Members of Congress sign letter urging Obama to stop the siege of Gaza

Some good news came out of Washington yesterday that went largely unnoticed. Ha’aretz reported 54 members of Congress sent a letter to president Barack Obama urging him to pressure Israel to end the siege on Gaza.  Ha’aretz correspondent Natasha Mozgovaya writes:

The letter was the initiative of Representatives Jim McDermott from Washington and Keith Ellison from Minnesota, both of whom are Democrats. Ellison is the first American Muslim to ever win election to Congress. McDermott and Ellison wrote that they understand the threats facing Israel and the ongoing Hamas terror activities against Israeli citizens but that “this concern must be addressed without resulting in the de facto collective punishment of the Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip.” “We ask you to press for immediate relief for the citizens of Gaza as an urgent component of your broader Middle East peace efforts,” they wrote, adding that the siege has hampered the ability of aid agencies to do their work in Gaza. The congressmen urged Obama to pressure Israel to ease the movement of people into and out of Gaza, especially students, the sick, aid workers, journalists and those with family concerns, and also to allow the import of building materials to rebuild houses. Israel has warned that such materials would be used to rebuild Hamas infrastructure and not civilian homes.

Fifty-four members of Congress urging the president to pressure Israel to treat Gazans like human beings is a positive development, albeit a VERY small one.  Critics may content that the letter protects Israel’s image. I understand that. But I still think it’s encouraging.

Operation Cast Lead blew the lid off Israel’s rationale for the occupation and the congressional visits to Gaza have exposed to them what Gazans encounter on a day-to-day basis. More members of Congress need to do this.

Full text of the letter below.

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama,

Thank you for your ongoing work to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and for your commitment of $300 million in U.S. aid to rebuild the Gaza Strip. We write to you with great concern about the ongoing crisis in Gaza.

The people of Gaza have suffered enormously since the blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt following Hamas’ coup, and particularly following Operation Cast Lead. We also sympathize deeply with the people of southern Israel who have suffered from abhorrent rocket and mortar attacks. We recognize that the Israeli government has imposed restrictions on Gaza out of a legitimate and keenly felt fear of continued terrorist action by Hamas and other militant groups. This concern must be addressed without resulting in the de facto collective punishment of the Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip. Truly, fulfilling the needs of civilians in Israel and Gaza are mutually reinforcing goals.

The unabated suffering of Gazan civilians highlights the urgency of reaching a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and we ask you to press for immediate relief for the citizens of Gaza as an urgent component of your broader Middle East peace efforts. The current blockade has severely impeded the ability of aid agencies to do their work to relieve suffering, and we ask that you advocate for immediate improvements for Gaza in the following areas:

* Movement of people, especially students, the ill, aid workers, journalists, and those with family concerns, into and out of Gaza;

* Access to clean water, including water infrastructure materials,

* Access to plentiful and varied food and agricultural materials;

* Access to medicine and health care products and suppliers;

* Access to sanitation supplies, including sanitation infrastructure materials;

* Access to construction materials for repairs and rebuilding;

* Access to fuel;

* Access to spare parts;

* Prompt passage into and out of Gaza for commercial and agricultural goods; and

* Publication and review of the list of items prohibited to the people of Gaza.

Winter is arriving and the needs of the people grow ever more pressing. For example, the ban on building materials is preventing the reconstruction of thousands of innocent families’ damaged homes. There is also a concern that unrepaired sewage treatment plants will overflow and damage surrounding property and water resources.

Despite ad hoc easing of the blockade, there has been no significant improvement in the quantity and scope of goods allowed into Gaza. Both the number of trucks entering Gaza per month and the number of days the crossings have been open have declined since March. This crisis has devastated livelihoods, entrenched a poverty rate of over 70%, increased dependence on erratic international aid, allowed the deterioration of public infrastructure, and led to the marked decline of the accessibility of essential services.

The humanitarian and political consequences of a continued near-blockade would be disastrous. Easing the blockade on Gaza will not only improve the conditions on the ground for Gaza’s civilian population, but will also undermine the tunnel economy which has strengthened Hamas. Under current conditions, our aid remains little more than an unrealized pledge. Most importantly, lifting these restrictions will give civilians in Gaza a tangible sense that diplomacy can be an effective tool for bettering their conditions.

Your Administration’s overarching Middle East peace efforts will benefit Israel, the Palestinians, and the entire region. The people of Gaza, along with all the peoples of the region, must see that the United States is dedicated to addressing the legitimate security needs of the State of Israel and to ensuring that the legitimate needs of the Palestinian population are met.

Sincerely,

Members of Congress

Arizona
Raul Grijalva

California
Lois Capps
Sam Farr
Bob Filner
Barbara Lee
Loretta Sanchez
Pete Stark
Michael Honda
Lynn Woolsey
Jackie Speier
Diane Watson
George Miller

Connecticut
Jim Himes

Indiana
Andre Carson

Iowa
Bruce Braley

Kentucky
John Yarmuth

Maryland
Elijah Cummings
Donna Edwards

Massachusetts
Michael Capuano
William Delahunt
Jim McGovern
John Tierney
John Olver
Stephen Lynch

Michigan
John Conyers
John Dingell
Carolyn Kilpatrick

Minnesota
Keith Ellison
Betty McCollum
James Oberstar

New Jersey
Donald Payne
Rush Holt
Bill Pascrell

New York
Yvette Clarke
Maurice Hinchey
Paul Tonko
Eric Massa

North Carolina
David Price

Ohio
Mary Jo Kilroy
Marcy Kaptur

Oregon
Earl Blumenauer
Peter DeFazio

Pennsylvania
Chaka Fattah
Joe Sestak

Vermont
Peter Welch

Virginia
Jim Moran

Washington
Jim McDermott
Adam Smith
Jay Inslee
Brian Baird

West Virginia
Nick Rahall

Wisconsin
Tammy Baldwin
Gwen Moore

Virginia
Glenn Nye

9 thoughts on “Members of Congress sign letter urging Obama to stop the siege of Gaza”

    1. Yep, that definitely needs to happen soon. It’s all piecemeal in the U.S. There are so many things Americans have to unlearn about the Mideast and the Israeli occupation of Palestine. That includes our members of Congress.

  1. these 54 congreemen should be run out of town, the letter is a disgrace and why, one crummy sentance acknowledging the 9000 rockets fired into Israel. Do they think we will buy that whitewash garbage. Reality is the people of gaza voted for hamas and the consquences of their policies. The palestinians in gaza support Hamas and terror attacks on israel and now we should pressure Israel to prop up Hamas. Never, and i am sure Joe Sestak will pay a heavy proice for his foolish signature to this. Except for Ellison, everyone of these lefties should be ashamed, they are just anti semites who value life in gaza more than jews in southern Israel. That letter should be to Hamas telling them to join the 20th cnetury and make peace not a war they can’t win. But why should they when idiots like this come to their rescue. Sorry but make gaza a prison until they figure out where their interests lie. BTW, hamas and iran are the same, these congreemen want to help iuran too … total jokes and fools. hey their democrats, what do you expect.

    1. Do you have an estimate of how many bombs Israel dropped? Or is your arithmetic as bad as your spellings? 1,400 Palestinians were killed by the Israelis for 3 Israeli civilians. How many bombs did Israel drop for the 9,000 rockets?

  2. Did the Israelis over react in retaliation for thousands of rockets falling on their land? Could it be that they were doubly angered because those rockets came from the very area that they had just ceded to the Gazans in hopes of some peace in return?
    Those questions are really mute – the Israeli blockade of Gaza will not be ended until there can be assurance that shipments of humanitarian goods are not merely a cover for shipments of weapons-that’s reality.
    Two more questions: Why haven’t the congressmen ( and the UN for that matter) condemned EGYPT for constructing a huge blockade on their border with Gaza? Why haven’t the oil-rich Arab brothers of the Gazans provided any real aid?
    Two more-since they are both Palestinians, why hasn’t Israel treated the people in the West Bank in the same manner as the Gazans? Could it be those pesky rockets and suicide bombers?
    Even though it involves those awful Israelis, there really are two sides to this story.

  3. Did the Israelis over react in retaliation for thousands of rockets falling on their land?

    Yes they certainly did over-react by murdering 1400 civilians and imposing an ongoing collective siege, all for glorified firecrackers falling on what was originally *Palestinian* land.

    Could it be that they were doubly angered because those rockets came from the very area that they had just ceded to the Gazans in hopes of some peace in return?

    Rubbish. The israelis never “ceded” Gaza. It was always Palestinian, and remains not only under brutal israeli military occupation, but for the last two years under blockade.

    Those questions are really mute

    I think you mean ‘moot’

    the Israeli blockade of Gaza will not be ended until there can be assurance that shipments of humanitarian goods are not merely a cover for shipments of weapons

    More hasbara rubbish. Since when does pasta and schoolbooks have a dual-use military function?

    Why haven’t the congressmen ( and the UN for that matter) condemned EGYPT for constructing a huge blockade on their border with Gaza?

    Because they are paid off by the US and bound by the b.s. treaty with israel enacted by Carter.

    Why haven’t the oil-rich Arab brothers of the Gazans provided any real aid?

    They have, its not allowed in, blocked by the genocidal israeli apartheid regime that continues to flout international law.

    why hasn’t Israel treated the people in the West Bank in the same manner as the Gazans? Could it be those pesky rockets and suicide bombers?

    There’s not at all much difference in the way the israeli regime is treating Palestinians in the WB and Gaza. The glorified firecrackers are but a pretext. What suicide bombers? There hasn’t been any suicide bombing, a modern technique pioneered by Jewish terrorists, for quite some time now. In fact Hamas kept to a ceasefire for six months which the israeli regime broke on Nov 4, 2008.

    Even though it involves those awful Israelis

    You said it

    there really are two sides to this story.

    Weak try at false equivalence. No one with half a brain buys your disingenuous rubbish hasbara.

  4. Israelis impose “financial punishments” on Palestinian Prisoners. This is just so Israel.
    http://www.middleeastmonitor.org.uk/news/middle-east/600-israelis-impose-qfinancial-punishmentsq-on-palestinians
    It’s not really on topic but relevant non the less.
    The US will have to stop all money to Israel to get them to do anything. Loosing almost 3 billion a year might have some affect on them. Other then that I have a hard time visualizing the US doing much of anything.
    344 I do believe voted against the Goldstone report so they are going to have to muster a lot of support to get Gaza borders opened. Even the UN can’t get them to open the borders. Not for their lack of trying.

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