The Council on International Relations, a Gaza-based NGO, issued an invitation yesterday to New York Senator Chuck Schumer to come to Gaza so that he can see that he and the Palestinian community share many attributes, from humble origins to a high value for education. The group said it is confident that Schumer would call for an end to the blockade, as Senator Bernie Sanders has done, if he only observed the “inhuman” Palestinian conditions there.
The Gaza council’s invitation is below. In the video, the first speaker is Ahmad Totah, a lawyer, and the second (reading the invitation in English) is Israa’ Alnaami, member of the council’s youth group.
Dear Senator Charles Schumer
U.S. Senate Minority Leader
Come See Gaza for Yourself!
We, Council on International Relations – Palestine, formally invite you to visit Gaza.
You are recognized as an enlightened, humane leader of the Democratic Party.
You also share a lot in common with the people of Gaza.
Your father was an exterminator and you grew up in a simple home.
You come from a humble background.
So do we.
Fully 70 percent of our population are refugees, while over 40 percent of our population are currently unemployed and over 50 percent are suffering from food insecurity.
You were valedictorian of your high school class and attended Harvard University.
You value education.
So do we.
Although impoverished and wracked by endless war, Gaza can proudly boast of a 98.4% literacy rate, the highest in the Arab world.
You were ambitious when you were young and set out to conquer the world.
So were we.
Except that, trapped in a tiny enclave that is more densely populated than Tokyo, we just yearn to see the world.
You are a devoted husband and have raised two accomplished daughters.
You value family.
So do we.
It is therefore with pain and sorrow that we have read your statements about Gaza.
You have said, “since the Palestinians in Gaza elected Hamas,” it is right “to strangle them economically until they see that’s not the way to go.”
You attended Harvard Law School and have sat on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.
You surely know that collective punishment is illegal under international law.
Human Rights Watch has observed that the blockade of Gaza “amounts to collective punishment of the civilian population, a serious violation of international humanitarian law,” while Amnesty International stated that, “as a form of collective punishment, Israel’s continuing blockade of Gaza is a flagrant violation of international law.”
Because of the Israeli blockade, 97% of Gaza’s drinking water is unfit for human consumption. Sara Roy of the Harvard University Center for Middle Eastern Studies has written, “Innocent human beings, most of them young, are slowly being poisoned by the water they drink, and likely by the soil in which they plant.”
Can it be right to poison Gaza’s one million children?
We want to believe that you have been misinformed about the situation in Gaza.
That’s why we are extending our welcome to you.
We are confident that if you come and see Gaza for yourself, you’ll agree with New York State judge Mary McGowan Davis who, in a U.N. report, called on Israel to lift the blockade “immediately and unconditionally.”
We are confident that you will agree with the European Parliament, which overwhelmingly called “for an immediate and unconditional end to the blockade and closure of the Gaza Strip, which has resulted in a deteriorating, unprecedented humanitarian crisis in the area.”
We are confident that you will agree with your fellow Senator Bernie Sanders, who has called the blockade “inhuman” and urged your government to help end it.
Even if we find ourselves disagreeing on many points, your visit is still certain to be a mutually enriching and historic occasion.
What’s most important, it will enable you to put a human face on the people of Gaza. Judge Richard Goldstone recalled after visiting Gaza that initially he “had nightmares about being kidnapped. You know, it was very difficult, especially for a Jew, to go into an area controlled by Hamas.” But once there, he was “struck by the warmth of the people that we met.”
We want you, too, to feel the warmth and witness first-hand the decency and dignity of our gentle people.