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Third Thursday: Netanyahu's speech distracts from issues of real human need

Organizations in the Faith Forum on Middle East Policy send out action alerts monthly, focusing on different issues so that members of Congress hear consistently that their constituents support a just and lasting resolution to the Palestinian and Israeli conflict.

The controversial speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Congress scheduled for March 3 is problematic for a number of reasons including the way the invitation was issued without coordination with the White House, the anticipated content of the speech which is expected to deal with the Iranian nuclear issue at a critical time in the negotiations with Iran, and the timing of the speech just prior to the Israeli elections.

Just as troubling, however, is the way the focus on the speech is distracting from the issues of real human need.

In Gaza harsh winter weather exacerbates already deplorable living conditions as residents struggle to rebuild following the devastating summer war. Power outages in some areas last for 16 to 18 hours per day, access to clean water is a serious problem, and there have been reports of deaths from hypothermia. The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has recently been able to resume cash assistance to families in need, but reports, “The atmosphere in Gaza remains one of frustration for families who are desperate to rebuild their homes and lives.”

The financial needs in Gaza are enormous, and many Palestinians in the West Bank also rely on outside assistance, yet some in Congress have called for freezing funding to the Palestinian Authority in response to the bid to join the ICC. In addition, Israel still hasn’t released the tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinians, which it withheld in response to the ICC move.

The planned speech before Congress takes the focus off these and other important concerns.

Call on your members of Congress today to urge them not to attend the speech and to ask them instead to call for urgent attention to pressing human needs in the region. Urge your representative and senators to:

  • Support U.S. financial assistance for Gaza reconstruction, urge Israel to lift the Gaza blockade, urge Egypt to open the Rafah crossing, and urge the Palestinian political entities to work together to facilitate Gaza rebuilding.
  • Refrain from punishing the Palestinians for joining international treaties and conventions, including their bid to join the ICC, and urge Israel to release Palestinian tax revenues.

Congress is on recess February 16-20, so if you’re able, this would be a great time to visit your elected officials in person to deliver this important message.

For further reading:

An unnatural disaster: What I saw in Gaza, Aura Kanegis, January 7, 2015.

Three dead in Gaza due to freezing temperatures, including two infants, Ha’aretz, January 10, 2015.

Father finds five month old son frozen to death in Gaza, NBC News.

APN Legislative Round-Up: January 30, 2015, “PA aid still in the crosshairs.”

Statement on upcoming address to Congress by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, National Council of Churches.