The last several days have been devastating. The weeks leading up to it have been horrifying. Since the beginning of the Israel’s Operation Protective Edge on July 8, 2014 upwards of eighty Palestinians have been killed and approximately 500 wounded by Israeli missiles and two Israelis have been wounded from rockets fired from Gaza. We have watched with sadness and anger as the deaths of children have mounted, racist mobs have rampaged, the fears of people throughout both Israel and Palestine have reached unbearable levels, and the collective punishment of the Palestinian people has intensified.
In just the last few days, scores of Palestinians – with no place to hide – have been killed, while the entire population of Gaza experiences the terror of widespread bombing. Israelis have had to endure the fear of never knowing when or where the next rocket will fall.
What is worse, reports from Israel and the Jewish Daily Forward (http://forward.com/articles/201764/how-politics-and-lies-triggered-an-unintended-war) in the United States are now confirming that this entire escalation was artificially created by Israeli political leaders and built on a foundation of lies.
None of this should be happening. As we mourn all who have died, we also reaffirm that all Israelis and Palestinians deserve security, justice, and equality.
To end violence – and truly mourn its victims – we must acknowledge, and challenge the root causes beneath it. The Occupation, with U.S. military and financial support, is the root cause. The daily structural violence of the occupation systematically denies the very humanity of Arabs, while valuing Jewish lives at the expense of others. Our unshakeable belief in justice – as Jews and as human beings – compels us to acknowledge that the root of this violence lies in the Israeli government’s commitment to occupation over the well-being of Palestinians or Israelis. Where our leaders have so thoroughly refused that truth, it is our responsibility to hold it up.This is why my organization, Jewish Voice for Peace, is calling for signatures to an Open Letter demanding an end to the Occupation. When we reach 18,000 signatures, we’ll publish the letter in Ha’aretz and The Forward – and call on our communities stand up with us.
The media is portraying the current violence as the most recent flare-up of a long running conflict between two-sides using equal force against the other. We know the truth to be different. The relative ‘calm’ in Israeli and international media for the last seven years or so has not been calm for Palestinian communities. The ongoing occupation inflicts both direct and structural violence, making daily life and the struggle for existence into an act of resistance.
The recent and very public violence against Palestinians in the streets of Jerusalem and elsewhere did not happen in a vacuum. Anti-Palestinian bigotry is not only acceptable but a powerful political tool in Israel. Long before this latest escalation, everyday life for Palestinians meant increasing numbers of settlements taking over their lands and homes, and a web of violence and control which reached into every area of life, simply because they are not Jewish.
Those few Israelis who are bravely speaking out against their governments’ inhumane policies need to know that they have our support. Those Palestinians who are under daily assault need to know that we see them.
As Americans, and especially as Jews, we can not wait one more moment to speak up. In such a terrible moment, we must join what we feel with what we know.
Only by ending the occupation, which is funded by unconditional U.S. military aid and diplomatic support, and embracing equality can this terrible bloodshed end.
Rebecca Vilkomerson is the Executive Director of Jewish Voice for Peace. She lived in Israel with her family from 2006-2009, and has been named one of the Forward 50 most influential Jewish leaders in 2010. JVP is a national, grassroots organization dedicated to achieving a lasting peace that recognizes the aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians for security and self-determination. Jewish Voice for Peace has over 130,000 online supporters, forty chapters, a youth wing, a Rabbinic Cabinet, and an Advisory Board made up of leading U.S. intellectuals and artists. www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org