CLEVELAND — The Middle East Peace Forum, a culturally diverse group of individuals who are genuinely committed to promote and preserve a just and lasting peace in the Middle East, has issued a statement supporting the campaign by the Palestinian National Committee to end the siege on Gaza and, further, encourage all peace organizations and individuals to adopt this humanitarian stand.

The world is now aware of the deteriorating conditions resulting from the Israeli, as well as the international, blockade of Gaza, the statement says.

The group believes that it is morally and ethically wrong to engage in collective punishment, and notes that the entire population of Gaza is deprived of the most essential requirements of life: food and medicine.

The two main crossings of Gaza to the outside world, at Rafah and Eretz, are under the complete control of the Israeli military.

The movement of food, medicine, raw materials for manufacturing, farm products and even people is severely restricted.

Recently the Israeli authorities declared that the whole of Gaza is a “hostile entity,” and are therefore taking even more restrictive measures. To compound this human misery, the Israeli authorities are planning to restrict the flow of fuel and electricity to the area, this despite the coming of winter.

The World Health Organization estimates that, of the 1.5 million residents of Gaza, some 1,000 need to leave Gaza monthly for treatment of severe medical conditions that Gazan hospitals are not equipped to treat. Due to the closures, that number has been reduced to 10 people each month, resulting in death for many with treatable conditions.

The forum points out that these actions by the Israeli government are contrary to Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Israel has restricted the flow of funds into Gaza, even the taxes collected from Palestinian workers on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. At the same time, the Israeli authorities have limited the amount of food trucked into Gaza and the result has been rapid inflation due to competition for the small amount of food available.

The siege has severely affected the educational system. A serious lack of textbooks and other instructional materials, along with hunger, makes it practically impossible for teachers to teach and students to learn. University students studying abroad have difficulty reaching their colleges and universities.

The industrial and agricultural sections of the Palestinian economy are also suffering. Restrictions on raw materials for industry have crippled Gaza’s industrial output. Closures and restrictions prevent or make it difficult and expensive for goods to reach markets in Europe or elsewhere. Similarly, cash crops are often allowed to rot at ports or trucking stations due to delays.

Widespread unemployment, poverty, deprivation, powerlessness and despair are the sad conditions in Gaza today. These are also the ingredients of defiance, desperation and extremism.

The Middle East Peace Forum urges that the siege on Gaza be lifted immediately so that work for peace and reconciliation in Palestine, including Gaza, and in Israel and the entire Middle East may begin with American, European and Arab active participation.