SPC Statement on Israel-Palestine

By Syracuse Peace Council Steering Committee: Carol Baum, Dik Cool, Karen J. Hall, Doug Igelsrud, Rae Kramer, Laura MacDonald, Andy Molloy, Beth Mosely, Linda Perla, Michelle Ten Eyck, Ann Tiffany
Sunday, April 7, 2002

The Syracuse Peace Council calls for an immediate halt to the violence in the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel, including a full Israeli withdrawal from the recently invaded Palestinian towns and cities. This is the first step toward a just peace settlement—one whose goal is the creation of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, living side-by-side with an internationally-recognized and secure Israel.

President Bush has given tacit approval to Ariel Sharon’s bellicose policies over the past 18 months. Despite Bush’s simplistic pronouncement that "enough is enough," we have little confidence that the Bush administration will effectively use its considerable influence over the Israeli government ($3billion in aid annually) to press for a just peace. We demand that the United States withdraw its UN Security Council veto which has prevented the sending of an international protection force to Palestine. Such a force is vital to safeguarding Palestinians. In the current climate, an international conference or stronger UN role is necessary to move the peace process forward.

We mourn the terrible loss of life on both sides and deplore the violence against innocent civilians. Palestinian parents have seen their children gunned down by Israeli soldiers, while Israelis have seen their loved ones blown to bits by suicide bombers. It should be clear to all involved that the current approaches are only making the problem worse.

We join the call for Palestinians to halt suicide attacks. However, we support the Palestinian’s continuing struggle for self-determination. History has shown that the world ignores the plight of oppressed people unless they openly challenge the denial of their fundamental human and national rights.

It is difficult for most of us in the U.S. to fathom the daily humiliation and degradation Palestinians have suffered for the last 35 years under military occupation. Their land has been carved up by Israeli settlements and bypass roads, while thousands of homes have been demolished and thousands of acres of orchards and agricultural fields destroyed. Military checkpoints prevent people from getting to jobs, schools, shopping, etc. The despair created by such conditions, combined with a moribund peace process, fuels hatred, revenge and suicide attacks.

Examples demonstrate the brutal nature of the Occupation: at least 27 Palestinians died after soldiers delayed or prevented them from reaching the hospital from the beginning of the intifada through March 13, 2002 (from B’tselem, the premiere Israeli human rights group); when Israeli troops invaded Ramallah on March 29, they took over the Palestinian Broadcasting System and broadcast pornographic films (a profound affront to Muslims).

A rising number of Israelis recognize that the Occupation endangers them rather than increasing their security. Tens of thousands of Israelis have demonstrated against the occupation, including a growing list of nearly 400 military reservists who have publicly declared their refusal to serve in the occupied territories, stating in part:

    * We, combat officers and soldiers… were issued commands and directives that had nothing to do with the security of our country, and that had the sole purpose of perpetuating our control over the Palestinian people…
    * We, who sensed how the commands issued to us in the Territories, destroy all the values we had absorbed while growing up in this country.
    * We hereby declare that we shall not continue to fight this War of the Settlements.
    * We shall not continue to fight beyond the 1967 borders in order to dominate, expel, starve and humiliate an entire people.

Recently over 2,000 Jewish and Arab peace activists in Israel were prevented by Israeli soldiers from delivering food and medical supplies to Ramallah. Thousands have persistently reached out to each other across the Jewish/Arab divide; working for peace and reconciliation.

Just as the Peace Council condemned the U.S. government’s military response to the attacks of September 11 as counterproductive, we recognize that Israel’s assassinations, invasions of cities and destruction of civilian infrastructure will only escalate the cycle of violence in that region. This mimicking of U.S. actions in Afghanistan is one of the many negative outcomes of the U.S. "war on terrorism."

Governments act on principle only when they face strong citizen pressure. Now is the time for us to act on the best of our ideals—a commitment to equality and freedom for all people. Join us at the Federal Building in downtown Syracuse on Thursday, April 11 at noon to rally for peace and justice in Israel and Palestine; and in Washington, DC for a national anti-war rally on Saturday, April 20.

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