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Is anti-war activism on the wane? What can revive it?
May 2012

Reports from Palestine
Oct-Nov 2010

Earth Day in Israel: Apartheid Showing through the Greenwash
April 23, 2010

Occupied Washington, DC
March 30, 2010

AIPAC: Telling a Whopper
March 27, 2010

Questioning Our Special Relationship with Israel
Feb 13, 2010

Assedio di Gaza: Rompere l'indifferenza
Dec 2009

My Memories of Fort Hood
Nov 9, 2009

Italy's Fallen Soldiers
Sept 23, 2009

Yes We Camp
July 10, 2009

Absurdity is the Norm in the Gaza Strip
June 10, 2009

Il pacchetto di sicurezza viola i diritti umani
March 2009

U.S. Military Base in Vicenza, Italy Gets Final Approval
February 2009

“Unofficial” Referendum in Vicenza, Italy:
95% Opposed to New U.S. Military Base

Oct 2008

Mat and Yvonne Say: No Dal Molin
Sept 2008

U.S. Military Interests Reign Supreme in Italy
July 2008

Italian Court Blocks Construction of U.S. Military Base
June 2008

Movimenti contro le basi militari negli USA
May 2008

As Italy's elections go from bad to worse, Vicenza remains the silver lining
April 2008

What Do You Know About the U.S. Base Camp Darby?
Feb 2008

Tired of Promises, Vicenza, Italy Demands Action Against New U.S. Military Base
Dec 9, 2007

Not Your Ordinary 4th of July in Vicenza, Italy
Or How To Get Kicked Off a U.S. Military Base

July 4, 2007

Italian Women Opposing New U.S. Military Base Lobby Capitol Hill
May 11, 2007

No Peace or Justice: America's plans to Expand a US Military Base in Vicenza, Italy
March 2007

Anti War March in DC
Jan 27, 2007

March for Palestine
Nov 18, 2006

Travel Advisory
Oct 17, 2006

Letters from Camp Casey
Aug-Sept 2006

Don't Iraq Iran
May 18, 2006

Italian National Assembly of the Anti-War Movement
Feb 11-12, 2006

International Peace Conference in London
Dec 10, 2005

Concert in memoriam in Rome: Marla Ruzicka and the victims of war
July 9, 2005


Note: Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of USC4P&J


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Absurdity Is the Norm in the Gaza Strip

Upon returning home from Gaza, a friend commented, "It must have been horrifying seeing all the destruction." And it was. The 22-day Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip laid waste to an already ravaged territory.

The landscape is dotted with piles of rubble of bombed out buildings, the twisted iron and aluminum of destroyed factories, once green fields reduced to sand and dirt by Israeli tanks, apartments with 2 meter holes in the walls and toppled minarets of mosques turned to ruins.

But as devastating as bearing witness to the destruction was, it was the absurdities of the siege, the total blockade of Gaza imposed by Israel and Egypt, that really affected me. Gaza itself remains frozen in time; for nearly five months after the ceasefire, aside from a few rare cases in which cinder blocks have been used to fill gaping holes in the sides of buildings, no reconstruction whatsoever has begun. The blockade keeps the necessary building materials out of Gaza.

While traveling throughout Gaza with a delegation of mostly U.S. citizens organized by CodePink, the absurdities of the siege presented themselves over and over.

At Al Shifa Hospital, the largest in Gaza, we saw state of the art isotope scan and radio therapy machines in the oncology department that cannot operate because the radioactive material as well as a calibration tool have been refused entry by Israel. A row of dialysis machines sat unused, lacking the required fluids.

As medical conditions in Gaza deteriorate due to the siege, many look for medical care abroad. However, the sealed borders prevent them from traveling. We met the director of an orphanage who had already lost the vision in one eye, was losing it in the other, but had been unable to obtain permission to travel to Egypt for eye care.

Power outages are regular occurrences. The Gaza power plant simply cannot keep up with the demand due to a lack of fuel, which is blocked by Israel, as is supplemental electricity produced in Israel. There are both scheduled blackouts of 8-10 hours, as well as spontaneous outages.

While touring the Al Shifa Hospital, the Minister of Health apologized for the heat in the room, saying their generator must be reserved for higher priority uses than air conditioning. Families are forced to carry their loved ones up the stairs, the elevators shutdown during blackouts.

The centers working to create employment opportunities for Gaza's women inevitably fall prey to the siege. Power cuts bring the sewing machines making dresses and linens to a stand still. Even the embroidery thread used to make traditional handicrafts must be smuggled in through the tunnels.

The siege has also taken its toll on the father figure. According to Dr. Zeyada of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program, with well over 50% unemployment due to the siege, children see their fathers as unable to provide for them. And during the war, they saw that their fathers were also unable to protect them. Children have started looking to other role models, and make easy targets for those who, unfortunately, have no desire for peace.

Education suffers under the siege. At a UN vocational training center in Khan Younis, the library consists of roughly 12 bookcases, but only two had any books at all, with half being photocopied manuals. The textbooks destined for the center have been held up in a storage facility in Jerusalem; the Israelis simply refused to allow them in. The center is also unable to get the raw materials for their metal and woodworking courses.

Sharif, a university student studying business administration in his second year, is understandably proud of having top marks in his faculty. His friends have nicknamed him 'The Genius.' Sharif has been awarded a scholarship at Portland University in Oregon starting this fall. Unfortunately, the irrationality of the siege is likely to prevent him from being allowed to go. “If I can't get authorization by August, there goes my scholarship.”

A professor at Al Aqsa University has been offered a position at the University of Manchester, however, he has been denied permission to travel. Professors are also unable to travel to attend international conferences. And students of the English department have a tough time finding native speakers with which to practice the language; getting into Gaza is almost as difficult as getting out!

Numerous projects for which funding has already been approved are currently suspended for the simple fact that the materials to complete them are not allowed in. Turkey has donated funds for a new university library and PalTel, the Palestinian telecommunications company, has allocated funds for an Information Technology Center. Both projects remain in limbo, victims of the siege.

An official with the UN Relief and Works Agency remarked that it is also a problem to get the actual banknotes in. UNRWA, which provides services to more than 1 million registered refugees in the Gaza Strip, is often only able to get money in to pay the salaries of their 10,000 employees, while money to fund projects is blocked.

Not only are Palestinians restricted in their movement in and out of Gaza, but also within. In late May, Israel began dropping thousands of leaflets near the border areas warning the people of Gaza not to come within 300 meters of the border or they would be fired upon. Farmers are forced to risk their lives in order to work their fields that fate has placed too close to the border. The same restrictions are imposed on Palestinian fishermen. The sound of shots pierce the silence nightly, as Israeli gunboats fire on fishing boats that dare to venture far enough away from the shore in order to catch fish to sell and provide a living for their families.

These are the absurdities that have become the norm in Gaza. But perhaps most absurd of all is how anyone can believe that Israel's severity in the closures, the destruction of the economy and social fabric of the Gaza Strip, will serve to convince Palestinians to place their trust in international law.

What we in the international community must do is to heed the call we heard repeatedly from the people of Gaza: work to break the siege so that they can take care of themselves.

Stephanie Westbrook

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Our Film Series is on vacation. It will start up again on October 12th with "I am Not Your Negro"

Also, read about our Film Committee meetings to decide programming:




Photo of a school in Yemen bombed by Saudi Arabian jets supplied by the U.S. and fueled in the air by the U.S. Air Force. Tell Trump to STOP THIS CARNAGE, not fuel it! Click here.

Also participate in the CodePink email and/or phone initiative:




Click here to sign a petition, to put an end to the sanctions against Syria - their only effect is to take a terrible toll on the population, causing them to migrate! And click here to see the video by the Italian Committee to lift sanctions against Syria.



Iraq Deaths Estimator
Did someone tell you that U.S. military intervention in Iraq was over? Not true: we're at it again. This time the pretext to drop bombs is "curbing ISIS" (which was created by the U.S. in the first place, to overturn al-Malaki in Iraq and then Assad in Syria, and is now out of hand. Like what happened to "our" creature al Qaeda in Afghanistan). And the death toll continues to rise...
Write your senators and tell them: "Enough! U.S. out!! Iraq has shown it can curb ISIS by itself!"

Copyright © 2008 Stephanie Westbrook  All rights reserved.
U.S. Citizens for Peace & Justice - Rome, Italy