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A Letter from Henri Picciotto
I would like to take my wife and children to Lebanon, and show them where I grew up. The place must have changed enormously, after 35 years, a civil war and an Israeli invasion. Still, I would like to do it. After visiting Beirut, we'd rent a car to go to my summer hangouts in the mountain, and then drive down the coast to Haifa, where we could visit my parents' graves, and on to a Jerusalem where Israelis and Palestinians would live in peace.
For a while, after the Oslo accords, I lulled myself into thinking that such a trip would soon be possible. How wrong I was.
The successive Israeli governments interpreted Oslo as permission to double the illegal settlements in the occupied territories, to criss-cross the West Bank with Jewish-only "access roads", and to increase the day-to-day humiliation and oppression of the millions of Palestinians who live there. The predictable result: bombings, assassinations, and retaliation ad infinitum.
It is fashionable these days to blame both sides for this disastrous spiral of death. All attacks against civilians are horrible and criminal -- this much is true. But the situation is not symmetric. Can you imagine hundreds of houses in Haifa razed by Palestinian bulldozers and tanks? Tel Aviv without water, power, or medicines for a week? Israelis prevented from stepping outside by round-the-clock curfews, while dead bodies are decomposing in their houses? Israeli ambulances rushing to a suicide bombing prevented from getting there? All Israeli government offices destroyed, and all their hard disks stolen? Likewise all Israeli banks, cultural centers, schools, hospitals, theaters?
What would you do if that was the reality?
This is the reality that anyone who cares to look can see in the occupied territories. Hundreds have died on both sides, but millions of Palestinians are victimized beyond imagination.
The Israeli invasion did not destroy the "terrorist infrastructure". Quite the contrary, it is the infrastructure of civilized life that was destroyed. Suicide bombers will grow like weeds in the ruins.
Opposing the madness of the Israeli occupation is not only our responsibility as human beings, it is also in the best interest of the people of Israel, and of Jews all over the world. The expectation that peace is possible without an end to the occupation is absurd. The violence of the occupier begets the violence of the occupied. We have a powerful instinct to care for our people, but we have to wake up to the fact that the fates of Jews and Arabs in the Middle East are inextricably linked. Peace for Israel requires justice for Palestine.
Thus my involvement in A Jewish Voice for Peace.
In my years of off and on political activism, I have never received as many words of support, praise and encouragement as in the last few weeks, following my arrest at a JVP demonstration at the Israeli Consulate. But then, there are those who fear that opposing the occupation and its horrors is somehow endorsing suicide bombings and a resurgence of antisemitism. I understand where this fear comes from. After all, the Jewish people faced genocide 50 years ago, and we don't want that to happen ever again. Alas this fear is paralyzing, and pushes many of us into a deliberate refusal to know what is being done in our name, and a search for excuses for the inexcusable.
In France, where the notorious neo-nazi politician Le Pen managed to get into the second round of the presidential elections, there were hundreds of thousands of people in the streets, opposing both antisemitism and anti-arab racism, day after day. In Israel, there are hundreds of reservists who are refusing to serve in the occupied territories, and there are tens of thousands of Jews and Arabs who have been demonstrating together, with the slogan "the occupation is killing us all". Here in the US, we need to build a movement of Jews, Arab-Americans, and all people of conscience, to demand an end to our government using billions of our tax dollars to fund the occupation. I hope you will help!
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