Quakers will not profit from the occupation of Palestine (in Britain)

Quakers in Britain has today become the first church in the UK to announce it will not invest any of its centrally-held funds in companies profiting from the occupation of Palestine. (November 19, 2018)

sunset through coils of barbed wire
Sunset in Hebron. (Photo: Quakers in Britain)

The decision, made by the church’s trustees in consultation with Meeting for Sufferings – the national representative body of Quakers – fits into a long Quaker history of pursuing ethical investments. It follows decisions not to invest funds in, among others, the fossil fuel industry, arms companies, Apartheid South Africa, and – going even further back – the transatlantic slave trade.

Paul Parker, recording clerk for Quakers in Britain, said:

“Our long history of working for a just peace in Palestine and Israel has opened our eyes to the many injustices and violations of international law arising from the military occupation of Palestine by the Israeli government.

“With the occupation now in its 51styear, and with no end in near sight, we believe we have a moral duty to state publicly that we will not invest in any company profiting from the occupation.

“We know this decision will be hard for some to hear. We hope they will understand that our beliefs compel us to speak out about injustices wherever we see them in the world, and not to shy away from difficult conversations.

“As Quakers, we seek to live out our faith through everyday actions, including the choices we make about where to put our money.

“We believe strongly in the power of legitimate, nonviolent, democratic tools such as morally responsible investment to realise positive change in the world. We want to make sure our money and energies are instead put into places which support our commitments to peace, equality and justice.

“We hope that by announcing our refusal to profit from these companies it will encourage others to think about their own investments, and help challenge the legality and practices of the ongoing military occupation.

Ingrid Greenhow, clerk of Quakers in Britain trustees, said:

“While we do not believe we currently hold investments in any company profiting from the occupation, we will now amend our investment policy to ensure this remains the case in future.

“This includes companies – whichever country they are based in – involved for example in the illegal exploitation of natural resources in occupied Palestine, and the construction and servicing of the separation barrier and Israeli settlements.

“We look forward to the publication of the UN Business and Human Rights Database which will list companies involved in settlement-related activities in occupied Palestine. We recognise the help this – and others including the Investigate database compiled by the American Friends Service Committee – will give our investment managers in implementing this new policy.”

In their minute, the trustees said, “We hope this policy might be useful to [Quaker] area meetings interested in adopting a similar approach”.

In their minute, Meeting for Sufferings reaffirmed their 2011 decision to boycott goods produced in Israeli settlements built in occupied Palestine “until such time as the Israeli occupation of Palestine is ended.”

Meeting for Sufferings added that, “[W]e continually pray for both Israelis and Palestinians, keeping them together in our hearts, and looking forward to a future of loving and generous co-operation.”

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Britain Yearly Meeting minute of 2014 in response to the violence in Gaza

“What does justice look like? Moving towards a Just Peace in Palestine and Israel,” a conference Dec. 14 to 16, 2018

From Mike Merryman Lotz of the AFSC

The Old City of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives

Join the American Friends Service Committee, the Quaker Palestine Israel Network, and Pendle Hill for a weekend of exploring what it will take to realize a just and lasting peace in Palestine and Israel.

From Dec.14 to 16, we’re holding a conference titled “What does justice look like? Moving towards a Just Peace in Palestine and Israel.” We invite you to join us for this exciting opportunity to learn more about Israel and Palestine and what you can do to bring change.

Find more details and register on the Pendle Hill website. Scholarships are available to offset costs.

AFSC and Quakers have engaged in Palestine for over a century and worked for peace with justice since 1948. After decades without change, we want to open up a conversation about what’s needed for a just future.

It has been 70 years since the 1948 war, when more than 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly displaced and the State of Israel was born. It has been over 50 years since Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza, gaining control of all of historic Palestine. And it has been 25 years since Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin shook hands on the White House lawn at the start of the Oslo Peace Process.

But 25 years after the start of what was intended to be a five-year peace process, we must question that framework. Why hasn’t peace yet been achieved? What paradigm shifts are needed to bring change? What are the historic injustices that need to be righted, and what might it look like to address these issues today? What actions can people outside of the conflict take to promote change?

Join us for an interactive weekend of panels and workshops to:

  • Find out what is needed to support change in Israel and Palestine.
  • Gain skills for taking action and building intersectional work toward change.
  • Connect with others interested in building toward a different future.
  • Give and receive support as you continue to work toward change after the conference.

Register for the conference today.

I hope that you can join us at Pendle Hill.

In peace,

Mike Merryman-Lotze
Middle East Program Director

Palestine-Israel at a Large Quaker Gathering in New England, Summer 2018

As international attention on Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians—occupation and blockade—increases, our Israel-Palestine Working Group produced the following program at our annual five-day New England Yearly Meeting (NEYM) Sessions:

  • Outdoor displays: photos from Gaza and a pin wheel display memorializing the recent dead in Gaza
  • WorkshopsBuilding a Just Peace in Palestine-Israel  with John Reuwer and Laurie Gagne, plus Moving our Meetings to Take Action on Israel-Palestine with Minga Claggett-Borne and Jonathan Vogel-Borne
  • Informal lunch chats
  • Photographic exhibition: Gaza Awaken by Skip Schiel
  • A special visit and presentation by a colleague from Gaza, Dr. Mustafa El-Hawi

(Click here for more info and here for photographs of Sessions)

However, we failed to bring our annual report to meeting for worship with the intention of business, a staple of this Yearly Meeting. Click Talking Points (Word) for our report’s talking points, with illustrations.

Meeting for worship with the intention of business

The March of Folly by Uri Avnery

ONE CAN look at events in Gaza through the left or through the right eye. One can condemn them as inhuman, cruel and mistaken, or justify them as necessary and unavoidable.

But there is one adjective that is beyond question: They are stupid.

Uri Avnery

If the late Barbara Tuchman were still alive, she might be tempted to add another chapter to her groundbreaking opus “The March of Folly”: a chapter titled “Eyeless in Gaza”.

THE LATEST episode in this epic started a few months ago, when independent activists in the Gaza Strip called for a march to the Israeli border, which Hamas supported. It was called “The Great March of Return”, a symbolic gesture for the more than a million Arab residents who fled or were evicted from their homes in the land that became the State of Israel.

The Israeli authorities pretended to take this seriously. A frightening picture was painted for the Israeli public: 1.8 million Arabs, men, women and children, would throw themselves on the border fence, break through in many places, and storm Israel’s cities and villages. Terrifying.

Israeli sharpshooters were posted along the border and ordered to shoot anyone who looked like a “ringleader”. On several succeeding Fridays (the weekly Muslim holy day) more than 150 unarmed protesters, including many children, were shot dead, and many hundreds more severely wounded by gunfire, apart from those hurt by tear gas.

The Israeli argument was that the victims were shot while trying to “storm the fences”. Actually, not a single such attempt was photographed, though hundreds of photographers were posted on both sides of the fence.

Facing a world-wide protest, the army changed its orders and now only rarely kills unarmed protesters. The Palestinians also changed their tactics: the main effort now is to fly children’s kites with burning tails and set Israeli fields near the Strip on fire.

Since the wind almost always blows from the West to the East, that is an easy way to hurt Israel. Children can do it, and do. Now the Minister of Education demands that the air force bomb the children. The Chief of Staff refuses, arguing that this is “against the values of the Israeli army”.

At present, half of our newspapers and TV newscasts are concerned with Gaza. Everybody seems to agree that sooner or later a full-fledged war will break out there.

THE MAIN feature of this exercise is its utter stupidity.

Every military action must have a political aim. As the German military thinker, Carl von Clausewitz, famously said: “War is but a continuation of politics by other means.”

The Strip is 41 km long and 6 to 12 km wide. It is one of the most overcrowded places on earth. Nominally it belongs to the largely theoretical State of Palestine, like the West Bank, which is Israeli occupied. The Strip is in fact governed by the radical Muslim Hamas party.

In the past, masses of Palestinian workers from Gaza streamed into Israel every day. But since Hamas assumed power in the Strip, the Israeli government has imposed an almost total blockade on land and sea. The Egyptian dictatorship, a close ally of Israel and a deadly enemy of radical Islam, cooperates with Israel.

So what does Israel want? The preferred solution is to sink the entire strip and its population into the sea. Failing that, what can be done?

The last thing Israel wants is to annex the Strip with its huge population, which cannot be driven out. Also, Israel does not want to put up settlements in the Strip (the few which were set up were withdrawn by Ariel Sharon, who thought that it was not worthwhile to keep and defend them).

The real policy is to make life in Gaza so miserable, that the Gazans themselves will rise and throw the Hamas authorities out. With this in mind, the water supply is reduced to two hours a day, electricity the same. Employment hovers around 50%, wages beneath the minimum. It is a picture of total misery.

Since everything that reaches Gaza must come through Israel (or Egypt), supplies are often cut off completely for days as “punishment”.

Alas, history shows that such methods seldom succeed. They only deepen the enmity. So what can be done?

THE ANSWER is incredibly simple: sit down, talk and come to an agreement.

Yes, but how can you sit down with a mortal enemy, whose official ideology totally rejects a Jewish State?

Islam, which (like every religion) has an answer to everything, recognizes something called a “Hudna”, which is a lasting armistice. This can go on for many decades and is (religiously) kept.

For several years now, Hamas has been almost openly hinting that it is ready for a long Hudna. Egypt has volunteered to mediate. Our government has totally ignored the offer. A Hudna with the enemy? Out of the question! God forbid! Would be terribly unpopular politically!

But it would be the sensible thing to do. Stop all hostile acts from both sides, say for 50 years. Abolish the blockade. Build a real harbor in Gaza city. Allow free trade under some kind of military inspection. Same for an airport. Allow workers to find employment in Israel, instead of importing workers from China and Romania. Turn Gaza into a second Singapore. Allow free travel between Gaza and the West Bank by a bridge or an exterritorial highway. Help to restore unity between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

WHY NOT? The very idea is rejected by an ordinary Israeli on sight.

A deal with Hamas? Impossible!!! Hamas wants to destroy Israel. Everybody knows that.

I hear this many times, and always wonder about the stupidity of people who repeat this.

How does a group of a few hundred thousand “destroy” one of the worlds most heavily armed states, a state that possesses nuclear bombs and submarines to deliver them? How? With kites?

Both Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin pay us homage, the world’s fascist dictators and liberal presidents come to visit. How can Hamas pose a mortal danger?

Why doesn’t Hamas stop hostilities by itself? Hamas has competitors, which are even more radical. It does not dare to show any sign of weakness.

SOME DECADES ago the Arab world, on the initiative of Saudi Arabia, offered Israel peace under several conditions, all of them acceptable. Successive Israel governments have not only not accepted it, they have ignored it altogether.

There was some logic in this. The Israeli government wants to annex the West Bank. It wants to get the Arab population out, and replace them with Jewish settlers. It conducts this policy slowly, cautiously, but consistently.

It is a cruel policy, a detestable policy, yet it has some logic in it. If you really want to achieve this abominable aim, the methods may be adequate. But this does not apply to the Gaza Strip, which no one wants to annex. There, the methods are sheer folly.

THIS DOES not mean that the overall Israeli policy towards the Palestinians is any more wise. It is not.

Binyamin Netanyahu and his hand-picked stupid ministers have no policy. Or so it seems. In fact they do have an undeclared one: creeping annexation of the West Bank.

This is now going on at a quicker pace than before. The daily news gives the impression that the entire government machine is now concentrating on this project.

This will lead directly to an apartheid-style state, where a large Jewish minority will dominate an Arab majority.

For how long? One generation? Two? Three?

It has been said that a clever person is able to extricate himself from a trap into which a wise person would not have fallen in the first place.

Stupid people do not extricate themselves. They are not even aware of the trap.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE ON GUSH SHALOM

Video: Israeli activists join Gaza protesters on other side of the fence

(The speaker in this video is Neta Golan, a noted, long-time Israeli fighter for Palestinian justice. And three of the participants are from New England, two of them Quaker.)

Who is Uri Avnery? (At 90 in 2014)

Minute of Concern for Palestinians in Gaza

UPDATED CASUALTY FIGURES (MARCH 30-AUGUST 9, 2018):
KILLED: PALESTINIANS, 172; ISRAELIS, 1
INJURED: PALESTINIANS, 15,504; ISRAELIS, 20
HOSPITALIZED: PALESTINIANS, 8,598; ISRAELIS, UNKNOWN

(Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, August 9, 2018)

FROM BURLINGTON FRIENDS MEETING, BURLINGTON, VERMONT, JUNE 10, 2018

Friends’ concern for the sufferings of all peoples leads us to oppose the recent escalation of violence by the Israeli political establishment against the Palestinians of Gaza. How should we as Quakers respond to this tragedy still taking place along the border of the Gaza Strip? [which began in late March, 2018, and continues thru this posting, July 4, 2018]

Gaza contains nearly 2 million residents in an area of 141 sq. miles. Israel imposes an economic cordon sanitaire around the region with the result that its economy is nearly destroyed and 80 percent of residents rely on international assistance. Travel in and out is sharply restricted by Israel and Egypt.

Since March 30, 2018, thousands of residents of Gaza, more than 80 percent of whom are refugees or the descendants of those displaced during the establishment of Israel in 1947, began marching toward the barriers that keep them from work, travel, foreign markets, and their ancestral lands. While still within Gaza, they were met by Israeli snipers who shot into Gaza from embankments across the line. On May 14 alone, 58 demonstrators were shot dead and 1,360 wounded with fragmentation rounds that often lead to amputations and permanent crippling. The dead include 6 children.

As a response to this unarmed, non-violent civilian protest, these premeditated and systematic shootings are a clear violation of international norms which forbid targeting noncombatants and require proportionality in the use of force, even in wartime. Clearly marked members of the press and the Red Crescent have been among the victims.

The United States is deeply complicit in these events. Since 1946, the U.S. has given Israel $134.7 billion in military and missile defense aid, $3.775 billion in 2017 alone. The weapons purchased are used to kill Palestinians. On April 6, the United States vetoed a UN Security Council resolution supporting the right of Palestinians to “demonstrate peacefully” and endorsing Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ call for an independent investigation into these events.

On the day when 58 Gaza residents were shot dead by Israeli snipers, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was welcoming U.S. Middle East Advisor Jared Kushner, his wife Ivanka Trump, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and four U.S. Senators on the occasion of the symbolic opening of a planned United States Embassy in Jerusalem. The embassy will be on land declared neutral in the 1949 armistice agreement and considered by the United Nations to be in occupied Palestine.

Friends are witnesses to these horrific events. Unless we speak out forcefully in protest, we will also be complicit. Removal of people from their land, their confinement in what amounts to a concentration camp, denying them sanitation, adequate health services, and employment, and then systematically killing them when their despair boils over into nonviolent protests all work against the establishment of the Kingdom of God on Earth. Quakers must protest this occupation by demanding that the U.S. government end all military aid to Israel and support international efforts to immediately end the illegal blockade of Gaza. We urge each Monthly Meeting to address this crisis through internal discernment and public activism.

Palestinians stage a protest within the ‘Great March of Return’ demonstrations near Israel-Gaza border in Gaza City, Gaza. Getty Images

The plea of refugees in Gaza to return to their ancestral villages now in Israel is the central focus of the Great March to Return . It began on April 2, 2018, was planned to end on May 15, but currently (August 15, 2018) is ongoing. These dates mark two important historical events, Land Day when 6 Palestinians were killed as they attempted to return to their villages in 1976, and Nakba Day marking the beginning of The Catastrophe, or the Grand Dispossession in 1948. The violence of this effort—as of August 9, 2018, Israeli army snipers have killed 172 mostly unarmed Palestinians, with 17,504 wounded (more than 1000 of them children), many with life-threatening injuries, overwhelming the already stressed medical system—led to this minute.

We attempted to bring this minute to New England Yearly Meeting (Quaker) Sessions this summer (2018) but because of our working group’s slip up and a packed business agenda,  we failed. However, Burlington Monthly Meeting may bring it to its Quarter, “seasoning” it for next year’s NEYM Sessions. We’re also working on a revision  (Minute inspired by Burlington Friends’ minute), not yet official from us.

Palestine-Israel programs at NEYM Sessions-August 2018

WORKSHOPS

A two-day workshop organized by the NEYM Working Group on Israel-Palestine (With reference to NEYM’s minute on Palestine-Israel passed last summer)

Building a Just Peace in Palestine-Israel

 Tuesday, 3:30-5, Leavenworth

John Reuwer and Laurie Gagne (Burlington, VT, MM); Working Group on Israel-Palestine

John and Laurie will have just returned from a month in the West Bank where they deployed with Meta Peace Teams to advance MPT’s vision of seeking “a just world grounded in nonviolence and respect for the sacred interconnectedness of all life.” Their mission is “to pursue peace through active nonviolence” amidst the conflict in occupied Palestine, as part of a growing field of work known as Unarmed Civilian Protection, or Third Party Nonviolent Intervention. (Jeffords 213)

They will report on:

  • Current conditions of living for Palestinians and interactions with Israeli soldiers.
  • Prospects for improvements in the social and political situation from the local perspective, including that of Ramallah Friends.
  • How UCP and TPNI work in theory and in real life, and the potential it may hold for reducing militarism in human affairs.

Their blog: West Bank Peace Team: Summer 2018

Moving our Meetings to Take Action on Israel-Palestine

Wednesday, 3:30-5, Leavenworth

Minga Claggett-Borne and Jonathan Vogel-Borne (Cambridge, MA, MM); Working Group on Israel-Palestine

How do we talk to one another about the issue? How do we engage our meetings? Given the urgency of the situation, particularly for the people of Gaza, what do we need in order to take faithful and effective action? What do those actions look like?  (Jeffords 213)

Minga’s blog, Pedals and Seeds

A REPORT AT BUSINESS MEETING

Monday, 7-9 pm, probably near the end of the evening

A proposed Minute of Concern for Palestinians in Gaza from Burlington (VT) Monthly Meeting and a report about our two presentations at Living Faith in April, 2018, about anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism, and privilege; and Quakers and Antisemitism.

PRESENTATION BY LAURIE GAGNE AND JOHN REUWER ABOUT THEIR RECENT TRIP TO PALESTINE-ISRAEL

Tuesday, side room in dining hall, exact place and time to be determined

Please scroll up to their workshop info for more details.

PHOTOGRAPHIC EXHIBITION BY SKIP SCHIEL

Gaza Awaken

Fine Arts Center lobby

Photographs of children at the Qattan Center for the Child in Gaza

Website: Teeksa Photography

LAWN DISPLAYS ABOUT GAZA

(To be announced)

By the American Friends Service Committee (2017)

INFORMAL LUNCH MEETINGS

(to be announced)

Image by Jeremiah Dickinson
NEYM Israel Palestine Opportunities poster-2018—Click here for a copy

To register for New England Yearly Meeting Sessions, August 4-9, 2018, Castleton VT

Last year’s Palestine-Israel program

Contact Skip Schiel for latest info.

The One-State Solution

By Daniel Lazare October 16, 2003

Is Zionism a failed ideology? This question will strike many people as absurd on its face. Israel, after all, is a nation with an advanced standard of living, a high-tech economy and one of the most formidable militaries on earth. In a little over half a century, it has taken in millions of people from far-flung corners of the globe, taught them a new language and incorporated them into a political culture that is nothing if not vigorous. If this is failure, there are a lot of countries wishing for their share of it.

But consider the things Israel has not accomplished. In his 1896 manifesto The Jewish State, Zionism’s founding document, the Austrian journalist Theodor Herzl predicted that such a country would be at peace with its neighbors and would require no more than a small professional army. In fact, Zionist settlers have clashed repeatedly with the Arabs from nearly the moment they began arriving in significant numbers in the early twentieth century, a Hundred Years’ War that grows more dangerous by the month. Herzl envisioned a normal state no different from France or Germany. Yet with its peculiar ethno-religious policies elevating one group above all others, Israel is increasingly abnormal at a time when almost all other political democracies have been putting such distinctions behind them. Herzl envisioned a state that would draw Jews like a magnet, yet more than half a century after Israel’s birth, most Jews continue to vote with their feet to remain in the Diaspora, and an increasing number of Israelis prefer to live abroad. Israel was supposed to serve as a safe haven, yet it is in fact one of the more dangerous places on earth in which to be Jewish….

…Under normal conditions, Israeli secularists would forge alliances not only with like-minded Palestinians but with others farther afield. But Zionism interferes not only by plunging society into a permanent state of war but by imposing a kind of conceptual prison. If not forbidden, contacts across religious lines grow very complicated in a “faith-driven ethno-state.” “You don’t understand,” educated, secular Israelis say when European and American friends criticize the latest Israeli outrage. “You don’t know what it’s like to live in a society where a bomb could go off any minute. You don’t know.” But that is exactly the point. The purpose of Zionism, and of nationalism in general, is to impose a barrier between one group and another, to limit contact and impede understanding. By emphasizing one aspect of human experience, the ethno-religious in the case of Israel, at the expense of all others, it hobbles communication with those outside the fold. The personality is truncated, and political options are reduced. Instead of freely deciding what is to be done, people are forced to follow the logic imposed on them by the state. Hounded by rabbis, terrorized by suicide bombers, hemmed in by nationalism, Israelis see no alternative but to throw in their lot with a strongman like Sharon. The logic is irresistible but suicidal–unless someone can figure a way out of the ideological cage.

READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE IN THE NATION

Another view: “The One State Solution” by Mazin Qumsiyeh

And another: “In memory of Edward Said: the one-state solution” by Ibrahim Halawi (2014)

And one more,  “The ‘Two-state Solution’ Only Ever Meant a Big Israel Ruling Over a Palestinian Bantustan. Let It Go,” Opinion by Jeff Halper (2018)

Birthright: Not Just a Free Trip (From If Not Now)

We can no longer allow a free trip that hides the truth be synonymous with being a young Jew in America. Today we’re launching a new campaign, Birthright: #NotJustAFreeTrip

Take action by adding your name to our petition demanding Taglit-Birthright Israel tell the truth about the Occupation >> http://bit.ly/DemandBirthrightTellTheTr…
Learn more about our campaign: www.NotJustAFreeTrip.com

Targeting the most vulnerable: children in detention in the US and Palestine

Palestinian children arrested in Jerusalem, from the Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association site
More than 15,000 children have been detained when they tried to cross the southern border of the United States unaccompanied

 on 

When kids are brown does anyone care?

Americans are grappling with the incarceration of 10-year-olds and the concept of “tender age detention centers” while morally bankrupt politicians wring their bloodied hands. As courts begin to respond, many folks across the political spectrum are wondering, “What happens to the children caught in this catastrophe?” Interestingly, there is much we can learn from research in the US and from the Israeli experience with regard to children and prisons. The US and Israel both perceive themselves as enlightened “western democracies,” yet both have high incarceration rates, particularly for children of color, sometimes involving the same global prison industries.  In both countries, these kinds of children are perceived as the “other,” the “enemy,” the “invading hordes ready to destroy America,” the “Muslim terrorists seeking to kill Israelis.” They are presented as less human and less deserving than white and/or Jewish children and less likely to evoke an empathic reaction….

….The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that children should not be deprived of liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily and that arrest, detention, or imprisonment should only be used in extreme circumstances for the shortest period of time.  Ironically, the US is the only country in the world that has not signed the treaty as reported by the ACLU.

But signing the treaty is clearly not enough. According to Defense of Children International-Palestine, last year an average of 310 Palestinian children were imprisoned for “security offenses” each month, with 60 children 12 to 15 years of age. An estimated 700 children are prosecuted each year in military courts with a 99+% conviction rate. The most common charge is stone throwing which can result in up to 20 years in prison. There have been multiple reports of physical, sexual, and verbal abuse during arrest and interrogation, with 74.5% of children reporting physical violence during arrest and 62% reporting verbal abuse, intimidation and humiliation. Solitary confinement during interrogation has been documented, with an average period of 12 days. The Israeli military courts also put children in administrative detention for months, basically imprisoning them without charges or trial.

To be absolutely clear on this, if a Jewish Israeli child was caught throwing stones at a PA security officer or a Palestinian farmer harvesting his olives, he would not end up in detention.  Indeed, if he was from certain Jewish settlements, he would be celebrated as a hero. Such is the justice under military occupation. Jewish children live under civil law and of course are not viewed as the enemy….

READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE

We Live Near The Border With Gaza, And We Want The Violence To End (Other Voice)

An Open Letter to Israeli Leadership

Dear Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman,

We, members of Other Voice — residents of the Western Negev who live close to the border with the Gaza Strip — are writing to you, yet again, in our call for a long-term political program to end the hostilities with Gaza.

Pnina and Micha Ben Hillel live in kibbutz Nir Am

The situation in our region and in the Gaza Strip is unthinkable, unbearable and unacceptable. The deep hostility, the never-ending rounds of violence, the mortar and rocket attacks, the tunnels, the kites — all of these have made our lives a living hell. And on the other side of the border, the people live with 3-4 hours of electricity a day; they have no potable water; the sewage runs in the streets and into the sea; their health system is collapsing and they have soaring numbers of unemployment. Two million people are living without hope that they will have a sustainable future.

The government is trying to persuade us — the Israeli public, and mainly the residents of the region surrounding Gaza — that the Gazans are our enemies. We see them, however, not as our enemies, but as our neighbors.

The Hamas regime is tyrannical and has caused great harm, mainly to its own people. We neither justify nor legitimate its behaviors and its decisions. Nevertheless, it is the authority in Gaza — whether we like it or not — and so we have to find a way to speak to its members.

We call upon you to change direction. Instead of more rounds of violence, instead of another war, we need to reach a long-term ceasefire. We need to put into place a political program that will promise the people in Gaza electricity for 24 hours a day, potable water, employment, freedom of movement, air to breathe and removal of the blockade.

Israel is the strong side in this equation. We have the power and the ability to reverse this unacceptable and unbearable situation, and to create a situation in which life and hope blossom on both sides of the border. The disaster that has been going on for too long is not a natural — it is human-made. We created it and we can change it. We want to live in peace with our neighbors in Gaza. We need to live in peace with them.

Sincerely,

Members of Other Voice

An Open Letter to Hamas’ Leadership

Dear Yahya Sanwar and Ismail Haniyeh,

We are your neighbors to the east; we live in Israeli communities that share the border with the Gaza Strip. Our peoples have been at war for decades, and as the years go by, the hostilities and hatred have deepened — on both sides. This state is toxic both for your people and for ours.

Ye’ela Raanan on her bike in kibbtuz Kissufim, her home

We have been, and remain, enemies. But this can, and must, change. We are also neighbors — we live just a few kilometers away from one another. This tragedy that has befallen both of our peoples is not a natural disaster — it is a human-made one. We created it and we can change it.

Enough hatred. Enough revenge. Enough showing strength through rockets, mortars, tunnels and arson kites.

We have written Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin – the leaders on the Israeli side. We have written them what we have written you. Our message to them is that it is time to reach a long-term ceasefire, make and implement a political plan, end the blockade, help rehabilitate the Gaza Strip, help make sure that every person in Gaza has full access to electricity, clean water, enough medicine, air to breath and freedom of movement and rights.

We do not know if you will read this letter, or toss it into the waste basket. We are writing in hopes that you will read it and think about what an opportunity this is — to completely change what has been, and to bring hope to your people. Hope and a good life for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip also means hope and a good life for Israelis, on our side of the border.

We are not your enemies. We are your neighbors. We want to live as neighbors, at the very least, in co-existence.

We know that we can do this. We can make this happen. You have the power to make a huge difference on your side. We have also demanded from our leaders to do the same here.

We are not your enemies. We are your neighbors, and we want a life of dignity and peace for all people – in the Gaza Strip and in the Western Negev.

Sincerely,

Members of Other Voice

Original article

Other Voice website

Other Voice Facebook page

Photographs by Skip Schiel