Israeli voices for peace
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Israel’s assault on Gaza, by air, sea and now land, has killed (at the time of this writing) more than 600 Palestinians, with more than 2,700 injured. Ten Israelis have been killed, three of them, Israeli soldiers, killed by friendly fire. Beyond the deaths and injuries, the people of Gaza are suffering a dire humanitarian crisis that is dismissed by the Israeli government. There is, however, Israeli opposition to the military assault.
Israeli professor Neve Gordon is chair of the Department of Politics and Government at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in southern Israel, the region most impacted by the Hamas rockets.
Speaking over the phone from Beersheba, Gordon said: “We just had a rocket about an hour ago not far from our house. My two children have been sleeping in a bomb shelter for the past week. And yet, I think what Israel is doing is outrageous. ... The problem is that most Israelis say Israel left the Gaza Strip three years ago, and Hamas is still shooting rockets at us. They forget the details. The detail is that Israel maintains sovereignty. The detail is that the Palestinians live in a cage. The detail is that they don’t get basic foodstuff, that they don’t get electricity, that they don’t get water. And when you forget those kinds of details, all you say is, ‘Why are they still shooting at us?’ That’s what the media here has been pumping them with, then you think this war is rational. If you look at what’s been going on in the Gaza Strip in the past three years and you see what Israel has been doing to the Palestinians, you would think that the Palestinian resistance is rational. And that’s what’s missing in the mainstream media here.”
Gordon attended a large peace march last weekend in Tel Aviv with more than 10,000 Israelis. Longtime Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery was there. He called the invasion “a criminal war, because, on top of everything else it is openly and shamelessly part of Ehud Barak’s and Tzipi Livni’s election campaign. I accuse Ehud Barak of exploiting the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] soldiers in order to get more Knesset seats. I accuse Tzipi Livni of advocating mutual slaughter in order to become prime minister.” Israel’s elections will be in February.
The assault strengthens right-wing Likud Party leader and former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a foremost hawk and leading candidate for prime minister. While Netanyahu fully supports the attack on Gaza, his nephew, Jonathan Ben-Artzi, is an Israeli conscientious objector who was court-martialed and imprisoned for a year and a half. He spoke to me from Providence, R.I., where he is a student at Brown University.
“I’m speaking ... not as anyone’s nephew but ... as an Israeli, trying to speak out to Americans to tell them you don’t have to support Israel blindly. Not everything that Israel does is holy ... sometimes you have to speak firmly to Israel and tell us, tell our government, stop doing this.”
Gideon Levy is a Jewish journalist with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. He told me: “I think that Israel had this legitimacy to protect its citizens in the southern part of Israel ... but this doing something does not mean this brutal and violent operation. ... I believe we could have got to a new truce without this bloodshed. Immediately to send dozens of jets to bomb a total helpless civilian society with hundreds of bombs—just today, they were burying five sisters. I mean, this is unheard of. This cannot go on like this.”
But it is. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA, in Gaza opened up schools to provide shelter, since Gazans, trapped in this narrow strip of land, have no place to flee. Christopher Gunness of UNRWA told me that they provided the coordinates of the schools to the Israeli military. Nevertheless, at least two schools have been hit by Israeli airstrikes in the past 24 hours. Three people were killed at the Asma Elementary school. More than 30 are reported dead and more than 55 injured at the al-Fakhura school in the Jabaliya refugee camp in Gaza.
While Israeli planes drop pamphlets urging Palestinians to leave, the 1.5 million residents of the Gaza Strip, perhaps the most densely populated place on Earth, have no place to run, no place to hide. Calls for an immediate cease-fire are ignored by Israel and blocked by the U.S. government. It is not clear what the Obama administration will do—but the people of Gaza can’t wait until the inauguration. There must be a cease-fire now. And that’s just the beginning.
Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column. Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 700 stations in North America. She was awarded the 2008 Right Livelihood Award, dubbed the “Alternative Nobel” prize, and received the award in the Swedish Parliament in December.