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Palestinian New Yorkers react to Gaza siege
Source: BI-ME , Author: Moussa Ahmad
Posted: Tue November 18, 2008 12:00 am

PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES. Some 12 days after Israel implemented an embargo on all goods entering the Gaza Strip, including humanitarian aid, the UN had been forced to stop food distribution.

Today, Israel allowed 33 trucks with humanitarian aid into Gaza, affording temporary relief, but the UN is concerned that their supplies won't last long. Palestinian New Yorkers reacted with deep frustration upon hearing the news.

"How can it be okay to let 1.5 million people, more than half of them children, go hungry?" asked Linda Sarsour, a Bay Ridge native whose parents are Palestinian immigrants. "There are little kids who need food and old people who need medicine. People don't have fuel and they're even running out of candles. This is crazy."

New York and New Jersey are home to two of the largest Palestinian communities in the United States, with heavy concentrations in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn and Paterson, New Jersey. Many Palestinian New Yorkers and New Jersey residents, young and old, have been following the news this week with grave concern and disbelief.

Much of their disbelief stems from Israel's refusal to allow food, medicine and fuel into the Gaza Strip, a violation of international law, and yet, it has acted thus far with impunity. Though the United Nations and European Union have both condemned the siege, the silence of the United States is deafening.

"I just feel so helpless," said Sawsan Zaky, a Westchester resident. "Israel is not listening to the UN or the European Union. My government is not saying anything. And all these people are sitting in the dark without food. And we know something can be done; it's just that nobody is lifting a finger."

Israel has cited Hamas rocket fire as the justification for its embargo on humanitarian aid. The rocket fire followed an unprovoked Israeli attack on Gaza that killed six Palestinians on 4 November, despite a ceasefire.

"Collective punishment is illegal under international law and anyone can see that cutting 1.5 million people off from food, medicine and fuel is barbaric." said Remi Kanazi, an Astoria resident.

Many Palestinian Americans are also frustrated by the lack of news coverage emerging from Gaza, due to an Israeli ban on journalists entering the territory. Foreign Press Association chairman Steven Gutnik called the ban "a serious violation of freedom of the press" and said that "it is essential that journalists be allowed to enter the Gaza Strip since it is the foreign media that serves as the world's window into Gaza."

In response to the ongoing crisis, Adalah-NY and NAAP-NY - two US organisations dedicated to protecting human rights - have issued an action alert urging their members to write to their congressional representatives, as well as to the US Mission to the UN, expressing their concern about the fate of Gaza's civilian population.

"We need to take action," said Lubna Ka'aabneh of Adalah-NY. "The US has a lot of leverage over Israel, and we demand that our government do what's right, and tell Israel to end this immoral and illegal siege."

"Sitting in the comfort of New York, what can I say to suffering family and friends in Gaza?" asks Jamal Rayyis, a writer in New York City. "I'm sorry? Don't worry, things will be better? I've been saying these things for almost ten years, sending moral support and help when I can. Yet, the situation worsens day to day, month to month, year to year. It's sickening." 

For more information about NAAP-NY visit www.naaponline.org

 

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