It was a sad but spirited way to bring the year to a close. People across the world held solidarity actions with Gaza and the Gaza Freedom Marchers this week on the 1-year anniversary of Israel’s attack on Gaza. In San Francisco, about 500 of us marched across the Golden Gate Bridge and held a rally on the Marin Headlands overlook before returning back across. People carried signs and chanted demands to end Israel’s blockade of Gaza, to end the occupation and illegal settlements in West Bank, to end unconditional U.S. military, moral, and economic support of Israel, and to allow the marchers to deliver their aid. People carried giant letters that spelled out “Free Gaza/Palestine” across the bridge, prompting many passing vehicles to honk in support.
One Gaza resident (Mariam, 15) read a poem with one eye–the other had been lost from tank shrapnel during Israel’s attack last year. She came to California to receive medical treatment, sponsored by the Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund. She was one of the lucky ones. Last year’s bombs laid waste to Gaza’s people and infrastructure. Over 1400 died, the vast majority civilian non-combatants, and over 5000 more were injured. Schools, clinics, and other civilian facilities were targeted by the IDF. The people of Gaza are still being held in a virtual prison, with little or no access to the outside world and a severe restriction of movement, building, and medical supplies.
Only 80-some of the 1300+ international citizen diplomats bringing aid were allowed through the Rafah border by Egyptian authorities. Meanwhile demonstrations continued in Cairo. Hedy Epstein, the Jewish 85 year old Holocaust survivor and peace activist began a fast to help put pressure on the authorities. “My message is for the world governments to wake up and treat Israel like they treat any other country and not to be afraid to reprimand and criticize Israel for its violent policies vis-à-vis the Palestinians,” Ms. Epstein said. “I brought a suitcase full of things, pencils, pens, crayons, writing paper to take to children in Gaza — I can’t take that back home.” It is no surprise that Egypt fails to stand in solidarity with their neighbors–U.S. tax-payers give the repressive Egyptian government nearly $2 billion in military aid every year.
As usual there has been a virtual media black out on the Gaza Freedom March and the Palestinian situation. On a positive note, I think more people across the globe are waking up to what is happening, including those inside Israel, Jews, and even American citizens who are moving beyond the constricted world concocted by mainstream media (MSM).
After calls and emails, even the New York Times finally reported on Gaza Freedom March. In addition, the profile of dissent from the usual scripted and narrow discourse has been raised this past year and it is becoming increasing difficult to ignore the realities. Add to this growing pressure of BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) campaigns and 2010 may be the year the balance of power begins to shift towards peace and accountability. (Here’s 10 reasons why you should support BDS of Israel)
The take-away message is that, though the Israeli occupation and siege sometimes seems so far away from us, the suffering and losses of Palestinians are a daily reality. U.S. citizens have a real responsibility to challenge it from the inside because the siege/blockade/apartheid wall is made possibility with U.S. dollars ($3 billion/year), F-16s, Apache helicopters, bulldozers, weapons, and the tacit approval–if not outright applauding– on the part of our elected officials of the ongoing Israeli occupation and destruction. As Chomsky reminds us, to talk of Israeli crimes is to talk about U.S. crimes. The perfect manifestation of this betrayal of common humanity is Congress’ stonewalling the Goldstone Report, detailing Israel’s & Hamas’ war crimes last year.
One of the signs common these days in peace demonstrations is, “Stop thinking like Americans, start thinking about humanity.” The UN, all the major human rights organizations, and dozens of countries have condemned the crimes against humanity and ongoing collective punishment going on there. It is time we joined them.
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