U.S. $300 million pledge to Gaza leaves inhumane siege intact;
Historic 60-person delegation going to Gaza this week calls for end to blockade


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE     March 3, 2009    CONTACT
Jean Stevens, CODEPINK national media coordinator, 508-769-2138

U.S. $300 million pledge to Gaza leaves inhumane siege intact
Historic 60-person delegation going to Gaza this week calls for end to blockade

WASHINGTON -- With Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's announcement Monday of $300 million in aid for war-torn Gaza, members of the 60-person international delegation set to arrive in Gaza this week call on the Obama administration to push for a lifting of the Israeli blockade of Gaza, to work with the democratically-elected Hamas rather than ignore it, and to initiate a new peace process.

“It is important to give money to rebuild Gaza, but Gaza cannot be rebuilt as long as the Israeli/Egyptian blockade continues to restrict rebuilding supplies from entering Gaza," said delegation organizer Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODEPINK. "The best thing the Obama Administration can do to rebuild is to pressure the Israelis and Egyptians to open the borders.”

The delegation, which includes Pulitzer-Prize winning novelist Alice Walker, retired Col. Ann Wright, Benjamin and 57 other Americans, Canadians, Europeans, and students, is the first delegation of its size and kind to attempt to enter Gaza since July 2007 when Israel imposed a blockade of its borders. Hundreds of aid workers, lawyers, and convoys carrying humanitarian aid have been denied entrance by Egyptian authorities at the Rafah border.

Wright, former state department official and delegation leader, urges Clinton to re-examine the allocation of U.S. funds in the region.

“The $300 million the U.S. Government is giving to rebuild Gaza is small potatoes compared to the $3 billion we're giving to Israel, most used for military purposes," Wright said. "The U.S.-financing of Israel's military must be stopped."

The delegation -- which also includes the parents of American Rachel Corrie, the 23-year-old struck and killed by a bulldozer operated by Israeli Defense Forces in Gaza six years ago -- will deliver 2,000 gift baskets to Gazan women and bear witness to the devastation from the 22-day Israeli invasion earlier this year that killed more than 1,300 Palestinians, including 400 children. Traveling at the invitation of the Gaza Gender Initiative of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), they will also honor International Women's Day, March 8, designated by the U.N. If Egyptian authorities deny the group's entrance, the group will camp out at the border until they get in.

Since January, CODEPINK has collected aid to deliver to Gazan women through its website.

"American women feel tremendous compassion toward the women of Gaza," Benjamin said. "We don't want to keep paying for Israel to destroy them and their homes."

For more information, please call Jean Stevens, national media coordinator, at 508-769-2138.