WHAT THEY ARE SAYING?
Coalition of Women for a Just Peace:
March 3, 2002

Friends,

So who's winning?  It's been a blood-soaked weekend:  Since Thursday,
Israeli army killed 26 Palestinians in refugee camps (and 230 wounded), and
Palestinian extremists killed 20 Israelis (and dozens wounded).  Add
that  together and you have a staggering amount of heartache, on either side.

Everybody's losing. Children on both sides, needless to say, were also
killed.  A light has gone out, permanently, for these families.

As I watched the ultra-Orthodox walk around the area of the bomb in
Jerusalem scraping stray bits of flesh off the sidewalk for later burial, two
Israeli commentators explained that this bomb was revenge for the attack on the
refugee camps.  This morning's radio news, however, carried only the
government spin:  The Palestinian bombing in Jerusalem last night would
have taken place whether or not the Israeli army had invaded the refugee
camps.
What are they saying?  Answer:  That our killing has no relationship  whatsoever with their killing.
A theory of cause and no effect.

Do Sharon and his government actually believe that brutality will
convince the Palestinians to give up?  Do the Palestinian extremists actually
believe that suicide bombings will convince Israelis to leave the region? There
is little evidence to support the unusual theory of human nature held by
either side.

Meanwhile, on the Israeli side, more and more people have begun to
despair of  the deepening sea of blood:

* Sharon's popularity rating, as measured by the polls, has dipped
under 50% for the first time since his election.  Smelling opportunity, a group of
powerful businessmen and semi-political academics are brewing a new
political party, intended to present a liberal alternative to the current
Likud-Labor regime (liberal in the original sense -- capitalist, pro-peace -- it's
good for business -- and quasi-democratic, meaning that women, Mizrahim, and
minorities are excluded so far -- to be welcomed when the electoral
blunder is brought to their attention).

* The Saudi Arabian peace initiative is a wonderful opportunity.
Although Sharon will easily sidestep it politically, my hope is that his
determination to brush it off will expose him to more Israelis as "not a partner for
peace" -- unwilling to negotiate territorial compromise of significance, even
in exchange for Israel's lifelong dream: peace with all its neighbors.

* Israeli peace organizations and human rights movements have
intensified their activity -- marches, vigils, ads in papers, public campaigns.  A
peace march last night organized by Peace Now, but attended by members of many
other peace organizations, continued its rally, despite the bodies
exploding a few streets away, the speakers stating boldly and courageously, in the

Israeli reality, that the root of the violence is the brutal Israeli
occupation.  In a few hours, another rally with the same message will
take place in Tel Aviv.

* The number of Israeli combat officers and soldiers who refuse to serve
the occupation has risen above 300, and continues to shake the foundations
of belief that Israel has been engaged in an "enlightened occupation". The
army has launched a campaign to delegitimize them, so far jailing two, but
voices in support have also been sounded.

I'll close with one such voice -- an excerpt from an op-ed in today's
Ha'aretz newspaper written by Michael Ben-Yair, Israel's Attorney
General from 1993 to 1996, on the subject of occupation and whether or not the
soldiers who refuse to serve in the army are indeed lawbreakers:

"...This is a harsh reality that is causing us to lose the moral base of
our  existence as a free, just society and to jeopardize Israel's long-range
survival. Israel's security cannot be based only on the sword; it must
rather be based on our principles of moral justice and on peace with our
neighbors - those living next door and those living a little further away. An
occupation regime undermines those principles of moral justice and prevents the
attainment of peace. Thus, that regime endangers Israel's existence.

...It is against this background that one must view the refusal of IDF
reservist officers and soldiers to serve in the territories.  In their
eyes, the occupation regime is evil and military service in the occupied
territories is evil.  In their eyes, military service in the occupied
territories, which places soldiers in situations forcing them to commit
immoral acts, is evil, and, according to their conscience, they cannot
be party to such acts.  Thus, their refusal to serve is an act of
conscience that is justified and recognized in every democratic regime.  History's
verdict will be that their refusal was the act that restored our moral
backbone."

May it restore our moral backbone, amen.
 

Gila Svirsky

Jerusalem

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Coalition of Women for a Just Peace:

http://www.coalitionofwomen4peace.org \