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Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2009 at 4:44 PM
A request from the churches for Peace in the Middle East
Thanks to all of you who flooded Congress these past two weeks with thousands of calls and letters in support of an immediate and comprehensive cease-fire in Gaza and southern Israel.
Your advocacy made a difference! The concerns of Churches for Middle East Peace were heard by many of your elected officials, through constructive floor statements and in key improvements made to Congressional resolutions on the Gaza crisis that passed quickly late last week. Twenty-four Members of Congress, lead by Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA), also wrote a letter to President Bush on Friday to express their "deep concern for the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip that threatens the lives of countless innocent Palestinians". The letter included issues raised by two Israeli NGO's who were the featured speakers at a Thursday Congressional briefing on the Gaza humanitarian situation, co-hosted by CMEP and Jewish and Arab-American collegial groups.
Now we must keep the pressure on! Please take action today and ask Congress to immediately move forward on helping to achieve a cease-fire, address the pressing humanitarian situation and pursue a long-term political solution.
The Congressional Gaza resolutions, S. Res. 10 and H. Res. 34, passed unanimously in the Senate and by a vote of 390 in favor, 5 against, 22 present and 16 non-voting in the House. The resolutions expressed unwavering support for Israel and placed exclusive blame on Hamas for the current crisis, while including key positive elements in the important action-oriented "resolved" clauses: urging protection of civilians on both sides; recognizing the humanitarian needs of the residents of Gaza and calling for long-term improvement in daily living conditions; and expressing support for achieving a just resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The resolutions also encouragingly called for a "durable" and "sustainable" cease-fire "as soon as possible", which though falling short of urging an immediate end to hostilities, was a significant development, especially given that earlier in the week Congressional leaders had said a "cease-fire" would not be demanded at all.
While aspects of these resolutions failed to adequately communicate a balanced assessment of the current situation, we know advocacy by CMEP and collegial groups prompted key constructive elements and bolstered several Representatives and Senators who spoke in support of urgent diplomacy. CMEP has compiled positive Congressional statements here and you can view the texts of the resolutions, details on the vote and further analysis here.
It is important that your Representative and Senators hear from you this week. Those that expressed CMEP concerns either in floor statements, by voting no or present on the House resolution, or by signing the Gaza humanitarian letter should be thanked.
The many that supported S. Res. 10 and H. Res. 34 must be asked to urgently implement the resolutions' call for a cease-fire and concretely support progress on humanitarian concerns, including a secure re-opening of the border crossings, if civilians on both sides are going to be protected and if hopes for peace are going to be restored. U.N. Security Council Resolution 1860, though rejected by both Hamas and Israel, did receive the tacit support of the Bush Administration and can serve as a solid foundation by which to achieve an end to the hostilities.
Ultimately though, this crisis shows that the status quo of violence and stalemate cannot continue. The House and Senate resolutions voiced strong support for a negotiated resolution of the conflict, but now those words must be put into action. Congress must work with the incoming Obama Administration to help bring about a fair and lasting peace agreement that can provide Israel with security and Palestinians with an independent and viable state.
Please use on online action system to send a message to Members of Congress who supported the resolutions. Tell them to urgently implement the resolutions' encouraging call for a cease-fire and concretely support the progress on humanitarian concerns and efforts to resolve the conflict. Click here to send an email. (Our system will automatically pull out the Members who should receive personalized thank-you messages.)
If your Representative or Senator made a statement in support of urgent diplomacy, voted no or present on the House resolution (the Senate resolution passed by unanimous consent), or signed the Gaza humanitarian letter, please thank him or her. Please check here to see if your Rep. or Sens. took positive action. If so, please send him or her a manual, personalized email. This background page has a list of the Members, Congressional contact information, and sample messages.
* Positive Congressional Statements
* House and Senate Resolutions, Voting Record and Further Analysis
* List of Members Who Took Positive Action
* CMEP General Gaza Backgrounder Page
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