basic food supplies into Gaza: sugar, rice, flour, and oil, Imad told us. Every day my little girl asks me to bring home a chocolate bar. I cant find any in Gaza. I disappoint her every night. We cant even buy Arabic coffee. There are no razors, no shaving materials. Well all have to grow beards. [Laughter] There isnt stone, not even cement, to make headstones for graves. Were using pieces of metal to write names on graves. We cant buy diapers. Gazans are starting to smoke molokhiya [a green leaf vegetable] because we cant buy cigarettes. We cant buy shoes and soon well have to make them from tires. There is no printing paper.
Their words overlap as they tumble outwe can no longer tell who is saying what.
You cant find jackets, wool clothes, underwear, or even socks for winter in the shops.
Medical supplies in hospitals are exhausted. Theres no oxygen; drugs arent available. We cannot find the basic needs for life.
For Gods sake open the border.
Mahmoud tells us: My son has had a visa to study in the United States since last year. He was admitted to San Francisco State. He speaks good English. He has high grades'everything. Last year he missed going because the border was closed. He's ready to travel today. He's missing a second year. If my son doesn't have a future where will he go? Hamas is begging him to join its militia, but he doesn't want to. He's volunteering for [psychiatrist and peace activist] Dr. Eyad al-Sarrajs International Campaign to Break the Siege on Gaza. Help prevent our children from becoming extremists. They're so hopeless they could find al-Qaeda. We want them educated. Dont punish our children.
History will never forget. Israel and America are creating hatred in Gaza. The whole table will collapse if Gaza is excluded from the peace talks. Who is responsible for us? The U.N.? The European Union? We are not beggars. We are hard workers, educated, intelligent. We need our international human rights. We want to live like anyone in the world.
We hope you can get our message out. Please open the borders and end this siege.
Call or write your local editors and radio talk show hosts, and contact your elected representatives in Washington, DC.
President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
White House Comment Line: (202) 456-1111
Fax: (202) 456-2461
E-mail Vice President Dick Cheney: firstname.lastname@example.org>
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
Department of State
Washington, DC 20520
State Department Public Information Line:
Washington, DC 20510
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
E-mail Congress: visit the Web site <www.congress.org> for contact information.
The Israeli Embassy, Washington, DC
The Israeli Embassy, Canada
(613) 567 6450
For more information about this issue or to subscribe to the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs visit our Web site <http://www.wrmea.com/>. This 26-year-old publication has the largest circulation of any magazine of its kind, and is sent to both public and university libraries and bookstores in North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. For a free sample copy call (202) 939-6050.