An open letter to the American public from Arafat’s compound

We are Americans who are addressing you from inside Palestinian President Yasser Arafat’s besieged compound in the West Bank town of Ramallah. We entered the compound on April 21, in response to fears that Israel was preparing to launch a military attack against it. We joined 30 members of the international solidarity group who were already inside, peace activists from Israel, France, Britain, Denmark and Australia. We all hope with our presence to offer protection for the nearly 300 Palestinians who have been trapped inside the compound since the Israel Defense Force invaded Ramallah on March 29, 2002.

Inside the compound we have little food, scant ventilation, and overflowing toilets. We have only the clothes on our backs. There is not enough medicine for the injured and ill who are with us. On April 27th, the pipe that brought the compound an erratic water supply was destroyed by the army. Israeli soldiers have been demolishing buildings around us with explosives, and flattening vehicles with their tanks.

During the past few days they have built huge barricades around the compound using the rubble and destroyed cars, topping them with razor wire. We are here because we cannot be bystanders. We cannot stand by and watch the unfolding of a terrible injustice paid for with our tax dollars.

This is not a war between two armies. In this conflict one of the world’s most powerful armies is mobilized against a largely defenseless population, half of whom are children under the age of 15. American-supplied attack helicopters and tanks are used against a people who have already endured 35 years of occupation, and the loss of their homes, their land, their livelihood, their dignity and their human rights.

We deplore the killing of civilians on both sides of the conflict. We recognize that the Palestinians have a right to resist the occupation and the ongoing theft of their land for the construction of illegal Israeli settlements and “Israeli-only” by pass roads. We believe that both Israelis and Palestinians have a right to a secure existence. And we know there is only one way to get there: the occupation must be brought to an end. “Injustice anywhere,” wrote Martin Luther King, Jr., “is a threat to justice everywhere.”

We are appealing to all Americans of conscience to stand with us against injustice and violence, and for hope and security for both peoples. Please contact your elected representatives and the Bush administration (tel. 202 456-1111) and call for a peaceful resolution of the siege in Ramallah, and the withdrawal of Israeli soldiers from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as President Bush himself has demanded. Urge them to support the intervention of an international peacekeeping force to protect both Palestinians and Israelis, to be followed by negotiations conducted on the basis of United Nations resolutions and international law.