Dogged by corruption charges and propped up by the Bush administration, Prime Minister Olmert announced his impending resignation and political talk has turned to what’s left of the “peace process” and the ongoing dispute over Jerusalem. The rapid growth of government-sanctioned Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and the expanding borders of Greater Jerusalem are rapidly turning a city that is sacred to three faiths into the Jewish capital. Some view this as the fulfillment of a messianic dream while others wonder if this is the inevitable creep of history towards the death of the two-state solution. Whether the Annapolis talks between Bush, Olmert, and Abbas were ever viable or stillborn from the beginning, a consensus is emerging that peace is once again on hold.
"A small group of unarmed Palestinians, Israelis, and internationals aims to
change this global conversation."
Somewhere in this conversation, issues facing one-third of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are being buried under Israeli concerns over governmental scandals, upcoming elections, and fears about Hamas and Iran. Unfortunately, the growing economic and humanitarian crisis in Gaza, the rising numbers of traumatized children, and burgeoning poverty and desperation never go on hold. Ever since the Tahdiya or “Calming” negotiated by the Egyptians between Israel and Hamas in June 2008, except for factional fighting, the conditions in Gaza are largely out of the news. In July, when Obama stood in Sderot extending his support to the tragic Jewish victims of Qassam rockets, no one noted that he was able to do this in the open because the bombing had stopped and no one credited the peacemakers with their fragile moment of success. It seems bombs and death make better headlines than political negotiations that do not reinforce our national preconceptions about Arabs and their intentions.
A small group of unarmed Palestinians, Israelis, and internationals aims to change this global conversation. Since the disengagement from Gaza in 2005, the Israeli government has claimed that Gaza is no longer occupied, despite the fact that Israel maintains control over the land, sea, air, water and electricity, and all movement of people and goods in and out. When Hamas took over in 2007 in a destructive and fratricidal war, Israel responded by severely limiting all movement even further. According to the UN and the World Food Program as well as a host of local and international organizations, the tight noose around Gaza has created unprecedented levels of civilian suffering, malnutrition, disease, and hopelessness, and produced an environment where the most militant voices are sometimes the most persuasive.