Few could fail to witness without awe the historical significance of the inauguration of President Barack Obama as the first African American president of the United States. As people see it as an opportunity for change, those in the occupied Palestinian territories, as well as those working to bring about an end to the use of the modifier “occupied” to that phrase, realize that there is no time for a long honeymoon for the 44th leader of the nation.
(Photo by Getty Images: Destruction in Jabalya on the Gaza Strip, the invasion was notably absent from Obama’s inaugural address)
This weekend, Israel and Hamas enacted their own termless, unilateral ceasfires, and Israel withdrew its troops from the occupied Gaza Strip in time to make a nice show for the Democrats in Washington, DC. But Gaza’s bordes remain closed and the damage to building and infrastructure are valued in the billions of dollars as people there come to grips with the thousands of deaths and injuries. Access to humanitarian aid is nonexistent, just one of the many violations of international law in this whole ordeal.
While Obama’s first phone call to a foreign leader on his first day in office was to Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas, there’s still much to see about what his policies will eventually be on this issue, and much reason for people to maintain caution amid the rampant optimism.
What follows is a review of the sort of “change” a few organizations are calling for, from President Obama and other leaders around the globe, after nearly eight years of neglect.
The U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation: After a congratulatory message to our new president, The Campaign asks people to press Obama to end military aid to Israel and hold it accountable for the estimated $2 billion in damages this latest bombardment caused. The message also asks people to “tell President Obama that Israel must comply with UN Security Council Resolution 1860, which calls for ‘unimpeded provision and distribution throughout Gaza of humanitarian assistance, including of food, fuel and medical treatment,’ and that Israel must end its blockade of the Gaza Strip, an illegal form of collective punishment of the 1.5 million Palestinian residents who live there.”
“Tell President Obama that Israel must be held accountable for its misuse of U.S. weapons to kill and injure Palestinian civilians and to target Palestinian civilian infrastructure. Rep. Dennis Kucinich already has requested the State Department to investigate Israel’s violations of the Arms Export Control Act. Ask President Obama to make sure this investigation is complete and accurate and that Israel is sanctioned by ending U.S. military aid as a consequence of its violations of this law”
Avaaz.org: Not as well known inthe U.S. as it is in UK and Europe, Avaaz.org is an online hub for global citizen action on a range of issues including human rights, poverty and the environment. Avaaz.org is asking people to petition the UN Security Council, the European Union, the Arab League and the United States to push for a concrete ceasefire and an opening of borders for humanitarian aid into Gaza.
“We urge you to act immediately to ensure a comprehensive ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, to protect civilians on all sides, and to address the growing humanitarian crisis. Only through robust international action and oversight can the bloodshed be stopped, the Gaza crossings safely re-opened and real progress made toward a wider peace in 2009.”
War on Want: The UK-based charity is calling on citizens to contact the office of Foreign Secretary to place sanctions on the state of Israel until it agrees to abide by international law.
“Israel’s latest attack on the people of Gaza is a war crime, made possible only through the financial, military and diplomatic support Israel receives. The UK government has licensed the sale of millions of pounds worth of arms to Israel, including key components for F-16 fighter jets. F-16 fighter jets have been deployed against civilian populations in the current assault on Gaza.”
In a separate appeal, War On Want is aslo asking Uk citizens to demand that the Foreign Secretary “suspend the EU-Israel Association Agreement, which gives trading preferences to Israel despite its human rights abuses against the Palestinian people.”
Just Foreign Policy: The call to people to contact Congress for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza may seem a little out of date, but there’s also a request for people to contact their senators and representative in support of U.S. leadership in ending the blockade on Gaza, “which is also an act of war.”
Cease Fire Now: The stated goal of the website is to gather as many statements before the Obama inauguration, but it’s still up and open for business. You can go there to download posters and grpahics for stickers as well as explain to obama why you “want a Cease Fire Now.” Still worth participating in, as the current standoff could flare up at any time.
Thank You, Jon: thankyoujonstewart.com was created for people to do just that. As the site explains, “on The Daily Show’s January 5 ‘Strip Maul’ segment, Jon Stewart did what few American television personalities have dared to do: he criticized Israel’s campaign against Gaza, making it clear that bombing will not bring peace for Israelis or Palestinians. He mocked the one-sided response of U.S. politicians by calling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the ‘Mobius strip of issues because there’s only one side!’ He’s sure to get thousands of complaints, so send Jon a letter of appreciation and then ask all your friends to watch this segment.”