Susan Jones | Senior Editor | Friday, February 1, 2008
Volunteers from the Council on American-Islamic Relatins (CAIR) will provide letters at mosques to be signed by Muslim individuals, and CAIR will then send these letters to U.S. lawmakers, the group said.
The letter demands "an immediate end to the illegal Israeli blockade in Gaza." It says "collective punishment is always counterproductive and only serves to block moves toward a just resolution of any conflict." CAIR says collective punishment -- making civilians suffer for the acts of militants -- is a war crime.
CAIR said the Israeli closure of the Gaza Strip is exacerbating the economic hardship that already afflicts the area.
Israel isolated the Gaza Strip when the radical group Hamas -- which is sworn to Israel's destruction -- ousted the Palestinian Authority in a power struggle last year. Because of continuing Palestinian rocket fire on Israeli civilians, Israel recently closed all border crossings into Gaza, causing food and fuel shortages.
"Because American taxpayers provide Israel with billions of dollars of economic support each year, we have the right to demand that those funds not be used to increase human suffering," CAIR's letter to lawmakers says.
"American silence on this issue will only serve to increase the perception worldwide that our nation cares little for the suffering of the Palestinian people. This perception that the U.S. abets cruel and inhumane treatment of civilian populations provides fodder for anti-Americanism that may threaten the security of the United States."
CAIR's letter does not mention the Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel.
More US aid to Palestinians
In an unrelated development, President Bush on Thursday authorized the use of $32 million from the U.S. Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund to address the urgent and unexpected needs of people in Gaza, the West Bank, Somalia, and other African trouble spots.
$14 million of that total will go to the UN Relief and Works Agency to be spent on Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. "This emergency funding will support humanitarian assistance for over 1 million Palestinian refugees in Gaza and over 700,000 in the West Bank," the State Department said.
The Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund was set up to meet "unanticipated refugee and migration emergency needs whenever the President determines that it is important to the national interest to do so."
The State Department said the fund provides critical flexibility to respond on a timely basis to emergency refugee and migration crises around the world.