European Parliamentarians Admonish Israel & Egypt for Border Closures to Gaza

European Parliamentarians Admonish Israel & Egypt for Border Closures to Gaza

RAFAH, GAZA STRIP, (10 November 2008) - A group of 11 European parliamentarians from England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Italy and Switzerland today visited the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, calling for an end to the ongoing blockade. The group had been part of a larger delegation of 53 parliamentarians who were prevented from entering Gaza earlier this month by the Egyptian government. After being denied entry they traveled to Gaza by sea on the Dignity, a human rights ship organized jointly by the Free Gaza Movement and the European Campaign to End the Siege. It was the third such voyage to challenge and break Israel’s stranglehold on the Gaza Strip since August.

“The siege of Gaza is an illegal and immoral act of collective punishment imposed on the civilian population of the Gaza Strip for the ‘crime’ of voting in internationally supervised elections for a party not supported by the Western powers,” said Ms. Short, the former British Secretary of State for International Development from 1997 to May 2003. “We have visited hospitals and schools here, and I can testify first-hand to the suffering that has been forced upon the Palestinians of Gaza. Egypt’s complicity in the siege is scandalous.”

Ever since Hamas won parliamentary elections in January 2006, Gaza has been subjected to an increasingly severe blockade that bars most essential supplies. Gaza’s economy has collapsed as a result, triggering sharp increases in unemployment, poverty, and childhood malnutrition.  In addition to helping the parliamentarians circumvent the border closure, the Dignity carried in a ton of medical supplies. “We’re thankful that we were able to deliver these badly needed medical supplies,” said Dr. Arafat Shoukri, Chair of the European Campaign to End the Siege. “However, the unfortunate truth is that these supplies are only symbolic. Until the siege ends once and for all, innocent people will continue to unnecessarily suffer and even die.”

The Free Gaza Movement has organized three such sea voyages over the last three months in order to draw attention to the devastating consequences of the Gaza siege by actively challenging illegal and inhumane governmental policies through the power of non-violent direct action.

Caoimhe Butterly, Gaza Project Coordinator for the Free Gaza Movement, stated that “Our delegations have been deeply shocked by the deteriorating humanitarian conditions here in Gaza. As we call on our governments in the West to end their complicity in these illegal and immoral acts of collective punishment, we also call on the Egyptian government to end their participation in the siege and to open the Rafah border crossing permanently.”

The Gaza Parliamentary Delegation:  LORD NAZIR AHMED, ENGLAND. CHRISTOPHER ANDREWS, IRELAND. HUGH O’DONNELL, SCOTLAND. RHODRI GLYN THOMAS, WALES, PAULINE MCNEILL, SCOTLAND, FERNANDO ROSSI, ITALY, CLARE SHORT, ENGLAND, AENGUS Ó SNODAIGH, IRELAND, BARONESS DR. JENNY TONGE, ENGLAND, SANDRA WHITE, SCOTLAND, JOSEF ZISYADIS, SWITZERLAND

Larnaca: The eleven members of various European Parliaments will return to the port of Larnaca on Tuesday, November 11 between 8:00 and 9:00 am on board the DIGNITY. The group had been part of a larger delegation of 53 parliamentarians who were prevented from entering Gaza earlier this month by the Egyptian government.

After being denied entry, they traveled to Gaza on the DIGNITY, a human-rights ship organized jointly by the Free Gaza Movement and the European Campaign to End the Siege. It was the third such voyage since August to challenge Israel’s stranglehold on the Gaza Strip.

“The siege of Gaza is an illegal and immoral act of collective punishment imposed on the civilian population of the Gaza Strip for the ‘crime’ of voting in internationally supervised elections for a party not supported by the Western powers,” said Ms. Short, the former British Secretary of State for International Development from 1997 to May 2003. “We have visited hospitals and schools here, and I can testify first-hand to the suffering that has been forced upon the Palestinians of Gaza.”

Also on board are eight Palestinians who have been denied exit for medical treatment or to pursue their studies at universities.

One elderly couple is going to Germany. The husband had a stroke last year, and his arm is paralyzed. He was not allowed out for treatment through Rafah or Eretz, and he has not seen his children, who live in Germany, since the siege began two years ago.

One student was prevented from going to Germany and was turned back from Rafah a few days ago even though he has German passport. He is going to continue his studies in Germany, and is just one of 700 Palestinian students who have visas to study at universities in Europe who has been forbidden to leave Gaza by Israel and Egypt, another example of the collective punishment on the civilian population of Gaza.

Greta Berlin, one of the organizers in Cyprus stated, “These eight Palestinians are just a small number of people who are being held captive by Israel, denied the right to leave through Rafah by Egypt, and punished for resisting the Israeli government’s brutal occupation. It’s time the rest of the world stands up against this immoral siege and does something to stop the deteriorating conditions in Gaza.”

 

 


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