We at CMEP hope you and your family remain in good health and spirits during these challenging times. CMEP is committed to continuing our work to advocate for a just and lasting end to the conflict in Israel-Palestine and to working toward peace in all parts of the Middle East. We know COVID-19 will have a disproportionate impact on those already marginalized, including Palestinians living under occupation throughout East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza. Congress and the Administration must take immediate action to ensure U.S. policy helps end the occupation and alleviate the suffering of Palestinians.
In the coming weeks and months, we will offer educational and advocacy opportunities related to CMEP’s core priorities 1) Holistic Peacebuilding 2) Humanitarian and Economic Assistance 3) Human Rights. During this time of physical distancing, we encourage you to reach out to your elected officials to demand they enact policies that will help contribute to a just future for all in Israel/Palestine.
Humanitarian and Economic Assistance
In 2018, the Trump Administration announced an administrative review of economic aid to the West Bank and Gaza. The review ended with the announcement that over $200 million in funds appropriated to projects in the West Bank and Gaza for fiscal year 2017 would be re-allocated to other needs outside of Palestine. Simultaneously, the Administration announced it would also withdraw U.S. financial support to UNRWA, the UN Agency providing economic relief, medical, educational, and emergency services to the over five million Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon. Taken together, this amounted to the loss of over $500 million dollars in aid to Palestinians in one fiscal year. U.S. economic support to the West Bank and Gaza reaches the most vulnerable Palestinians, offering critical services to Palestinians living under the weight of a brutal occupation. In the FY 2019 funding bill, Congress appropriated $75 million to humanitarian and economic assistance to the West Bank and Gaza, though UNRWA was not included.
What can be done:
- We need to ensure the $75 million dollars appropriated in 2019 for programs in the West Bank and Gaza is allocated as intended. Congress must put pressure on the Administration, including USAID and State, to communicate their plans for dispersing the funds. This is incredibly important now, given funding is expected for the East Jerusalem Hospital Network, which includes the Augusta Victoria Hospital, the only cancer treatment facility for Palestinians in the West Bank.
- As Congress begins consideration of the FY 2021 appropriations package, they need to hear directly from constituents. Encourage them to ensure at least $75 million is appropriated again for the West Bank and Gaza. Additionally, push for the reinstatement of funding for UNRWA.
In April 2019, Rep. Betty McCollum introduced H.R. 2407 “Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act.” This is the second iteration of legislation introduced by Rep. McCollum shining a light on the mistreatment of Palestinian youth in Israeli military detention. The bill seeks to ensure no U.S funds to Israel are used in the abuse and detention of Palestinian youth and would authorize the appropriation of $19 million annually to NGOs documenting these practices and providing support to Palestinian youth and their families as children re-enter society.
What can be done:
- Ask your House member to co-sponsor H.R. 2407. Click here to find out if they are already a cosponsor. Ask your Senator to introduce similar legislation in the Senate.
- During the COVID-19 Pandemic, it is critical that Israel refrains from detaining children and release all youth currently held in detention. Israel cannot guarantee safe and hygienic conditions during a global pandemic. The U.S. government must exert pressure to ensure the Israeli government will cease from detaining youth throughout the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. CMEP affirms the call from UN officials for the immediate release of all children in detention.
Since 2007, Israel has imposed a land, sea, and air blockade on the Gaza Strip. Israel’s blockade has prevented Gazans from rebuilding the extensive damage caused by these conflicts. This has resulted in an infrastructure crisis that has crippled Gaza’s economy. Electricity is infrequent, drinking water is toxic, and raw sewage pours into the Mediterranean. About half of Gazans are unemployed and 70 percent depend on foreign humanitarian aid. After the war in 2014, the UN predicted that Gaza would be uninhabitable by 2020 unless the blockade was lifted. On March 21, the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Gaza were announced. While this was just a matter of time, the implications are devastating. Under such dense quarters, it is impossible for the people of Gaza to practice social distancing. Gazans already do not have full access to medical care and many rely on emergency food assistance–adding in a global pandemic will just exacerbate already dire conditions.
What can be done:
- The Administration must immediately release funding, already appropriated as part of the FY 2020 Budget to humanitarian agencies operating in Gaza. They must also commit to additional funds given the gravity of the situation
- The blockade on Gaza must be lifted. Gazans must be able to travel to Israel to receive medical treatment not available within Gaza. Additionally, restrictions must be lifted so that international agencies can send relief supplies and life saving equipment to Gaza. Call on Congress to pressure the Israeli government to end the blockade on Gaza to ensure Gazans can receive the treatment and supplies they need.