(WASHINGTON DC, 01/21/08) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today called on the Bush adminstration to immediately intervene to put an end to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
The crisis triggered by an Israeli-imposed blockade forced the closure, Sunday evening, of the only electric plant that serves the Gaza city's 400,000 residents and one third of the Gaza Strip's 1.5 millions residents. The blockade prevents the entry of fuel that is essential to the operation of the plant.
SEE: Gaza dark amid Israeli blockade (LA times)
Gaza is already suffering from economic hardship, which according to the World Bank, is primarily a result of being cut off from the rest of the world by Israel. Without power, hospitals, water facilities and other crucial lifelines may completely shut off and homes may be left without heat, plunging Gaza into disarray.
On Monday, the U.N. said it would suspend food distribution to 860,000 Palestinians unless Israel eased the blockade imposed on Friday in response to rocket fire from Gaza. The World Food Program, which distributes food to another 270,000 Gaza residents warned that it too would have to suspend operations by Thursday due to lack of fuel.
A European Union (EU) official termed Israel’s blockade “collective punishment,” a practice banned by international law. "I have made clear that I am against this collective punishment of the people of Gaza," said EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner. (Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states: “No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed.”)
SEE: U.N. Agency Says May Have to Halt Gaza Food Handout (Reuters)
In a statement CAIR said:
“Because American taxpayers provide Israel with billions of dollars of economic support each year, we have the right and the responsibility to demand that Israel abide by American and universal human rights standards and end its practice of collective punishment against the Palestinian populations. Such practice amounts to war crimes.
“Silence from American officials will only serve to increase the sentiment worldwide that our nation cares little for the suffering of the Palestinian people.
"The perception that the US abets cruel and inhumane treatment of civilian populations provides fodder for anti-Americanism that may threaten the security of the United States.
According the Human Rights Watch World Report 2007, "Israel [retains] effective day-to-day control over most key aspects of life in Gaza, including ingress and egress and thus the economy."
Seventy-nine percent of Gaza households live under the poverty line, 40 percent suffer from unemployment and almost half the population in the Gaza Strip is made up of children.
CAIR, America's largest Islamic civil liberties group, has 33 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
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CONTACT: CAIR Media Relations Director Ahmed Rehab, 202-870-0166, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787, E-Mail: email@example.com