Two Candles in Congress Against the Siege of Gaza

Many Americans don't realize that although it might be true that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee can get seventy Senators to sign a napkin, that doesn't mean AIPAC can stop Members of Congress from taking actions to improve U.S. policy towards the Palestinians - actions that could have a real impact in improving living conditions for Palestinians on the ground. This week two such measures are being considered by Members of the House.

Representatives Jim McDermott [D-WA-7] and Keith Ellison [D-MN-5] are circulating a letter that calls on President Obama to press for an easing in the Israeli blockade of Gaza by making it easier for Palestinians, aid workers, and journalists to enter and leave Gaza and by improving the access of Palestinian civilians to necessities such as clean water, food, fuel and medicine.

The McDermott-Ellison letter asks for "immediate improvement" in the following areas:

- Movement of people, especially students, the ill, aid workers, journalists, and those with family concerns, into and out of Gaza;
- Access to clean water, including water infrastructure materials,
- Access to plentiful and varied food and agricultural materials;
- Access to medicine and health care products and suppliers;
- Access to sanitation supplies, including sanitation infrastructure materials;
- Access to construction materials for repairs and rebuilding;
- Access to fuel;
- Access to spare parts;
- Prompt passage into and out of Gaza for commercial and agricultural goods; and
- Publication and review of the list of items prohibited to the people of Gaza.

Representatives Jim Moran [D-VA-8] and Bob Inglis [R-SC-4] are circulating a letter that specifically focuses on the right of university students from Gaza to complete their studies: the letter calls on Secretary of State Clinton to put pressure on the Israeli government to allow students from Gaza to travel to study at West Bank universities.

The Moran-Inglis letter notes that the Israeli government has banned such travel since 2000, despite a ruling of the Israeli High Court that allowing Gazans to study in the West Bank would likely have "positive humane implications," and despite the fact that in practical terms, for many students in Gaza, especially young women, not being able to study in the West Bank means not being able to pursue their education at all. The letter notes the recent case of Berlanty Azzam, deported to Gaza by Israeli authorities two months before she was due to complete her degree at Bethlehem University, despite the lack of any Israeli government claim that allowing Berlanty to complete her degree threatened the security of the state of Israel.

The deadline for Members to sign both letters is Friday, December 18. You can ask your Representative in Congress to sign both letters here.

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