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Your brothers need you, BHussein.

June 10, 2009

Hamas Asks Obama to Visit Gaza
Article: Yahoo News

A peace delegation visiting the war-torn Gaza Strip traveled to Cairo last week to hand-deliver a letter from Hamas officials to President Obama, requesting the U.S. President visit Gaza to see the humanitarian situation there.

What’s the Story?

“Obama should go to Gaza and see the devastation for himself, or send envoy George Mitchell,” said Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the women-led peace group CODEPINK.

At the end of May, CODEPINK led a 66-person delegation through Gaza, where they met with various government officials, schools, hospitals, human rights lawyers, businessmen, and women’s groups in the area.

The group carried the letter from Hamas to the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. They also delivered a petition signed by over 10,000 Americans, calling on Obama to see for himself the situation in Gaza.

“The siege in Gaza is keeping the people in a virtual prison and it must be lifted,” said Tighe Barry, a member of the peace group. “We are appealing to the president to act now to stop this humanitarian crisis and truly move the peace process forward.”

Letter of Peace from Hamas

During their stay in Gaza, members of the peace group met several times with Hamas officials. The delegates urged Hamas to write a letter to President Obama urging him to visit Gaza while he was in the Middle East.

“One Hamas official stayed up all night and wrote the letter to Obama for the delegates to deliver to Cairo,” reported CODEPINK.

The letter [pdf] urged Obama to visit “Ground Zero” in Gaza and bring about a “paradigm shift” in the Israel-Palestine conflict. The letter also announced that Hamas was willing to talk to all parties “on the basis of mutual respect and without preconditions.”

It was signed by Ahmed Yusef, Deputy Foreign Minister, and given to a member of the CODEPINK group to deliver to Obama in Cairo.

“We think if President Obama is serious about being even-handed and reversing our country’s past favoritism towards Israel then he should visit Gaza himself,” said Benjamin.

President Obama’s Cairo Speech

During his tour of the Middle East, Obama chose Egypt’s capital city for his Jun. 4 speech addressing the Muslim world. During the speech, Obama acknowledged the suffering of both Israeli and Palestinian people and called on both sides to end the conflict.

The United States does not support “continued Israeli settlements” in the Occupied Territories, Obama said. He called on Israel to end its blockade of Gaza, noting that “the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel’s security,” reported Human Rights Watch.

The U.S. president said the goals of stability, prosperity, and statehood were “legitimate aspirations” for both sides, but recognized an imbalance in these desires: “Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel’s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine’s,” Obama said, according to a report from Inter Press Service.

But Obama did not mention the UN Human Rights Council mission that will investigate abuses by both sides in the Gaza conflict. “Obama should have used this opportunity to push Israel to cooperate with the international investigation,” said Human Rights Watch.

Background: Conflict and Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza

Hamas is a political and social service organization known internationally for carrying out terrorist attacks to further its goal of taking the land where the state of Israel stands today. Israel initiated the current blockade of the Gaza Strip in June 2007, after elections gave Hamas political control of Gaza.

Aid groups have been urging Israel to allow the passage of critical reconstruction materials and humanitarian aid into the territory.

More than 80 percent of all goods allowed to enter Gaza are basic foods, while essential materials needed for agriculture, reconstruction, clothing, shoes, and school supplies are sorely lacking, estimated the anti-poverty organization Oxfam International in March.

Water and power utilities are also flawed and inefficient, reaching only a fraction of the population, noted a UN news report at the same time.

The blockade of the Gaza Strip amounts to “collective punishment of the civilian population,” said Human Rights Watch, echoing the sentiments of many other international human rights groups.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has dominated Middle East politics for much of the last 60 years. Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, West Bank, and East Jerusalem have faced many hardships under the Israeli occupation of these territories, while Israeli citizens have lived in fear of rocket attacks and suicide bombings.

“The recent pattern has been one of regular and highly destructive Israeli military operations, Palestinian civilian uprising, and terrorist activities,” explains OneWorld UK in its Palestine country guide, noting that over 4,000 Palestinians and more than 1,000 Israelis lost their lives between 2000 and 2008. Then, between Dec. 27, 2008 and Jan. 18, 2009, Israeli attacks on Gaza destroyed much of the region’s infrastructure and killed some 1,400 Palestinians. The vast majority of Palestinians killed since 2000 have been civilians…

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