Thursday, January 8, 2009

Resistance to the war

These pieces are organized around the theme of resistance. They discuss various actions, initiatives and statements by Jews and Israelis who are speaking out and acting in solidarity with Palestinians who are struggling to keep themselves and their families alive in Gaza. There are many suggestions for actions that you can take.


(1) Tom Pessah, an Israeli doing a PhD in the US, writes another update on protests and people inside of Israel. His attention to nuance and detail make this description extraordinary. Rebecca Vilkomerson attended the rally too and reports that the number was closer to 500 people (Pessah reports about 100): "it was also noteworthy that there were so many women and children at the rally, which despite all the police who were present, gave the rally a rather gentle presence, and unlike in Tel Aviv, there were no counter-protesters throwing eggs, so all in all it was one of the more pleasant demo experiences recently."

(2) On conscientious objection and military refusal:
Not long before this new war broke out, scores of young Israelis had declared their refusal to serve in an occupation army and several of them were imprisoned for weeks and months. Known as Shministim, these young refusers inspired an international campaign on their behalf, which culminated in the December 18th delivery of more than 20,000 letters calling for their release from jail delivered to the Israeli Ministry of Defense. (see for reports, news coverage, and video of the refusers themselves; thanks to Jewish Voice for Peace for organizing this great campaign.)

Now there's a new war, and new military refusers. Courage to Refuse (Ometz L'Sarev) is a group that formed in 2002 during the second Intifada to support and advocate for combat soldiers and officers to refuse to serve in the Occupied Territories. More than 600 soldiers signed their petition and many served jail terms instead of fulfilling their reserve duty in the West Bank or Gaza. (see their 2002 "Combatants' Letter" here: Courage to Refuse has now reemerged after a few years' hiatus to again call on combat soldiers and officers to refuse to serve in this Gaza war. Below is their new call to action and an announcement of their demonstration outside the Ministry of Defense in the heart of Tel Aviv, as well as an appeal for funds. Courage to Refuse reports that many of their members have already received call-up orders to report to their units and at least three have already refused and await sentencing.

Sarah Anne Minkin

(3) The next piece below reports on a group of Canadian Jewish women who have occupied the Israeli Consulate in Toronto! We wish them well!

(4) The final piece is a letter to the editor of the San Francisco Chronicle by JVP's Carol Sanders. It is a beautifully eloquent rejoinder to the argument we hear so often these days, the argument that invites you, in the absence of any historical or political context, to identify with Israeli civilians in Sderot experiencing the daily threat of missile fire.

(5) American Jews for a Just Peace ( is initiating an emergency campaign to send an 'Open Letter to Israeli Soldiers' from the international Jewish Community. Their goal is to obtain hundreds of signatures from Jews around the world, and raise enough money to publish the letter in Israeli newspapers. See below for the text of the letter and information about how you can sign on.

(6) Finally, here is something you can do now: call the Obama transition office number and leave a message. It is easy to do, the number is: 1-202-540-3000; press 2 you will get a staff member who will take a message from you:

Here are examples of things you can say (but feel free to add or embellish):
a) Obama's silence is being seen as condoning Israel's war on Gaza.
b) He should break his silence to call for an immediate ceasefire, even if it is not a "durable one". Scores of people are dying everyday and to not demand a ceasefire is to say that their deaths do not count. Also, ceasefires, even if imperfect, can work to drastically reduce death, injury, fear and trauma.
c) Gazans are in dire need of food, medical supplies and food. Even if Israel allows trucks in, without a ceasefire, distribution is almost impossible.

Judith Norman

The pieces follow:

Tom Pessah piece more on anti-war protests in Israel 010709

Yesterday I attended a rally in Jaffa against the war. Even the main streets in the Arab part of Jaffa are narrow and traffic is slow, so I had plenty of time to look at the buildings around me. I have seen these houses dozens of times, but until yesterday I hardly reflected about how many of them must have originally been residential. Now some are shops, and many are empty. I must admit that until recently I looked at them as "ottoman houses", interesting relics from another historical period. I am only gradually realizing that the original inhabitants of these houses may still be alive, and many of them may currently be in Gaza. In 1948, most of the Palestinian inhabitants of Jaffa fled under heavy bombardment. They escaped in fishing boats, many of them becoming refugees in Gaza – literally "thrown into the sea".

Noga Kadman has recently brought out an excellent book in Hebrew, "BeTzidei HaDerekh U-BeShulei HaToda'a" (At the Side of the Road and at the Margins of Consciousness), which helps explain how a well-meaning and relatively informed Israeli like me could be so ignorant of the history of the city I grew up in. One chapter is about how the Arab names of destroyed Palestinian communities were replaced by Hebrew names, another is about signs in parks and hiking routes (which never miss any reference to the biblical period or to the crusades, but almost never mention Arab or Palestinian presence in these same places only a few decades ago), and the third is about the (non-)representation of the previous inhabitants in publications of kibbutzim and moshavim (different types of Jewish rural communities).

Einat Lieder has an exhibition in a Tel Aviv gallery with jewelry in the shape of the six Palestinian villages that used to exist within Tel Aviv' boundaries – Summeil, Sheikh Muwwanis, Salama, Manshia, Jammusin, and Abu Kbir. This is in Hebrew, but you can see the photos - . For more details on these villages, see .

The Jaffa rally wasn't huge (probably 100 people, at most), but I was very happy to see some of the people in it. Sami Abu Shehade used to study with me in Tel Aviv University, and came with other veterans of Balad/alTajamu3, the national Palestinian student group that often maintained a friendly rivalry with Hadash/alJabha, the Arab-Jewish communist group I was affiliated with. Sami was recently harassed for organizing protests, woken up in the middle of the night by police and then released. Here is a detailed report in Haaretz - . The police is claiming some threw stones, but there has not been a single report in the Hebrew media about stones being thrown in Jaffa. It seems just like the usual trick of labeling political activists as violent terrorists.

I was also very happy to see Haggai Matar, whom you can always spot easily by his red beard. Haggai, who spent several years in jail for refusing, has just been incarcerated again for three days, after a non- violent and non-obstructive protest outside an airforce base. Rebecca Vilkomerson says that "the arrest and aftermath of the 19 activists from Anarchists Against the Wall who did a "die in" at Tel Aviv's air force base, was extraordinary. There is a video of the arrest (in hebrew) and it clearly shows them being ordered to move to the sidewalk, doing so, and then being arrested anyway (see video at . They were held for an un-precedented three days before being charged, and in the meantime activists' homes have been entered, computers have been taken, and even additional arrests have been made by the police. The Anarchists have been one of the most effective groups
working against the Occupation, and my sense is that the state is taking this opportunity to both to try to deter others from civil disobedience as well as try to do damage to the group, under cover of the invasion and less outcry on invasions of civil liberties in a "democracy.""

The organizers of the Jaffa protest made an admirable effort to shout slogans that would reflect the diversity within the crowd of protestors. We heard the Hadash/alJabha hit "yehudim, aravim, mesarvim lihiyot oyvim" (Hebrew – Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies), as well as "min Ghazze liJenin, sha3ab wah7ad ma biylin" (Arabic – from Gaza to Jenin, one people shall not break), "ta3ish wa-ta7ya Falastin" (Long Live Palestine), and even a few "Allahu Akbar"s (God is Great). This last one felt strange to me, but I realized that it must have felt as strange for the many communist Christians present. Several supporters of Israel's Islamic Party showed up with green flags.

The Jews were also a diverse group. Consider the elderly gentleman who handed me a flyer in Arabic from the "Committee for Israeli- Palestinian Dialogue, Founded by Members of [Jewish] Oriental Communities". The use of the older term "Edot HaMizrach" (Oriental/ Eastern Communities) distinguished him from the younger student activists who would be more likely to call themselves "mizrachim" (Easterners). And I could write an entire blog on the disproportionate representation of the (mostly, but not exclusively Jewish) GLBTQ community, so much so that a lesbian friend told me on Saturday (at the big Tel Aviv rally) she was relieved to see so many straights come out and protest (even if they did prevent her from staring at some gorgeous dykes).

Coming back from Jaffa I met up with my Palestinian (citizen of Israel) friend M., whom I knew from university. She had just come back from work, hosting Jewish-Arab dialogue groups, very bravely encouraging people to bring their racism to the surface so that it can be discussed. On the one hand, everyone around her is glued to AlJazeera, watching the terrible pictures from Gaza, and getting thoroughly depressed. On the other hand, she still had enough compassion in her to tell me she feels sorry for the Israeli soldiers who had been killed that day, their lives wasted by politicians who promise that this last bit of violence is just what we need to solve the problems of the Middle East. Next week she plans to visit children from Gaza who are being treated in local hospitals.

What else? Ometz LeSarev (Courage to Refuse), who have not been active for several years, are now renewing their calls on Israeli soldiers to refuse, and are organizing a protest in front of the Ministry of Defense on Thursday at 6 (I may post more on that). The university campuses are still very active, and several students have been arrested for demonstrating without a permit (yet another well-known trick for silencing people -,7340,L-3651484,00.html) Here is a report on a rally in Haifa itself - , and I hear one is getting organized in Beer Sheva, which is now within the range of the qassam rockets. There is another one this evening in Tel Aviv, and I assume there will be a big one on Saturday – they get bigger each weekend.

I will be leaving Israel before the weekend demo, but I recommend these blogs, if you want to follow what's happening - ,, .

To end with an observation: many of the people I know have either completely checked out, or are glued to the TV. Neither of these things are going to make you feel better. I really recommend phoning up some friends and figuring out something you can do together. None of us can wave a magic wand to stop this, but any little bit of pressure counts, and could actually save lives.

We need to listen to each other, to figure out ways of building coalitions, to respect and protect each other, Arabs and Jews. The politicians aren't going to do it for us, but we really are smart enough to figure it out ourselves. This could be an opportunity to get more involved, to make a difference, to meet really unusual people: why not give it a shot?


(2) Courage to Refuse statement
We will not take part in the campaign of destruction.

We, officers and soldiers of the IDF,

who hold dearly the security and the future of the State of Israel,

who understand that the attack in Gaza exarcerbates the conflict and will bring many more years of missiles on widening parts of the population, and has laid an unbearable catastrophe upon the people of Israel and the Palestinian people,

we understand that revenge is not security, and that the IDF's operation in Gaza perpetuates the conflict and does not contribute to solving it.

We declare that we will not take part in the campaign for destruction in Gaza.

To sign this declaration, to help in organizing the rally, or to obtain assistance for those who are facing trials, call Noam Livne, David Zonesheine or Arik Diamant (phone numbers attached).

Rally opposite the Ministry of Defense, Thursday 1/7/09 at 6 PM.


Dear supporters,
It's been almost four years since we sent our last newsletter. The "Disengagement" plan seemed to crush the Israeli peace camp and silence any discussion on the morality of the occupation and the siege on Gaza. Refusal became irrelevant to the Israeli public discourse. Sadly, we had to close our offices for lack of funds and public interest.

Some of us continued our activity from within other groups such as Physicians for Human Rights, Yesh Gvul and Combatants for Peace. Others receded to caring for their families and developing their carriers. Lately, however, we've been summoned again to play a role in our country's politics. The brutal, unprecedented violence in Gaza is shocking. The false hope that this kind of violence will bring security to Israelis is all the more dangerous. We cannot stand aside while hundreds of civilians are being butchered by the IDF.
A few years older, hopefully a little wiser, the core members of Courage to Refuse have decided to resume activity and play once more a part in fighting for peace and democracy. This morning we published an ad in Haaretz calling soldiers to refuse to bomb Gaza. At least three soldiers have already refused to participate in the Gaza campaign and are on their way to prison. The rest of us will be demonstrating in front of the Ministry of Defense in protest of the IDF's murderous activity in Gaza this upcoming Thursday.

We turn to our supporters, in Israel and abroad, to help us in financing our activities(ads and demonstrations). We are making great efforts to re-establish an online donation service that will be 501c3 certified. Until then we urge all those capable of helping to send an email to with your name, phone number and the sum you are willing to donate. We will contact you and guide you in placing your donation.
Please help us bring change. Thank you, Arik Diamant Courage to Refuse
mobile: +972-522-754-528



Arrests underway in Toronto Israeli Consulate Sit-in Toronto: Wednesday January 8, 2009 Time: 11:20 am Police have moved in to arrest a group of Jewish Canadian women who are currently occupying the Israeli consulate at 180 Bloor Street West in Toronto. The women took their action in protest against the on-going Israeli assault on the people of Gaza.

The group is carrying out this occupation in solidarity with the 1.5 million people of Gaza and to ensure that Jewish voices against the massacre in Gaza are being heard. They are demanding that Israel end its military assault and lift the 18-month siege on the Gaza Strip to allow humanitarian aid into the territory. Israel has been carrying out a full-scale military assault on the Gaza Strip since December 27, 2008. At least 660 people have been killed and 3000 injured in the air strikes and in the ground invasion that began on January 3, 2009. Israel has ignored international calls for a ceasefire and is refusing to allow food, adequate medical supplies and other necessities of life into the Gaza Strip. Protesters are outraged at Israel's latest assault on the Palestinian people and by the Canadian government's refusal to condemn these massacres. They are deeply concerned that Canadians are hearing the views of pro-Israel groups who are being represented as the only voice of
Jewish Canadians. The protesters have occupied the consulate to send a clear statement that many Jewish-Canadians do not support Israel's violence and apartheid policies. They are joining with people of conscience all across the world who are demanding an end to Israeli aggression and justice for the Palestinian people.

The group includes: Judy Rebick, professor; Judith Deutsch, psychoanalyst and president of Science for Peace; B.H. Yael, filmmaker; Smadar Carmon, an Canadian Israeli peace activist and others. Spokespersons for the group will be outside the Israeli consulate: Dr. Miriam Garfinkle: 416-731-6605 Cathy Gulkin: 416-697-0768 Release is online at

Imagining Gaza

In her piece defending Israel's assault on Gaza ("Hamas' zero-sum game," Jan. 5), Fania Oz-Salzberger begins by inviting us to "imagine your next-door neighbor [Gaza] ... pulling out a gun and shooting into your [Israel's] windows ...."

This neighborly metaphor lacks a few touchstones, so let us back up for just a moment. First, imagine that you have stolen the land of your neighbors and their families and built mansions for yourself where their homes used to be. Then imagine that your neighbor's home is filled to the rafters with those family members whom you forced to flee, most of them children.

Then imagine that for a long time now, using the mightiest weaponry in the world, you have surrounded and trapped your neighbors in their backyard, so that they cannot leave to get food, water or medical care - let alone go to school or find a job. Then imagine that you have also prevented anyone from entering to help them out.

Now feel free to imagine your windows getting shot at.


(5) American Jews for a Just Peace ( is initiating an emergency campaign to send an Open Letter to Israeli Soldiers from the international Jewish Community. Our goal is to obtain hundreds of signatures from Jews around the world, and raise enough money to publish the letter in Israeli newspapers.

We ask that you do the following:

1) Broadcast this announcement as widely as possible to your mailing lists, encouraging people to sign the letter and, if possible, to donate money to cover publication expenses.
2) Contact us if your organization wishes to be listed as an official sponsor. This can be done by sending an email to
3) Donate money to help us publish the letter in Israeli papers. In the event that we are unable to raise sufficient funds, we will donate all monies that are collected to New Profile and Yesh Gvul. AJJP will collect all money through our PayPal account. Full disclosure will be available to all who ask.
4) Send this letter to all other Jewish organizations around the world for which you have an email address.
The letter can be found at

In addition, we call to your attention another letter, which we encourage you to support. It can be found here:

We Jews must speak up to halt the atrocities that are being committed by the Israeli military. Please join us in this important appeal.

Thank you,

Joel R Finkel, for the Coordinating Committee of AJJP
Open Letter to Israeli Soldiers

Jews call on Israeli soldiers to stop war crimes

We Jews in the international community call upon Israeli soldiers to raise the Black Flag of Illegality over the operations against the people of Gaza.

We refuse to remain silent while Israeli leaders force Israeli soldiers to commit war crimes: crimes against humanity for which they will one day be called to account. Israeli soldiers of conscience can, and must, stop this dangerous, illegal, and immoral war.

This criminal activity does nothing to advance the health and welfare of Jews. Rather, from Sderot to Sydney, from Ashkelon to Amsterdam, we will all benefit when there is justice for Palestinians.

Therefore, we call on you to use all measures possible to stop these atrocities against the Palestinian people. Flagrantly illegal orders must not simply be disobeyed, but actively and effectively opposed.

We members of the international Jewish community call on you, the Israeli soldiers of conscience, to halt the Israeli war machine, which only you can, and must, do.



Jewish Peace News editors:
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Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
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