MPAC Expresses Grave Concern About Gaza

November 17, 2012

Today, MPAC expressed grave concern about the rapidly escalating conflict between Israel and Hamas authorities in Gaza. At least40 Palestinians have been killed as of this hour due to Israeli airstrikes and three Israeli civilians have been killed due to rocket fire from Gaza.

SEE: Israel Broadens Bombing in Gaza to Include Government Sites” (New York Times)

Israel is mobilizing tens of thousands of reservists and is amassing forces for another ground invasion. The last time a ground invasion took place in the Gaza Strip in 2008, more than 1,000 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed, and the Palestinian infrastructure in Gaza was tremendously damaged.

MPAC opposes the move toward more active warfare by both sides, and we call for an immediate cease-fire, one that is durable but is not an excuse to punish the people of Gaza through sanctions and blockades. We also deplore the Israeli assassination of Hamas leaders, as this tactic is counterproductive and only escalates the cycle of violence. Hamas is not a small circle of leaders. It reflects a broad base of support within Gaza. Killing its leaders, which Israel has done for decades, will not result in the demise of the organization.

We call on the Palestinians to move forward as a united people by holding free elections in Gaza and the West Bank to elect its leadership that can represent the interests of the all Palestinians. The elected authorities should have the sole right to deploy armed forces. Independent groups that attack Israel should stand down and accept the role of elected leaders to create and enforce policy for the Palestinians.

We also call on Israel and the United States to accept the outcome of democratic elections among the Palestinians. Punishing Gaza since 2007 for voting for Hamas has been a disastrous course for Israel and the United States. It is not the job of outsiders to tell Palestinians how to vote when we have encouraged a democratic process.

Finally, we must all recognize that the greatest act of violence in the West Bank and Gaza is the ongoing Israeli occupation. The occupation has been defined by land confiscation, checkpoints, midnight searches, arbitrary arrests, torture, illegal settlement building, travel restrictions, vigilante settler violence, economic and social restrictions and ultimately the right of Israel to take the property, liberty and even life of any Palestinian without any legal recourse. All those who want peace in the Middle East must condemn the occupation and bring it to a rapid end. Time has shown that demands on the Palestinians to end attacks cannot be succeed without first understanding the context in which they are taking place.

Palestinians’ lack of citizenship in any nation and the failure of the international community to push for a Palestinian state has made its 4 million residents completely vulnerable to the whims of the Israeli government. The latest horrifying example of Israel’s bureaucratic terrorism was revealed this week, when the New York Times reported that Israel so finely tuned its blockade of Gaza from 2007-2010 that it calculated how many calories were sufficient to create hunger and hardship but not outright starvation.

Due to the lack of Israeli leadership to return to the negotiating table, the Palestinian Authority now is pursuing statehood recognition at the U.N. General Assembly. We support this move and urge the U.N. General Assembly to recognize Palestine as a state. The U.S. has blocked such recognition at the Security Council level through its veto power.

We urge President Barack Obama to facilitate negotiations to end the occupation and recognize a Palestinian state. President Obama should make it clear to Israel that failure of negotiations will result in the U.S. ending its use of the veto by 2015. Without this deadline, the current Israeli government has no reason to bargain in good faith and aggressively pursue peace. A U.S. commitment to recognize Palestine would change that.

The violence in and around Gaza is a symptom of a much larger problem. The disease is the occupation and the only viable solution is to solve the real problem. 

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