The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) is aggrieved by the deadly Israeli attack on the Freedom Flotilla, which was carried out in international waters during the early hours of Monday morning. The flotilla was attempting to break the Israel-imposed embargo against the people of Gaza by delivering humanitarian relief and construction materials to Gaza’s blockaded port.
In the words of AFSC staff present in Gaza: “We are all shocked and feel very sad for those who have been killed and injured having bravely voiced their support to Gazans. We think about their families and children they left behind to join the flotilla. We believe this world could be a better place, but only if we all stand together, support peace and love against oppression and injustice.”
As an international organization that has provided humanitarian relief and education in Gaza for more than 60 years, AFSC views this egregious event as only one symptom of a deadly and ill-conceived policy course. The embargo on Gaza has led to the death of many of its citizens, whose years of suffering has been largely ignored by the international community, has not resulted in true human security for Israel or the United States, and has not brought closer the hoped for peace between the Israeli and Palestinian people.
The policies of continued isolation serve to harden the positions of extremists, weaken the credibility of voices of moderation, and perpetuate a heightened sense of fear in Israel and Palestine leading to further tensions and aggression. This policy course has been in place since well before the 2006 elections won by Hamas. The continuing refusal by the U.S. to deal with the winners of this election has led to a tightening of the blockade. As long as this social, economic and political isolation of Gaza continues, the likelihood of catastrophic violence becomes greater. We call on the U.S. government to reverse its support for this flawed, failed policy approach and take all effective steps to end Gaza’s isolation, including lifting the blockade and allowing the flow of goods and people across Gaza’s borders, subject to international monitoring.
While the embargo has been in place, the U.S. has been complicit in its maintenance by providing nearly unconditional military assistance to the State of Israel, offering political cover at the United Nations, and enforcing sanctions imposed against Palestine for freely electing a government not deemed acceptable to the governments of Israel and the United States.
We call upon the U.S. government to help its ally, Israel, break from this failed course. The U.S. can first do so by ending military assistance to Israel, which further enflames conflict in the region and ensures Israel will always be better equipped for aggression than reconciliation. In addition, the U.S. can provide unlimited diplomatic support for final status peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian people that include Gaza as an integral part of a Palestinian state, and give its full support to an impartial international inquiry as called for in yesterday’s Security Council Presidential Statement.
AFSC speaks from direct experience, having been present in Gaza since 1949. For the past 10 years both our international and Palestinian staff in Gaza have witnessed the devastating progressive impact that isolation has had on the people of Gaza – especially on the 60% of the population who are under the age of 25 and who struggle to overcome their isolation. They have been brought up under extremely difficult circumstances and face a daunting future with very few employment opportunities, since the embargo blocks all commercial trade.
Yet even during this embargo, AFSC staff report that young people in Gaza “look forward to the future with their eyes wide open and with hope.”
Let their hope not be daunted.