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Confronting U.S. Policy in the Middle East.

The Women Challenge U.S. Policy: Building Peace on Justice in the Middle East campaign (WCUSP) fears that today's tragic situation in Gaza may worsen unless the U.S. exerts its considerable influence on Israel to halt the bombing and end the siege.

Our country has laws that call for the suspension of military aid when a civilian population is suffering from human rights violations such as those occurring in Gaza today. Yet, U.S. aid to Israel, including mil itary aid, averaged more than 2007.* Our campaign believes that the suspension of U.S. aid would bring all parties to the table. At present, the deaths are a ratio of 40-to-l, Palestinians to Israelis, and each new death only fuels the desperate resistance and ongoing cycle of violence.

Many groups have been involved in organizing and protesting, notably the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, to which WILPF belongs. Check for updates at www.endtheoccupation.org.

WCUSP actions have included a letter to Secretary of State Rice calling on the U.S. administration to intercede by urging that peace talks resume between Israel and the Palestinian leadership. Some 25 WILPF branches from Alaska to Texas signed the letter. In January, we printed 1,500 postcards calling for an end to the conflict and urging our congressional representatives to demand that the administration take action to relieve the siege of Gaza. These were distributed to all the branches that signed the Rice letter and to additional branches and individuals. Cards were signed and taken to local congressional offices. (Contact Tura Campanella Cook at turacc@earthlink.net if you would like cards.)

Hanan Awwad, President of WILPF's Palestine section, will visit the U.S. two weeks before our National WILPF Congress. If your branch wishes to host her and arrange for her to speak to local audiences, please contact Odile Hugonot Haber, chair of WCUSP, at odilehh@gmail.com or (734) 761-7967.

In addition to actions planned by the campaign leadership team, many branches have also been busy. In Washington, D.C., members participated in a cultural event, "Hunger at Home and Abroad," to benefit the local food bank and the United Palestinian Appeal. This event featured a panel discussion and sales of traditional embroidered crafts made in Gaza.

Six members of the Philadelphia branch Middle East Committee have worked for a year on a glossary of Middle Eastern people, places, conflicts, peace agreements and peace organizations, and general terms related to the Arab world. The glossary focuses on Iran, Israel, Lebanon and Palestine, providing a short history and demographics of--each. The committee is seeking funding to publish this valuable resource. For details, contact Libby Frank at LMFrankl @verizon.net.

The Greater Phoenix branch started a Middle East study group this spring. At a local teach-in titled "Turning Walls into Bridges," the branch led a workshop called "Rejection, Separation and Alienation: Lessons of Israel's Separation Wall," which was well-received. (For more branch activities, see Branch Action News on pages 21-23.)

WCUSP's three-year campaign will draw to a close at this summer's Congress. Although the situation is not improved, and in many ways suffering has increased, we are proud of the creative efforts of WILPF branches and community allies to challenge U.S. policy.

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Tura Campanella Cook is a member of WILPF's WCUSP campaign.

* Source: If Americans Knew: What every American needs to know about Israel/Palestine, online at: www.ifamericansknew.org.

RELATED ARTICLE: How WCUSP Formed

A few years ago, after Dolores Taller left her position as'chair, some of us reconstituted the U.S. WILPF Middle East Committee, and created a new national statement. We were functional, but found that conference calls were often difficult, as some members were more pro-Palestinian (and focused on human rights) while others were more protective of Israel."

With many branches already working on Middle East issues, our strong committee--Tura Campanella Cook, Katharina Harlow, Marlene Santoyo, Yvonne Simmons, Pat Hollingsworth, Barbara Taft and Odile ' Hugonot Haber--decided to propose a national campaign. Joined by C.J. Minster and Libby Frank .. (longtime Middle East Committee member) the final proposal was selected by vote of the WILPF member ship. We hoped to make some progress on our issue, inform and educate our membership, unite more branches and make our work more visible.
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Author:Cook, Tura Campanella
Publication:Peace and Freedom
Geographic Code:70MID
Date:Mar 22, 2008
Words:717
Previous Article:Remembering Lorena.
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