Coastal Post Online

December 2000

Israeli Peace Movement Growing

By Karen Nakamura

A Vietnamese exchange student recently made a simple but profound statement when speaking of the Vietnam war. "We were fighting for our independence."

One of the only positive pieces of news coming out of the latest Israel-Palestine conflict is the increased support for Palestinians rights coming from the Jewish community, both in Israel and the greater world community.

The influential Peace Now faction in Israel has come out publicly for the immediate dismantlement of settlements in heavily populated areas of the West Bank and Gaza according to the New York Times. In an ad placed in both the Israeli and Palestinian papers, the organization called for the stopping of expansion of settlements and the cessation of the financial incentives granted to settlers by the Barak government. A line from the ad admonishes, "No future with the settlements."

Peace Now has help from such grassroots organization as Four Mothers, which had formerly pushed for Israel to get out of Lebanon and has turned its attention to getting settlers to withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza. While at first reluctant to criticize the Israeli government, the Jewish left is now bringing to a fore one of its oldest precepts; settlers are an impediment to peace.

Locally, Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun magazine, the Jews for Justice organization and the local Peace Now have all called for a just peace. They've been holding rallies and teach-ins to pressure the United States to stop funding the Israeli military and calling on the Israeli government to stop its strong-arm tactics. In the same vein, KPFA's Dennis Bernstein conducted an excellent series of interviews with Barbara Lubin, former Director of the Middle East Children's Alliance who recently returned from one of her numerous trips to the area and who has seen first-hand the atrocities being committed by the Israelis in the name of security.

In the meantime, a poll, taken the second week of November, of 1234 Palestinians in the West Bank by the Bir Zeit University, showed that only 3 percent want peace talks to continue under the direction of the United States. They feel the United Nations or some other such entity should take over. At the same time, 75 percent support military attacks against the US's presence in the Middle East. They do, however, support the concept of peace; just not the direction the United States and Israel are trying to push it. This direction may best be defined as "peace by surrender" and is verified by Israel's insistences that the Palestinians lay down their slingshots while the Israelis add more and nastier weapons to their arsenal.

This "peace by surrender" tactic is a favorite of oppressors towards those they're attempting to oppress. It was recently used in Northern Ireland and earlier by the Nazis at the Warsaw Ghetto. The Nazis even built a wall like that suggested for Palestine. Needless to say, the wall got smaller and smaller as the population within was starved and murdered, just like within the borders of Palestine. A father and son here, another couple teen-agers there can add to the extermination rate pretty fast.

In Israel, with Ariel Sharon refusing to allow his Likud party to join in a coalition government, Prime Minister Ehud Barak, at the time of this writing, is trying to bring about a coalition with the Shas, United Torah Judaism and Meretz parties to create a safety net cabinet. Interestingly, Meretz leader, Yossi Sarid, told settlers seeking greater protection by the Israeli military that "The settlements that are currently in the eye of the storm endanger, first and foremost, their own residents but also endanger soldiers, We think that these settlements, despite the discomfort, need to be uprooted immediately."

This so-called "emergency security cabinet" is notably made up of religious elements such as the Shas Party, a left leaning but extremely Orthodox organization. It has been pushing for monies to fund the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the educational network run by Shas. These two departments are on Barak's civil reform list for elimination. It is the Ministry of Religious Affairs that has kept Israel under its religious thumb.

So, while settler Uri Ariel, Mayor of the Beit El, declared in November that "the army should wipe all [the four Palestinian Fatah Tanzim offices] of them out...," Rabbi Arok Ascherman of Rabbis for Human Rights and other Israeli human rights activists helped farmers in the village of Hares pick their olives.

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