Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, May-June 2009, page 69
CODEPINK Goes to Gaza
CODEPINK, in cooperation with the American Palestinian Women’s Association and Global Exchange, held a “Report Back From Gaza” presentation on March 23 at Busboys and Poets in Washington, DC. CODEPINK, an anti-war group that began in the lead-up to the Iraq war, made an historic 60-person visit to the Gaza Strip from March 6 to 12 to celebrate International Women’s Day. What made the trip truly historic was that the Israeli government permitted the delegation to enter the territory under blockade.
The delegation, which included Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker and Craig and Cindy Corrie, the parents of Rachel Corrie, who was slain by Israeli forces while participating in nonviolent resistance, began its fact-finding journey in Egypt, where they pleaded their case until they were allowed into Gaza. The delegation was in Gaza on the sixth anniversary of Rachel’s death.
U.S. Army Col. Ann Wright (retired) of CODEPINK told the packed room in Washington that the delegation couldn’t believe the devastation the Israeli military had left in the wake of their 22-day attack. According to the U.N., she reported, less than 40 percent of supplies needed in Gaza are getting in. “Malnutrition is there,” she said. “It is a horrific thing that the international community is condoning.”
Photographer Peter Park, who went along to assist in the documentation of the trip with photos and video, said the people there were very kind, all wanting to tell their dramatic stories for his camera. “Not one person had a problem having their photo taken,” he said. “They told me, ”˜Please let the world know, we can’t leave here. Tell people what is happening here.’” The Gazans called him Jackie Chan, said Park, who is an American of Asian descent, and when he returned to the States he found it strange people weren’t still referring to him that way.
Park took hundreds of photos, including several of the school named after Rachel Corrie. Wherever Rachel Corrie’s parents went, he recalled, the people of Gaza treated them with great respect and reverence. Park said he had complete freedom within the territory, noting that the only things he was forbidden to film by Hamas officials were the supply tunnels under construction near the Egyptian border.
Gael Murphy of CODEPINK said that very little of the rubble and debris left by the Israeli military has been removed—because the Palestinians don’t have the equipment to move it. According to Murphy, they have to rely on Israeli contractors. The entire public sector was destroyed, she said, every ministry along with its records gone. However, she added, Hamas’ infrastructure was not really touched. “Israel decided to get at Hamas through the people,” she said.
“The assault was an acute incident on a chronic condition,” Murphy said. “The Palestinians have been living in a reality that has been oppressive, difficult and a hardship for generations.” No one she talked to expected this level of brutality from the Israelis, she said, and the people live with the fear that it will happen again. Nevertheless, she told her audience, the Palestinians endure and have hope.
CODEPINK is planning more trips to Gaza in the future, as well as to other venues in this country to educate the U.S. public on the plight of the Palestinians. They will also take an active part in supporting the U.S. Campaign to End the Occupation’s endeavors to conduct boycotts against Israel and its supporters.