One of the goals of the solidarity fast is to provide an opening for conversations and to educate people about what is happening in Gaza. I’m always glad when folks ask why I’m fasting so for a friend – who had a hard time supporting this action and asked- here is why…..
In a recent article found at http://www.alternet.org Chris Hedges notes that According to UN special reporter Richard Falk; “It (the situation in Gaza) is an unfolding humanitarian catastrophe that each day poses the entire 1.5 million Gazans to an unspeakable ordeal, to a struggle to survive in terms of their health. This is an increasingly precarious condition. A recent study reports that 46 percent of all Gazan children suffer from acute anemia. There are reports that the sonic booms associated with Israeli overflights have caused widespread deafness, especially among children. Gazan children need thousands of hearing aids. Malnutrition is extremely high in a number of different dimensions and affects 75 percent of Gazans. There are widespread mental disorders, especially among young people without the will to live. Over 50 percent of Gazan children under the age of 12 have been found to have no will to live.”
A recent Guardian editorial found at http://www.guardian.co.uk goes on to add: “There is an acute shortage of all drugs, and a complete lack of all cancer and cystic fibrosis medication. The hospitals have generators, but often no fuel, and switching from mains to an emergency supply wrecks the equipment. One of the strip’s three CT scanners is bust because of fluctuations in current. This also makes the temperature control of incubators for newborn babies unreliable. There have been some transfers of the sick to Israeli hospitals, but none to Egypt. According to one source, more than 230 patients died last year waiting for a permit to leave.
The list goes on: the majority of Gaza’s children present the symptoms of mild or severe post traumatic stress disorder. About 45% of children under five have iron deficiency from lack of fruit and 18% of children have stunted growth.”
And because statistics such as those above can too easily become faceless numbers I add an article at http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east which tells the heartbreaking story of one family in Gaza.
“As a convoy of blue-and-white United Nations trucks loaded with food waited last night for Israeli permission to enter Gaza, Jindiya Abu Amra and her 12-year old daughter went scrounging for the wild grass their family now lives on.
“We had one meal today – khobbeizeh,” said Abu Amra, 43, showing the leaves of a plant that grows along the streets of Gaza. ‘Every day, I wake up and start looking for wood and plastic to burn for fuel and I beg. When I find nothing, we eat this grass.’ ”
According to a UN report Gaza City residents are without electricity for up to 16 hours a day and half the city’s residents receive water only once a week for a few hours. The report adds that 80% of Palestinians living in Gaza are obliged to drink polluted water.
So – I need to do something. And if the moral obligation, and the knowledge that (as MLK said) “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” – if that were not enough were not enough there is also the reality that I live in a country that is supporting this. Israel receives $15 million dollars a day and is the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid in the world. The US has constantly vetoed UN resolutions condemning the actions of Israel.
And so I try to do the small bit that I can. And it is true – fasting alone will not change things. So, I try to use many different tactics – different things speak to different people. I write my representatives and tell them to stop supporting collective punishment and other violations of international law – to hold Israel accountable for what amounts to genocide. I write to Israeli officials and point to international law and the Geneva conventions that are supposed to protect civilians. I march. I rally. I have traveled to Palestine to bear witness and provide accompaniment and solidarity to those struggling nonviolently to end the injustice and bring about some peace. (And hope to do so again). I support others who wish to travel to do so with training, support and fundraising. I boycott Israeli products and do my best to purchase fair trade Palestinian items. When I am able I provide at least a small bit financial support to those who gather medical supplies and such trying to break the blockade… and for 5 days this December (one last week, 4 this week.) I fast. I give myself this reminder that hunger is an awful thing. I try to talk to people about what I am doing. And I honor my brothers and sisters in Gaza with this simple act of solidarity.
Thanks for asking.