Press Release: Hundreds from Across Ohio March in Protest of the Massacre on Gaza:
COLUMBUS, OH – Hundreds of community members, students, activists, academics, and faith leaders from cities across Ohio gathered on Sunday, August 17, in front of the statehouse to protest the recent violence in Gaza and the ongoing occupation, and to demand an end to US aid to Israel.
Co-sponsored by the Palestine Solidarity Group of Columbus and Al-Awda Cleveland and endorsed by a broad coalition of human rights, immigrant rights, religious, and interfaith groups, the Ohio rally was one of many taking place across the US and world.
Organizers and participants highlighted Israel’s continued violation of Palestinian rights under international law, and a need for an end to the seven-year blockade of Gaza, which has transformed the territory into what UN Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator – John Holmes, UK Prime Minister – David Cameron, and one of the world’s top public intellectuals – Noam Chomsky, have called “an open-air prison.”
“The current war on Gaza is completely unjustified, disproportionate and a violation of international law,” said Connie Hammond, a board member of the Peace Progressive Coalition in Columbus. “We are outraged at the blatant violation of human rights that are perpetrated by Israel on a regular basis, including the confiscation of land in the occupied territories, house demolitions, and detention and abuse of Palestinian children. We ask that the international community demand that Israel complies with all international laws and come into compliance with international humanitarian standards.”
“The US government sends $3.1 billion annually to the Israeli government”, said Sami Idries, President of the Committee for Justice in Palestine at OSU. “This is a significant amount of our tax money that is being used to fund heinous crimes committed by the Israeli military. As American citizens, we are obligated to condemn these horrifying acts and demand that our government as well as that of Israel’s are held accountable.”
Many participants spoke of the need to tell the other side of the story, one that is rarely given any airtime in the US, and to give voice to the 1.8 million Gazans whose voices are left out of US discourse on the issue.
“The Israeli assault on Gaza is a reminder of the everyday terror that Palestinians live under,” said Ben Stockwell of the Cincinnati International Socialist Organization. “When they aren’t fleeing from bombs, they are living without adequate water, food, shelter, medical care and basic human rights. To be silent in the face of such atrocities is to be on the wrong side of history and humanity.”
Israel’s month long offensive in Gaza has claimed nearly 2,000 Palestinian lives of which 75% were civilians, and injured over 9,000 people. Among the killed are at least 449 children, 243 women and 87 elderly.
The deadly assault has displaced over half a million Palestinians, most of which have taken shelter in UN schools. With a shortage of fuel, food, electricity, water, medicine, and blood, children and families in Gaza continue to suffer in the midst of one of the worst humanitarian crises the world has seen in recent years.
“We will continue having rallies until our brothers and sisters in Palestine stop dying and my husband who lives in Palestine can live in peace,” said Reema Al-Waridat, one of the main organizers and leaders of the rally.
“Until the root causes of the conflict are addressed, violence in Gaza and the West Bank will continue to erupt every 3-4 years,” said Melonie Buller of Central Ohioans for Peace. “Peace will not be achieved as long as Israel continues to oppress the Palestinians and occupy confiscated Palestinian land.”
On Saturday, July 30, a UN school in Jabaliya refugee camp came under fire, killing at least 16 of the more than 3,000 refugees using it as a shelter. Many of the dead were women and children. Less than a week later, another UN-run school was shelled, killing 10 people and injuring 30. The targeting of a total of seven UN schools clearly shows that there is nowhere safe for Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip.
Gaza’s vital infrastructure was destroyed within the first week of what has become more than a month long offensive. At least 134 factories and 10,000 homes have been destroyed by Israel’s military. Water wells and sewage treatment stations in different parts of Gaza City were targeted, leaving thousands of people without access to clean drinking water.
Israeli shellfire has also destroyed the Gaza Strip’s only electrical power plant. The Power Plant’s shutdown has substantially curtailed the pumping of water to households and the treatment of sewage. Hospitals, already straining to handle the surge of war casualties, have been forced to rely on generators.
Susie Kneedler adds:
Over 1000 people came last month to our Rally for Justice in Palestine, July 19, 2014 at the Statehouse, Columbus, Ohio.