The following statement, co-written by MP Ronnie Kasrils, minister of Water Affairs and Forestry, and Max Ozinsky, member of the Western Cape Legislature, was issued on October 23, 2001. Source: Not in My Name, South Africa.
We the undersigned are compelled to express ourselves on the Israeli Palestinian conflict as a matter of conscience and concern for the safety and well-being of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples and for world peace.
- THE FUNDAMENTAL CAUSES OF THE CONFLICT
- We assert that the fundamental causes of the current conflict are Israel’s suppression of the Palestinian struggle for national self-determination and its continued occupation of Palestinian lands.
- We do not dispute that certain sectors of the Palestinian population have resorted to terror, and we condemn indiscriminate killings of civilians from whatever quarter. Yet this is not the root cause of the problem.
- The state of Israel was founded as a homeland for the persecuted Jews of Europe. It came into being as a result of a war of independence. The action of the British, in assuming that Palestine was theirs by colonial mandate to dispose of, inflicted a great injustice on the Palestinian people. This was compounded by the subsequent Israeli rule of the Occupied Territories and the denial of the legitimate claims of the Palestinian refugees.
Recognition of the fundamental causes of the ongoing violence does not constitute anti-Semitism. Rather, it constitutes an urgent call on the Israeli government to redress injustice, uphold human rights, and satisfy legitimate claims, without which peace negotiations will fail. Nor does it amount to a denial of Israel’s right to exist. It recognizes that such negotiations require that the Western powers, the Arab states and the non-aligned states through the aegis of the United Nations guarantee the mutual security of the state of Israel and the state of Palestine.
- OUR HISTORY COMPELS US TO SPEAK OUT
All Jews live in the shadow of the Holocaust. For some of us, the lesson of that tragedy has been that survival is the highest morality. For others of us, the lesson is that Jews must support justice and freedom from persecution for all people. Many feel torn between these two. But we believe that Jewish survival and the fulfillment of Palestinian national aspirations are not mutually exclusive goals. We believe that the path forward is through championing the legitimate desires of the Palestinian people, and we reject an approach that is guided by existential fear and which sacrifices principles of justice in the name of collective survival.
- REPRESSION INTENSIFIES RESISTANCE
In light of the suffering that we Jews have experienced ourselves, especially in the past century, we object to the ruthless security methods employed by the Israeli government against Palestinians. These include the deployment of bulldozers, tanks, helicopter gunships, and fighter planes; the use of lethal force, as a matter of policy, even against civilians armed with stones and slings; the targeted assassination and extra-judicial killing of political leaders and activists; the “collective punishment” of Palestinian communities; the demolition of homes, destruction of farms, and uprooting of olive groves; and the stringent curfews and roadblocks that make normal life impossible and create a daily ritual of control and humiliation. These intolerable practices, together with the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements, invite condemnation of the Israeli government and give rise to further resistance against it.
- In November 2000 the Israeli cabinet considered a document prepared by the prime minister’s office on alleged transgressions by the Palestinians. The acting foreign minister, Shlomo Ben-Ami, opposed the distribution of the document on the grounds that no one would be surprised that a people under occupation had failed to honor its agreements with its occupier: “Accusations made by a well-established society about how a people it is oppressing is breaking rules to attain its rights do not have much credence.”
- We take note of the fact-finding report by members of South Africa’s Parliament who visited the Middle East in July 2001. The report observes: “It becomes difficult, particularly from a South African perspective, not to draw parallels with the oppression experienced by Palestinians under the hand of Israel and the oppression experienced in South Africa under apartheid rule.”
- We are committed to justice and freedom for pragmatic as well as ethical reasons. Oppression almost always gives rise to rebellion and thereby threatens the security of the oppressor. Repression and reprisals in response to rebellion provide no relief. They only deepen, broaden and prolong the cycle of violence and counter-violence. The notion that security can be achieved through reliance on force is demonstrably false, as the struggle against apartheid testified.
- The struggle against apartheid also demonstrated that successful resistance to oppression depends on a coherent non-violent strategy alongside the armed struggle. Palestinian intellectual and activist Edward Said recently wrote: “The answer to our needs is in principled resistance, well-organized civil disobedience against military occupation and illegal settlement, and an education system that promotes co-existence.” We also note that the key to successful resistance in South Africa was a commitment in good faith by the resistance movement to the suspension of the armed struggle once negotiations had begun. This commitment has also recently been made by the Irish Republican Army in Northern Ireland.
- We note that Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat has repeatedly condemned terrorism, and we call on him to pursue every effort to end terrorist acts committed by some sectors of the Palestinian population. President Mbeki has provided moral guidance by stating that “no circumstances whatsoever can ever justify resort to terrorism.” We note that Chairman Arafat is only able to rule with great difficulty in the Palestinian areas and hope that the situation in the Occupied Territories improves to the point where the Palestinian leadership can offer security guarantees to the Israeli people. But this will be impossible to achieve in the context of current Israeli policies – especially the expansion of settlements, the aggressive and pointless reprisals, and the collective punishment of the Palestinian people for individual acts of terror.
- THE SECURITY OF ISRAELIS AND PALESTINIANS IS INSEPARABLE
We understand the fears of Jews in Israel and their longing for security. The security of Israelis and Palestinians, however, is inseparably intertwined. Neither group will be secure as long as the other is insecure. There is consequently no alternative to a negotiated settlement that is just, that recognizes both Palestine and Israel as fully independent sovereign states, and that provides for peaceful coexistence and co-operation between these states. It is only on this basis that peace and security can be achieved. Shimon Peres recently stated: “We want to see an independent Palestinian state successful, flourishing. We think that the better the Palestinians have it, the better neighbor we shall have.” We fully agree and stress that it is incumbent on Israel, the dominant force and power over the Palestinians, to demonstrate its serious intent in this respect.
- We also call attention to the insecure status of Palestinians and non-Jews living within Israel’s 1948 boundaries. We insist that Israel take steps to guarantee the full and equal rights of all who dwell within its borders – Jews and non-Jews alike.
- A CALL FOR PEACE AND SECURITY.
Israel carries a great responsibility to improve the dangerous state of affairs, in the Middle East and internationally, by recognizing the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and creating the basis for peace and stability.
We fully support the joint call to the international community by President Bouteflika of Algeria and President Mbeki of South Africa in October 2001 to ensure that peace be restored to the region through dialogue and negotiations. We support their call for the withdrawal of the Israeli forces from the Palestinian Territories.
We call on South Africans of Jewish descent, and Jews everywhere, to raise their voices and join with all governments and people in support of justice for Palestine and peace and security for all in the Holy Land. This is a vital step towards reducing the grave threat of international disorder and anarchy which the September 11 terrorism in the USA has so horrifically demonstrated.
- AS AN IMMEDIATE STEP TOWARD PEACE, WE CALL ON THE GOVERNMENT OF ISRAEL:
- To resume and sustain negotiations with the Palestinian Authority in good faith.
- To conduct negotiations within the framework of the relevant resolutions of the United Nations – Resolutions 242 and 338 in particular – and expanding on the proposals tabled at negotiations in early 2001.
- To conduct its security operations with restraint and in accordance with humanitarian law.
- To work in partnership with the Palestinian leadership and the international community to build a lasting peace on the basis of reconciliation and realizing the solution of two independent states living side by side in friendship and cooperation.
Israel-Palestine Conflict: Declaration of Conscience
The following is the text of an address to the South African National Assembly by MP Ronnie Kasrils at the launch of the declaration by South African Jews under the banner NOT IN MY NAME in Cape Town and Johannesburg on December 7, 2001.
In just six weeks a statement on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict issued by Max Ozinsky and myself has attracted 220 signatories – from South Africans of Jewish descent. Some of us are fully practicing Jews and others, like Max and me, not so, but we are all proud of our Jewish origins and feel compelled to speak out, in the name of justice and as an act of conscience, against Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territory and cruel suppression of the Palestinians’ struggle for national self-determination – which we cite as the fundamental cause of the conflict.
Our signatories include veteran activists who fought against Hitler and who continued to fight for South Africa’s freedom throughout their lives. Our signatories include several generations of South African Jews who were heroically involved in the struggle against apartheid from the 1950’s through to the early 1990’s. Our signatories are veteran activists who have retired from public life but remain activists; and later generations of writers, journalists, artists, film makers, economists, educationalists, researchers, analysts, social and political scientists, labor organizers, government officials, politicians and business people, who in one way or another are making a dynamic contribution to the life of our newly democratic country.
Amongst us is a Noble prize-winner and one of our country’s foremost writers, Nadine Gordimer; a popular satirist and cartoonist, Jonathan Shapiro (Zapiro); a cabinet minister and members of Parliament; a number of the 1956 Treason Trialists; a Rivonia trialist, Dennis Goldberg, sentenced to life imprisonment with Nelson Mandela; and Arthur Goldreich, an escapee from that Rivonia saga who settled in Israel but joins us as a signatory; and many younger signatories who experienced detention and imprisonment in apartheid’s prisons.
What is most significant of this list of conscience is that virtually all our signatories have participated in the struggle against apartheid over the years leading to our country’s freedom in 1994. Then as now we represented a tiny minority of whites who as a matter of conscience broke ranks with our supposed blood ties and pigmentation to protest against the brutal violation of human rights in the name of our tribe and race. Then and now we could not lend our names to the oppression of other human beings on the grounds that survival of our kith and kin was at stake, and that our unquestioning support and unity was necessary regardless of the methods used.
Then and now we saw that as morally shameful and an abrogation of the lessons of anti-Semitic persecution down the ages, and the ghastly nightmare of the Holocaust. We grew up with the question: Why had the German people remained silent at the evil being implemented in their name? The eternal answer of humanity has always been [this]: To remain silent in the face of evil is to condone evil. We by no means equate Hitler and Israel, but Israel’s measures to oppress the Palestinian struggle are an intolerable abuse of human rights, so we raise our voices as Jews and cry out – “Not in my name.” And we join with all those in the world demanding justice for Palestinians and peace and security for all in the Holy Land – Christians, Jews, Muslims and non-believers.
In so doing we do not turn a blind eye to Israel’s suffering and agony and sense of vulnerability. We are equally concerned that both Israelis and Palestinians should live in peace and security. We decry the loss of innocent lives on both sides. We unreservedly condemn terrorism in all forms, be this the state terrorism of the Israeli government or the individual acts of suicide bombers or the killings carried out by Jewish settlers. We agree with the president of our country, Thabo Mbeki, in defining terrorism as the indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians irrespective of the cause such acts are meant to serve.
Our position is that the only answer to this bitter and bloody conflict is through the so-called two-state solution in terms of the various U.N. resolutions. Palestine must be accorded its full independence and sovereignty as a contiguous, territorial state, and the existence of both Israel and Palestine must be internationally recognized and guaranteed. We stress that this must include recognition of both by the Arab states.
To effect this, Israel must withdraw its troops from Palestinian territory, and both sides must commit themselves to peace talks in terms of the Oslo process. Ours is therefore hardly a radical position but almost a universally adopted one. (In fact our argument has not been countered by our detractors in South Africa, who have concentrated on personal vilification instead.) To break out of the cycle of violence requires good faith by both sides, but we say that Israel, as a virtual colonial power and with overwhelming resources, should show magnanimity and take the moral step of leading the way.
Time is running out, and Israel must pull back from its present perilous stance of ignoring the Oslo process and proclaiming, as [Ariel] Sharon does, that there can only be a military solution. This has failed time and time again, not only in the Middle East, but in every other colonial-style situation in history, including South Africa. As Jews, we are deeply concerned that this military path will in the long run imperil the very existence of the state of Israel, whatever its short-term tactical gains might be. History shows that the violent repression of a people only breeds more intensive resistance. And that is exactly what has led to the often-desperate measures of Palestinian resistance.
The just struggle of the Palestinians for human rights and national independence has brought the Holy Land to the point of truth. As Yitzhak Rabin stated, “enough of blood” in advocating the “peace of the brave.” As South African Jews we support such a courageous initiative, which was tragically cut short by a Jewish terrorist and urgently needs to be rekindled. Our stance is neither anti-Israeli nor anti-Jewish. We call for justice and fairness for both Israelis and Palestinians. We may be a minority of South African Jewry at present, but throughout history change has come about by the conscience of a minority seeking the truth, a minority often ridiculed and ostracized but never cowed into silence. South Africa’s history is proof of that.
So where to, for the 220 who have signed thus far?
First: our signature campaign continues and will grow. We have just begun. Our actions thus far and today’s events in Cape Town and Johannesburg are the beginning and will grow. Our raised voices are reaching many other members of the community, who are deeply disturbed by Israel’s action and who are not being assisted by their spiritual leaders, who themselves are insensitive and out of touch with the challenges. We will reach those fellow Jews, and our list of signatures will grow.
Second: we will engage with the members of the community but not in an environment of hostility – not as party to emotional and pointless slanging matches, but rather in the spirit of honest and critical debate, which was once the hallmark of a vibrant Jewish life in South Africa but which has sadly withered away under the stifling leadership of conservatives and reactionaries. We will build up our support essentially through workshops and house meetings and will debate under civilized rules.
Third: we will link with the peace movement in Israel and struggling Palestinian organizations, and we will join hands with like-minded groups in the Diaspora. Our vision is that of an international movement calling for justice for Palestine and peace and security for Israel and Palestine.
Fourth: as South Africans, we will not confine ourselves to the Jewish community. We will join forces with all our countrymen and women and mobilize for a just and peaceful solution to the conflict in the Holy Land.
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