On its second day in Gaza, the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) delegation witnessed the rubble of the American International School in Gaza. An Israeli aerial attack killed the watch guard on duty and completely demolished the school at 2am on January 3, 2009.
“Israel doesn't want anything good or bright in Gaza. They want us to live in the dark ages, just waiting in line for gas and bread,” said Ribhi Salem the school's Director, who previously spent 20 years living and teaching in Chicago. Salem noted that the school is modeled on American schools and teaches “American values.” Because of that, he said, the school has been attacked on two previous occasions by local extremists since it opened in 2000.
The American school was only one of thousands of buildings destroyed in the recent Israeli offensive. Guild delegates were alarmed at the indiscriminate attacks against civilian neighborhoods, which left thousands of Gaza’s residents homeless and living in UN-provided tents. Israeli forces also targeted local businesses, including a tahini and sweet factory in Jabaliyya, leaving the poverty-stricken population more aid dependant.
John Ging, Director of United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), told the delegation that although the need is much greater now because of the war, less food aid is getting in now than before the war. “Nine hundred thousand people need food aid now but on the amount of food we are receiving we can feed only 30,000 each day,” he said. “Thousands of tons of aid are piling up in Al Arish in Egypt and Ashdod Port in Israel,” said Ging. “People need food and blankets. . . its been two weeks and two days [since the ceasefire] and we can't get enough food into Gaza . . . where's the accountability?”
The seven delegates also witnessed the remains of the entire residential neighborhood of Izbit Abed Rabbo. Resident Khaled Abed Rabbo told delegates Huwaida Arraf and Radhika Sainath how he witnessed an Israeli soldier execute his 2 year-old and 7 year-old daughters, on a sunny afternoon outside his house there. Two other Israeli soldiers were standing nearby eating chips and chocolates at the time on January 7, 2009. “I will never eat chocolate again,” said Abed Rabbo, who was formerly employed by the Fateh-led Palestinian authority. His third daughter, Samar, was also shot and paralyzed by the same Israeli soldier. Samar, 4 years old, is currently hospitalized for treatment in Belgium.
Founded in 1937, the National Lawyers Guild is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. Its headquarters are in New York and it has chapters in every state.