Guest columnist Rev. Peter Kakos: Fasting for Palestine and human rights


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Published: 12-27-2023 3:56 PM

Since you must know that hundreds of thousands of displaced women, children, and elderly of war-ravaged Gaza face cruel, imminent deaths due to starvation and infectious disease brought on by the relentless bombardment by the Israel Defense Forces, continually armed with American missiles and shells; and since a provision of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, called the Leahy amendment (Section 620m, 1997), prohibits the U.S. from supplying military aid of any sort to any nation pursuing “gross violations of human rights,” it is high time for Congress to take a stand and insist upon its enforcement.

Retired Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont repeatedly has urged that it be enforced — that no more military assistance be awarded to prolong Israel’s two-month blitzkrieg in Gaza.

In Northampton, the Valley, and countless other cities and universities near and far, a movement is growing by leaps and bounds through both ubiquitous demonstrations and marches, such as Jewish Voice For Peace’s recent inspiring 25-mile march from Northampton to Springfield (the actual length of Gaza), and also by engaging in an ongoing fast until the longed-for hour of cease-fire mercifully strikes.

Locally, we have launched a Leahy Fast For Palestine, asking us to give up eating from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., ideally drinking water alone. Our aim is to keep focused on Gazans’ worsening plight; build a momentum that stretches nationwide, if not the world; pressure Congress to live up to its own stated laws, not to mention ethical standards; and demand taking steps toward genuine reconciliation.

On any given noon hour, you may find fast-folks at courthouse corner displaying our invitation while leafleting, providing you with various ways you can pressure Congress immediately to act. If our broad-based efforts make a difference, imagine how many families’ lives will have been spared.

After all, the Golden Rule is our only salvation from self-destruction: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Otherwise, we will continue to be sickened by the daily unbearable sights before our eyes, tragically reminiscent of the ancient Gospel Christmas story, of furious King Herod ordering his military to descend upon the town of Bethlehem, to kill every boy-child 2 years old or younger, thereby eliminating any chance of a rival, as foretold by the visiting astrologers, the mysterious three Magi “from the East.”

In fact, the very day after Christmas, Dec. 26, the religious calendar observes the “Slaughter of the Innocents.” And as if the story could not be more relevant, the holy family flee to find refuge in Egypt until the king dies. Fittingly, this season, Bethlehem has canceled all celebrations for fear of yet another slaughter.

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What has changed? Cease-fire! Cease-fire! Cease-fire!

The Rev. Peter Kakos lives in Northampton.