Congressman Dennis Kucinich
Washington, Jan 23, 2009
Calls for Even-handed Treatment of Israelis and Palestinians
Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today sent the following letter to President Obama asking that he immediately respond to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza; including direct aid to the Palestinian people, negotiate a permanent cease-fire, and urge an end to the blockade of Gaza. In the letter, Kucinich urges President Obama to take an even-handed approach to Israel and the Palestinians.
Congressman Kucinich has led efforts to recognize and stop the humanitarian suffering in Gaza. On December 29, 2008, Kucinich wrote to United Nations Secretary General Ban ki-Moon calling for an independent inquiry into the military operation in Gaza. Kucinich stated that the operation could represent ‘collective punishment,’ which is banned under Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Kucinich also informed the Bush administration through Secretary of State, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, of Israel’s possible violation of the Arms Export Control Act of 1976, which states that arms received from the United States can not be used to escalate conflict.
The full text of the letter follows.
January 23, 2009
The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President
The unilateral cease-fire implemented by both Israel and Hamas on January 18 is welcome news. It is, however, not an end to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza nor is it a solution for sustainable peace in the region. Israelis and Palestinians share a mutual future. Therefore the security and freedom of Palestinians and Israelis are intertwined. I urge you to focus U.S. efforts toward achieving peace in the Middle East using a framework rooted in the rule of law and not the rule of arms; through diplomacy and not force, and even-handedness.
Specifically, I urge you to immediately:
1. send humanitarian aid to Gaza to help heal the wounded and repair their civilian infrastructure which is necessary to avoid a disease outbreak;
2. negotiate a permanent cease-fire between Israel and a Palestine unity government;
3. urge an end to the blockade that has been imposed on Gaza;
4. hold both Israel and Hamas to account for violations of international law including the laws of warfare and US laws controlling military aid to foreign countries; and
5. ensure that Special Envoy George Mitchell has the support of diverse advisors.
The previous administration’s inaction and lack of even-handedness allowed a humanitarian crisis to engulf the civilian residents of Gaza. The lives of over 1,300 Palestinians have been lost and it is estimated that another 5,000 are severely injured. The population of Gaza is in dire need of the basic necessities including water, food and medical supplies. Hospitals remain at or close to full capacity, while the World Health Organization has reported that 34 health facilities were damaged or destroyed by the shelling. Hospitals’ access to electricity is limited to 8 to 18 hours of electricity per day.
Furthermore, twenty-three days of fighting has caused extensive damage in the Gaza Strip. The following has been destroyed:
• 2,400 homes, including 490 homes that were destroyed by air strikes
• 28 public civilian facilities, including buildings of a number of ministries, municipalities, governorates, fishing harbors and the building of the Palestinian Legislative Council
• 21 private projects, including cafeterias, wedding halls, tourist resorts and hotels
• 30 mosques; another 15 have been partially destroyed
• Offices of 10 charitable societies
• 121 industrial and commercial workshops; at least 200 others were damaged
• 5 concrete factories and one juice factory
• 60 police stations
While the exact number of people displaced by the conflict is still unknown, UNRWA continues to shelter approximately 18,000 people, down from a high of more than 51,000.
UNICEF and other aid organizations have expressed deep concern over the need to mark and clear unexploded landmines and other weaponry. The lack of operational security for aid workers cripples their ability to access some areas, thereby limiting delivery of essential aid. The United Nations estimates that this crisis may take more than five years to correct.
The U.S. should join with the international community to provide Gaza with immediate humanitarian aid, to insist on an end to the blockade, to forge an agreement on a lasting cease-fire and insist on adherence to international law. The security and well-being of both Israel and Palestine require that the U.S. take decisive and immediate action to resume our role as an honest broker of peace. I respectfully urge you to consider these rational foreign policy initiatives.
Dennis J. Kucinich
Member of Congress
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