EREZ, ISRAEL — More than three dozen Americans and Israelis rallied today at the border checkpoint here into Gaza, hoping to be let through into the war-torn area with playground building materials, food and other products to delivered to the Gazan people, after Israel authorities barred them from entering.
Patch Adams, the American clown-doctor documented in the 1998 Hollywood film starring Robin Williams, led the 33-member delegation composed of the American peace group CODEPINK and the Israeli feminist group Coalition of Women for Peace to the gates. They carried boxes of “contraband,” or items that the Israeli government has barred from passing through the blockaded border in Gaza. These items included pumpkin, tea, coffee, chocolate, clothes and shoes, books, hair conditioner, wood, plates and glasses, furniture, light bulbs, toys, iron, cement, paper, candles and matches, sheets, blankets, musical instruments, animals, silverware, threads and needles, semolina, sesame/tahina, jelly/jam, nuts and fuel.
If allowed into Gaza, the delegation planned to deliver the products to Gaza’s non-profit aid organization, the Red Crescent Society for distribution into the area. If further denied entry, they will join a a workshop on “The Role of International Community in Freeing Gaza” and several tours, and join protests in Jerusalem and the West Bank between June 10 and 14. They will “dig tunnels” near the checkpoint, with signs marked by “This is Gaza prison,” to smuggle the goods inside.
Their efforts come just a week after CODEPINK’s 66-person delegation that crossed through Gaza through the Rafah, Egypt checkpoints into Gaza May 30, bringing toys, school supplies and playground building-supplies, and built three small playgrounds there. The delegation met with government officials, including the Ministers of Health and Education, Members of Parliament, the Speaker of the Legislative Council and the Deputy of the Foreign Affairs Ministry. Delegates also met with visiting schools, hospitals, mental health workers, human rights lawyers, businessmen and women’s groups,
The group was shocked by the brutality of the Israeli invasion that killed more than 1,400, displaced more than 50,000 people and destroyed approximately 4,000 homes. They were also appalled by the effects of the 21-month siege that has virtually sealed the borders and constitutes a form of collective punishment, which is illegal under international law.
“The siege in Gaza is keeping the people in a virtual prison and it must be lifted,” said CODEPINK member Tighe Barry. “We are appealing to the president to act now to stop this humanitarian crisis and truly move the peace process forward.”