Calling for Peace in Israel & Palestine

As the Israeli invasion into Palestinian cities and towns continued to grow more brutal in early April, the Peace Council Steering Committee decided to act. Plans were quickly laid to write a position statement and to organize a local rally calling for a just peace. As organizing for the demonstration began, we were contacted by local Arab-Americans who were also grappling with how to respond. We collaborated with them on planning the rally described below.

Hundreds Rally
in Downtown Syracuse

Nearly 300 Central New Yorkers rallied at the Federal Building in downtown Syracuse on April 11 to call for:

· The US government to withdraw its veto in the UN Security Council which has prevented the sending of an international protection force to Palestine

· An immediate Israeli withdrawal from the Palestinian areas it has invaded

· An end to violence against civilians on both sides

· An end to the 35-year Israeli occupation and the dismantling of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories

· International recognition for a secure state of Israel and the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem

The turnout from the Arab-American community was very strong, bringing a real sense of outrage and urgency to
the situation. Some signs and
chants did not represent the position described above. However, we worked effectively with our partners in the Arab-American community to maintain the primary message—calling on the US government to take action in support of a just peace settlement.

Peace Council Statement on Israel-Palestine

April 7, 2002

The Syracuse Peace Council calls for an immediate halt to the violence in the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel, including a full Israeli withdrawal from the recently invaded Palestinian towns and cities. This is the first step toward a just peace settlement—one whose goal is the creation of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, living side-by-side with an internationally-recognized and secure Israel.

President Bush has given tacit
approval to Ariel Sharon's bellicose policies over the past 18 months. Despite Bush's simplistic pronouncement that "enough is enough," we have little confidence that the Bush administration will effectively use its considerable influence over the Israeli government ($3 billion in aid annually) to press for a just peace. We demand that the United States withdraw its UN Security Council veto which has prevented the sending of an international protection force to Palestine. Such a force is vital to safeguarding Palestinians. In the current climate, an international conference or stronger UN role is necessary to move the peace process forward.

We mourn the terrible loss of life on both sides and deplore the violence against innocent civilians. Palestinian parents have seen their children gunned down by Israeli soldiers, while Israelis have seen their loved ones blown to bits by suicide bombers. It should be clear to all involved that the current approaches are only making the problem worse.

We join the call for Palestinians to halt suicide attacks. However, we support the Palestinians' continuing struggle for self-determination. History has shown that the world ignores the plight of oppressed people unless they openly challenge the denial of their fundamental human and national rights.

It is difficult for most of us in the US to fathom the daily humiliation and degradation Palestinians have suffered for the last 35 years under military occupation. Their land has been carved up by Israeli settlements and bypass roads, while thousands of homes have been demo-lished and thousands of acres of orchards and agricultural fields destroyed. Military checkpoints prevent people from getting to jobs, schools, shopping, etc. The despair created by such conditions, combined with a moribund peace process, fuels hatred, revenge and suicide attacks.

Examples demonstrate the brutal nature of the Occupation: at least 27 Palestinians died after soldiers delayed or prevented them from reaching the hospital from the beginning of the intifada through March 13, 2002 (from B'tselem, the premiere Israeli human rights group); when Israeli troops invaded Ramallah on March 29, they took over the Palestinian Broadcasting System and broadcast pornographic films (a profound affront to Muslims).

A rising number of Israelis recognize that the Occupation endangers them rather than increasing their security. Tens of thousands of Israelis have demonstrated against the occupation, including a growing list of nearly 400 military reservists who have publicly declared their refusal to serve in the Occupied Territories, stating in part:

We, combat officers and soldiers… were issued commands and directives that had nothing to do with the security of our country, and that had the sole purpose of perpetuating our control over the Palestinian people…

We, who sensed how the commands issued to us in the Territories, destroy all the values we had absorbed while growing up in this country.

We hereby declare that we shall
not continue to fight this War of the Settlements.

We shall not continue to fight beyond the 1967 borders in order to dominate, expel, starve and humiliate an entire people.

Recently over 2,000 Jewish and Arab peace activists in Israel were prevented by Israeli soldiers from delivering food and medical supplies to Ramallah. Thousands have persistently reached out to each other across the Jewish/Arab divide; working for peace and recon-ciliation.

Just as the Peace Council condemned the US government's military response to the attacks of September 11 as counterproductive, we recognize that Israel's assassinations, invasions of cities and destruction of civilian infrastructure will only escalate the cycle of violence in that region. This mimicking of US actions in Afghanistan is one of the many negative outcomes of the US "war on terrorism."

Governments act on principle only when they face strong citizen pressure. Now is the time for us to act on the best of our ideals—a commitment to equality and freedom for all people.

Syracuse Peace Council
Steering Committee

What You Can Do

1) Plug into ongoing organizing efforts, contact the Peace Council, or come to the May 23 potluck.

2) Speak out, write letters to the editor, talk to friends, family and co-workers about the issue.

3) Call on government officials to:

a) Immediately send international monitors to the region to end the terrible violence.

b) End the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem—the root of the problem.

Contacts:

President George Bush
202-456-1111
president@whitehouse.gov

Secretary of State Powell,
202-647-8156 or 202-647-6575 x 3
Secretary@state.gov

Congressman Walsh
202-225-3701
local: 423-5657
rep.james.walsh@mail.house.gov

Senator Clinton
202-224-4451
local: 448-0470

Senator Schumer,
202-224-6542
local: 423-5471
senator@schumer.senator.gov