Hope for Gaza: Send in the Clowns
|Sunday, May 24,2009 03:47|
United Nations human rights investigators announced this week that they intend to enter Gaza in early June to hold public hearings on whether war crimes were committed between December 27 to January 18th, during Israel"s invasion on Gaza which killed more than 1,400 Palestinians, over 900 were civilians, and destroyed over 4,000 homes and buildings. 50,000 were displaced on top of a brutal three years of economic blockade.
Israel"s investigation of its armed forces last month exonerated the troops, but "international human rights groups have called for a credible independent investigation into the conduct of Israeli troops in Gaza, including the destruction of several Gazan residential areas and firing artillery shells containing white phosphorous which can cause severe burns...The U.N. team will also investigate allegations that Hamas fighters fired rockets at civilian targets in southern Israel." 
Richard Goldstone, the South African jurist who heads the June four-member team, has requested Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu allow their entry; but no official response has yet been received. Richard Falk, the U.N. human rights investigator for the Palestinian territories, was detained and refused entry by Israel when he tried to conduct a separate mission last December.
On May 21, 2009, Ori Nir, Journalist and Spokesman for Americans for Peace Now, reported on the Obama and Netanyahou White House meeting in a conference call hosted by Churches for Middle East Peace:
"Israel is no longer America"s favorite son. The clear message from the USA was that the tight siege was unacceptable and needed significant change in regards to the restrictions at the checkpoints. The US demands are sweeping and not dependent on Palestinian performance. The friendship between Israel and the US has been one of warmth that showed empathy to the extent they supported without objection Israeli policies. Israel"s greatest asset is its relationship with the USA. Recognition of Israel as a Jewish State are stalling tactics and Obama will not buy into it. A source of hope is that Netanyahu is pragmatic and pressure able [and] progress in the Jewish camp in the US is gaining strength and momentum. We need to push together as Jews, Christians and others on the path for peace."
President Obama admitted that, "The fact is, that if the people of Gaza have no hope, if they can"t even get clean water at this point, if the border closures are so tight that it is impossible for reconstruction and humanitarian efforts to take place, then that is not going to be a recipe for Israel"s long-term security or a constructive peace track to move forward."
In an email to the Network of Spiritual Progressives, Rabbi Michael Lerner wrote that, "Hillary Clinton told me when I met with her in the White House: that when FDR met with labor leaders in 1934, after four hours of meeting, he said the following: "You"ve convinced me that you are right. Now, go out there and force me to do it."
"What he meant, Hillary explained to me, was that the pressures on a President to stay with the status quo and the forces of the economic and political elites of the country are enormous, so that even when a President wishes to move in a different direction, he needs to be able to point to forces from the progressive world that are equally vociferous and pushing him in the direction he wished to go."
One of many Americans who are pushing Obama in the way to go if there is to ever be security for Israel and peace in the Holy Land, is Dr. Hunter Campbell "Patch" Adams, a social activist and professional clown who inspired the Robin Williams film, Patch Adams. Adams wrote:
"While President Obama and the Middle East leaders talk endlessly about talks, we can actually do something to lift the siege and flood Gaza with love and laughter. As a "doctor/clown" I have traveled the world over to bring the healing power of laughter to children and adults in virtually every corner of the world -- from Afghanistan, to Bosnia, to Haiti. Right now, there is a group of children who are really in need of healing -- the children of the Gaza Strip.
"The 1.5 million people of the Gaza Strip (more than half of them children) have had their homes destroyed, their playgrounds crushed and their schools gutted in the recent Israeli attack on this small, crowded corner of the world. Their borders -- both on the Israeli and Egyptian sides --are closed, making it impossible to rebuild.
"For the first time ever, we"ll be part of a coordinated effort to push open the borders by land and by sea! On June 5, I will join Codepink: Women for Peace, the Coalition of Women for Peace (Israel) and more than 100 American and Israeli peace activists -- Jews, Muslims, Christians and everything in between. We will set up an encampment on the Israeli border calling for a lifting of the siege. We will be joined by over 150 people trying to enter Gaza through Egypt and others coming by sea.
"We will bring materials to build playgrounds, sports equipment, children"s medicines -- and performances that will get the children to forget their dire circumstances for a little while and laugh."
More than 160 Americans and internationals have already arrived in Cairo, but operators of Egyptian bus services say they have been prohibited by the Egyptian tourist police from transporting them to the border.
“We had chartered a private bus company to take us from Cairo to Al-Arish, the closest town to the Rafah crossing into Gaza,” explained Sandra Ruch, who is leading a delegation of Canadians on the humanitarian mission. “However, the operators told us that the government had prohibited them from taking us anywhere near the border. They obviously believe this tactic will keep us away, but we are determined. The Gazans are completely isolated and struggling to survive. We cannot abandon them.”
The 10-member Canadian delegation will be followed by a 14-member group from New York and a contingent of 40 students. The largest of the CODEPINK delegations, numbering about 80, will set off for the border on May 29, invited to the Gaza Strip by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, to visit schools and hospitals and work with Gazans to build an International Friendship Playground.
Delegation coordinator Pam Rasmussen said, “The majority of Gazans are under 18, and many of the youth are traumatized and depressed. Thousands are now living in rubble or cramped tents, while mourning the deaths of loved ones and struggling to support their families despite an unemployment rate in excess of 50 percent. It’s important for us to go there to show that the international community cares about their plight.”
Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODEPINK: Women for Peace, stated, “President Obama is coming to Egypt on June 4 to speak to the Arab world. He claims he wants to stand for peace and justice. We need to start by lifting the blockade of Gaza.”
This reporter will be embedded the CODE PINK delegation arriving at Erez Checkpoint; driven by a spirit of dissent for 2009 is the final year of the UN Decade of Creating a Culture of Nonviolence for All the Children of the World, and America is on the record in the UN as abstaining from voting because "it would make it harder for us to go to war."
Israel, Zimbabwe, Burma and North Korea remain the ONLY states in the world that denies international media and humanitarian aid workers access.
On November 18, 2008, I was one among forty seven international ecumenical Christians and other people of faith who rolled out of bed before 5 AM to travel from Jerusalem to the Erez Crossing to stand up as a united people of conscience in NONVIOLENT Solidarity with the people of Gaza and in support of all the NGO’s that have been denied access into the Gaza Strip.
We went in love and for love of all of God’s children; Be they the oppressed or the oppressors Those imprisoned by walls and those who erect them, Those who are denied clean water and their deniers, Those whose fears rule their hearts and the heartbroken, Those whose ideology, greed, apathy, and power blind them to their culpability, responsibilities and obligations.
We went with hope to arouse the consciences of the leaders of the world to seek peace through justice; equal human rights for all. I return with hope that the consciences of the leaders of the world can be accessed for the sake of the children of Gaza Palestine and Israel, for "HOPE has two children. The first is anger at the way things are. The second is courage to do something about it." - St. Augustine
"Send in the clowns. Don"t you approve? One who keeps tearing around, One who can"t move. Where are the clowns? Send in the clowns. But where are the clowns? There ought to be clowns. Quick, send in the clowns. Don"t bother - they"re here." - Stephen Sondheim
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