Kalamazoo Interfaith Coalition for Peace and Justice Resolution on Gaza
The Kalamazoo Interfaith Coalition speaks from its long established vision of peace and justice. We believe that silence at this stage contributes to acts of violence as the human tragedy in Gaza screams to the conscience of all the people of the world, if not to their official governments.
We condemn violence on both sides, but the tragedy in Gaza continues as Israel with disproportional power intensifies its assault on the overcrowded, impoverished Gaza strip. It is a continuing nightmare story of pain and loss, of trauma and devastation. The heartbreaking numbers by themselves tell part of the story— with over a thousand Palestinian civilians killed, thousands wounded, tens of thousands without homes. No site is immune from Israeli indiscriminate shelling by air, land and sea and the targets include residential buildings where entire families perished, hospitals, schools, power plants, mosques, ambulances, marked press and UN schools where many civilians found refuge.
But the story of Gaza is more than these numbers and this current assault. It is only another bloody episode that erupts every few years, as in 2009, 2012 and now in 2014. Therefore we find it imperative to put the current assault in its proper historical and political context, not to diminish its devastating humanitarian aspects.
The underlying context of every and all attacks on the Palestinian people everywhere, and the Palestinian response to it, is the Israeli Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza since 1967. This occupation is deemed illegal under international law but Israel defies international law and all UN resolutions demanding that It withdraws from the Occupied Territories to its pre1967 borders, namely the Green line. The continued colonization by Israel of these territories is manifested in its building hundreds of Jewish settlements on confiscated Palestinian land and constructing the illegal apartheid wall, thus devastating the lives of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in all aspects of their lives.
Israel’s response is always more oppression of the Palestinians with imprisonment, assassinations, deportations, home demolitions, curfews, closures and economic strangulation. Gaza suffered restrictions of movement of people and goods for decades, but in 2006 Israel imposed a complete blockade and shut it out from the outside world. Two exit border points are coordinated between Israel and Egypt. Under UN and EU mitigation, the Israelis allow few shipments of oil and gasoline, while Egypt occasionally opens the Rafah border crossing at its discretion for humanitarian reasons.
We, members of the Interfaith Coalition, call for the end of all military operations on both sides. But calling for a ceasefire alone without demanding the lifting of the blockade on Gaza since 2006 will be a temporary solution that will lead to future breakout of violence and military confrontations.
A ceasefire should be conditional on the end of the blockade and guaranteeing a dignified life for the people in Gaza. This entails securing access to clean drinking water, and adequate supply of food and medicine, for rebuilding the destroyed homes and infrastructure, the resumption of uninterrupted electric power and the rebuilding of the sewage treatment plant that has been destroyed since 2009.
We thank the millions of people who demonstrated all over the world calling for an end to the bloodshed in Gaza. We honor the courage of the Israelis and Jews who stood for peace, such as the Jewish Voice for Peace and the reservists who refuse to serve in this war, as well as the many Israeli soldiers who signed a petition expressing their “refusal to be part of this brutal military operation taking place in our name”. We too, as tax paying American citizens say “Not in Our Name” to the children buried under the rubble of their homes.
Ultimately, we strongly believe that no amount of international condemnation of the intensity of the Israeli assault on Gaza, as well as the protests all over the world, will amount to anything on the ground in the face of the US. support and protection of Israeli aggression. The US use of its veto power in the UN security council as well the over $3-4 billion annually in aid, shield Israel from any accountability and responsibility for its actions. A case in point is the UN Human Rights Council which voted to investigate Israel for potential war crimes in the current assault on Gaza. The vote was 29 to 1 with 17 abstention, with US casting the only No vote, announcing that Israel has the right for self defense.
It is the US position to allow and endorse Israel to defend itself. Now is the time to change the illogical policy of subjugating millions of people to an illegal occupation.
We reject the logic of the occupier needing self defense from the occupied.
Ignoring the right of self defense for the Palestinian people and the double standard that the US consecutive administrations have dealt with this conflict for decades is the reason behind the failure of the ongoing endless peace process and for this longest and only current occupation to continue under the sponsorship, protection and financing of the US.
We call on President Obama and our elected officials to uphold the US. Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, which prohibits giving assistance to the government of any country which engages in a consistent pattern of human rights violations. As well, of the U.S. Arms Export Control Act of 1976 which prohibits using U.S. weapons against civilians and civilian infrastructure, and of the U.S. foreign policy insofar as pertains to recommendations for steps toward peace, in this instance, between Israelis and Palestinians.
We call for a national debate on whether the US policies on the Palestine/Israel conflict serve the interests of the United States and also those of Israel itself in the long run.
To achieve a lasting peace in that region and to guarantee lasting security for both peoples of Palestine and Israel, the U.S. must make ending the Israeli occupation and lifting the Gaza siege priorities for our foreign policy as this conflict is the most volatile protracted area of international instability and threat to world peace.
Peace to all.
On behalf of the Kalamazoo Interfaith Coalition for Peace and Justice,
Harold Beu, Chair person.
Shadia Kanaan, Co-chair