CLEVELAND — Braving bitterly cold winds, 100 peace activists rallied in Market Square here Jan. 26 and marched several blocks to a town hall meeting to demand an end to the Israeli siege of Gaza., for a town hall meeting.

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and his wife, Elizabeth, greeted the marchers as they arrived for the town hall meeting, held at a local restaurant. Kucinich said he and 10 other members of Congress had sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urging the Bush administration to use its influence to end the blockade, which has deprived residents of Gaza of basic necessities of life and created a severe humanitarian crisis.

“The U.S. must exercise its role as the honest broker in the region to help lift the Israeli blockade of Gaza and to end the military occupation of the Palestinian territories,” Kucinich said. “It is not possible for Gaza to live on emergency aid forever and Israelis, especially those in southern Israel, deserve to live without fear.

“Threatening the public health of 1.5 million people is not an effective or lawful means to ensure the security of Israel,” he said. “Collective punishment will not stop the rocket fire; it only creates a questionable ‘balance’ of suffering on both sides of the border.

Kucinich said the United States “must support a viable peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis. The administration has a responsibility to act as an honest broker of peace.”

The Cleveland event, along with others in Europe and the U.S., was held to express solidarity with a convoy organized by peace groups in Israel that brought medicine, food and water filters to Gaza the same day.

The action here was organized by the Cleveland Middle East Peace Forum and sponsored by area peace and justice groups.

David Berenson, active in the Forum and Peace Action, spoke of his memories of Passover observances commemorating the fight of the ancient Hebrews against enslavement. He called on the Israeli government to honor the history of the Jewish people and end the suffering it has imposed on the Palestinians.

Fuad Hamed, a Forum leader and professor of Islamic Studies at Cuyahoga Community College, said, “Collective punishment is immoral and must be stopped. People are voicing their anger all around the world. The punishment of innocent Palestinians in Gaza is not the answer.”

Hamed urged Israel to “stop the policy of assassinations and destruction of homes, schools and mosques.”

He said Americans should urge Congress and the Bush administration to demand that Israel end the siege, end the building of settlements on the West Bank, and abide by the UN resolutions calling for Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories and establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

“Congress and the administration,” Hamed said, “must end their silence on the suffering of the Palestinian people. It lessens the image of the United States. There must be a fair, even-handed policy in the Middle East.”

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