People marching in the streets

Hundreds of people answered the call from Palestine Solidarity Group - Central Ohio and and took to the streets in Columbus in three rallies to stand in solidarity with Palestinians in their struggle for human rights during the 11 days conflict.  The gathering on May 21st at Goodale Park was grateful for the ceasefire, but all fully realize that the struggle to end the illegal occupation of the West Bank, the siege of Gaza and the unrelenting daily abuses of Palestinian human rights that provoked hostilities can and must continue.

Hostilities were inflamed by Israel’s plans to evict Palestinian families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem, the closure of the area around the Damascus gate where Muslims gather during Ramadan, and a brutal attack on Muslims praying at the Al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan. From eyewitness reports, when the Israeli police forces entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque, they shut down the emergency medical clinic in the mosque compound and welded the door shut.

The U.N. Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) verified that 242 Palestinians, including 66 children, 38 women (of whom four were pregnant) and 138 men, have been killed in Gaza. At least 129 of those killed were civilians. At least 14 families in Gaza have lost three or more family members in the same incident, for a total of 77 fatalities. According to the Ministry of Health, 1,948 Palestinians were injured during the hostilities, including 610 children, 398 women (of whom three were pregnant) and 940 men.Palestinian bodies continue to be pulled out of the ruble. According to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, the IDF killed 27 people in the West Bank during brutal assaults on protests over the 11 days of war in Gaza.

In Israel, twelve people, including one soldier and three foreign nationals, were killed during the hostilities by Palestinian rocket or other fire, or when running for shelter during such strikes. Hundreds were injured since the start of the hostilities, according to Israeli sources. According to Israeli sources, during the hostilities, Israeli forces carried out over 1,500 strikes from air, land and sea across the Gaza Strip, while Palestinian armed groups fired more than 4,000 rockets and projectiles towards Israel, with hundreds falling short within the Gaza Strip.

The Jewish Voice for Peace Health Advisory Council reports that “eighteen hospitals and clinics were damaged by the bombing, as well as Gaza’s only laboratory for processing COVID tests. Electrical, sanitation, and water purification facilities and infrastructure were destroyed. Some 80,000 people lost their homes, many of whom crowded together in shelters, risking an explosive spread of COVID. With nearly a quarter million active cases, Gaza accounts for almost two-thirds of COVID morbidity in the occupied territories. Before vaccine delivery was halted in the assault, only 38,000 people in Gaza had received at least one dose of vaccine, less than 2 percent of the population of two million. This low vaccination rate is due to Israel’s failure to meet its obligation to prevent infectious disease outbreaks in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”

These statistics don’t even begin to tell the entire, heart-breaking picture of this tragedy.  And the incredibly sad truth is that the United States government funds Israel’s military with $3.8 billion in annual foreign assistance, plus, in 2019, $8 billion in loan guarantees. On May 5, Congress learned that the Biden Administration approved an additional $735 million in sales of precision-guided munitions to Israel, as if to rearm them for the next assault.

In response to recent attack on Gaza, the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva voted for the creation of a commission to begin an on-going investigation of war crimes and other abuses committed in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. The commission is not limited to looking just at hostilities in Gaza and the West Bank, but instead has been charged with examining “all underlying root causes of recurrent tensions, instability and protraction of conflict, including systematic discrimination and repression based on national, ethnic, racial or religious identity.” In March of this year, the International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, opened a formal investigation into alleged war crimes in the Palestinian territories. Fatou Bensouda said the probe would cover events in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip since June 2014. The ICC has the authority to prosecute those accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes on the territory of states party to the Rome Statute, its founding treaty.

It could be argued that the U.S. is breaking its own law by supplying military assistance to Israel, because it is a violation of Leahy amendment that prohibits the U.S. Department of State and Department of Defense from providing military assistance to foreign security force units that violate human rights with impunity. Also, if Israel is found guilty of war crimes, the U.S. is clearly complicit.

What we can do:

Call the State Department at 202-647-6575 option 8. Leave a message for the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs to immediately revoke export license number DDTC 20-084, the $735 million arms deal between Boeing and Israel. The cease fire is a start, but this must not happen again. Ask your members of congress to do this also.

Call, email, and write your members of congress and ask them to co-sponsor the bill recently introduced in the house by Representative Betty McCollum, HR 2590, Defending the Human Rights of Palestinian Children and Families Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act, that seeks to promote justice, equality, and human rights for Palestinian children and families by prohibiting Israeli authorities from using U.S. taxpayer funds to commit human rights abuses in the occupied West Bank.

Local groups that support Palestinian rights that would welcome you include OSU Students for Justice in Palestine at The Ohio State University (SJP), Palestine Solidarity Coalition - Central Ohio, and Jewish Voice for Peace Central Ohio. All have Facebook pages.

Learn about the BDS movement at Targeted products include: PUMA, Pillsbury, Ahava, Sabra Hummus, Sodastream, and Israel produce (wine, avocados, dates).

Please read share with your members of Congress the Human Rights Watch report, April 26, 2021, A Threshold Crossed, Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution. A Threshold Crossed.