Any act of violence, especially one against civilians, marks a profound failure of human imagination and causes a deep
and abiding trauma for all involved. In mourning the nine lives lost in Gaza and the one life lost in Jerusalem this week, we reject the pattern of condemning the deaths of Israelis while ignoring the deaths of Palestinians. We do not discriminate. One life lost is one life too many--whether Palestinian or Israeli.
Within the context of 44 years of the Israeli occupation of Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem, in the past two years (January 31, 2009 to January 31, 2011, starting just after Operation Cast Lead), over a thousand Palestinians have been made homeless by home demolitions, hundreds have been unlawfully detained, and over 150 men, women and children have been killed by the IDF and settlers, according to the Israeli human rights group B’tselem.(1) Many acres of Palestinian land have been taken and orchards uprooted by armed settlers. Countless hours have been lost at checkpoints, often fruitlessly, while Palestinians attempted to get medical care, jobs, and access to education. One and a half million Gazans have been living with a limited food supply, lack of electricity and dangerously toxic sewage.
This is occupation: daily, persistent acts of structural violence. All in the service of a government that constantly expands illegal Israeli settlements on land that rightfully belongs to Palestinians.
These acts don't reach our headlines because they are so habitual, so we learn not to see them. But Palestinians live them and their profound consequences everyday, and we must keep that in mind, even as we ponder the terrible events of the past few weeks:(2)
- A person or persons, (we don't know who), bombed a bus stop in Jerusalem, injuring 30 and killing 1 Israeli civilian;
- An Israeli bombing killed 3 children and an older man in Gaza;
- A person or persons, (we don't know who), murdered 5 members of a family, including three children, in Itamar, an Israeli settlement in the West Bank;
- The Israeli government suddenly tightened the siege of Gaza and escalated military attacks, killing a total of 11 Palestinians and injuring more than 40 since mid-March;(3)
- Palestinians fired over 50 shells and rockets from Gaza into civilian areas in southern Israel.
These terrible acts of violence remind us that to end the Israeli occupation our best hope is supporting the inspiring nonviolent Palestinian movement for change, in the form of unarmed protests every Friday in places like Bil’in, Ni'lin, Sheikh Jarrah, and the Global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. This is a movement that respects life, that is part and parcel of the nonviolent democratic people's movements we have been inspired by throughout the Arab world, that welcomes the solidarity and support of Israeli and international believers in equality and universal human rights.
This is a movement that fundamentally subverts the logic of armies, revenge-fueled “price tags”, and armed struggle. And it is a movement that may well do what no other government to date has done-- pressure Israel to be accountable to international law and therefore help create conditions for truly meaningful negotiations.
Because it is so powerful, it is no surprise that the right to engage in nonviolent resistance, a foundational component of any functioning democracy, is under attack in Israel. Human rights activists are being detained or imprisoned. Bills to criminalize the BDS movement, or harass human rights organizations, are working their way through the Knesset.
Just this week:
- The very act of publicly commemorating the Nakba, a crucial nonviolent act of Palestinian remembrance, was essentially criminalized in Israel by the Knesset.(4)The Knesset also passed a law allowing small communities in the Galilee and Negev to discriminate against anyone wanting to reside there who does not fit in with the community’s “socio-cultural” character.(5)
- The Knesset also held hearings to assess whether the “pro-Israel, pro-peace” group J Street was sufficiently pro-Israel.(6)
- The IDF announced a new military intelligence-gathering unit solely dedicated to monitoring international left-wing peace and human rights groups that the army sees as a threat to Israel. The department will work closely with government ministries.(7)
- Dozens of Israeli soldiers raided the home of Bassem Tamimi, Head of the nonviolent Nabi Saleh Popular Committee , and beat his wife and daughter while arresting him presumably on charges of "incitement" and "organizing illegal demonstrations."(8)
- As the Israeli government increasingly deploys anti-democratic measures and military repression, we at Jewish Voice for Peace are redoubling our efforts to support the best hope- a nonviolent Palestinian-led resistance movement in which we all work together to nurture life, justice and equality. We invite you to join the movement.
Jewish Voice for Peace members are inspired by Jewish tradition to work together for peace, social justice, equality, human rights, respect for international law, and a U.S. foreign policy based on these ideals.
JVP opposes anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim, and anti-Arab bigotry and oppression. JVP seeks an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem; security and self-determination for Israelis and Palestinians; a just solution for Palestinian refugees based on principles established in international law; an end to violence against civilians; and peace and justice for all peoples of the Middle East.