A message from the Bereaved Families Forum

An extract from the recent message by Chani Smith of the Bereaved Families Forum:

The events in Israel and Gaza are hard to witness, and we are all affected by the terror and devastation that the fighting is causing. Our hearts go out to all the victims in Gaza and Israel. It is natural at this time to look at one’s ‘side’ and blame the other side. But, in the long run, it does not lead down a constructive path: the conflict continues and more blood is spilt. The Bereaved Families Forum is responding to this dreadful situation by inviting everybody, Palestinians, Israelis, and their supporters, to look for another way, which involves both sides being part of the solution through dialogue, and through acknowledging the human face of the other side, and the suffering on both sides.

Dear Friends,

Although the circumstances of our daily lives have become more challenging and distressing, it is the days that follow that we dread the most. Once the canons and rockets fall silent, Palestinian and Israeli societies will be left with dead to bury, shattered economies and, most notably in our field of work, damage to our moral fibre, human resilience and social competencies for compassion for the other and for reconciliation.

We Don’t Want You Here
The Israeli and Palestinian members of the Parents Circle came together last Tuesday to film a video, ‘We Don’t Want You Here’, created by Saatchi and Saatchi. The clip is powerful and it’s best if you just watch it.  Please forward it to your contacts and share it through social media. The clip is receiving a lot of attention in Israeli and international media:

Hear Robi Damelin on Radio TLV1
Read about the clip in Times of Israel

Peace Square
Within a week of the escalation of violence, the PCFF set up what’s being called the ‘Peace Square’ – a haven, in the centre of Tel Aviv where PCFF members share their stories, their support for reconciliation, facilitate dialogues, screen films that represent our messages and when necessary, go to bomb shelters together.

In the Peace Square, PCFF holds a vigil from 7-10pm every night to provide an alternative to the propaganda and hatred running rampant in Israel. The shared Israeli and Palestinian vision of ending the cycle of violence seems illegitimate to many. I believe it is also a place of healing from the psychological and emotional damage this type of violence has on society.

Alternative voices in the media
Our members, their stories and our messages are being heard in the U.S. media through a variety of outlets:

·         Read Robi Damelin’s ‘Cry for Sanity’ in Huffington Post WorldPost
·         Listen to Robi and Bassam Aramin’s interview on NPR’s Tell Me More
·         Watch Bassam Aramin and Rami Elhanan on Huffington Post Live World Brief
·         Read Robi’s Blog Post on BlogHer

All this and more updates can be found on the PCFF Facebook page.

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Tony Klug in Letter to The Guardian

The letter below was published in Saturday’s Guardian, 19 July 2014

Seumas Milne argues that the price of Israel’s occupation needs to be raised. One way of doing this is to challenge Israel’s claim that it is and is not an occupation.

This convenient ambiguity has enabled it to cherry-pick the Geneva convention and justify treating the occupied Palestinians differently from Israeli citizens while simultaneously annexing, expropriating and settling chunks of their territory. After 47 years, it is time to call the Israeli bluff. The Palestinian thinker Sam Bahour and I have proposed that a firm deadline be set for Israel to make up its mind definitively one way or the other. If it is an occupation, Israel’s – supposedly provisional – custodianship should be brought to a swift end. If it is not an occupation, there is no justification for denying equal rights to everyone who is subject to Israeli rule, whether Israeli or Palestinian.

The key is to remove the status quo as the default option. So, should Israel choose not to choose, other states may interpret this to mean in effect that it intends to hold on to the occupied territories indefinitely and hold Israel accountable to the equality benchmark. The clutch of international laws pertaining to apartheid rather than occupation would then come into force. The hope is that the Israeli people would rebel against the pariah status this would entail and vote in a new government ready to do a genuine two-state deal before it really is too late.
Tony Klug

Posted in Gaza, Human Rights, Human rights, IJV Articles, IJV Letters, International Law, Israel, Jews, Middle East, Palestine, Peace Process, West Bank | Leave a comment

Richard Falk on Gaza’s torment

“It is painfully evident that state-to-state diplomacy and the UN have failed to produce a just peace despite decades of fruitless talks.

It is time to acknowledge that these talks were carried on in bad faith: while the diplomats sat around the table, Israeli settlements relentlessly expanded, apartheid structures deepened their hold on the West Bank and Jerusalem, and Gaza was cordoned off as a hostage enclave to be attacked by Israel at will and a bloody sacrifice exacted.

At least, the Secretary-General of the Arab League, Nabil al-Araby, condemned the “dangerous Israeli escalation”, urged the Security Council to “adopt measures to stop Israeli aggression against the Gaza Strip”, and warned of the humanitarian consequences. Turkey and Iran issued official statements along similar lines.

There is so much regional turbulence at present that it is unlikely to hope for anything more than scattered verbal denunciations from authorities in the region preoccupied with other concerns, but given the gravity of the situation, attention needs to be refocused on the Palestinian ordeal.

Pressure on Israel is urgently needed to protect the Palestinian people from further tragedy. Israel’s Arab neighbours and the European states that long held sway in the region, are challenged as never before to do the right thing, but it is doubtful that any constructive action will be taken unless regional and global public opinion becomes sufficiently enraged to exert real pressure on these governments. To pursue this goal now should be made a top priority of the Palestinian global solidarity movement.”

Richard Falk is Albert G Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and Research Fellow, Orfalea Center of Global Studies. HE is also the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights.

From “Tormenting Gaza,” Al Jazeera 13/07/14

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Physicians for Human Rights – Israel: Gaza health system in crisis

Serious shortages in medical equipment and pharmaceuticals, fuel shortages and reports of damage to medical installations, medical teams and emergency rescue vehicles.

The continued offensive causes a deterioration of the already inadequate health system and may lead to its collapse.

In light of the state of severe crisis in the Palestinian Health System – defined by the Palestinian Ministry of Health as the gravest situation since the closure of the Gaza Strip in 2007 – hospitals are facing great difficulties in treating the rising numbers of injured – over 500 so far. In view of this situation the Ministry of Health of the Gaza Strip declared a state of emergency on 8.7.14 within which all non-urgent scheduled operations have been put on hold; the state of alert in all medical institutions has been raised and holidays of all hospital workers have been cancelled.

According to officials in the Gaza Strip there is a worsening shortage of medical equipment required for the functioning of the hospitals. From the information which has reached Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (PHR-IL) from the drug administration officials in Gaza, there is a shortage of 471 kinds of expendable medical supplies, including bandages. In addition, the supplies have run out of about 30% of basic drugs – 122 different pharmaceuticals – including anesthetics and intravenous infusion products.

Medical personnel in Gaza report their severe distress directly to PHR-IL. So, for example, the “Shifa” Hospital – the largest hospital in the Strip, which has treated over half of the injured from the start of the offensive – has started to use their emergency supplies which are expected only to last a further three days. From Information provided to PHE-IL by medical staff working at the “Alodda” Hospital in Jabaliya we have learnt that due to equipment shortages hospital teams have been forced to improvise to find alternatives for basic materials. Teams in operating rooms have had to use ordinary thread from seamstresses, which are not sterile in place of purpose made sterile medical sutures.  The workers further reported that the threads were manually sterilized to avoid infection.

In addition, over recent days PHR-IL has received reports of damage to medical buildings, including hospitals and clinics as well as to medical personnel. The European Hospital in Khan Younis was hit twice during the last few days from the aerial bombings nearby. The hospital spokesperson informed PHR-IL that the explosion which took place yesterday (9.7.14) near the hospital caused the damage causing the injury of 17 people within the hospital itself, with women and children included in those injured. The hospital reported that the plaster ceilings in the intensive care department, pediatrics department, the hospital entrance and waiting room, have all collapsed. Other departments, including internal medicine, cardiology and pediatric surgery were filled with broken glass after the windows and glass doors were shattered. In the light of the damage the hospital was forced to evacuate the Pediatrics Department of Children and close all outpatient clinics.

The Palestine Red Crescent Society reports that last night at 21:30 the emergency rescue center and ambulance services department in Jabaliya which serves a population of around 350,000 was also hit by an aerial bombing nearby. It was also reported that 12 medics and volunteers were injured. Nine of these were treated and returned to their activities while three needed to be hospitalized. Three out of eight ambulances were damaged and had to be removed from operation. Due to the damage the center has had to close its services. Partial services for the residents are being supplied from Gaza city.

In addition, yesterday (9.7.14) the PMRS organization, a voluntary health organization operating in Gaza, reported that the organization’s Medical Center, located in Beit Hanoun was damaged by heavy bombardments carried out nearby. During the last night, there were reports received at PHR-IL different reports that the civil emergency line (101) that allows summoned rescue teams had been cut off.

In addition to the crisis in the health system and the damage to medical centers there is also an ongoing severe shortage of diesel needed to operate generators in Gaza’s hospitals. More than two weeks ago, Palestinian Ministry of Health warned that fuel reserves are dwindling and are approximately at 20% of the fuel levels required. The shortage of diesel fuel also affects the movement of ambulances which need diesel. In light of these shortages, the Gaza Health Ministry ordered to reduce by 50% the movement of ambulances. Since that time there has been an increasing lack of diesel and there is fear of even more serious damage to the functioning of the health system in Gaza.

Damage to hospitals and medical centers or adjacent aerial bombing threatens the lives of medical staff and the patients themselves, violating the medical neutrality and ignoring the special protection afforded to these teams due to their status and vital role. Also, this damage leads to a state of lack of basic security while staying in medical institutions. There is concern that this violation, if it continues or worsens, would hamper the ability of medical teams to offer aid and save lives.

 PHR-IL calls for the State of Israel to stop the military offensive and to avoid at all costs any direct attack on or near the facilities and medical infrastructure and to avoid any attacks on medical and rescue teams and patients: “Out of concern for the lives and welfare of all residents of the area we make a heartfelt and resounding call – stop the fire and stop the incitement. Do not bring before us more victims that require treatment. Put the lives, health and rights of all human beings at the head of your concerns. Do not continue on our behalf with this operation causing further destruction and revenge. It is time to devote the resources and energies that are being directed to war and killing to finally end the occupation and to establish a different vision”.

Lital Grosman, PHR-IL spokesperson.

More updates on: Facebook and Website

PHRֹ StatementJuly14 Gaza Manifest_EngAd

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JJ Goldberg on shocking background to Gaza onslaught

Once the boys’ disappearance was known, troops began a massive, 18-day search-and-rescue operation, entering thousands of homes, arresting and interrogating hundreds of individuals, racing against the clock. Only on July 1, after the boys’ bodies were found, did the truth come out: The government had known almost from the beginning that the boys were dead. It maintained the fiction that it hoped to find them alive as a pretext to dismantle Hamas’ West Bank operations.

The initial evidence was the recording of victim Gilad Shaer’s desperate cellphone call to Moked 100, Israel’s 911. When the tape reached the security services the next morning — neglected for hours by Moked 100 staff — the teen was heard whispering “They’ve kidnapped me” (“hatfu oti”) followed by shouts of “Heads down,” then gunfire, two groans, more shots, then singing in Arabic. That evening searchers found the kidnappers’ abandoned, torched Hyundai, with eight bullet holes and the boys’ DNA. There was no doubt.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately placed a gag order on the deaths. Journalists who heard rumors were told the Shin Bet wanted the gag order to aid the search. For public consumption, the official word was that Israel was “acting on the assumption that they’re alive.” It was, simply put, a lie.

from How Politics and Lies Triggered an Unintended War in Gaza – Kidnap, Crackdown, Mutual Missteps and a Hail of Rockets by JJ Goldberg

Even the staunchly pro-Israel Jewish Chronicle cannot deny the awful truth that the Israeli government fanned the flames leading to the current wave of violence:

Anyone with access both to the recording and the physical evidence would have reasonably concluded that, while there was no definitive proof they were dead, the chances were very, very high.

That is not what the public was told, though. While teams quietly ploughed Hebron fields for bodies, Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon publicly declared that “our working assumption is that they are alive”.

The phone call was kept under wraps through a gag order, and successive officials explained that the call was very hard to understand (not true).

Meanwhile, concerned citizens launched a campaign to “Bring Back Our Boys” – the implication being, “alive”. Rallies were organised; schoolchildren prayed; everywhere you looked, on Facebook, on t-shirts, the faces of these three poor boys – by now long dead – stared back.

It was an emotional frenzy. As a result, when the bodies were found, the collective shock and grief was almost unprecedented. Is it really a surprise that mobs bayed for revenge?

From Governmental deception by Miriam Shaviv, July 10, 2014

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A visual anthology of the image war for Israel-Palestine


Operation Defensive Edge began on 7 July 2014.


The context is the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
And a history of occupation and discrimination in a climate of hatred and fear.


Following the kidnapping and murder of 3 Israelis in the West Bank and the brutal slaying of Mohammed Abu Khdeir in Jerusalem, militants in Gaza have responded in the only way they seem to know how.


Yes, we have been here before (2009, 2012).

The IDF has retaliated with the disproportionate bombardment the world has come to expect.


Nevertheless, it is concerned about its public image.


Despite the high-precision munitions of the IDF, Gazans suffer heavy casualties.


The imbalance and injustice is clear to all the world.


Yet rockets continue to be fired. Even as they mourn the loss of life, Hamas celebrate the extended range of their missiles while Israel defends its right to defend itself…


…and condemns Palestinian tactics


… and violence.


The death toll in Gaza mounts while the battle for media attention wages on.


But there are no winners, there is no justice, only bloodshed.

The UN’s calls for restraint fall on deaf ears once again as the Israeli army prepares for a ground invasion and the habitual disregard for Palestinian life continues, unabated.




Images from http://www.twitter.com #GazaUnderFire #IsraelUnderFire

Text by Merav Pinchassoff.

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Uri Avnery’s latest: The Atrocity

Uri Avnery’s latest: When the canon roar, the muses fall silent

The Atrocity

July 12, 2014

BOMBS ARE raining on Gaza and rockets on Southern Israel, people are dying and homes are being destroyed.


Again without any purpose. Again with the certainty that after it’s all over, everything will essentially be the same as it was before.

But I can hardly hear the sirens which warn of rockets coming towards Tel Aviv. I cannot take my mind off the awful thing that happened in Jerusalem.

IF A gang of neo-Nazis had kidnapped a 16-year old boy in a London Jewish neighborhood in the dark of the night, driven him to Hyde Park, beaten him up, poured gasoline into his mouth, doused him all over and set him on fire – what would have happened?

Wouldn’t the UK have exploded in a storm of anger and disgust?

Wouldn’t the Queen have expressed her outrage?

Wouldn’t the Prime Minister have rushed to the home of the bereaved family to apologize on behalf of the entire nation?

Wouldn’t the leadership of the neo-Nazis, their active supporters and brain-washers be indicted and condemned?

Perhaps in the UK. Perhaps in Germany.

Not here.

THIS ABOMINABLE atrocity took place in Jerusalem. A Palestinian boy was abducted and burned alive. No racist crime in Israel ever came close to it.

Burning people alive is an abomination everywhere. In a state that claims to be “Jewish”, it is even worse.

In Jewish history, only one chapter comes close to the Holocaust: the Spanish inquisition. This Catholic institution tortured Jews and burned them alive at the stake. Later, this happened sometimes in the Russian pogroms. Even the most fanatical enemy of Israel could not imagine such an awful thing happening in Israel. Until now.

Under Israeli law, East Jerusalem is not occupied territory. It is a part of sovereign Israel.

THE CHAIN of events was as follows:

Two Palestinians, apparently acting alone, kidnapped three Israeli teenagers who were trying to hitchhike at night from a settlement near Hebron. The objective was probably to use them as hostages for the release of Palestinian prisoners.

The action went awry when one of the three succeeded in calling the Israeli police emergency number from his mobile phone. The kidnappers, assuming that the police would soon be on their tracks, panicked and shot the three at once. They dumped the bodies in a field and fled. (Actually the police bungled things and only started their hunt the next morning.)

All of Israel was in an uproar. Many thousands of soldiers were employed for three weeks in the search for the three youngsters, combing thousands of buildings, caves and fields.

The public uproar was surely justified. But it soon degenerated into an orgy of racist incitement, which intensified from day to day. Newspapers, radio stations and TV networks competed with each other in unabashed racist diatribes, repeating the official line ad nauseam and adding their own nauseous commentary – every day, around the clock.

The security services of the Palestinian Authority, which collaborated throughout with the Israeli security services, played a major role in discovering early on the identity of the two kidnappers (identified but not yet caught). Mahmoud Abbas, the PA president, stood up in a meeting of the Arab countries and condemned the kidnapping unequivocally and was branded by many of his own people as an Arab Quisling. Israeli leaders, on the other hand, called him a hypocrite.

Israel’s leading politicians let loose a salvo of utterances which would be seen anywhere else as outright fascist. A short selection:

Danny Danon, deputy Minister of Defense: “If a Russian boy had been kidnapped, Putin would have flattened village after village!”

“Jewish Home” faction leader Ayala Shaked: “With a people whose heroes are child murderers we must deal accordingly.” (“Jewish Home” is a part of the government coalition.)

Noam Perl, world chairman of Bnei Akiva, the youth movement of the settlers: “An entire nation and thousands of years of history demand: Revenge!”

Uri Bank, former secretary of Uri Ariel, Housing Minister and builder of the settlements: “This is the right moment . When our children are hurt, we go berserk, no limits, dismantling of the Palestinian Authority, annexation of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), execution of all prisoners who have been condemned for murder, exile of family members of terrorists!”

And Binyamin Netanyahu himself, speaking about the entire Palestinian people: “They are not like us. We sanctify life, they sanctify death!”

When the bodies of the three were found by tourist guides, the chorus of hatred reached a new crescendo. Soldiers posted tens of thousands of messages on the internet calling for “revenge”, politicians egged them on, the media added fuel, lynch mobs gathered in many places in Jerusalem to hunt Arab workers and rough them up.

Except for a few lonely voices, it seemed that all Israel had turned into a soccer mob, shouting “Death to the Arabs!”

Can anyone even imagine a present-day European or American crowd shouting “Death to the Jews?”

THE SIX arrested until now for the bestial murder of the Arab boy had come straight from one of these “Death to the Arabs” demonstrations.

First they had tried to kidnap a 9-year old boy in the same Arab neighborhood, Shuafat. One of them caught the boy in the street and dragged him towards their car, choking him at the same time. Luckily, the child succeeded in shouting “Mama!” and his mother started hitting the kidnapper with her cell phone. He panicked and ran off. The choking marks on the boy’s neck could be seen for several days.

The next day the group returned, caught Muhammad Abu-Khdeir, a cheerful 16-year old boy with an engaging smile, poured gasoline in his mouth and burned him to death.

(As if this was not enough, Border Policemen caught his cousin during a protest demonstration, handcuffed him, threw him on the ground and started kicking his head and face. His wounds look terrible. The disfigured boy was arrested, the policemen were not.)

THE ATROCIOUS way Muhammad was murdered was not mentioned at first. The fact was disclosed by an Arab pathologist who was present at the official autopsy. Most Israeli newspapers mentioned the fact in a few words on an inner page. Most TV newscasts did not mention the fact at all.

In Israel proper, Arab citizens rose up as they have not done in many years. Violent demonstrations throughout the country lasted for several days. At the same time, the Gaza Strip frontline exploded in a new orgy of rockets and aerial bombings in a new mini-war which already has a name: “Solid Cliff”. (The army’s propaganda section has invented another name in English.) The new Egyptian dictatorship is collaborating with the Israeli army in choking the Strip.

THE NAMES of the six suspects of the murder-by-fire – several of whom have already confessed to the appalling deed – are still being withheld. But unofficial reports say that they belong to the Orthodox community. Apparently this community, traditionally anti-Zionist and moderate, has now spawned neo-Nazi offspring, which surpass even their religious-Zionist competitors.

Yet terrible as the deed itself is, to my mind the public reaction is even worse. Because there isn’t any.

True, a few sporadic voices have been heard. Many more ordinary people have voiced their disgust in private conversations. But the deafening moral outrage one could have expected did not materialize.

Everything was done to minimize the “incident”, prevent its publication abroad and even inside Israel. Life went on as usual. A few government leaders and other politicians condemned the deed in routine phrases, for consumption abroad. The soccer world cup contest elicited far more interest. Even on the Left, the atrocity was treated as just another item among the many misdeeds of the occupation.

Where is the outcry, the moral uprising of the nation, the unanimous decision to stamp out the racism that makes such atrocities possible?

THE NEW flare-up in and around the Gaza Strip has obliterated the atrocity altogether.

Sirens sound in Jerusalem and in towns north of Tel-Aviv. The missiles aimed at Israeli population centers have successfully (up to now) been intercepted by counter-missiles. But hundreds of thousands of men, women and children are running to the shelters. On the other side, hundreds of daily sorties of the Israeli Air Force turn life in the Gaza Strip into hell.

WHEN THE cannon roar, the muses fall silent.

Also the pity for a boy burnt to death.

From http://www.avnery-news.co.il/english/

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IJV SG Statement on current cycle of violence

We watch in horror and utterly condemn the pointless cycle of violence being stoked by Israel’s ongoing bombing of crowded civilian areas in Gaza, resulting in an escalating death toll, devastating civilian injuries and the continued destruction of homes and livelihoods. We reject the UK government’s one-sided support for Israel’s massive and disproportionate retaliation to the rocket attacks from Gaza and urge instead that it calls for peace negotiations and an end to all bloodshed.

- Independent Jewish Voices Steering Group, 10 July 2014

Related links:

Statement by JfJfP Executive Committee
Open Letter from Jewish Voice for Peace
Yachad choose life
David Cameron call to Israeli PM





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If Kerry fails, what then? by Sam Bahour and Tony Klug

Suppose the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, fails to cajole the Israeli and Palestinian leaders into finally ending their conflict. What would happen next?

A tsunami of pent-up animosities is likely to be unleashed, with each side holding the other responsible for the failure and calling for retribution. Attempts to indict and isolate each other would gather pace and violence might return with a vengeance. The toxins let loose will inevitably have global spillover.

For over twenty years process has trumped outcome, but it is now in danger of being out-trumped itself by the total collapse of the only internationally recognized paradigm for a solution to the conflict. A new international strategy urgently needs to be devised and made ready as an alternative to the prospect of failed bilateral negotiations. Any such strategy should be rooted in a vision of the endgame, based on the principles of a rapid end to the Israeli occupation and equality between Palestinians and Israelis.

Our proposal takes as its starting point the need to resolve two crucial ambiguities regarding Israel’s control of the West Bank and Gaza, its rule over the Palestinians and the colonization of their land. Resolving these matters are essential to achieving a final resolution of the conflict.

First, is it, or is it not, an occupation? The entire world, including the US, thinks it is, and therefore considers the Fourth Geneva Convention and other relevant provisions of international law to apply. The Israeli government contests this on technical grounds, arguing that the Geneva Convention relates only to the sovereign territory of a High Contracting Party, and that Jordan and Egypt did not have legal sovereignty over the West Bank and Gaza Strip (respectively) when they previously governed these territories.

On the basis of this reasoning, Israel has maintained that the Geneva Convention does not strictly apply, and therefore it is not legally forbidden from annexing, expropriating and permanently settling parts of the territory it captured during the 1967 Arab-Israel war.

But at other times, the Israeli authorities rely on the Geneva Convention to validate its policies, particularly with regard to treating Palestinians under Israel’s jurisdiction but outside its sovereign territory differently from Israeli citizens, citing the provisions that prohibit altering the legal status of an occupied territory’s inhabitants.

This ambiguity has served the occupying power well, enabling it to cherry-pick the articles of the Geneva Convention and have the best of both worlds, while the occupied people has the worst of them.

Second, at what point does an occupation cease to be an occupation and become a permanent or quasi-permanent state of affairs? Nearly half a century on, during which time significant alterations have been made to the infrastructure of the territory, is it realistic for the Israeli occupation still to be deemed simply an ‘occupation’, with its connotation of temporariness?

Our contention is that the occupying power should no longer be able to have it both ways. The laws of occupation either apply or do not apply. If it is an occupation, it is beyond time for Israel’s custodianship — supposedly provisional — to be brought to an end. If it is not an occupation, there is no justification for denying equal rights to everyone who is subject to Israeli rule, whether Israeli or Palestinian. Successive Israeli governments have got away with a colossal bluff for nearly 47 years. It is time to call that bluff and compel a decision.

The Israeli government should be put on notice that, by the 50th anniversary of the occupation, it must make up its mind definitively one way or the other. A half a century is surely enough time to decide. This would give it until June 2017 to make its choice between relinquishing the occupied territory — either directly to the Palestinians or possibly to a temporary international trusteeship in the first instance — or alternatively granting full and equal citizenship rights to everyone living under its jurisdiction.

Should Israel not choose the first option by the target date, it would be open to the international community to draw the conclusion that its government had plumped by default for the second option of civic equality. Other governments, individually or collectively, and international civil society, may then feel at liberty to hold the Israeli government accountable to that benchmark.

The three-year window would be likely to witness vigorous debate within Israel and induce new political currents that may be more conducive to a swift and authentic deal with the Palestinians over two states, probably within the framework of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative for which there is polling evidence of growing support among the Israeli population.

We need to break free of the divisive and increasingly stifling one-state-versus-two-states straightjacket that tends to polarize debate and in practice ends up perpetuating the status quo — which is a form of one state, albeit an inequitable one. The aim of our proposal is to bring matters to a head and to enable people to advocate equal rights for Palestinians and Israelis, in one form or another, free of the implication that this necessarily carries a threat to the existence of the state of Israel.

To be clear, this is not a call for a unitary state. How Israelis and Palestinians wish to live alongside each other is for them to decide and the indications still are that both peoples prefer to exercise their self-determination in their own independent states. Our proposal would not foreclose this option. It would remain open to the Palestinians to continue to agitate for sovereignty over the West Bank and Gaza, for a future Israeli government to relinquish these territories and, in extremis, for the Security Council to enforce the creation of two states through the UN Charter’s Chapter VII mechanism. However, until this is finally determined, equal treatment should replace ethnic discrimination as the legitimate default position recognized by the international community.

A similar principle should extend throughout the region. The stateless Palestinians — not just the four million living under Israeli military occupation but also the five million who have been living as refugees in the surrounding states for the past 66 years — suffer discrimination all over the Middle East. In almost every Arab state, their rights are severely curtailed and they are mostly denied citizenship, even where they, their parents or their grandparents were born in the country. Whatever may have been the original explanation, their continuing limbo status is shameful so many years on.

The bottom line is that until the Palestinians, like the Israelis, achieve their primary choice of self-determination in their own state (if ever they do), they should no longer, in the modern era, be denied equal rights in whatever lands they inhabit. In the case of Israel and its indefinite occupation, this means putting an end to the ambiguities that have lasted for far too long.

Originally published in Le Monde Diplomatique English Edition Blog

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Joint statement by Judith butler and Rashid Khalidi condemns censorship of Israel critics in US

In the wake of Judith Butler’s withdrawal from her planned talk on Kafka at the New York Jewish Museum and the “disinvitation” of Rashid Khalidi by the Orthodox Ramaz high school in New York last week, the two scholars have launched a petition to defend free speech and denounce the censorship that seeks to set the “boundaries of acceptable discourse relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

While this petition clearly pertains to the current situation in the United States, we in the United Kingdom cannot afford to be complacent about this kind of activity that seeks only to stifle debate rather than encourage open engagement with diverse points of view on Israel and the Palestinians.

Independent Jewish Voices is an embodiment of this ideal. With regard to the BDS campaign specifically, mentioned in the petition, IJV does not have a collective position on BDS and members of the Steering Group hold different views on the matter. However, we are united on the question of the right to free political expression when exercised through non-violent means, whether in the UK, the US, Israel or elsewhere.

It should be noted that rather than being a question of support for or against BDS, the matter at stake here is freedom of speech. Indeed, the petition makes a strong case against academic boycotts directed against individuals.

This is the full text of the petition followed by a link should you wish to add your support.

Whether one is for or against Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) as a means to change the current situation in Palestine-Israel, it is important to recognize that boycotts are internationally affirmed and constitutionally protected forms of political expression. As non-violent instruments to effect political change, boycotts cannot be outlawed without trampling on a constitutionally protected right to political speech. Those who support boycotts ought not to become subject to retaliation, surveillance, or censorship when they choose to express their political viewpoint, no matter how offensive that may be to those who disagree.

         We are now witnessing accelerating efforts to curtail speech, to exercise censorship, and to carry out retaliatory action against individuals on the basis of their political views or associations, notably support for BDS. We ask cultural and educational institutions to have the courage and the principle to stand for, and safeguard, the very principles of free expression and the free exchange of ideas that make those institutions possible. This means refusing to accede to bullying, intimidation, and threats aimed at silencing speakers because of their actual or perceived political views. It also means refusing to impose a political litmus test on speakers and artists when they are invited to speak or stage their work. We ask that educational and cultural institutions recommit themselves to upholding principles of open debate, and to remain venues for staging expressions of an array of views, including controversial ones.  Only by refusing to become vehicles for censorship and slander, and rejecting blacklisting, intimidation, and discrimination against certain viewpoints, can these institutions live up to their purpose as centers of learning and culture.

A list of the first 150 signatories to the statement can be found here.
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