FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 1, 2009 CONTACT
Rae Abileah, CODEPINK delegation tour coordinator, 415-994-1723 (in U.S.) or 054-260-5457 (in Israel)
Jean Stevens, CODEPINK national media coordinator, 508-769-2138
American Jews attempt to enter blockaded Gaza through Israel this week
32-member delegation urges Obama to visit Gaza during Middle East trip, calls for end to border blockade
NEW YORK -- To coincide with Pres. Obama's landmark speech to the Arab
world Thursday in Cairo, 12 Jewish-Americans will attempt to enter
war-torn Gaza on June 5 through the Israeli border as part of a
32-member peace delegation
to call on the U.S. administration to push Israel to end its 21-month
blockade on Gaza. They also hope to prove the Jewish-American community
largely does not support Israel's policies, and urge Obama to visit
Gaza during his Middle East trip.
The delegation will meet with members of the Israeli Knesset and
deliver aid and toys to Gazan children if allowed through the Israeli
checkpoints. It will follow more than 100 Americans and delegates from
eight other countries who entered Gaza last week through Rafah, Egypt
in four separate delegations organized by the women's peace group CODEPINK.
Many delegates met with Hamas officials and helped build a playground
for Gazan children. (Follow their progress on Twitter #gazacp).
“The brutal invasion of Gaza was a breaking point for me and many
American Jews,” said CODEPINK co-founder Medea Benjamin, currently
inside Gaza and leader of two delegations. “I'm appalled by the
devastation and the suffering I see here, particularly among children.
As a mother, and a Jew, I feel compelled to speak out and urge our
government to push Israel to end its brutal blockade and violations of
international law. "
Benjamin's sentiments are aligned with the majority opinions of Jewish
Americans. According to a recent survey by the Jewish lobby group J Street,
76 percent of American Jews support a two-state solution, 69 percent
support negotiating with a Fatah-Hamas unity government, and 59 percent
felt the Gaza invasion did not improve Israel's security.
The Jewish members of CODEPINK's delegation are seeking to amplify the
voice of this majority who believe in peace. Infinity Rotbard, a
student delegate on the trip and a resident of San Francisco, grew up
in an ultra-orthodox Jewish family and lived in the Jewish settlements
in Gaza during his rabbinic studies in Israel.
"Growing up, my beliefs about Israel and Palestine were rooted around
unconditional rights of its Jewish inhabitants," Rotbard said. "But I'm
now seeking the truth beyond my childhood's limited beliefs. I feel a
responsibility to bear witness to what is happening to the people under
siege in Gaza."
Like the other delegations, this last delegation will bring toys and
school supplies for Gazan children -- many of the schools and
playgrounds were bombed during Israel's invasion earlier this year that
killed more than 1,400, displaced more than 50,000 people and destroyed
approximately 4,000 homes. They expect they will be held by Israeli
authorities, as the other delegations were held by Egyptian authorities
for several days before they were allowed through May 26.
If so, they will join the Israeli feminist group The Coalition of Women for Peace
in protest near either the Erez or Kerem Shalom checkpoints on June 6,
join a workshop on “The Role of International Community in Freeing
Gaza” and several tours, and join protests in Jerusalem and the West
Bank between June 10 and 14.
For more information, please contact Rae Abileah, at 415-994-1723 or
Jean Stevens, CODEPINK national media coordinator, at 508-769-2138.