Sunday, July 5, 2009

$103,000 pledged to Palestinian relief; largest event of its type in Kansas or Missouri -- ever


Participants at the July 2 “Viva Palestina” fundraising event pledged $103,000 for medical relief for Palestinians in Gaza. This generous sum is the largest grassroots fundraising effort for Palestinians in Kansas or Missouri – ever.

Mr. George Galloway, British member of parliament, gave a much-anticipated speech to a capacity crowd of 300 at the Overland Park Marriott. Credit for the large amount raised goes to Galloway for his convincing appeal for direct relief to Palestinians in Gaza. Members of Kansas City’s Muslim and Arab-American communities, as well as many other residents responded generously.

The amount raised will ensure that six trucks representing Kansas and Missouri, will be purchased in Egypt and driven to Gaza, joining with hundreds of other relief vehicles donated by generous Americans from all across the United States. Three Kansas City audience members will journey to Egypt to drive the vehicles in a convoy flying US flags and state and organizational banners to begin a two-week stay in Gaza. Galloway mentioned that his three-month tour of US cities raised $2 million.

One participant “found the event informative and practical, the tone was as much of a call to action as it was a personal, emotional reaction to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.” Representatives of several organizations supported the appeal for funds, including American Friends Service Committee—KC, Peaceworks, Citizens for Peace and Justice in the Holy Land (Lee’s Summit, MO), Seventh Generation Indigenous Visionaries (Haskell student group traveling to Palestine on August 1), American Muslims for Palestine, Citizens for Justice in the Middle East, and MAS Freedom.

After brief presentations by local Kansas City area Palestinian-American residents Mohammed Atwa and Dr. Mohamed Ouda, Galloway outlined his support for the Palestinian struggle for self-determination.

In 1975 as a 20-year old young man he first learned of the Palestinian catastrophe – the dispossession of 750,000 from their land in 1948. In 1977 he lived for a year with Palestinians in refugee camps in Lebanon.

‘Dark Days’ for Palestinians

Recalling the “dark days” of the massacre of thousands of refugee women and children at the Sabra and Shatila camps in Lebanon in 1982 following the devastation of Beirut by invading Israeli forces, he suggested the Israeli attacks in December 2008/January 2009 cast an even darker pall over the Palestinian future.

By preventing Palestinians from departing the small Gaza Strip, he described the recent attacks as “shooting fish in a barrel.” In past massacres, news crews did not arrive until after the deaths and destruction. However, Galloway emphasized that alternative news sources brought the ghastly destruction into homes and to computer screens in real-time. Al Jazeera, PressTV, YouTube and other Internet sites showed horrific human injuries and infrastructure damage.

Galloway said tens of thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed during the 22-day Israeli military campaign. A United Nations report found “52,400 families had homes that were demolished or damaged. Due to ongoing restrictions on the entry of essential construction materials, reconstruction or major repairs have yet to take place.” [1]

If conditions were not bad enough, Galloway stressed “not a single brick, bag of cement, hammer or nails” had been allowed into Gaza to rebuild homes, hospitals, mosques, or schools. “Some people are living in the ruins of their houses,” he added.

Child malnutrition levels and unemployment have increased, leaving the protection of Palestinians to international agencies like the United Nations. Galloway underscored that it was the “UN’s responsibility to feed Palestinians but it was being denied” from providing supplies.

Galloway recalled several well-documented horrific incidents like the one where a 3-year old girl was left undiscovered for days after the massacre of hundreds of Palestinians in Zatoun. Another where a ten-year old girl lost all seven family members. During Galloway’s visit to Gaza with the British convoy the girl asked him “where is this Arab world they tell us about in school?” referring to the lack of support after the 22 days of attacks.

Bold move to break the Israeli (and Arab) siege of Gaza

Galloway announced on January 10, 2009 at a massive rally in Britain that he would organize a convoy to Gaza to provide assistance, to break the siege. On February 14 the convoy left Britain with 100 vehicles to drive through Europe and North Africa.

He revealed the popular support for the convoy as it drove through Europe, Morocco, Tunusia, Algeria, Libya, then Egypt – despite sometimes cold reception from Arab government officials. He described how 100 vehicles were added to the convoy in Libya, “the only country where the people and government supported” the relief convoy. The now two-mile long convoy of vehicles loaded with medical supplies eventually drove from Egypt to Gaza on March 9.

Following an approach similar to the British convoy, Galloway announced news in April 2009 of the fundraising effort for a US convoy departing on July 4 – tomorrow.. All who participated in the July 2 fundraising event in Overland Park are saluted for their generosity. You demonstrate not only the good will of the American people, but also the funds needed to lift the dark days and break the siege.

We in Kansas City are proud to be part of George Galloway's historic mission.

Matt Quinn
Citizens for Justice in the Middle East

Andrea Whitmore
Citizens for Justice in the Middle East

[1] “Protection of Civilians,” 3-6 June 2009, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, occupied Palestinian territory, []



Viva Palestina USA – IFCO
47 West Polk Street
Suite 100 – 403
Chicago, IL 60605-2085

IFCO stands for Interreligious Foundation for Community Organizations/Pastors for Peace. Note: IFCO will send your receipt of donation for your records at the end of 2009 so please make sure your correct contact information is included in your donation!

“The Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization, which has been working for racial, social, and economic justice since 1967, is serving as fiscal sponsor for Viva Palestina USA. Your donation to Viva Palestina - IFCO is fully tax deductible under IFCO’s 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.”