We've officially been denied entrance into Gaza from the Erez border crossing in Israel. I have been -- and continue to be -- very critical of Egypt for its role in Gazans' suffering, through its persistent refusal to open its own border with Gaza by more than a crack (and then only occasionally). However, it's not that difficult to identify the most appropriate Egyptian authorities to talk to, and more importantly how -- which means they can be influenced. The Israeli government, on the other hand, is rather like an unyielding brick wall. You can throw yourself against it again and again, and when you're done, you have a mass of bruises and not much else to show for it. (If you saw the AP story on our activism at Erez, please note that it incorrectly stated that we had not asked for permission to enter Gaza.)
But that is in part because the United States -- both the government and the people -- have not used our considerable leverage to back up our words with action (in other words -- no more mealy mouthed comments like "additional settlements aren't helpful"). The Obama administration has taken a few positive steps recently to counteract its earlier worrisome appointments of Zionists like Dennis Ross and Rahm Emmanuel:
- President Obama stated forcefully in his June 4 Cairo speech that "the United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements."
- Sec. of State Hillary Clinton was rightfully called "two-faced" by the Jewish press when she told Al-Jazeera Al-Jazeera that, “We want to see a stop to settlement construction, additions, natural growth — any kind of settlement activity. We have made that very clear." (Contrast that with Clinton's track record as New York’s junior senator from 2001 to 2009, or even as a presidential candidate, when she was a vocal supporter of Israeli policies. One Ynet commentator had this to say when she lost to Obama: "Hillary Clinton, and certainly her husband, has a record filled with numerous examples of support for the State of Israel. Did I say support? It was true love. Had Hillary Clinton made it to the Oval Office in the White House, any Israeli prime minister, be it Tzipi Livni, Shaul Mofaz, Meir Sheetrit, Ehud Barak or Benjamin Netanyahu, would be able to sleep well at night.")
- Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel -- son of an Israeli terrorist (Irgun fighter) and an IOF volunteer -- echoed this sentiment recently: “In the next four years, there will be a peace agreement with the Palestinians on the basis of two states for two peoples, and it does not matter to us who is the prime minister.”
This is music to ears starved for a "balanced conversation" about who is at fault in blocking progress towards peace. But it's still just rhetoric only, and we need to go so much further beyond a freeze in settlements. We've been calling for that for decades now..to no avail. It's time to call for dismantlement and to back it up with action -- like a cut in military aid (which now totals more than $3 million a year, with no strings attached).
Another condition on that bottomless piggybank should be an end to the vice-like restrictions on movement that have transformed Gaza into the world's largest open-air prison and the West Bank into a patchwork of bantustans. You can do your part by loudly protesting Israel's refusal to allow the entrance of our humanitarian delegation. Contact:
1) Mr. Lior of the Coordination and Liaison Administration for Gaza - 972 50 624 6622
2) Sarah Henkins at the Israel/Palestine Desk of the State Department -
3) the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel - 972 3–519–7475 or 972 3-519-7551.
4) your member of Congress! - Ask specifically for the assistant who works on foreign affairs (or visit this site: http://capwiz.com/asae/dbq/officials/)
In our second day at the Erez crossing (and our first at the Karni crossing, which most large shipments of supplies must navigate), this was our message -- both visually and through our chants. We replaced the traditional words "What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!" with "What do we want? Chocolate! [Or tea...paper...cement, etc.] When do we want it? Now!]
Later that evening, we met with an inspiring panel of 12th-grade refuseniks, each who are defying Israel's compulsory military service and risking -- in the case of one of the young girls -- imprisonment of 20 days. Now, that is principled action.
For my own small part, I have decided to ignore my deportation order. I was given no reason for the decision to kick me out and was refused a copy of the statement I was forced to sign without a clear explanation of what it exactly meant. That's not the action of a democratic state that respect the rule of law, and I will not give it any further legitimacy by meekly following its orders.