Israeli & Palestinian
Out of the ashes of the Holocaust, the State of Israel was born. A haven for Jews around the world to escape anti-Semitism.
My parents were refugees who survived World War II. Their family was murdered in the Holocaust because they were born Jewish in Poland at the wrong time. As an Australian Jew, I am privileged to have two countries I can call home. Israel was always meant to be a place for Jews to feel safe, a place where the calendar is culturally and religiously Jewish, a place where we have over 5000 years of history.
I love Israel. I love the people, for all their beauty and their ugliness. My many trips to Israel have made me realise how precious life is it’s hard not to, after you’ve almost been blown up by suicide bombs. The closest I came to being blown up was 15 minutes. I was just lucky we were running late after attending a conference in Jerusalem about ‘gender and space in the Middle East.’
I lived in Haifa and have many friends and family all over the north of Israel who spend more and more of their time in bomb shelters. I cry every day at the constant bombing that seeks to kill the innocents. I cry because I know that just like my Jewish and Arab friends and family in Israel, the Lebanese and Palestinians, caught up in a war not of their making, are also suffering.
One thing that we don’t hear so much about in Australia, however, is the anti-war movement in Israel. My Jewish and Arab friends in Haifa rushed out to demonstrate against the Israeli Government’s actions in Lebanon. They know the death toll will be high, and that, in the end, it will only lead to more useless destruction. This week there were demonstrations all over Israel with slogans like: ‘No More Military Madness!’ ‘Stop the Unilateral Illusion!’ ‘Stop Killing Civilians in Lebanon, Israel and Gaza!’ ‘Start Political Negotiations!’ and ‘ Open Negotiation For Captives Exchange!’
How hard can it be to create a just and fair society? How hard can it be to negotiate? Those who demonstrate against the Israeli Government are Jewish and Arab men and women who know very well the dangerous price of not negotiating some of them fought in previous Arab-Israeli wars. They know, after seeing how successive Israeli Governments have treated the Palestinians, that there is no end to this conflict without justice, and there will be no justice without negotiations.
And we all know that the use of violence eats the soul of Israel, even as it destroys the Palestinian people.
I want to make it clear that I condemn all forms of violence. But just as suicide bombs are clearly a crime against humanity, so are the Israeli attacks on civilians. And I don’t just mean the military attacks of the last week.
To deny Palestinians citizenship, or to deny them a viable Palestinian State within the 1967 borders, contributes to the oppression of the Palestinian people, and such actions are also a crime against humanity.
On 28 June, an Israeli missile knocked out the main power plant in Gaza that provides electricity to 800,000 people. Most of these people are innocent or, should I say, guilty of being born in the wrong place at the wrong time, caught up in a conflict they cannot control, yet suffering every minute of every day because of the actions of the Israeli Government.
Was this not an act of terrorism? Was this not a crime against humanity?
I ask myself: was this why we survived the Holocaust? To lose our humanity and to treat all Palestinians as if they are all guilty of existing.
Women against the apartheid wall
Women around the world have always carried the burden of responsibility for their families’ health, food and survival. What have they done in Gaza and Lebanon to suffer as they do? No electricity means no fridge, and their food spoils in the heat. How does one look after the sick, and feed the children or the elderly? How does one wash one’s family’s clothes? How do hospitals maintain their hygiene?
In 1987, a group of us founded Women in Black in Israel. We spoke up against the Israeli Government’s policies. This was during the first Intifada or Palestinian uprising. There was an air of hope for a while, but things just got worse, much worse because you cannot solve a problem by using violence. Then, as now, we stated that all violence is a crime against humanity.
Since 1987, conditions for the Palestinians, if anything, have become more intolerable. The Wall that the Israeli Government is building to separate Israel from Palestinian villages, in some places, surrounds whole enclaves of over 10,000 people, who need permission to enter and exit their own community.
They need permission to plant food on their own farms, which sometimes they can no longer reach. This permission is often denied. And if they do make it to their farms, Israeli settlers who have illegally appropriated Palestinian land and go unpunished, often attack the Palestinians.
So, these Palestinians cannot farm to grow food, and they cannot buy food because they have no jobs, since Israel controls their movements. They have no electricity, no freedom to move, and no health care. No life. No future. Yigal Amir, who assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, has access to free electricity, three meals a day, and health care. Where is the justice?
This is my personal journey. My history. A sad history. Rising out of the ashes of the Holocaust, we have become the perpetrators of violence against the Palestinians and Lebanese. I live in a world full of violence. A world that justifies the use of violence to stop violence. A world that does not see the inhumanity in collective punishment and occupation.
The violence today not just in Gaza and Lebanon, but all over Palestine is a crime against humanity. To be silent is to be complicit.
I ask everyone to join with the Israeli peace movements and call on the Israeli Government to stop the escalation of violence and work towards a just solution. I call on the Australian Government and the United Nations to provided international intervention to protect civilians.
Violence is not a solution. We call on all parties to return to the negotiating table with the inclusion of women to solve these issues. This conflict will only end through just and fair negotiations.
Women in Black Vigil:
Sunday 23rd July, 2006; 12:00 to 1:00pm
Corner of Elizabeth and Bourke Streets
(More details at OPEN New Matilda)
There will be a massive demonstration against the Israeli Government this Saturday in Tel Aviv in Rabin Square.
For further information go to the following sites:
Coalition of Women for Peace: http://coalitionofwomen.org/home
B’Tselem Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories:
Alternative television: http://www.tv.social.org.il/ a>
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