Couple back from Gaza, speak out on their views
If nothing else, a January day spent in the Gaza Strip solidified the already strong pro-Palestinian beliefs of Del Mar couple Faith Attaguile and Larry Hampshire.
They traveled there with roughly 500 others as part of the Viva Palestina convoy, a controversial campaign to provide humanitarian aid to Gaza. Attaguile, 63, spent a month by land, sea and air to get to the small stretch in the Middle East. She started in London, driving to Gaza in an ambulance filled with medical supplies. Hampshire, 78, joined the convoy in Istanbul.
On the way they slept in cars, on mosque floors, and in any motel that had space.
“I need to see things. There’s so much propaganda put out by both sides and I needed to see it,” Hampshire said when asked about making such a trip at his age. “The age thing is just a number.”
Attaguile and Hampshire became inspired after the 2008 war between Israel and Hamas, when roughly 1,400 Gaza inhabitants, many civilians, were killed.
“Everybody was just out on the street to welcome us,” Attaguile said of the convoy’s Gaza arrival. “It was a huge, huge thing for them. I mean they are like in a prison camp.”
The 2008 war started after Hamas, a United States and European Union designated terrorist organization, repeatedly fired rockets from Gaza into Israeli civilian neighborhoods.
“What would the United States do if the democratically elected government of Canada or Mexico would state its intentions of destroying America and would start firing rockets everyday into Seattle or San Diego? How would we respond?” said Anti-Defamation League Assistant Director Monica Bauer Federman. “The Israeli Army took extreme measures to let the civilian population know about operations so they would leave the area.”
There is U.N. Human Rights Council testimony stating that Hamas deliberately places its armament in public places like schools and hospitals for favorable press and international support upon Israeli retaliation.
Attaguile and Hampshire say the Gaza Strip is too densely populated for civilians to be able to flee.
This was the third trip to Gaza by Viva Palestina, founded by British Parliament anti-Zionist George Galloway. Attaguile and Hampshire deny its alleged support of Hamas, saying communication is only out of necessity to deliver humanitarian supplies to the people of Gaza. The ADL says Viva Palestina is an anti-Israel political advocacy group operating under the guise of humanitarianism.
While the Hamas Charter calls for Israel to be “obliterated,” Attaguile and Hampshire maintain that Hamas would recognize Israel if the borders were redrawn to pre-war 1967 lines. They say ending U.S. aid to Israel would make this happen.
Rick Barton, the ADL national chair of education, said that is simply not true.
“The U.S. has been a supporter of Israel militarily only since really the late 1960s and early 1970s. Before that Israel was perfectly capable of taking care of itself,” he said. “It really calls into question the sort of motivation of people who say that because they’re not looking at history through a true factual prism.”
Egyptian police on the Gaza border held up the convoy and a riot ensued. Galloway was deported. The entire convoy was ultimately told to leave, to which Attaguile said: “It wasn’t a formal deportation, but we had no choice.”
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