Speech delivered at the End the Gaza Siege Rally in Washington DC on December 2, 2006
Thank you for coming! My name is Mark Braverman. As we begin this rally it is important to realize that we are gathering here today as part of an international day of protest and solidarity. Groups like us in close to 100 cities across the world are gathering – but most important, this is a project that was conceived and organized in Israel, by a coalition of Israeli organizations devoted to justice for Palestine and a just Israeli society, in partnership with Palestinian activist and grassroots organizations. We thus stand here in solidarity with Jews of conscience in Israel, who cannot stand by and allow their government to perpetrate the crimes and human rights violations they are witnessing on their doorstep. We are here to express our solidarity with them and to call our government to account, but the heart of this protest beats in Tel Aviv. This is very important to acknowledge, as we search for ways to maintain our faith and fortitude in the face of the continuing siege of Gaza and the intransigence of governments across the globe to bring this outrage to an end. There are Jews of conscience – and our number is growing. Today, you will hear a great deal of criticism leveled at Israel, and with great justification, and you will hear it from me as well. As Jews, we do this as part of our faithfulness to a cultural tradition of commitment to justice and human rights – we will not stand by and allow these crimes to be committed in our name.
Gaza is dying. Gaza has been called one big prison camp, but that is not correct. In prison, the people are fed. In prison, there is basic hygiene. In prison, people have adequate medical care. In prison, there are no assassinations and summary executions. In prison, bombs and fire do not fall from the sky, and huge machines do not push down the walls of your prison cell. Gaza today resembles more the Warsaw Ghetto than an occupied territory under the administration of international relief agencies. Relief agencies that cannot get in or out to deliver basic supplies and monitor conditions, relief agencies where even the flow of funds is restricted because of international sanctions carried out as collective punishment of the Palestinian people for the results of free and fair elections.
Gaza is dying because of lies. The lie that Israel has “disengaged” from Gaza and that Gaza is now “free.” The lie that Ehud Olmert, Prime Minister of Israel has just made a “peace” offer to the Palestinian Authority. The lie promoted by the Anti Defamation League that Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, who has been appointed by the UN to investigate the Beit Hanoun massacre, is “anti-Israel” biased, and thus incapable of conducting a fair investigation. Bishop Tutu! This is a man without credentials??? This is a man who will betray human rights???? What world, what alternate universe have we stumbled into? Gaza is dying because of the lie perpetrated by Human Rights Watch, that women and men of Gaza, standing on the roofs of their own houses and in the streets of their own cities to prevent the murder of their countrymen and the destruction of their houses, do not have the right to nonviolent resistance to summary executions carried out by the Israeli government, targeted assassinations that have killed over 300 of their citizens in the past 6 months.
Here is the truth, reported this morning by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:
One year after the signing of
the Agreement on Movement and Access (AMA) on 15 November 2005 between the
Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the ability of Palestinian
residents of the Gaza Strip to access either the West Bank or the outside world
remains extremely limited and the flow of commercial trade is negligible. There
has been no peaceful economic development as envisaged by the AMA but rather a
deterioration in the humanitarian situation and an increase in violence
overall. The economic impact of increased closure of Gaza's crossing points has
contributed to the worsening of the economic situation over the last 12
months. In the Gaza Strip, unemployment levels have risen from 33.1% to
41.8% between 2005 and 2006 and already high poverty levels have gone up.
Here is the truth:
Š 57 Graves dug for Palestinians killed in Operation Autumn Cloud in Beit Hanoun
Š Entire families living on 1000 calories a day, in the filth of overflowing toilets and with contaminated water that sickens children
Š No salaries for over 160,000 government employees since March
Š Garbage in the streets and less than 2 hours of electricity a day
Š And what happened in the home of the Shurafa family in nearby Beit Lahia? Four apartments for four brothers − Khaled, Ibrahim, Nafez and Mohammed and their children, about 50 people in all. A fairly nice-looking apartment building. A missile or bomb fell on it from a plane in the middle of the night.
Š Abed al-Jawad's textile factory was on the outskirts of the Muazi camp. Only the clothing labels can still be seen lying in the sand. Nothing else remains of the factory. It was all demolished and the debris removed. Dozens of sewing machines are no more; 70 people's livelihoods have been crushed by IDF bulldozers.
I want to close by saying some things as a American Jew. Israel is destroying itself. My tradition is based on belief in a universal God who requires social justice. There is nothing Jewish about the actions of the State of Israel toward the Palestinian people. We are using Jewish history – indeed, the Holocaust itself -- to justify the destruction of another people. A common Israeli expression declares, “We have no choice!” -- We have to defend ourselves!” But choices are being made, and it is time for Israel, and the Americans who support its brutal occupation of Palestine, to understand the consequences of these choices. You cannot create your own security by destroying another people. You don’t defend yourself by stealing other people’s land and destroying their homes and their ability to feed their children. As a Jew I call on my coreligionists here and in Israel, who are committed to the survival of Israel, to recognize that Israel’s expansionist course will continue to erode her security. The madness must stop. But our protest is not only based on saying “these actions are crazy and will not work.” I call on my fellow Jews, along with my fellow Americans who believe that Israel’s survival is important, to stand against Israel’s actions, not because these actions “don’t work,” but because they are wrong. If Israel’s survival requires Palestine’s destruction, this is not an Israel that I can live with. And for this I mourn – because the people of Israel do not deserve this. They deserve a government better than the one they have. They, like we here in America, deserve a government committed to Human Rights and to universal principles of Justice. They deserve a government that abides by international law. They deserve a government that does not require mothers and fathers to deliver their sons up to a military machine that kills their souls and warps their futures. Today, here, all of us gathered together in solidarity with all peoples of the region who demand justice and peace, call upon the government of the United States to cease its unconditional, blind, tragic support of Israel’s military crimes and its illegal, expansionist policies in Palestine. Stop the killing. Stop the starvation. Stop the humiliation. We call upon our government to call Israel to account, and to move quickly and forcefully toward a resolution of the conflict and a time of peace and justice for Palestine, peace and justice for Israel. Peace does not come without Justice. No peace without justice! No peace without justice! No peace without justice!
Mark Braverman lives in Bethesda, MD. M_braverman@yahoo.com