the Truth of Gaza
BLAUVELT, NY – July 10, 2009 -- Sister Ceil Lavan, OP (Blauvelt)
was part of a 13-member delegation that traveled to the Gaza Strip. Ten
days and many experiences later, she and the other members of the
delegation sponsored by CodePink:
Women for Peace, have newfound compassion for,
and awareness about, the people of Gaza.
The U.S. delegation included people of Muslim, Jewish and Christian
faith, journalists, young adults, and former Christian Peacemaker
Team workers, and International Solidarity Movement (ISM) workers.
They had different connections to the Middle East, but all wanted
to witness first hand what was happening in Gaza, show their solidarity
with the oppressed Palestinian people and bring support and supplies
for the traumatized children of Gaza.
|Ceil Laven (left) listens
to reports of bombings
On May 23rd, Ceil was with the group who left the United States
and entered the Gaza Strip through the Egyptian border at Rafah.
Just getting over the border was difficult. Each individual
in a delegation must be approved by the Egyptian government and
many are turned away. The group visited the Children’s
Life Center in Rafah.
Farming and fishing are two of the main sources of work in Gaza
and a primary source of food for the Palestinians. These
have become even more essential during the blockade, as food and
supplies are scarce, as are medicine and medical equipment, building
construction supplies, electicity, fuel and clean water. Although
some supplies are smuggled in through tunnels that connect to Egypt,
they are limited and very expensive and apparently taxed by the
elected government, Hamas.
The Israeli occupation of Gaza has caused innocent civilian Palestinian
men, women and children great suffering as their homes, schools,
hospitals, governmental buildings, mosques, and police stations
have been destroyed by bombs or bulldozers. Their olive trees
and citrus groves plowed under, their wheat fields burned, and
their fishing boats destroyed. They asked the CodePink delegation
to tell Americans that they are not terrorists; they are ordinary
citizens like us. And now in this “time of peace” following
the Dec. 27 – Jan. 18 Israeli attack on Gaza, Israeli soldiers
use speed boats to routinely fire at the Palestinian fishermen.
This has increasingly limited the Palestinian fishing area in the
Mediterranean Sea. There is habitual firing at Palestinian
farmers, and the amount of land allowed for farming within Palestine
is being curtailed.
The delegation went to the area of Gaza City, where they witnessed
more of the same destruction they had seen in Rafah. They
spoke with Majd Abdullah who held up a live mine left at the site
of his destroyed home. He had been a taxi driver and used
to support his extended family with the income he raised. After
his cabs were destroyed, he lost hope. One delegation member asked
him why he held a live mine and he replied, “What’s
They also encountered Farah, a little girl whose home was hit
with a white phosphorous bomb. Most of her family members, including
her mother, were killed by the recent Israeli attack. Farah was
severely burned by white phosphorous. The delegation saw a remnant
of white phospherous on the ground at a home they visited. When
a man rubbed it with a stick on the ground, it ignited! The white
phosphorous had been there since the Dec/Jan atack and it was still
“Can you imagine what that does to the skin of Palestinian children and
adults burned with it?” Ceil asked. “It continues to burn - right
down to the bone.” Even though white phosphorous is being
used by the Israelis on the Palestinian people, it is illegal to use on civilians
under International Law. The delegation is arranging for Farah to leave
Gaza to get the medical treatment she needs.
“Although Gaza is half-way around the world, there is much that can be
done by Americans to help the situation,” said Ceil. Ceil
suggested that US citizens should pressure the US government to reduce or restrict
military aid to Israel until they comply with human rights and International law
related to their treatment of the Palestinians.
“Telling the truth about the inhuman treatment of the people in Gaza
is critical to changing the policies that keep them in poverty and oppression,” Ceil
said. “The US provides most of the arms and equipment Israel is using,
we have to speak out for the Palestinians.”
For more information, contact John Ging at UNRWA, the
United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees in
the Near East is a relief and human development agency, providing
education, healthcare, social services and emergency aid to over
4.6 million refugees living in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Jordan,
Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic.
Contact CODEPINK if
you are interested in being part of a future delegation.