Sister Mary Ellen’s testimony in support of human rights in Israel/Palestine

Sister Mary Ellen Gondeck, CSJ, a member of the Congregation of St. Joseph’s Peace and Justice Team

Testimony to Kalamazoo City Commission on April 15, 2019, in support of

Kalamazoo City Commission Resolution to Support Human Rights for Israelis and Palestinians by Ending US Military Aid to Israel


Good evening,

I speak tonight on the Resolution [which was] just read, focusing on human rights in the Middle East, specifically in Israel/Palestine.  During the time period 2006-2008 I was in Gaza and the Occupied West Bank with the Michigan Peace Team.

The Israelis left Gaza in 2005.    When they left, they destroyed the airport/water-sewage system/bridges/roads/greenhouses and electrical grid – all of which are essential for living.  Israel (determining the calorie intake of the people) also blocked food, building supplies, and parts for machinery from going into Gaza.   Agriculture was destroyed and fishing was limited.  Gazans lived on 1 meal/day.

People could not move back and forth from the West Bank and Gaza for any reason even visiting with family, employment, health care, etc.

In response Gazans dug tunnels to Egypt.

In the Occupied West Bank a wall built was around the land given to the Palestinians.  It cut them off from their farm lands/water/businesses and families.  They also are subjected to check points interrupting there movement from place to place – school/work/family, etc.  You may appreciate that as you wait for a train-crossing in Kalamazoo.

Rockets from Gaza – yes;  men and boys throwing stones – yes;  Bombing from Israel – yes; sophisticated weapons – yes. There is violence and destruction and death throughout the land.  And it touches everyone – Palestinians and Israelis alike.  The history of this time period shows that the targets of destruction both from Israel and Gaza are primarily civilian, not military targets.  The deliberate killing of civilians is against international law.  In Gaza we sat on the roofs of apartment buildings, home to civilians to deter the bombing of those buildings.  It was successful. (while we were there).

The reality needs a solution – and the solution cannot be reached with violence and war.  Peace needs to be found through negotiation and working together.  The political structure that is involved is not conducive to such negotiation because of the balance of power of the participants.

The resolution on tonight’s agenda is key to that balance of power.  With $3 billion of military aid on one side of the table and nothing on the other side there is not the balance necessary to make possible a meaningful agreement.  Because this impacts the human rights of both Palestinians and Israelis, I would ask you to pass this resolution.

Thank you.