Israel, Palestine, Gaza War – how to help.

A few thoughts on how to help the people of Gaza, and how to help Palestinians and Israelis striving to achieve a life without conflict:

Contact your elected representatives and tell them that you hope they will call for, and actively support, an immediate ceasefire.

US Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) ran an op/ed in the Washington Post yesterday doing just that – the easiest thing would be to read it (excerpt below), then include in your email/tell the staffer who answers the phone that you agree with Rep. Ellison and hope your Senator/Rep will join him. They’ll know what you’re talking about, so it will serve as good short-hand. If you’re Jewish – mention itI cannot stress how important it is to stand up and be counted right now (and if you’re Jewish and heartbroken and horrified by this war, please know that you’re not alone – click here).

Click here for the US House contact page (enter your Zip Code to find your Rep); click here for the US Senate. Emails are good, but if you feel up to it, phone calls are better. I’ll be honest: You and I both know that most of your representatives will not do what you’re asking them to do — but it’s important that they know that there are people who want to see it done. This is how change starts.

  • There is no military solution to this conflict. The status quo brings only continued pain, suffering and war. Promoting economic development and social interaction in Gaza is in the long-term security interest of Israel and the rest of the region…. Ultimately, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be resolved with a final status agreement, and ending the violence and the blockade is a first step toward a permanent solution.” Rep. Keith Ellison

Speak up. Despite the difficulties in speaking up about this issue, despite how fraught it always seems to be and is especially right now – speak up. Do so politely, and with respect for the humanity on the other side (however so defined) but please: Speak up. The Western world, and the American Jewish community in particular, has maintained silence and thus ignorance for far too long. Please – the only way humanity has ever changed is when people started to talk about change.

Share what you know, about the facts (you can get more here) and about those who are struggling even now against the forces of war: People like the Palestinian-Israeli Bereaved Families Forum (people who have all lost loved ones to the violence but work together now toward peace); Combatants for Peace (former fighters from both sides now working together); Breaking the Silence (Israeli soldiers who give testimony from their own experiences about the ugly reality of military occupation); B’tselem (Israeli human rights org with Palestinian field workers in Gaza right now); Just Vision (“increasing the power and the legitimacy of Palestinians and Israelis working to end the occupation and resolve the conflict nonviolently”) — on and on. There are not enough people doing this kind of work, but it is a lie and a dishonor to all who are doing it to ignore their efforts.

Donate. If you have a little to spare, here are a couple of great places that could use the help:

  • UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) – UNRWA is currently housing 236,374 civilians in 86 UNRWA schools – an average of 2,750 per school (many of which have been targeted anyway). Several of their own workers have been killed in the violence. Click here for their donations page; and click here for their Twitter feed, which is a very good, quick way to get a sense of the challenge they’re currently facing.
  • Physicians for Human Rights (Israel) – The Israeli branch of Physicians for Human Rights; they’re working to get medical supplies into Gaza and have already brought in more than $200,000 worth — they’d like to bring in more. Click here for their donations page.



Two ways to actually help the folks on the Eastern Seaboard (spoiler: Not canned goods).

Last night I found myself really worrying about the next few days in the lives of people who were in the path of Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy. I have a sense that this is the point at which supplies have run low or just plain out, people who are poor or elderly or stuck on the wrong piece of geography have been stuck and without resources for a day too long, the money has been spent and there’s no gas in the car, or no train to your job — if only where you work was up and running, but it’s not.

There’s not a whole lot that people who don’t actually live within walking distance of folks in need of help can do in these circumstances, and the next few days will be what they will be — the federal government will do all it can, the Red Cross will do all it can, neighbors will do all they can, and yet it’s not necessarily going to be very pretty.

As for the rest of us, though, there are two things we can do, one obvious, one a bit less so:

1. Go ahead and make that donation to the Red Cross. If you can only help a little, that’s fine, because a nonprofit can always do more with your $10 than you can (I always think of the fact that for $5, your local food pantry can buy a whole grocery bag’s worth of food, whereas you and I can buy four bags of spaghetti and a can of tuna). You can go to the website, or just text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10.

And if you can’t swing even $10 right now (and I’ve been there) remember that they will absolutely still need help in a month or two or six. And not incidentally: By donating to the general “Disaster Relief” fund, you’re providing money that the Red Cross can use wherever it’s needed — and the Red Cross also works in Haiti….

2.  The less obvious thing: Everyone on the Eastern seaboard will, in fact need help in a month or two or six, and they need not only a President who will have their backs and focus on things like recovery and rebuilding infrastructure (not to mention bring an honest approach to the future of climate change), they also need a Congress that will support the President.

I think that I’m not alone in feeling like, barring new surprises, President Obama is pretty likely to win re-election. But, even if that’s so (and it’s far from a foregone conclusion, so don’t get complacent), the Republican Party has shown in word and four years of deed that it is not even a little bit interested in working with this President, for any reason whatsoever. It took President Obama a little longer to figure this out than I might have liked, but he’s figured it out, and we need to figure it out too — and the actionable part of “figuring it out” is working over the next few days to get more Democrats into Congress.

If you can find a few hours to help your local Democrat canvass and/or get out the vote, if you can talk to friends and family and remind them of the importance of casting their ballot even if they don’t think they need to, please do so. If I can, I’ll be going up to Wisconsin on Tuesday to work on getting out the vote for Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin. (And if you don’t know how to go about helping, just Google the candidates’ headquarters and show up — they will be thrilled to see you and tell you when/where you would be of most use).

So, unless you’re within easy travel distance of a neighborhood that needs supplies and helping hands (and if you are, please do what you can!), here’s what you can do: Give money to the people who know how to use it, and get out the vote for the people most likely to do good recovery work.

And if you’re among those knocked around by this storm? All my prayers and best wishes for quick repair and healing, from out here in Fly Over Country. Big love, East Coasters. Hang tight.

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