Open Letter to Americans of Conscience
Gaza City, September 9, 2008
From Eyad el-Sarraj — Founder and President of
the Gaza Community Mental Health Program (GCMHP); Leader of the
International Campaign to End the Siege of Gaza
In late August, hope came to Gaza in the form of two small wooden
boats and their 40 passengers who had sailed from Cyprus to break
the 14-month-old Israeli siege. They had answered our call and after
months of preparation, it was a triumphant moment when they entered
The passengers on the "Free Gaza" and "Liberty"
wanted Gazans to know that the entire world would not stand passively
by while they remain locked in a huge prison. They would not be
quiet while more than a million people the majority of them children
are being deliberately deprived of urgent medical care and medicines,
of electricity and fuel to run hospitals and sewage systems, of
potable water and supplies of food, clothing and raw materials.
I hope that you will not stand silently by while the people of
Gaza are deprived of their dignity and all the basic requirements
for a decent life. I hope that you will understand that the kind
of collective punishment that Gazans have endured since June 2007
is morally wrong and a serious violation of international humanitarian
The siege is not just killing the spirit and in some cases
the lives of Gazans. It is also sowing seeds of violence, hatred
and extremism and destroying all hopes for a peaceful future in
Studies carried out by the GCMHP show a frightening rise in
trauma, as children fall victim to night terrors, loss of appetite,
insomnia, and symptoms of panic and aggression. Adults are also
suffering from panic disorders, depression and psychosomatic disorders
as they struggle to cope with the deeply inhuman situation. Former
U.S. President Jimmy Carter was right to call the siege "an
atrocity, a crime, an abomination."
In the summer of 2007, GCMHP took the initiative to create a humanitarian,
non-political campaign aimed at raising international awareness
of Gaza's deteriorating life conditions in order to pressure the
Israeli government into lifting the devastating siege.
We thought that within a year we would have achieved our aim. We
were wrong. The siege continues, and so must the campaign. We are
working to bring another boat to Gaza by the end of September. In
October, mental health workers and other medical professionals will
travel to Palestine for a conference called "Siege and Mental
Health: Walls versus Bridges."
Through other "break the siege" solidarity meetings,
cultural activities and demonstrations, we hope to nurture non-violent
approaches that can peacefully transform the brutal reality of caged
lives. The message to end the siege is a message of peace and an
appeal for justice.
If you believe in freedom, human dignity and peace, we ask you
to support our efforts by making a donation to end the siege.
We particularly call for the support of Jewish people, whose history
of trauma, discrimination and suffering should guide them to stand
up today to help bring an end to the suffering of others.