May 22, 2009
WASHINGTON – April 28 – To pressure the Obama administration to push Israel and Egypt to end their blockade of Gaza, five delegations of students, lawyers, teachers, journalists and activists will rally at the borders of the war-torn land in June and attempt to break the siege.
WHEN: May 25 to June 14
WHERE: Egypt to Gaza, Israel to Gaza
The delegations, starting on May 25 and continuing to June 14, are timed to coincide with Pres. Barack Obama’s visits with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, in which he is expected to push for a two-state solution. Through rallies and visits with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, human rights groups and everyday citizens, the delegates hope to move the conversation toward an end to the blockade that continues to prevent Gazans from receiving sufficient food, medical care and construction materials to rebuild their society several months after Israel’s invasion. The siege killed more than 1,300 Gazans, displaced 50,000 people and destroyed approximately 4,000 homes.
“President Obama will meet with the Israeli and Egyptian governments, as well as the Palestinian Authority, but refuses to talk to the elected Palestinian leadership from Hamas or to demand that Israel lift its devastating siege,” Benjamin said. “Meanwhile, 1.5 million people – of which the majority are women and children – suffer. By challenging the siege with our delegations, we hope to push our administration and the region’s leaders to address this humanitarian crisis.”
A CODEPINK delegation in March, which included author Alice Walker, was successful in entering Gaza through Egypt, and the organization plans to continue organizing delegations until the borders stay open. This time, however, a separate CODEPINK delegation will partner with Israel-based Coalition of Women for Peace to attempt to enter through the Erez crossing in Israel as well. If either the Israeli or Egyptian authorities deny the groups’ entrance, the participants will camp out at the border while holding workshops, seminars and actions calling for an end to the siege, Benjamin said. Hundreds of aid workers, lawyers and convoys carrying humanitarian aid have been denied entrance since Israel imposed the blockade in June 2007.
If successful in entering Gaza, the delegates will work with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) to bring cheer to children by delivering school supplies and pitching in to build playgrounds. Children were especially devastated in the attacks; at least 431 were killed, 1,346 were left without one or more of their parents, and an estimated 240 schools and kindergartens were damaged.
“The majority of Gazans are under 18, and many of the youth are traumatized and depressed,” said delegation coordinator Pam Rasmussen. “Thousands lost their homes and loved ones, and many others were wounded in the 22-day assault. We want to demonstrate in a very concrete way that they have not been forgotten.” Through presentations, teach-ins, bake sales, and fund-raising through the CODEPINK Web site, the delegates are working dawn to dusk to fundraise enough money necessary for the trips. Many were inspired to attend through lectures and articles from members of the 60-person delegation that traveled to Gaza in March.
For more information, please call Medea Benjamin, CODEPINK co-founder, at 415-235-6517, Pam Rasmussen, delegation coordinator at 415-558-5700, or Jean Stevens, media coordinator, at 508-769-2138. Visit www.codepinkalert.org/gaza.