Can I just say that Washington Rep. Brian Baird is my personal hero? Watch this recent interview with RTAmerica which took place on the heels of his third trip to Gaza. Among other things, Baird calls for the US to break the blockade with Gaza, for US envoy George Mitchell to visit Gaza personally, and to consider withholding “certain kinds of aid” to Israel if it continues to settle the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Toward the end of the interview, he comments: “ignoring the plight of these good people is at our peril.”
On the international front, my personal bravery award goes to Ireland’s Foreign Minister Micheal Martin, who was recently the first European Union foreign minister to visit Gaza in over a year. He discussed his experiences yesterday in a powerful NY Times op-ed:
The tragedy of Gaza is that it is fast in danger of becoming a tolerated humanitarian crisis, a situation that most right-thinking people recognize as utterly unacceptable in this day and age but which is proving extremely difficult to remedy or ameliorate due to the blockade and the wider ramifications of efforts to try and achieve political progress in the Middle East.
One can imagine how hard it is not to give in to despair and hopelessness in such an environment. However, what was most impressive and heartening during my visit was the resilience and incredible dignity of ordinary people.
A courageous representative in Washington no less; says the truth about what is a just answer (as our country likes to espouse) and no one can hear him. And now he’ll be leaving, too. It’s going to be a long 3 more years, our president will need all the prayers we can muster.
I enjoyed watching the interview and appreciate Baird’s intitiative.
As part of my job I tried to get a permit last year from the Israeli authorities to haul six trucks of donated pasta into the Gaza strip but our request was turned down with no reasons given. Also, our attempts to create sustainable jobs in the Gaza strip have been experiencing primarily setbacks for years now as anything you produce can only be sold locally due to the blockade and there is only so much purchasing power there which has never been strong in the best of years.
No exports = no revenues; no revenues = economic decline which results in more poverty which in turn results in more aid dependency because in the end the international organisations are left with no choice but to simply provide food aid as the only possibility to provide any kind of assistance. Obviously, the need for that would not be very great if the borders were open. Ok, the argument that Hamas is a terrorist organisation that throws rockets and kills innocent Israeli civilians comes to mind. However, Hamas hasn’t fired a single rocket in over a year – keeping their commitment to the ceasefire – and yet are not getting anything in return. Moreover, half of the Gaza strip’s 1.5 million or so inhabitants are 18 and under, hence youth and children, who are suffering the most.
Baird’s initiative is great and I hope there will be in Congress who see things like him. It is unfortunate though that an interview such as this one is aired on Russia Today and not CNN or Fox News. This way not many people in the US will get to hear his comments.
What is shocking is that such a reasonable and principled position such as Representative Baird reflects is so uncommon in the Congress and in the media. How did we ever become so warped in our views regarding this terrible conflict?
I visited with Jean Zaru, a wonderful Palestinian Quaker in Ramallah last Sunday, who answered my stock question “What gives you hope?” this way. “It is the fact mothers in Gaza get up every morning to get their children to school, to feed them and to keep them safe. They persevere, and that gives me hope.”
This is indeed wonderful and very encouraging. Cotton, let me know if you wanted to meet up for coffee while you are still here.
A fair and balanced man.
Such a statement does give hope that there is a heart amid the US Congress beating somewhere. 🙂
Anyone want from Washington’s 3rd District can email him a positive message of appreciation.
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Congressman Baird presents a flawed argument. He should brush up on his history, as well as the bible.
For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.
H. L. Mencken