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IJV Archive

IJV Responses to Israel’s attack on Gaza

IJV Statement on the Israeli Attacks on Gaza

IJV stands for the application of the principles of human rights and international law to the resolution of the Middle East conflict. These principles are being violated on a daily basis. Israeli citizens have the right to live free from the threat of rocket attacks, but these cannot justify Israel’s actions.

The massive attack on Gaza has destroyed the lives of hundreds of Palestinians, and is creating an immense humanitarian crisis for a people under siege, a form of collective punishment illegal under international law. Such violent and inhumane conduct will do nothing to reduce the risk to Israelis.

There can be no military solution. In furtherance of our declaration, we support the international calls for an immediate ceasefire, as a preliminary to concerted efforts by all parties to reach a negotiated settlement.


Trafalgar Square Counter-Demonstration, 10/1/2009

Although not covered by the mainstream media, the counter-demonstration to the Trafalgar Square pro-Israel rally on Sunday, 11 January 2009 was highly effective in showing that Jews in Britain do not speak with one voice in support of Israel’s actions in Gaza. Responding to calls from IJV, together with JfJfP and other groups, some 200 demonstrators, carrying banners calling for an end to the carnage, made a strong showing.

Our signatories confirm that a visible Jewish/Israeli presence at anti-war demonstrations is proving a powerful tool for building bridges of goodwill and understanding with Muslim communities, essential when the events in the Middle East threaten to provoke an increase in antisemitism here.

IJV banners are available for those planning to attend further demonstrations. Please contact us at info@ijv.org.uk



In Support of the Goldstone Report

Independent Jewish Voices welcome the Goldstone Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza conflict. With Jews for Justice for Palestinians, the Jewish Forum for Justice and Human Rights, the Jewish Socialists’ Group, Jewish Writers Against the Occupation and Scottish Jews for a Just Peace have written an open letter to Gordon Brown to express this viewpoint.

Read Goldstone letter and full list of signatories

565 signatures were received and the letter was published in a full page advert in the Times on 1st December 2009.



Jewish Voices Against the Israeli Attacks

‘They are doing good, but they can do more’, Avi Pilchick was photographed telling reporters (Jan 5). He was just one of the Jewish Israeli bystanders on nearby hill-tops, applauding the spectacle of bombs hurtling down upon Gaza. The official voice of Jewish opinion around the world, if less celebratory, is rallying in support of Israel.

Yet, significant numbers of Jewish people, inside and outside Israel, are devastated. Unable to halt the routine violation of human rights in Israel’s occupied territories or the prolonged and brutal siege preventing even the most urgent supplies reaching Gaza, we now face the enduring horror of military invasion. While condemning every rocket fired on civilians from Gaza, we reject as absurd the ubiquitous Israeli propaganda that bombing and terrorizing Gaza will end them.

Despite its ideological hatred of Israel, elected Hamas officials have proved willing to negotiate. Hamas largely kept its side of the ceasefire it had agreed with Israel before the ending of the truce period, while in Gazan eyes Israel’s continued siege of their territory constantly violated it, devastating civilian life. Few people seem able to change the lens through which they view this tragedy.

Few people seem able to change the lens through which they view this tragedy. Yet, like the Canadian women who occupied the Israeli embassy in Toronto, the hundreds of well-known Israeli writers, artists, musicians, academics and others, calling upon the international community to stop Israel , more Jewish voices are fighting harder than ever to force the world to pressurize Israel to accept that there is no military solution to this conflict, and to begin honest negotiations with all parties necessary for a peaceful settlement: a strategy it has rarely attempted, and never consistently pursued.

Lynne Segal (Founding Signatory IJV)



A Personal Statement on the War in Gaza

In any conflict between peoples, there is a time for balancing the books, for placing facts neatly in the debit and credit columns, for issuing measured statements about the rights and wrongs on both sides. But not in the midst of one-sided carnage. The only decent thing to feel at the present time is outrage. The only thing for decent people to do right now is to condemn, without reserve or qualification, the brutal campaign that the Israeli military is waging against the population of Gaza. Every if and but derogates from decency.

Yesterday, 7 January 2009, my synagogue sent its members an email containing details of two rallies in support of Israel “which we would urge you to support”. No ifs and buts here, just solid support for the perpetrator in the midst of the horror it is perpetrating. Is it possible to go further in the opposite direction to decency?

Attached was a flyer for a “Mass Rally in Support of Israel” organised by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council, with “the support of the major organisations of UK Jewry”, for the morning of Sunday 11 January in Trafalgar Square. The flyer proclaims “End Hamas terror!” No ifs and buts here either. No hint at the unspeakable state terror being unleashed, day after day, by the Israeli military. It defies belief.

So, let me place on record the following fact: The Board does not speak for all British Jews and certainly not forthis one. Nor does the so-called Leadership Council, nor any of the organisations associated with this misbegotten event. None of them represents me or the Judaism that I cherish and which leads me to say as follows: I condemn utterly the military offensive by the government of Israel against the people of Gaza. The loss of any human life, on whatever side of this conflict, is a terrible thing. At this juncture, though, my heart is with the Palestinians on the ground in the midst of their misery. And I extend my hand to those Israelis who are speaking out against their own government.

Brian Klug

Co-founder, Independent Jewish Voices

London

8 January 2009



Neither F-16 fighters nor Qassam rockets
will bring peace

Israel is once again seeking to achieve its aims through military might

Last year in Lebanon Israel invaded and bombed
And made Hizbollah stronger

Before that it blockaded and attacked Gaza
And made Hamas stronger

Before that the occupation created the Palestinian resistance
And the invasions of Lebanon created Hizbollah

Now there is more carnage
More dead Palestinian men, women and children
To what end?

Yet Israel has achieved peace
With Egypt and Jordan
By talking to its enemies

Israel is not alone in believing the might of its weapons can force its enemies into submission. It is not surprising that it has the full support of the US and the UK, as they have used the same tactics. In Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere they too have sought to impose their will through military might. With exactly the same results, leaving thousands of civilians dead and making their enemies stronger.

Israeli citizens should not have to live under the threat of rocket attack. But peace will only be achieved when the occupation and the blockades end. A secure and prosperous Palestine is as much in the interest of Israelis as it is of Palestinians.

The attacks may have been launched with one eye on the Israeli election, in February. But we are heartened by reports of Israeli protests. Ten thousand demonstrated in Tel Aviv against the attacks. More than 500 Israeli residents of Sderot (the town most at threat from Hamas rockets) have signed a petition calling on the Israeli government to resist escalation. A group called “Combatants for Peace”, made up of ex-Israeli soldiers and ex-Palestinian fighters, meets in Jerusalem to find another way. We express our support for all these voices, daring to oppose the mainstream.

Henry Stewart, Founding IJV Signatory


Not in my name 

by Brian Klug

In the midst of the carnage in Gaza, it defies belief that my synagogue has asked me to march in solid support of Israel

In any conflict between peoples, there is a time for balancing the books, for placing facts neatly in the debit and credit columns, for issuing measured statements about the rights and wrongs on both sides. But not in the midst of one-sided carnage. The only decent thing to feel at the present time is outrage. The only thing for decent people to do right now is to condemn, without reserve or qualification, the brutal campaign that the Israeli military is waging against the population of Gaza. Every if and but derogates from decency.

Earlier this week, my synagogue sent its members an email containing details of two rallies in support of Israel “which we would urge you to support”. No ifs and buts here, just solid support for the perpetrator in the midst of the horror it is perpetrating. Is it possible to go further in the opposite direction to decency?

Attached was a flyer for a “Mass Rally in Support of Israel” organised by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council, with “the support of the major organisations of UK Jewry”, to be held in London this weekend. The flyer proclaims: “End Hamas terror!” No ifs and buts here either. No hint at the unspeakable state terror being unleashed, day after day, by the Israeli military. It defies belief.

So, let me place on record the following fact: the board does not speak for all British Jews and certainly not for this one. Nor does the so-called Leadership Council, nor any of the organisations associated with this misbegotten event. None of them represents me or the Judaism that I cherish and which leads me to say as follows: I condemn utterly the military offensive by the government of Israel against the people of Gaza. The loss of any human life, on whatever side of this conflict, is a terrible thing. At this juncture, though, my heart is with the Palestinians on the ground in the midst of their misery. And I extend my hand to those Israelis who are speaking out against their own government

Published in the Guardian’s Comment is Free site, 9/1/2009


Gaza: a moral maze?

Tony Klug, Liberal Synagogues’ panel, 12 January 2009

These are difficult and emotional times and I speak from the perspective of someone who has been writing about, and otherwise engaged in, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for some 40 years. The situation is precarious and could sharply deteriorate and I hope you’ll forgive me if I speak bluntly, even at the risk of upsetting some people, which is not my intention.

When I was young, I learned about the quintessential Jewish values of justice, peace and truth from the distinguished rabbis that taught me at the orthodox Jewish school – the Hasmonean – that I attended from the ages of 5 to 18. Fast forward to today and, equipped with these same values, what are we to make of an advanced, modern state – forget for the moment its identity or declared motive – that is bombarding, from land, sea and air, an impoverished, entrapped, defenceless people, causing widespread death and destruction, not to mention generating new waves of hatred around the world and renewed calls for revenge, isolation and boycott?

What has happened to the Jewish psyche since I was a youth that some Jews today – although certainly not all – seem barely to bat an eyelid at this carnage, if they aren’t actively supporting it? Is there no limit to what they will tolerate being done in our name? – even if there is horrendous provocation in the form of the indiscriminate rocketing of hundreds of thousands of Israelis who live in daily fear of the missiles fired by Hamas and other armed groups which, like Israel’s actions, has been widely condemned by human rights groups as a war crime.

Many people from my generation, Jewish and non-Jewish, feel seriously let down – betrayed even – by what Israel has slowly but steadily developed into since its astounding military feat in 1967. I am, sadly, among them. As a student activist at the time, I believed in the justice of Israel’s cause and its right to self-determination and independence, free of threat. And for many years I fought the good fight, defending Israel’s corner – not necessarily to my personal or political benefit – at the local, national and international student levels. Our passionate arguments – that Israel was not expansionist, that it desperately yearned for peace, that it was eager to withdraw from the occupied territories, that it was a good friend of the Palestinians, that it did everything it possibly could to avoid civilian casualties, and so on – have all been exposed, one by one.

It’s not that these arguments were necessarily false from the very beginning. But little by little they were usurped by the triumphalist mood that infected the country following the 1967 war and the hubris the resounding victory gave rise to. Such characteristics are of course not unique to Israel. They are common to conquering powers and have frequently led to their eventual downfall.

The dreadful things that are happening today in Gaza are not an aberration. The Israeli military assault is merely the most recent in a rolling sequence of onslaughts that have previously pounded towns and villages in Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza itself. It all stems from Israel – as well as other parties – not having a peace strategy. The only real hope is that immediate advantage will be taken of this crisis by formulating a coherent peace strategy, to be swiftly advanced once the fighting comes to an end.

So what would an Israeli peace strategy look like?

The most important component would be a genuine commitment to withdraw in full from the occupied West Bank, subject to agreed land swaps, in exchange for a comprehensive regional peace based on two viable states as proposed by the Arab Peace Initiative. An unequivocal Israeli pledge of this nature, by opening up the space, could trigger a new momentum. Without such a territorial commitment, all other efforts are hollow.

While it is true that Israel is rhetorically committed to a two-state solution, a proposal I put forward myself in the early 1970s when there were some 5,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank – and I fully expected to see implemented before the decade was out! – the authenticity of the Israeli commitment to this end is contradicted by the evolving facts on the ground. Today, there are roughly 250,000 settlers there, or double that number if you include East Jerusalem and the surrounding areas that Israel has illegally annexed. To this day – urged on by the powerful but generally unpopular settler lobby – the land confiscations and the settlement expansion continue apace, gobbling up what’s left of the putative Palestinian state.

A peace strategy would start by freezing immediately all further settlement expansion and it would recognize, even if reluctantly, that both Fatah and Hamas – in or out of government – are integral parts of the Palestinian national movement and reflect significant political currents among the Palestinian people, however distasteful some of Hamas’s official policies may be. Destroying the ‘terrorist infrastructure’ is a euphemism for excluding one of these major currents from involvement in determining the end game, just as eradicating the ‘Zionist entity’ is code for dismantling the state of Israel as the embodiment of a Jewish national movement. Neither aim is achievable in the foreseeable future, but a strategy based on either of them promises nothing but further rounds of mutual atrocities.

The irony is that when Hamas was established in 1987, it was encouraged by the Israeli government as a more acceptable alternative to the PLO and Fatah, which Israel then regarded as terrorist movements. Today, this policy has been stood on its head. But sooner or later, Israel will have to do a deal with Hamas, as it eventually did with the PLO. In the meantime, Hamas – the victor in an internationally authenticated democratic election – needs some breathing space to develop politically and for its own internal tensions and divisions to crystallize and mature. If forced from power, it may abandon the political path altogether and revert to its more belligerent demands and violent deportment. Or it may give way to ‘jihadist’ forces, including al-Qaida whose advances it has so far rejected.

A peace strategy would have entailed Israel responding positively to Hamas’s perfectly reasonable demand to end the strangulating blockade of Gaza as part of a renewed ceasefire, which hitherto it had more or less observed. This would have been a far less gory and much more effective way of achieving Israel’s perfectly legitimate demand for an end to the missiles. None of the bloody mayhem was necessary, and if it weren’t for the looming elections in Israel and the quasi interregnum in the US, it’s unlikely it would have happened. In the end, the same deal will probably be cut although, by destroying so much of the civilian infrastructure in Gaza meanwhile, including the police force, and dramatically raising the temperature, Israel has made it a lot more difficult for any Palestinian party to enforce the terms of an eventual truce.

In the absence of a Palestinian government of national unity, a peace strategy would see Israel encourage a tacit agreement between Fatah and Hamas not to interfere in the territory currently ruled by the other, while Israel and Hamas observed a state of non-belligerency, pragmatically ensuring the basic needs of the Gaza population were properly met. These two rudiments would free Israel and the PA president Mahmoud Abbas to negotiate the modalities of Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank and promptly implement them with the establishment of an independent Palestinian state there. The subsequent inclusion of the Gaza Strip would then be essentially an internal Palestinian matter, to be determined between the parties in due course.

So, inside this maze, is there a moral dilemma? I would suggest there’s a simple test. How would we, as Jews, nurtured with strong humanitarian instincts based on traditional Jewish values, have reacted to the dreadful toll of civilian deaths and the staggering devastation and fear if the perpetrator were any state other than Israel? It’s a rhetorical question.

But there is a different dilemma. Between the ethic and the ethnic. Between our sense of what is right and wrong, and tribal loyalty. And it is the latter, I believe, that explains the reflex support of many Jews around the world for Israel’s otherwise indefensible and counterproductive actions. Yet even tribal loyalty is not what it was. It was very simple years ago when there was virtually no dissent in Israel. Today there is growing dissent. And the protest movements will for sure continue to expand as the true horror of what has happened is revealed in the period ahead. It is no longer a question of whether to support Israel. But which Israel? Its very future, and the standing and welfare of the Jewish people globally, may depend on the answer. It isn’t a pretty picture, but can we turn it around? Well, in the new, forward-looking Obama era, let’s hope the answer is ‘yes we can’.



Gaza Crisis: Useful Links 

Below are a collection of articles on the Israeli attack on Gaza.

Not in my name by Brian Klug, Guardian, 9/1/09

How Israel brought Gaza to the brink of humanitarian catastrophe by Avi Shlaim

Gush Shalom, on Tel Aviv Demo

On Sderot signatures against the war

Israel’s ‘victories’ in Gaza come at a steep price by Sara Roy, 2/1/09

And there lie the bodies‘, Gideon Levy, Ha’aretz, 5/1/09

Twilight Zone by Gideon Levy, Ha’aretz, 8/1/09

As the troops enter, we fear the worst’, Eyad El-Sarraj, Washington Post, 4/1/09

Action

Take action: email Gordon Brown

Petitions

Immediate Ceasefire (Avaaz)

Free Gaza

Background on Gaza

Peace Talk by Tony Klug

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