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Central Connecticut’s Peace Studies Department Talks About Gaza

by Kelly Langevin

Central Connecticut’s Department of Peace Studies presented the event “Israel’s Devastating Siege of Gaza” that focused on what can be done about the attacks taking place on the territory and put emphasis on a topic that often goes forgotten.

The event took place on April 5.

Ann Wright, who served 29 years in the United States Army, retired as a colonel, and served as a U.S. diplomat for 16 years before resigning from the U.S. government in 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq.

Since resigning, Wright has been active in peace and social justice issues with Veterans for Peace and CODEPINK, and is co-author of “Dissent: Voices of Conscience.”

The discussion leading up to Gaza started off with the topic of war.

“For the students here, your whole lives, the lives that you can remember, the United States has been at war either at Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Iraq, Syria, Yamen, Somalia, Niger and Mali,” Wright said.

“One place that the United States does have military troops in the middle east that I haven’t mentioned is in Israel. That brings me to what the discussion is today on the issue of Gaza,” Wright continued.

The Gaza Strip is a small Palestinian territory, located along the Mediterranean coast between Egypt and Israel. Gaza is also kept in isolation by the Israeli military and ruled by Hamas, an anti-Israeli terrorist group.

In 1948, the United Nations declared that the British territory known as Palestine would be divided into two independent countries: Israel and Palestine. Arab leaders rejected the declaration and invaded to maintain an unified, independent Arab Palestine, but lost. By the time fighting ended, Israel controlled even more of the land than the U.N. declaration had granted the new country. One of the areas still under Palestinian control was the Gaza Strip, according to The Washing Post.

Israel occupied the territory in 1967 after another war with Arab states, but withdrew its troops and settlers in 2005. Israel still maintains its extremely tight restrictions on trade in and out of Gaza, which has a 40 percent unemployment rate. 38 percent of Gazans live under the poverty line. It is clear that Gaza is not an independent country.

Israel and Palestine have not become independent countries because they cannot agree on where to draw the borders.

“In 1967, there was a war—a war between the state of Israel and the Arab nations. It wasn’t just the Palestinians, it was the Arab nations and, at that time, particularly in Egypt, this area was expanding for the state of Israel,” Wright said.

Before it started, Israel controlled everything except the Gaza and the West Bank, which today are the two Palestinian countries. At the end of it, Israel occupied both Palestinian territories, plus a small piece of Syrian land, the Golan Heights.

Israelis have begun to move into parts of the West Bank. The U.S. peace plan also calls for “land swaps” between Israel and Palestine to keep a number of those Israeli settler communities within Israel’s borders, according to The Washington Post.

The Obama administration called for a peace deal in which Israel and Palestine would adopt the pre-war 1967 borders, with mutually agreed land swaps and it was accepted from Palestinian groups.

Palestinians in Gaza are under attack. Hama is committed to firing rockets at Israeli civilians and Israel is committed to keeping Hamas weak.

Wright started going to Gaza in 2009 when there was an attack, or the “Gaza War.” There have been ongoing attacks on Gaza, one of the most remembered occurred in 2014, the Israel-Gaza conflict. Gaza constantly gets attacked.

CCSU hoped to bring awareness to Gaza and the destruction it constantly faces by holding this event, according to Wright.