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By Salena Tramel
January 29th, 2009
Grassroots International's partner, the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC) has long played a crucial role in defending the Palestinian people's human right to land, water and food. One of their goals is to contribute to the achievment of sustainable and integrated rural development in Palestine, and they have been a key actor in building a secular and democratic civil society. Since 1983, they have worked tirelessly with rural and refugee (from the war of 1948) farmers.
Grassroots currently funds PARC's innovative Urban Agriculture program in Gaza, which encourages food sovereignty and security by establishing networks of rooftop and backyard gardens.
By Salena Tramel
January 28th, 2009
For the most part, Gaza has been quiet for the past 10 days. News coverage from the region has faded from headlines as direct conflict between Hamas and the Israeli military halted in the eve of President Barack Obama's inauguration and the subsequent transitions of power.
The surge in solidarity with Palestinian people in Gaza is still strong. And I hope it will never wind down. My inbox is flooded with op-eds and solidarity messages from all over Latin America. Indigenous communities from Mexico speak about the similarities between the unjust occupation of a sovereign territory and their situation as peoples whose right to land is ignored. Messages from Brazil call on people to increase support to Palestinian farmers.
All morning I have been talking to people in Gaza City while they were helplessly watching the United Nations headquarters and millions of dollars of much needed food and medicine go up in flames. The UN plays a critical role in Gaza as it is the primary vehicle for feeding more than 80% of Gaza's 1.5 million people who depend on food aid. A UN distribution coordinator in Gaza City explained to me that they had allocated scant reserves in three supply warehouses in Gaza City, Karni, and Rafah. All three have been incapacitated by Israeli attacks.
B'Tselem (the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories) has joined eight other prominent Israeli Human Rights organizations in calling on their government to put an end to their actions in Gaza. B'Tselem is Hebrew for "in the image of" and used as a synonym for human dignity. Since 1989, they have worked tirelessly to educate the Israeli public and policymakers on the reality of human rights violations in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. Today-as the death toll in Gaza has just passed 1,000-B'Tselem's voice is needed more than ever to bring an end to the violence.
Grassroots International consultant Safa Joudeh has been reporting on the crisis in Gaza from Gaza City, providing first-hand accounts of the affects of the violence on the civilian population. Two of her accounts were recently published, Living in Gaza, Under Starlight and Bomb Blasts and Displaced and Desperate in Gaza. Both of these stories offer a glimpse of what is taking place behind Gaza's closed doors.
You already know that the news looks grim:
- Both Israel and Hamas have rejected international calls for a cease fire and the violence has escalated
- Gaza's border with Egypt and Israel remains closed
- Humanitarian aid has halted due to attacks on UN and Red Cross/Red Crescent workers.
Direct updates and news make it out of Gaza only in short bursts, when there is sufficient power to feed cell phone batteries and computers. Grassroots International's locally based partner organizations within Gaza continue to send us word as they can about how they are responding to the crisis and facilitating relief and reconstruction. Because of their ongoing commitment to social justice and human rights in the region, their efforts stand the greatest chance of having a lasting impact.
When I talk to people in Gaza these days, two things usually come up. The first, even in the midst of such a devastating war, is sincere gratitude for keeping in touch. The second is the question of why the world - especially the US whose taxpayers are financing the war - is silent. Although our actions have not yet been able to halt the attacks on Gaza, I can honestly tell our Palestinian friends that we are not silent.
January 7th, 2009
Again raising both legal and moral questions, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on January 6, 2009. Below are both his introduction to the letter and the text itself. Please write to thank Rep. Kucinich for his leadership on this issue.
From Dennis Kucinich:
In light of press reports that Israeli forces fired on a United Nations school where civilians were taking shelter, I sent notice today to Secretary of State, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, that Israel's actions in Gaza since December 27th, 2008 may constitute a violation of the requirements of the Arms Export Control Act of 1976 (AECA).
Yesterday, I was on the phone with a friend in Gaza when we were cut off by a loud noise. When I reached her a few minutes later, she politely apologized for the interruption, explaining that a missile had just hit a target next to her apartment building for the sixth time that day. "It's already totally flattened," she said, "I don't know what more they want."