As Jews and as Americans, we are heartbroken and horrified by the latest outbreak of violence in Palestine. Our unshakable belief in justice compels us to acknowledge that the root of this violence is the Israeli government’s commitment to occupation, financed by our American tax dollars.

When we see Israeli police beating Palestinian children and settlers screaming “death to the Arabs,” we believe that it is the responsibility of American Jews to loudly proclaim our opposition to human rights violations, racism and the valuing of Jewish lives over Palestinian lives.

The enormous power of the Israel lobby has almost drowned out the voices of those of us who know that being Jewish doesn’t mean supporting the Israeli government’s actions in Gaza, any more than being American means supporting the U.S. government’s actions in Iraq.

By supplying the weapons that fuel the occupation, the U.S. is occupying Palestine just as surely as Israel is.

Richard Falk, former U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, has made clear that Israel, as the occupying power, has the responsibility to protect the civilian population. Instead, it demolishes homes, hospitals, schools, mosques, factories, power plants and agricultural fields.

We are shocked and ashamed that in a July resolution, both houses of Congress voted unanimously to support Israel’s invasion of Gaza. By doing so, the U.S. has given Israel carte blanche to continue the killing.

Gaza has been called the biggest cage in the world. For the past seven years, because of a blockade imposed by Israel, the 1.8 million people of Gaza have lived through incredible hardships.

A 2013 report by the U.N. Special Rapporteur found that there have been severe fuel and electricity shortages, millions of liters of untreated sewage are dumped into the sea each day, and over 90 percent of the water from the Gaza aquifer is unsafe for human consumption.

In a statement, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that the land, air and sea blockade “is a denial of basic human rights in contravention of international law and amounts to collective punishment. …

“The continued ban on the transfer of goods from Gaza to its traditional markets in the West Bank and Israel, along with the severe restrictions on access to agricultural land and fishing waters, prevents sustainable growth and perpetuates the high levels of unemployment, food insecurity and aid dependency. …

“The quality of infrastructure and vital services, including in the areas of health, education and water and sanitation, have significantly declined as a result of the import restrictions and the rapid population growth.”

Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert has volunteered at Al-Shifa Hospital, the largest medical facility in Gaza and the site of a recent rocket attack that killed 10 people, including nine children.

In June, before the latest assault, he wrote a 17-page report to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency in which he outlined the health conditions in Gaza.

“Palestinian children are suffering immensely,” Gilbert wrote. “A large proportion are affected by the man-made malnourishment regime caused by the Israeli-imposed blockage. (The) prevalence of anemia in children under 2 years is 72.8 percent, while (the) prevalence of wasting, stunting (and) underweight have been documented at 34.3 percent, 31.4 percent (and) 31.45 percent respectively.”

This is the result of Israel’s policy of putting Palestinians on a “diet.” According to Dov Weisglas, who, as adviser to then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, imposed the blockade, “the idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.”

The occupation and assault on Gaza would not be possible without unconditional financial and diplomatic U.S. support. Israel has ignored more U.N. General Assembly resolutions deploring its systematic human rights violations than any other country in U.N. history. The number of resolutions to which Israel has paid no attention would be still higher had the U.S. not vetoed dozens of others supported by other countries on the U.N. Security Council.

Of the billions of dollars of military aid that the U.S. gives Israel, each American taxpayer contributes about $25 annually to the Israeli military’s stranglehold on Palestinian daily life.

It is time for us to face the fact that the Israeli government is interested in only one thing: acquiring more land. Decades of U.S.-brokered peace talks have only provided cover for the expansion of settlements. But one people’s freedom cannot be achieved at the expense of another’s. Israelis cannot be safe while Palestinians are oppressed.

— Special to the Press Herald