January 21, 2009

Open letter to Rep. John Yarmuth

Dear Rep. Yarmuth:

There are times when the citizens of a free nation feel compelled to speak out and to petition their elected representatives to address a cause of grave concern. At such a time, we have chosen to write to you, not only because you represent us in the United States Congress, but because we hold you in high esteem. You have demonstrated that you are a public servant of rare integrity, commitment, and courage. It is these qualities that we hope will move you to give our cause serious consideration, and then to act in accord with the moral imperatives animating our request.

The impetus for this letter is Israel’s recent assault on the Gaza Strip, and the humanitarian crisis it has caused. We believe it is incumbent upon the United States government to take action to end the current violence and address the needs of its victims. Consider the following points:

Israel’s justification of its actions is one-sided and misleading. The firing of rockets on civilian areas from within the Gaza Strip is reprehensible, but it has not occurred in a vacuum. Israel has been guilty of its own crimes in the preceding months and years, including the following:

• The Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem reports that since 2000, Israeli Defense Forces have killed hundreds of innocent civilians in Gaza, including many minors. In 2008 alone, over 150 Gazans who did not take part in hostilities were killed by Israeli Defense Forces, including more than 50 minors.

• Since 2005, Israel has maintained complete control of the Gaza Strip’s air and sea space, and the movement of all goods and people to and from the Strip. In 2006, Israel even bombed Gaza’s only independent power station. These conditions have led to a crippled economy and a lack of basic goods and necessities.

• Israel violated a recent cease-fire and has repeatedly rejected offers of a truce. According to U.N. Special Rapporteur Richard Falk:

Hamas has repeatedly proposed long-term truces with Israel and offered to negotiate a permanent truce. During the last ceasefire … Hamas upheld the truce although Israel refused to ease the blockade. It was Israel that, on Nov. 4, initiated an armed attack that violated the truce and killed six Palestinians. It was only then that Hamas resumed firing rockets at Israel.

The scale of Israel’s assault has dramatically raised the level of violence in the region and caused devastating harm to Gaza’s civilian population. According to B’Tselem, “from June 2004 to the end of 2007, 11 Israelis, four of them minors, were killed by Qassam rockets fired by Palestinians.” In contrast, some 1,300 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s most recent assault on the Gaza Strip, including nearly 700 civilians and 230 children, according to some reports. There can be no justification for this level of destruction.

Israel has been the recipient of billions of dollars worth of military aid from the U.S. government. From U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets and Apache helicopters to tank components, bombs, and missiles, this assault has largely been paid for with our tax dollars. It is a gross violation of the dictates of our conscience that our tax dollars are financing the devastation of Gaza, and that our government offers its implicit support through its silence.

This is why we write to you, congressman. In view of the utter inadequacy of Israel’s justification for its assault on the Gaza Strip, the sheer scale of the attack and terribleness of its consequences, and our responsibility as U.S. taxpayers, we ask that you:

Vote against any and all resolutions and bills providing material or symbolic support for Israel’s actions,

Condemn actions on all sides that unnecessarily put civilian lives at risk,

Sponsor legislation to end military aid to Israel,

Take any and all actions within your power to influence Israel to allow additional humanitarian aid into Gaza, and

Work diligently toward an immediate lifting of the blockade against Gaza, and a lasting peace agreement.

No matter our religion or politics, we the undersigned all agree that Israel’s current assault on the Gaza Strip is unjustified, and the U.S. government must act to stop it. We are Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, agnostics, atheists, and more. We are voters, taxpayers, and citizens of the United States, the state of Kentucky, and the city of Louisville. We are your constituents. We humbly ask for your consideration, and most of all for your action.

The Ad Hoc Committee to Stop the Siege of Gaza is responsible for this letter. Readers can sign their name to the letter online at louisvillepeace.org/yarmuthletter.html

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