What’s on the list of items allowed into Gaza?

Ayman Mohyeldin, an Al Jazeera correspondent based in Gaza, has posted a list of  items Israel has allowed into Gaza during its crippling siege on the Strip.

The besieged residents got tahini in March and shoes and wood for door frames and jam posts in April. Israel allowed them zatar in November 2009.  Nowhere on the list did I see any mention of school supplies. I suppose that’s because one thing Israel is most afraid of is an educated Palestinian. So the Israeli Occupation Forces did their best to destroy schools and universities during Operation Cast Lead. That fear may also be behind the huge disparity that exists between schools for Jewish students and schools for non-Jewish students in historic Palestine. The Israeli Ministry of Education announced before the start of this current school year that it spends more than $1,100 per Jewish pupil but only $190 per non-Jewish student in its segregated school system.

But I digress. We were speaking about the supplies Israel allows into Gaza.

Israel likes to make a media splash when it opens the borders to allow in some truckloads of humanitarian supplies.  The Israeli information machine manipulates the events so Israel comes off looking magnanimous and as if  it is abiding by international law and taking care of the people it occupies.

However, the facts paint an entirely different story. Because of the siege, fully 90 percent of the Palestinians of Gaza rely upon the United Nations for food aid. But shipments of that aid decreased by 80 percent in 2009, according to the United Nations. In fact, Israel allows into Gaza less than 25 percent of the aid and supplies than it did in 2007, before the total blockade began, according to Rising From the Ashes: Gaza’s Indestructible Spirit.

So while we gear up for summer, polishing our grills and preparing our steaks and beef hot dogs for grilling, we need to stop and ask ourselves what we have done to help our brothers and sisters in Gaza. Have we tried to raise awareness in our communities in attempts to affect change? Have we written our elected officials and urged them to demand Israel lift the siege? Have we donated to charities such as Islamic Relief that provide sustenance to the people of Gaza?

If you have done these things already, God bless you. If you haven’t, it’s not too late. And believe me, once you make that effort to help the Palestinians of Gaza that  plate of food at your next picnic is going to taste a whole lot better.

~ Kristin Szremski 5/3/2010

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Filed under Activism, Opinion/analysis

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