Jun 02, 2009
How would you feel if you found out that an American school, paid for
with your tax dollars, was bombed and completely destroyed by a US
ally? This happened in Gaza just a few months ago, during Israel's
now-infamous Operation Cast Lead.
I've been touring Gaza for the past three days as part of a Code Pink
delegation, and the concrete rubble and twisted rebar of the American
International School in Gaza is just one of the many horrifying images
we've seen on this trip. The school, which taught American progressive
values to Palestinian kids in grades K-12, was bombed by US-supplied
Israeli F-16s in early January. The Israelis claimed, without supplying
evidence, that Hamas fighters had fired rockets from the school. Now
several hundred kids have not only lost the school they dearly loved;
they have been given a very different lesson in American values, one no
doubt unintended by the school's founders and teachers.
The people of Gaza suffered immensely from the Israeli assault,
which not only killed some 1,400 and injured 5,000 but destroyed or
heavily damaged mosques, schools, hospitals, universities, and
industrial and other business establishments, in addition to thousands
of private homes. Dr. Marwan Sultan, who practices at Kamal Adwan
Hospital in Beit Lahiya, told me his hospital was so damaged they had
to send all patients to al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City--which was
itself damaged. The bombing of one school in Beit Lahiya killed about
forty kids and injured a hundred, Sultan told me. He saw scenes of
death and mutilation that still give him nightmares. Thousands are
living in tent cities all over the Strip, and the entire population of
Gaza is being strangled to this day by a blockade that is choking off
any possibility of reconstruction or recovery.
Make no mistake about it: the blockade, directly enforced by Israel and
Egypt but conspired in by their superpower patron in Washington, is a
continuing act of war against an entire civilian population of 1.5
million, a form of collective punishment and a crime against humanity.
John Ging, director of operations for the United Nations Relief and
Works Agency (UNRWA), which officially invited Code Pink to come to
Gaza, told our delegation that billions in aid had been promised in the
wake of Israel's massacre, but so far nothing had arrived. Our
delegation, he said, is the first concrete action of solidarity with an
oppressed, long-suffering population. Four months after a devastating
conflict, he added, the siege continues. "The first thing we need to
see is the opening up of crossing points and an end to collective
punishment because of the political failures and security problems
created by a few." It's a matter of life and death, he said, "and we're
running out of time.... The people of Gaza are asking for help, justice
and the rule of law."
Code Pink--whose organizers, I might add, have done a fabulous job
in arranging this tour--is urging Obama to break the siege himself by
visiting Gaza on his Middle East tour. That's not likely to happen, of
course, but the least he could do is demand an end to the blockade.
He's more likely to do so if Americans put on the pressure. Readers:
it's your turn.
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