Israelis, Palestinians protest Gaza blockade, call for peace

As Israel imposed a lockdown and continued a military assault on Gaza, and rockets from Gaza continued to terrify the bordering Israeli village of Sderot, Israeli peace and human rights advocates organized a relief convoy and peace demonstration, Jan. 26, at a Gaza border crossing. A parallel Palestinian demonstration was set for the other side of the border.

In a press release, the Israeli groups asked, “Does it help the children of Sderot that we are forcing starvation on the children of Gaza, and making them drink polluted water?

“We sympathize with Sderot’s residents and others living near the border, exposed to traumatizing Qassam rockets, but siege and collective punishment are no answer: although 1.5 million men, women and children are denied basic necessities, driven to the edge of starvation, Israel is increasing the daily death toll among Palestinians, many of whom are civilians, whilst the rocket fire has increased. Few Israelis ask why several Palestinian ceasefire offers have been rejected out of hand by the Israeli government.”

The Israelis declared, “We’ll go to the Gaza border, in cooperation with Palestinian partners inside Gaza, to show there’s an alternative to siege and rocketfire — an alternative of peace.”

Israeli participants include Gush Shalom (Peace Now), Coalition of Women for Peace, Combatants for Peace, Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, New Profile, Physicians for Human Rights (Israel), Hadash (electoral coalition including the Israeli Communist Party), Balad, Adalah, Tarabut-Hithabrut, Bat Shalom, Bat Tzafon for Peace and Equality, Machsom Watch, Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, Yesh Gvul, Alternative Information Center, Psychoactive – Mental Health Workers for Human Rights and Student Coalition – Tel Aviv University.

Relief convoys were scheduled to depart from Haifa, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Beer Sheva bearing signs reading “Gaza: Lift the Blockade.” At the border they planned to rally at the Erez checkpoint.

Organizers said they would insist that Israeli authorities allow the humanitarian goods to enter Gaza, adding that they were “prepared for prolonged stay near Erez, and a public/judicial campaign.” They reported that Israeli kibbutzes nearby offered their warehouses to store the goods.

The supplies focused on water filters, they said, “since the water of Gaza is an undrinkable cocktail of brine, sewage, pesticides and oil.” Israeli denial of filters to Gazans is “an unacceptable violation of basic humanitarian standards,” they charged.

The Palestinian demonstration was organized by the Palestinian International Campaign to End the Seige on Gaza, which calls itself “a diverse group of civil society activists, human rights activists, intellectuals, academics and businessmen from Gaza and the West Bank.”

Organizers said they welcome financial donations and expressions of support. See: .