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Working to end the blockade in Gaza

Gaza after Operation Protective Edge
Gaza after Operation Protective Edge Photo: Shan Cretin / AFSC

“We, who have the advantage of seeing the reality of Gaza without this baggage of dehumanizing indoctrination can take a stand for the humanity of the Palestinian people in Gaza.” Rabbi Michael Davis

Last spring, people of faith and conscience in Illinois, including Palestinian and Jewish Americans met with US Senator Durbin to express our concern about US policy that impacts nearly two million Palestinians living in Gaza.  We shared with the Senator the experiences of our own family and friends who live in desperate conditions after nearly 10 years of blockade.  Those of us in the meeting felt the Senator listened and showed compassion in a way that we rarely experience from our elected leaders.  We were encouraged to engage more of the Senator’s constituents to speak out about the blockade of Gaza.

During the months of May and June we attended village fairs, community gatherings, concerts, and even a Chicago 5k race to collect hand written signatures on a petition asking Senator Durbin to take leadership and work to support a complete and unconditional end to the Gaza blockade.  We had individual conversations with hundreds of people – nearly 1300 signed the petition that we delivered to the Senator’s Chicago office on June 30.  We connected with members of Chicago’s rich faith community – Christian, Jewish, and Muslim – and held an interfaith action on the day of the petition delivery.  

We produced a video of this action  in order to encourage other communities in the US to organize similar engagements with their members of Congress. While our efforts have not yet led to a change in US policy, nor public action yet by our Senator, we will continue to educate and advocate for Palestinians living in Gaza as part of our efforts to bring peace, equality and a shared security to all living in Israel and Palestine.

Quick Facts on the Impact of the Blockade

  • Rolling blackouts lasting 16 to 18 hours per day are the norm in Gaza with residents receiving only 6 to 8 hours of power each day.
  • Due to fuel shortages caused by Israeli limitations on the import of fuel, since 2013 the Gaza Power Plant has operated at less than half of its capacity and has regularly had to shut down
  • ·Over 70% of households in Gaza receive piped water for only 6 to 8 hours once every two to four days because the power supply is not sufficient to provide uninterrupted access to water.  
  • Up to 90 million liters of untreated sewage are discharged into the Mediterranean Sea each day in part due to electrical and fuel shortages.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that an expected 360,000 people–20% of Gaza’s population–are suffering from a variety of mental health challenges due to the blockade.

About the Author

Jennifer Bing has worked at AFSC for nearly 30 years, serving in various capacities in its Israel-Palestine programs. She directs the Chicago AFSC Palestine-Israel Program and works with the Palestine-Israel joint U.S. program. Jennifer has organized hundreds of speaking tours, conferences, workshops, advocacy campaigns, and educational programs about the Middle East in her tenure with AFSC.

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