By David Deutsch, Jonathan Graubart, and Avital Aboody/ Jewish Voice for Peace, San Diego
Jewish Voice for Peace San Diego (JVPSD) is the local chapter of the national Jewish Voice for Peace, an organization devoted to the pursuit of peace, social justice, equality, and human rights in Israel-Palestine.
While most mainstream American Jewish organizations have long abandoned moral responsibility when it comes to Palestinians, we insist upon holding Israel accountable for its crimes, which include a nearly fifty-year occupation, a denial of Palestinian self-determination, repeated war crimes, and systematic human rights abuses.
We oppose Israel’s latest offensive on the Gaza Strip, labeled Operation “Protective Edge.” As of July 18th, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights released figures that estimated more than 80 per cent of the 260 Palestinian victims to have been killed so far were civilians. They also reported that a further 1,920 Palestinians had been wounded as a result of the conflict that began on July 8th.
The collective punishment of the Palestinian people carries the full support of the US government, which supplies much of Israel’s highly sophisticated weaponry. In Israel a mob in Tel Aviv recently sought vengeance by physically assaulting the few Israelis protesting the current assault on Gaza.
Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas of the world and home to 1.8 million Palestinians including many refugees whose parents and grandparents were expelled from their homes in what is now southern Israel, including Sderot. Gaza residents have lived under a brutal occupation for 47 years and a devastating Israeli siege for the past 7 years. The International Committee of the Red Cross denounces the siege as illegal “collective punishment.”
Operation Protective Edge has brought the crisis to new heights. Gaza’s hospitals face shortages of essential medicine and equipment and the International Red Cross delegation warns of a water shortage. Israel’s boast of providing warnings before bombings offers small comfort as the population is boxed in by Israeli and Egyptian forces with no place to go.
Operation Protective Edge is the fourth major Israeli onslaught on the civilian population of Gaza since 2006. While each has been justified in the name of security, top Israeli security officials concede that these operations have not made Israel more secure. They have simply inflicted massive suffering on an impoverished densely populated community. Collectively, these assaults amount to crimes against humanity. Such attacks provoke hate and calls for revenge, making all Israelis and Palestinians less safe.
In addition to a ceasefire JVPSD calls for a comprehensive international resolution of the Palestinian situation guided by respect for human rights, international humanitarian law and past UN resolutions. While all parties must be held accountable for war crimes and human rights abuses, the international community must also review the underlying conditions the have subjugated the Palestinians to periodic mass killings by a sophisticated modern army.
We do not excuse Hamas or other Palestinian militants for their attacks on civilians. But our unshakeable belief in justice – as Jews and as human beings – compels us to acknowledge that the root of the violence lies in the Israeli government’s commitment to the occupation of Arab lands in the West Bank and Gaza for over 47 years. The US has enabled this occupation. For real change to occur, here and in Israel, we must all speak out forcefully.