Most Americans don’t have a clue where the Gaza Strip is located or even a hint about the horrible humanitarian crises unfolding there.
That fact is probably the most difficult for me to digest and accept. The second most difficult fact — I can do very little to change things.
Walking the streets of Baltimore this summer, I’m watching people in their busy lives and I don’t know how to break through the competing white noise. For 99% of them, Gaza simply isn’t on their radar and there’s no reason it ever will be despite the pleas of activists and NGOs banging the drums to wake up the world. Even mainsteam media is reporting on the anniversary of Israel’s 51-day assault on Gaza last summer, but who is really listening? (We only mark momentous occasions with anniversaries, right?)
To achieve peace between Israel and a future Palestinian state, successive U.S. administrations have said Israel’s occupation of Palestinians and their land must end. Yet the situation on the ground is worsening every day: illegal Israeli settlements and land confiscations are expanding; home demolitions, collective punishments, and freedom restrictions are routine; and extrajudicial killings, arbitrary and abusive detentions—including of minors—and violence against civilians are occurring with impunity. Whether committed by Israeli forces or settlers, Israel is responsible as the occupying power.
Israel should be subject to the same process of human rights compliance as other countries receiving U.S. military aid. In an October 5, 2012 letter UCC leaders joined more than a dozen U.S. church organizations in calling for Congress to “hold Israel accountable to [human rights] standards by making the disbursement of U.S. military assistance to Israel contingent on the Israeli government’s compliance with applicable U.S. laws and policies. As Israel is the single largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid since World War II, it is especially critical for Israel to comply with the specific U.S. laws that regulate the use of U.S.-supplied weapons.” With this resolution the UCC again seeks to hold the U.S. accountable in its efforts to seek peace.
The U.S. must ensure that its military aid is not used to commit human rights abuses or otherwise support a system under which conditions deteriorate and the prospects for peace are diminished. Urge Congress to hold hearings to examine and insist on Israel’s compliance as a requirement for receiving U.S. aid.
I signed the UCC petition and hope my friends will join me. And I presented my own petition to Congress asking them to invite President Jimmy Carter to speak about his recent visit to Israel and Palestine.
My dream of waking up Americans may sound foolish, but I really only have to identify those key people who can make a difference.
Just like the trim tab on the boat, that small part that moves the rudder, that eventually moves the entire ship. We certainly can’t change the ship’s direction. It’s too large and the momentum is too strong. But we can adjust the trim tab, to change the rudder’s direction, and watch as the entire ship slowly changes course.
I need to focus on the trim tab where I can make a difference with people who can make a difference in the lives of my Palestinian friends in Gaza.