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Relieve the suffering of the Palestinian people
As members of Georgetown for Gaza, greeting our friends and professors on campus with “Happy New Year” after winter break seemed bitterly paradoxical.
As we returned to the comfort and luxury of Georgetown, in the Gaza strip the advent of 2009 (1430 Hijri) came loaded with blood, destruction, and terror. Last month, more than 1,300 people were killed, with at least 95 bodies having been pulled from the rubble since Israel halted its assault on January 18. About 1,200 of the dead have been civilians and well over 300 of them were children. To date, 13 Israelis have been killed in rocket fire, 10 of whom were soldiers.
The situation became so dire that Gazans called on international aid agencies to provide them with the white sheets needed to bury the scores killed; it seems the price of a Palestinian life has dwindled so much that it cannot even rest in peace after death.
As if the indiscriminate bombing weren’t enough, the attack came after a 15-month siege on the Gaza Strip, which forced 1.5 million residents into a ghetto-like, overcrowded, severely impoverished lifestyle. Sealing entry points into Gaza, Israel has also reduced and often entirely prevented the delivery of fuel, cooking gas, food, medical and other supplies needed to maintain the barest standards of life.
While often oblivious towards Palestinian life anyway, the mainstream media was not even able to enter Gaza due to Israeli restrictions. This conflict did not begin out of thin air, nor after Hamas launched a home-made rocket at Sderot (after which Israel broke the ceasefire). Instead, the attacks came after more than a year’s worth of collective punishment against the people of the already-deteriorating Strip, the conditions of which President Jimmy Carter ominously dubbed “worse than apartheid South Africa.”
Notwithstanding the fact that all attacks against civilians—Israeli or Palestinian—are to be regarded as war crimes, Israel claims that its operations against the people of Gaza were necessary as a form of self-defense against the Hamas rockets launched into southern Israel. And yet, it is safe to assume that these massively disproportionate attacks will hardly guarantee Israel more security.
While we do not agree with Hamas’s policies—even though it was democratically elected by the Palestinian people—we point out that Palestinians have lived under Israeli occupation since the Six-Day War in 1967, a fact that is often forgotten (or ignored). Israel has, for 40 years, effectively denied Palestinians the option of establishing an independent state by continuously building settlements, segregated roads, checkpoints, and a monstrous wall that is almost three times the size of the Berlin wall.
This war on the people of Gaza isn’t really about rockets, nor is it about restoring Israel’s military deterrence. It’s about resisting the Palestinian people’s right to exist on their own land. Indeed, in 2002 former Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon said, “The Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people.”
We recall our university’s Jesuit heritage by echoing the plea of Cardinal Renato Martino, the head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council on Peace and Justice, who said, “Look at the conditions in Gaza: more and more, it resembles a big concentration camp.”
Through our efforts, we are inviting our entire community to join us in condemning the horrendous crimes being committed against the people of Gaza. It is unacceptable for us, as future public servants and civic leaders, to remain silent, especially as our own government provides the state of Israel with most of the weapons and money used to kill innocents in Gaza.
We will continue our campaign for awareness as long as it is necessary in order to draw our community into a debate about the rights and wrongs of Gaza. We feel that there is no better way to fulfill our moral responsibilities as students of conscience than to help draw your attention to the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe caused by Israel in Gaza.