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Emergency Fund Raising and Advocacy to End the Siege of Gaza PDF Print E-mail
Feb 04, 2008 at 03:00 PM

 

 Near East Cultural and Educational Foundation

Charity BIN/Registration No.: 119246742RR0001

Box 75090, 20 Bloor Street East, Toronto. M4W 3T3

necef.canada@gmail.com


with      Canadian Friends of Sabeel

24 January 2008

CALLS FOR EMERGENCY FUND RAISING FOR THE HUMANITARIAN CATASTROPHE IN GAZA  
AND ADVOCACY BY CANADIAN DONORS TO END PERMANENTLY THE SIEGE OF GAZA

Enough is enough! This is the thrust of a rare statement by the Patriarchs and Heads of Jerusalem Churches. Enough is enough. Our partners in Gaza and the West Bank have all called for an end to this human manufactured humanitarian disaster in Gaza, appealing to all people of good conscience everywhere.

We are once again launching a campaign for funds for Gaza; the present need again dictates this third appeal 18 months. All donors are asked to match your financial generosity with advocacy measures -- a letter to the local media, contacting your MP, education in the local community, writing the Department of Foreign Affairs --- toward permanently ending the untenable siege of Gaza and the human manufactured humanitarian crisis which it has created. (resources can be found at www.sabeel.ca).

Your past generosity with NECEF’s appeals of 2006 and 2007 have each raised in excess of $25,000. We are hoping to raise over $50,000 with this appeal more broadly circulated to Canadian Friends of Sabeel and other organizations (who are encouraged to circulate this with your own covering letter). We are asking the Canadian churches to match these donations dollar for dollar. If they do, there would then be a substantial basis, over $100,000 if successful, upon which to ask CIDA emergency and other governmental sources to match that total. In addition to this substantial aid and concrete solidarity with Gazans, individual donors and organizations will thus be empowered to draw attention of media and government to relieve the crisis and speak to terminating the siege.

All donors through NECEF (at the above address) will be issued a charitable tax receipt, and an update letter informing you of the success of this initiative which you can use in your advocacy. Our partner for emergency relief in Gaza continues to be the Near East Council of Churches (NECC), the largest non-government organization in the Gaza Strip prior to the advent of the PA. A remarkable and dependable service organization, they will receive 100% of the funds raised to address the immediate needs of the people.

Today I spoke with the head of the NECC in Gaza, Mr. Costa Dabbagh, and was inspired by his determination not to be defeated and to meet the crisis head on. Despite running out of fuel for their programmes, they had just finished a meeting of any staff and Board members who could attend, to work out a plan to now even extend  their programmes for the benefit of Gazans. “We will be working with candles, but we will continue.” 

Mr. Dabbagh was very clear that funds must be attached to advocacy, and that Israel’s occupation must be recognized as the cause. “We are being fed by charity like animals in a cage, and now they have even cut off our food...we don’t want charity, we want our dignity restored. Our dignity has been taken away by the occupation; it is the occupation that is causing all of this and it must end...your (Foreign) Minister was here recently, Bush was here, and this is what is happenning.” He ended with an appeal to us to get the Canadian government to change its stance and take a constructive role in ending both the siege of Gaza and the occupation, based on international law. At the same time he warned, “the silence of the world will only create more insecurity, and we will all pay a price. If there is any conscience, we must see it now.” He noted that 80% of Gaza is now dependent upon aid, up from 10% a decade ago. “We want our dignity restored.”

This crisis is now acute. Israel’s 40 year occupation has ramped up to transform Gaza into the world’s largest prison, with 1.5 million inhabitants, nearly 50% of them children. 85% of the population has no memory of freedom from before Israel’s hostile military occupation of Gaza. In recent days, catastrophe has been imposed by Israel’s extra-judicial killings, accompanied by the blockading of most food and fuel supplies, medicines and other essentials, in violation of international humanitarian law. Mr. Dabbagh forecast when I visited Gaza a few months, “With this pressure depriving people of the basic needs, Gaza will explode.” Indeed, the people have demolished most of the Israeli controlled border wall with Egypt in their desperation. Over 1/4 million Gazans are reported to have sought supplies and freedom in the Sinai in 24 hours.

The restrictions on fuel entering the strip means the main Gaza power supply is shutting down. Without fuel, hospital generators are shutting down, dozens of infants surviving in incubators now face death, refrigerated medicines are going bad, dialysis dependent patients are at risk, as are innumerable patients dependent on powered equipment for treatment.  Without fuel, agricultural produce cannot get to market; food distribution is at risk, precipitating  hunger and malnourishment. The local economy, already coping with 60% unemployment, is grinding to a halt.  Even aid agencies’ work is hampered by lack of fuel for operations and employee transport.

Israel’s rationalizes its oppression and occupation with the tired self-defence argument, the quintessential justification of aggressors. Last October in Boston at a conference against Israel’s apartheid in the Occupied Territories, Archbishop Desmond Tutu in response to a provocative press question noted that he could in no way see how the death of innocent pregnant women and their children forbidden access to hospitals at checkpoints could contribute to Israel’s security.

The IV Geneva Convention, applying to Occupied Territories, is part of the body of international law. It was promulgated after the Tokyo and Nuremberg Trials to try to ensure that the horrors faced by civilians under Nazi and Japanese occupation would never again be perpetrated. Israel is continually in violation of dozens of its provisions on the protection of civilians. Yet a few especially heinous actions are listed under Article 147 as “grave breaches”, war crimes; amongst these are “wilfully causing great suffering”. Israel’s leaders, including the cabinet and particularly the Minister of Defence, are unabashedly in my opinion committing war crimes against humanity. Israel’s pattern of violence and oppression has been to push beyond the limits with each new tactic, until restrained by international pressure. Apparently, the extent of these tactics will not be limited to these war crimes unless we speak now, effectively and unambiguously.

Canada, along with Israel, is a signatory to the Convention. Article 1 is unambiguous, “The High Contracting Parties undertake to respect and to ensure respect for the present Convention in all circumstances.” Canada has failed in this obligation “to ensure respect” in these circumstances. Canada has an obligation to hold Israel accountable, and to be active in ending the siege and pro-active in ending the occupation.

The moral obligations of Israel’s leaders are obvious, as are the moral obligations of Canadian leaders, and indeed each of us. “If not now, when?” Let us meet this crisis with solidarity. Now is the moment to be generous, both with your financial support and primarily with your time and dilligence in advocating locally and nationally for Canadian government action to the break the siege and end the occupation. Last summer, we wrote, “Let us rally together to stand in solidarity with Gazans in the face of Canada’s official partisan and inhumane response to their suffering. Let us offer an alternate voice from Canada, a token of our desire for a just peace.”

As the lights go out in Gaza, let us light a candle of hope here by our solidarity and generosity.

 In peace,            
             Robert+
The Reverend Robert Assaly,
            NECEF President and CFOS chair

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