As Obama Meets with Middle East Leaders, More Than 100 Citizen Diplomats Travel to Gaza

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Medea Benjamin, CODEPINK co-founder, 415-235-6517
Jean Stevens, CODEPINK national media coordinator, 508-769-2138
Pam Rasmussen, delegation coordinator, 415-558-5700

As Obama Meets with Middle East Leaders, More Than 100 Citizen Diplomats Travel to Gaza

Will call for end of crippling border blockade

WASHINGTON - To pressure the Obama administration to push Israel and Egypt to end their blockade of Gaza, five delegations
of students, lawyers, teachers, journalists and activists will rally at
the borders of the war-torn land in June and attempt to break the
siege.

WHEN: May 25 to June 14

WHERE
: Egypt to Gaza, Israel to Gaza

The delegations, starting on May 25 and continuing to June 14, are
timed to coincide with Pres. Barack Obama's visits with Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, in which he is expected to push for a
two-state solution. Through rallies and visits with Israeli and
Palestinian leaders, human rights groups and everyday citizens, the
delegates hope to move the conversation toward an end to the blockade
that continues to prevent Gazans from receiving sufficient food,
medical care and construction materials to rebuild their society
several months after Israel's invasion. The siege killed more than
1,300 Gazans, displaced 50,000 people and destroyed approximately 4,000
homes.

"President Obama will meet with the Israeli
and Egyptian governments, as well as the Palestinian Authority, but
refuses to talk to the elected Palestinian leadership from Hamas or to
demand that Israel lift its devastating siege," Benjamin said.
"Meanwhile, 1.5 million people - of which the majority
are women and children - suffer. By challenging the siege with our
delegations, we hope to push our administration and the region's
leaders to address this humanitarian crisis." 

A CODEPINK delegation
in March, which included author Alice Walker, was successful in
entering Gaza through Egypt, and the organization plans to continue
organizing delegations until the borders stay open. This time, however,
a separate CODEPINK delegation will partner with Israel-based Coalition
of Women for Peace to attempt to enter through the Erez crossing in
Israel as well. If either the Israeli or Egyptian authorities deny the
groups' entrance, the participants will camp out at the border while
holding workshops, seminars and actions calling for an end to the
siege, Benjamin said. Hundreds of aid workers, lawyers and convoys
carrying humanitarian aid have been denied entrance since Israel
imposed the blockade in June 2007.

If successful in entering Gaza, the delegates will work with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA)
to bring cheer to children by delivering school supplies and pitching
in to build playgrounds.  Children were especially devastated in the
attacks; at least 431 were killed, 1,346 were left without one or more
of their parents, and an estimated 240 schools and kindergartens were
damaged.

"The majority of Gazans are under 18, and many of the youth are
traumatized and depressed," said delegation coordinator Pam Rasmussen.
"Thousands lost their homes and loved ones, and many others were wounded in the 22-day assault. We want to demonstrate in a very concrete way that they have not been forgotten."


Through presentations, teach-ins, bake sales, and fund-raising through the CODEPINK Web site,
the delegates are working dawn to dusk to fundraise enough money
necessary for the trips. Many were inspired to attend through lectures
and articles from members of the 60-person delegation that traveled to
Gaza in March.
 

For more information, please call Medea Benjamin, CODEPINK co-founder,
at 415-235-6517, Pam Rasmussen, delegation coordinator at 415-558-5700,
or Jean Stevens, media coordinator, at 508-769-2138.  Visit www.codepinkalert.org/gaza.

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CODEPINK is a women-initiated grassroots peace and social justice movement working to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, stop new wars, and redirect our resources into healthcare, education, green jobs and other life-affirming activities. CODEPINK rejects foreign policies based on domination and aggression, and instead calls for policies based on diplomacy, compassion and a commitment to international law. With an emphasis on joy and humor, CODEPINK women and men seek to activate, amplify and inspire a community of peacemakers through creative campaigns and a commitment to non-violence.

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