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Sunday, January 03, 2010

Gaza Freedom March: Here's why I'm joining

By Bill Perry

Bucks County Courier Times
(I'd provide a link, but currently it points to the wrong column — Eric)

I am a disabled Vietnam paratrooper-combat veteran whose main occupation is helping World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans get the evaluations, treatment and compensation for post traumatic stress disorder they deserve.

One thousand other Americans, in addition to me, will be participating in the Gaza Freedom March on Dec. 31 in occupied Palestine. My main motivation for participating in the Gaza Freedom March is that the one common thread in the narratives of most of our combat veterans, from World War II through Afghanistan and Iraq, is the terrible tragedies that the children victims of war are forced to endure.

Dec. 27 is the first anniversary of the brutal 23-day Israeli assault on Gaza, an area the size of Philadelphia, with roughly the same population. The Dec. 31 Gaza Freedom March is important to me in that it will help focus the world's attention on the ongoing Israeli siege on Gaza, and the Israeli sanctions that force thousands of women and children to either live in pup tents, or in hollowed out areas in the rubble of their former homes.

During the Israeli assault this time, last year, they used Apache helicopters with Hell Fire missiles, unmanned aircraft known as drones (armed with missiles), F-16 jets with 500-pound bombs, and white phosphorous artillery munitions in civilian areas, which burn victims to death and are illegal under international humanitarian law. The body count was over 1,400 Palestinians (including over 400 children) and 13 Israelis (all but three were combatants). Israel trumpeted their 100-to-1 "kill ratio," without mentioning that half their 10 KIA were from their own "friendly fire," which would, in effect, make their "kill ratio" more than 200 to 1.

A year later, the cruel, collective punishment and humiliation of Palestinian women and children continues. Israel not only continues to block shipments of cement, mortar, bricks, lumber, window glass and other materials needed for rebuilding Gaza homes and schools, but also school supplies, pencils, pens, sanitary napkins and tampons.

I cannot, for the life of me, understand why the folks, whose history includes imprisonment in the Warsaw Ghetto, a mere 70 years ago, continue to jail the 1.5 million residents of the Gaza Strip, in the world's largest open air prison (56 percent of the 1.5 million open air prisoners are children).

Why would the ruling party of Israel continually cry "victim," referring to their former status as the oppressed peoples of 65 to 70 years ago, then turn around and inflict so much death and destruction upon Palestinian civilians?

I'm proud to be marching in Gaza with a modern-day hero and role model, Hedy Epstein, 85, a Holocaust survivor who remembers events such as Hitler coming to power, Kristallnacht, the burning of synagogues, and the loss of both her parents in Auschwitz 1942.

Hedy Epstein is especially outraged that Israel won't allow materials to rebuild the mosques, four hospitals, three clinics, numerous schools and the well-marked ambulances that were destroyed by Israel in the 23-day siege of Gaza last year. Epstein is a true example of what it really means to be a part of Judaism.

Although the mainstream media have no interest in covering Gaza Freedom Marchers like Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker, or me, a Bucks County veterans advocate, or any of the 1,000 North American marchers calling for Israel to lift their sanctions, I would hope Courier Times readers would take the time to read the Tel Aviv daily newspaper Ha'aretz' columnists like Amira Haas ( www.Haaretz.com) and their opinions of what their government is doing to the Palestinian people.

Nearly 190 countries, worldwide, have expressed outrage, yet three billion of our American tax dollars per year help Israel enforce this ongoing human tragedy.

Is our $3 billion per year foreign aid to Israel creating future terrorists? We are paying for 20-foot-high concrete barriers in the West Bank, and 50-foot, pile-driven steel walls in Gaza. Who are the real victims? Why do we never hear balanced reports of the apartheid horrors in Palestine?

Exactly where and how does the rational and sane world begin the therapy programs for all these traumatized children?

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