Gush Shalom & Jeff Halper – 2010-06-01 00:45:19
A Statement from the Israeli Peace Movement
TEL AVIV (May 31, 2010) — This night a crime was perpetrated in the middle of the sea, by order of the government of Israel and the IDF Command. A warlike attack against aid ships and deadly shooting at peace and humanitarian aid activists. It is a crazy thing that only a government that crossed all red lines can do.
“Only a crazy government that has lost all restraint and all connection to reality could something like that — consider ships carrying humanitarian aid and peace activists from around the world as an enemy and send massive military force to international waters to attack them, shoot and kill.
“No one in the world will believe the lies and excuses which the government and army spokesmen come up with,” said former Knesset member Uri Avnery of the Gush Shalom movement. Gush Shalom activists together with activists of other organizations are to depart at 11:00 from Tel Aviv to protest in front of the prepared detention facility where the international peace activists will be brought.
Greta Berlin, the spokeswoman for the flotilla organizers located in Cyprus, told Gush Shalom activists that the Israeli commandos landed by helicopter on the boats and immediately opened fire.
This is a day of disgrace to the State of Israel, a day of anxiety in which we discover that our future was entrusted to a bunch of trigger-happy people without any responsibility. This day is a day of disgrace and madness and stupidity without limit, the day the Israeli government took care to blacken the name of the country in the world, adding convincing evidence of aggressiveness and brutality to Israel’s already bad international image, discouraging and distancing the few remaining friends.
Indeed, today a provocation took place off the coast of Gaza — but the provocateurs were not the peace activists invited by the Palestinians and seeking to reach Gaza. The provocation was carried out by Navy ships commandos at the bidding of the Israeli government, blocking the way of the aid boats and using deadly force.
It is time to lift the siege on the Gaza Strip, which causes severe suffering to its residents. Today the Israeli government ripped the mask of its face with its own hands and exposed the fact that Israel did not “disengage” from Gaza. Real disengagement from the area does not go together with blocking the access to it or sending soldiers to shoot and kill and wound those who try to get there.
The State of Israel promised in the Oslo Accords 17 years ago to enable and encourage the establishment of a deep water port in Gaza, through which Palestinians could import and export freely to develop their economy. It’s time to realize this commitment and open the Port of Gaza.
Only after the Gaza port will be open to free and undisturbed movement, just like the Ashdod and Haifa ports, will Israel really have disengaged from the Gaza Strip. Until then, the world will continue — and rightly so — to consider the Gaza Strip under Israeli occupation and the State of Israel as responsible for the fate of the people living there.
Contact: Uri Avnery 0505-306449
Adam Keller, Gush Shalom spokesman 03-5565804 or 054-2340749
Coalition Against the Siege Yacov – 050-5733276, 09-7670801, Sebastian -050-6846056
An Open Letter to the Israeli Jewish Public:
Support the Gaza Flotilla
By Jeff Halper, an Israeli citizen and peace activist. Written BEFORE the massacre
If we were not Israeli Jews, if the nine ships bringing 800 peacemakers from 40 countries would be sailing with humanitarian aid to an imprisoned population of a million and a half to, say, Haiti, the flotilla now on its way to Gaza would be hailed as a monumental event. The government of Israel would donate another 50 tons of food and materials and a brigade of army volunteers from the “rescue corps.”
But we are Israelis, and the fact that such an operation is being launched against a siege we imposed on a civilian population three years ago — actually, the blockade goes back to the late 1980s — should cause us all to reflect upon how we and our country have arrived at this sorry state — how the “light unto the nations” has become one of the most oppressive states on earth, subject to international protests like this one.
The flotilla is sailing with a number of messages. First and foremost, to the government of Israel: “Lift the siege on Gaza!” The siege is absolutely illegal in international law, and for those of us who believe that the rule of law and human rights is the only recipe for a better world, it is incumbent upon us to join the flotilla’s call to lift the siege. Civilians cannot be the object of military and political attacks, as is the case in Gaza (which the Goldstone Report roundly criticized), nor can they be collectively punished for the policies of their political leaders.
The very idea that people can be brought to their knees and forced to accept being permanently controlled and dominated, which is the thrust of Israeli policy, is both unconscionable and counter-productive. As the situation in Gaza shows, it has only stiffened resistance to the Occupation.
And then there is the urgency of the flotilla’s second message, “Addressing the humanitarian situation in Gaza!”
In a policy frightening reminiscent of other dark regimes in which Jews suffered from controlled malnutrition, our government has imposed a regime of “counting calories” on the Gaza population — imposing a “minimal dietary regime” on a million and a half people who receive as little as 850 calories a day, less than half the recommended daily intake. (Dov Weisglass, Sharon’s Chief of Staff, made a joke out of this. “It’s like a meeting with a dietitian,” he said. “We need to make the Palestinians lose weight, but not to starve to death.”)
Instant coffee, fresh meat, rice, beans, spices, honey, chocolate, jam, bananas, coriander and pasta, among many others, are considered by Israel “luxury foods” for Palestinians.
All this might be funny if it weren’t for the fact that, according to the World Health Organization, more than 10% of Gazan children suffer from chronic malnutrition. Two-thirds of the Gazan population face hunger on a daily basis.
Gaza is today an unreconstructed war-zone. Israel long ago destroyed the sewage system, so that people have drowned in periodic floods of sewage that have engulfed whole communities. Raw sewage flowing into the Mediterranean has polluted the only waters in which Palestinians are allowed to fish — the Israeli navy fires on fishermen who attempt to reach cleaner waters more than three miles out.
Having destroyed Gaza’s only power station, much of the area suffers from blackouts, and Israel prevents adequate amounts of fuel from entering, with severe effects on hospitals. Gazans also have nowhere to live. More than 2,400 homes were destroyed in the invasion of last year and Israel, by prohibiting the import of raw materials, has prevented their being rebuilt.
Thus the flotilla is bringing to Gaza 10,000 tons of humanitarian materials: temporary shelters, playgrounds for children, cement, steel and other construction materials, medical equipment and medicines and school supplies – a drop in the bucket of which is actually needed. The list alone is an indictment of our policies.
We Israeli Jews live in a managed information environment in which reality is carefully framed for us. Our government’s explanation for everything it does is “security,” and we accept that almost without question.
But we have to understand a basic fact of life: four million Palestinians live under a cruel Occupation that we have nurtured for the past 43 years and which has deprived them of their fundamental rights (such as electing their own political leaders), robbed them of their land and homes (Israeli governments have demolished some 24,000 Palestinian homes in the Occupied Territories since 1967), reduced them to impoverishment and has led, in the case of Gaza, to their literal imprisonment.
Why do I have to repeat facts that seem so self-evident, that everyone knows? Because, though every informed person abroad knows these things, we Israeli Jews don’t – and we don’t care. Most Israelis know far less about what our government is doing in our name, in Gaza and elsewhere in the Occupied Territories, than the activists on the Free Gaza ships.
We seldom if ever use the term “occupation” in our everyday speech (in fact, our government denied the very existence of an occupation), and we minimize the impact that our settlements, our separate roads, the Wall, hundreds of checkpoints and other facets of the Occupation have upon the political process, which we no longer believe in.
Living in a prosperous “bubble,” we do not see Palestinian suffering, only ourselves as “victims.” (And so our Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman characterizes the Gaza flotillas as “violent propaganda” against Israel, as if we have nothing to do with conditions of life in Gaza or the very fact of occupation.) But this is not reality.
For the Palestinians there is no minimizing their suffering or their yearning for freedom. Why, with our history, is it so difficult for us to understand resistance to oppression?
And so the third message of the flotilla is directed towards us: “Take responsibility for your government’s policies!” When I entered Gaza on the first Free Gaza boats in August, 2008, I issued an appeal to the Israeli public to stand in solidarity with us. I argued that ordinary people have often played key roles in history, particularly in situations like this where world governments, who should end the siege, shirk their responsibilities.
We must resist the self-serving and disempowering statements of our political leaders who would have us believe that there is no solution to the conflict with the Palestinians, that there is “no partner for peace,” that we are doomed to perpetual war and, therefore, we must become permanent oppressors.
The Palestinians are not our enemies; our own political leaders are. The very fact that I, an Israeli Jew, was welcomed by the people of Gaza makes that very point, and it is the message they asked me to convey to you. But they also insist on their rights: self-determination.
We of the Israeli peace camp refuse to be enemies with our Palestinian neighbors. We recognize that as the infinitely stronger party in the conflict, we Israelis must accept responsibility for our failed and oppressive policies.
In the meantime, the flotilla to Gaza has already succeeded. If the Israeli government allows the ships into Gaza, the power of the will have prevailed once more. If it chooses to stop the flotilla, it will only highlight the existence of the illegal and inhumane siege and bolster international efforts to end it. In both cases Israel loses the battle for legitimacy in the international community. This is the beauty of non-violent direct action. It is only a matter of time before it will be forced to relinquish control over the Palestinians and their lands.
Let us, Israeli Jews who aspire to become an integral part of this region rather than a foreign implant at war with its inhabitants, begin to take our fate in our own hands. We must side with the people of Gaza and the activists on the boats against the unjust and immoral policies of our own government.
This is what the good people of the flotilla are trying to tell us, what people all over the world are trying to tell us: unless we take responsibility for our actions and end this terrible conflict with the Palestinians, we will not remain here. And unless we find a way to a just peace rather than stand on the side of occupation, oppression and injustice, we may delay that day by force, but our society will not survive.
For our sakes as well as the people of Gaza, let us, the Israeli Jewish public, board the boats to end the siege of Gaza.