By Monica Bauer
Assistant director for outreach and interfaith, Anti-Defamation League, San Diego
Last week, I was in Israel on a mission with the Anti-Defamation League. Upon my return, I read your article "Couple to spend Christmas on Gaza convoy." Obviously, Faith Attaguile and Larry Hampshire are well-meaning individuals who are genuinely concerned with the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the conflict in the Middle East.
While Palestinians in Gaza are indeed living in terrible conditions, Israel unilaterally evacuated the Gaza strip in 2005 only to be followed by Hamas' electoral victory, which in turn resulted in brutal fighting between them and Fatah leaving many Palestinians dead and injured. Since then, Hamas has fired countless rockets into Israel.
The article fails to present any contextual information about George Galloway and mischaracterizes Viva Palestina as a peace-promoting organization. The Viva Palestina convoys led by Galloway delivered cash and vehicles directly to Hamas, a United States-designated terrorist organization. Hamas stands on three non-negotiable commitments: no to peace with Israel, yes to the destruction of Israel and the establishment of an Islamic republic from the Mediterranean to the Pacific.
I don't know if Ms. Attaguile and Mr. Hampshire have ever been to Israel, but I certainly hope they have the opportunity to see firsthand what I saw last week. Israel is a vibrant democratic nation fighting for its existence. It is the only country in the world which fights for its survival and whose legitimacy is questioned. It is an exciting country with a diverse population and a profound commitment to democratic values. Israeli families send their sons and daughters to the army for up to three years to ensure the safety of its population against constant attacks from terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah. America aids Israel because it is the only democratic nation in the Middle East that shares and supports the American democratic ideals of civil rights for all its citizens regardless of sexual orientation, gender, race, creed and religion.
During their Christmas trip, I hope Faith Attaguile and Larry Hampshire will visit one of the bomb shelters found in the playgrounds of cities in southern Israel where young children know they have 15 seconds to run and seek refuge when a rocket has been fired from Gaza. As I write this, I'm reading the news that yesterday, Wednesday, Dec. 16, militants in Gaza fired two more Qassam rockets into Israel.