By Art Laffin
For 22 years now members and friends of the Catholic Worker in Washington, D.C. have conducted a peace vigil every Monday at the Pentagon. We call for an end to all US warmaking, for the abolition of nuclear weapons and all weapons of mass destruction on earth and space, for an end to all US arms sales and military training and assistance to other nations, for an end to using military intervention to steal resources from other countries, for an end to torture, and that all soldiers lay down their weapons and refuse orders to kill. In resistance to the Pentagon’s reign of terror we proclaim God’s reign of justice, peace and nonviolent love. We call for the closing of the Pentagon and that it be converted into a place that serves life, not death.
In light of the horrific massacre taking place in Gaza as a result of Israeli air-strikes, and now a massive ground offensive by thousands of Israeli troops backed by tanks and helicopter gunships, I stood at the Pentagon this morning holding a sign with a quote from Lubna Karam, a 28 year old mother in Gaza which said: “We don’t know if we’ll live until tomorrow or not.” My sign also said: “Stop the US-backed Israeli Invasion Of Gaza!”
During the vigil I tried to make as much eye-contact as I could with Pentagon workers streaming into the building, in the hopes that someone might do something to say “No” to this US-backed invasion. I say US-backed invasion, because without US support in military and economic aid (about $3 billion annually) as well as weapons from US military contractors such as Lockheed Martin, Israel could not carry out such an invasion. I wondered if any of the workers knew that the US blocked approval Saturday night of a U.N. Security Council statement calling for an immediate cease-fire. And I prayed for Lubna and the suffering Palestinian people who don’t know if they will live until tomorrow. As I offered these prayers I also thought of mothers in Iraq who daily experience this same nightmare of not knowing if they and their families will live until tomorrow.
The latest news accounts that I’ve seen about the Israeli invasion of Gaza says that over 500 Palestinians have died and over 2,300 have been wounded. There are also reports today from the Times Online (UK) that Israel is using white phosphorus shells which causes severe burning of the skin. (click here for the article) Israel admitted using white phosphorus during its 2006 war with Lebanon.
Eyad El-Sarraj, whom I had the privilege of meeting over ten years ago during a visit to Gaza, is a psychiatrist, founder of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program, and a commissioner of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights. He wrote the following in the Washington Post on January 4, 2009:
“This carnage goes on, as does another humanitarian crisis brought about by the Israeli siege of Gaza: a lack of medicines, bread, flour, gas, electricity, fuel and almost everything else. The Israeli siege has literally turned Gaza into a massive prison. All our borders are sealed, so there is now way out…The children suffer the most, I think. They see the fear in their mothers’ eyes…Wisdom tells us that violence can only breed more violence. Israel’s brutality guarantees that its people will not be secure. Israel may destroy much and kill many in Hamas, but that is not the solution. Hamas was born because of the occupation and won the democratic elections in 2006 because of false promises of peace and people’s disillusionment with the Palestinian Authority. Israel and its allies should address Palestinian grievances instead of aggravating them by denying justice and security and by violating basic human rights… From where I sit, in the middle of this barrage of bombing, Israel looks to be increasingly living outside the norms of the world community and outside international law. I am not alone in thinking this. U.N. Human Rights envoy Richard Falk declared that what Israel is doing is a crime against humanity. Former US president Jimmy Carter, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Mary Robinson, former head of the U.N. Human Rights commission, have expressed similar views in the past. Israel must be stopped.”
Diplomatic initiatives are being pursued by certain countries to address this worsening crisis, however, the US continues to block a U.N Security Council statement. Demonstrations and other acts of solidarity are occurring around the world calling for a cease-fire and for an end to the invasion. One such action occurred last Monday when three women peacemakers–Ellen Grady, Clare Grady and Heidi Schloegel–were arrested at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. during an Atlantic Life Community peace witness. It is also important to note that there are many Jews in Israel and in the US who oppose this invasion, including Peace Now in Israel and its US counterpart, Americans for Peace Now.
Now is the time to act on behalf of those who don’t know if they will live until tomorrow or not.