THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN CONFLICT
Successive Israeli governments and the world Zionist movement have
consistently denounced their critics as anti-semites and blamed the
Palestinians for the failure to reach a negotiated settlement. We
emphatically reject these assertions. We do not dispute that 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 on-going violence. The fundamental cause of the conflict is Israel's
occupation of Palestine, and the suppression of the Palestinian struggle for
In November 2000 the Israeli cabinet considered a document prepared
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 honour 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
Henry Siegman, former Executive Director of the American Jewish Congress,
observes correctly that this statement "goes to the very heart of the
conflict and extracts the poison buried there". The establishment of the
State of Israel in 1948 inflicted a great injustice on the Palestinian
people, compounded by the subsequent Israeli rule of the Occupied
Territories and denial of the legitimate claims of the Palestinian refugees.
A recognition of the fundamental causes of the on-going violence does
constitute anti-semitism. Nor does it amount to a denial of Israel's right
to exist. Rather, it constitutes an urgent call on the Israeli government
to redress injustice and satisfy legitimate claims, without which peace
negotiations will fail.
2. The Holocaust Compels us to Speak Out:
All Jews live in the shadow of the Holocaust. For some of them, the
overriding lesson is that survival is the highest morality. They seek to
justify Israel's intransigence in peace negotiations and application of
excessive force against the Palestinians on these grounds. Other Jews
believe that the Holocaust compels them to support justice and freedom from
persecution for all people, regardless of their nationality, ethnicity or
religion. We stand firmly in this camp.
3. Repression Intensifies Resistance:
After the suffering experienced by Jews in Europe during Nazism we are
utterly appalled at the ruthless security methods employed by the Israeli
government against Palestinians. These include the deployment of
bull-dozers, machine guns, tanks and helicopter gunships and the use of
lethal force, as a matter of policy, even against civilians armed with
stones and slings; targeted assassination of opponents, the doctrine of
"collective punishment" of Palestinian communities, demolition of homes and
olive groves, the stringent curfews, and roadblocks making normal life
impossible; the ritual of control and humiliation. These intolerable
strategies together with the growing number of provocative Jewish
settlements in the West Bank, undermine the legitimacy of the Israeli
government and its negotiating position and give rise to intensified
resistance that will continue to grow.
We take note of the fact-finding report by members of South Africa's
Parliament who visited the Middle East in July 2001. Their 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
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.
4. 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 inescapably
intertwined. Neither group will be secure for as long as the other is
insecure. There is consequently no viable alternative to a negotiated
settlement that is just, that recognises 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 will have it, the better neighbour we shall have".
We fully agree, but it is incumbent on Israel, the dominant force and power
over the Palestinians to demonstrate its serious intent in this respect.
What is more if Israel is to become a respected society it must grant
equal rights to all who dwell within its borders - Christians, Muslims and
non-believers alike who are victims of discriminatory treatment and laws.
5. A Call for Peace and Security:
Israel carries a great responsibility to improve the dangerous state
affairs, in the Middle East and internationally, by recognising the
legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and creating the basis for peace
We fully support the joint call to the international community by Presidents
Bouteflika of Algeria and 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
We call on South Africans of Jewish descent, and Jews everywhere, to
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
6. As an immediate step toward peace we call on the Government of Israel:
* To resume and sustain negotiations with the Palestinian authority
* To conduct negotiations within the framework of the relevant resolutions
of the United Nations Security Council, and of Resolution 242 in particular.
* To conduct its security operations with restraint and in accordance
international humanitarian law.
* To work in partnership with the Palestinian leaderships to build a
peace on the basis of reconciliation.
We appeal to South Africans of Jewish descent to join us in signing