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Israelis in the U.S. urge the Jewish community to take a closer look at Gaza

‘We are reaching out to you because we want to re-examine what it means to be pro-Israel or pro-Palestine,’ says a public letter published by Israelis for a Sustainable Future. ‘We argue that these terms might be one and the same.’

A group of Israelis living in the U.S. has published an open letter the the American Jewish community, calling on it to join them in opposition to the war in Gaza and the years-long blockade Israel has imposed on the Strip. While condemning Hamas’ targeting of civilians, the group states that “maintaining the occupation is what this war is all about.”

The group, calling itself Israelis for a Sustainable Future, was started in response to the war, but organizers told me that they wish to continue their activity even if a ceasefire is reached. The appeal to the Jewish community was born out of its engagement and influence over Israel-Palestine, organizers say.

During a temporary ceasefire residents of Khuza'a return to find their homes destroyed and retrieve the bodies of those killed. The temporary ceasefire later fell apart and fighting in the area was renewed, August 1, 2014 (photo: Activestills)

During a temporary ceasefire residents of Khuza’a return to find their homes destroyed and retrieve the bodies of those killed. The temporary ceasefire later fell apart and fighting in the area was renewed, August 1, 2014 (photo: Activestills)

Here is the public letter in its entirely. You can see the list of signatures here, or follow them on Twitter.

We are a group of Israelis currently living in the U.S. We are reaching out to you because we oppose the actions of the Israeli government in operation ‘Protective Edge.’

This does not mean we don’t recognize the threat presented by Hamas to the Israeli people. We oppose firing of weapons into civilian population and the sacrifice of civilians by the regimes of both Hamas and the Israeli government. Calling to stop the bombing of Gaza does not mean we don’t realize the impossible conditions imposed on the residents of southern Israel. Nor does it mean we don’t demand security for them. But we also recognize that their plight is consistently ignored by the Israeli government until it becomes convenient for exploitation. We have seen three major military operations in less than six years. They repeat themselves because they don’t work. Yes, Hamas reserves are temporary depleted and the group is temporarily hindered. But this is not a moral price worth paying. Even if it were, killing thousands of civilians and displacing of hundreds of thousands doesn’t weaken Hamas in the long run. This bloodshed only feeds the one resource it can’t go without: hate. Only meaningful peace talks and an end to the ongoing occupation in the West Bank and in Gaza (a blockade is still occupation) will prevent both the next round of rockets into Israel and the next round of indiscriminate killings in Gaza.

We are reaching out to you because we want to re-examine what it means to be pro-Israel or pro-Palestine. We argue that these terms might be one and the same. We believe that supporting equal rights for both peoples is the only way to build a better Israel and a better Palestine and we want the American Jewish community to stand behind that message.

The belief that being ‘pro-Israel’ means uncritically supporting the actions of the Israeli government and military does not help the Israeli people. The Israeli people do not benefit from being oppressors. Israeli society does not benefit from ruling over 4 million Palestinians. The Israeli soldier does not benefit from risking his or her life in wars that could have been avoided.

The Israeli people gain nothing from perpetuating the occupation. Israeli children learn nothing from being taught everybody wants to kill them. And the Israeli population does not grow stronger from rising aggression within it, from a loss of tolerance and from a surge of violent racism against the Palestinian citizens of Israel.

But maintaining the occupation is what this war is all about. Unfortunately, the regimes in Israel are becoming increasingly cynical, willing to sacrifice as many people as necessary to maintain their position of power and their control over the Palestinian people.

We believe this war could have been avoided. We don’t believe all Palestinians want to kill us. And we are happy to explain where we are coming from.

We believe that a biased media attempts to draw symmetry that does not exist. Just look at the numbers. Look at the pictures. Throwing blame at international criticism isn’t making Israel look any better. Taking action to stop human rights violation would. We obviously do not condone any form of anti-Semitism in this discourse, but we also feel that dismissing the entire discourse as anti-Semitism is not helpful to anyone.

Most of all, we believe that blood is blood, all equal and all worth the same. And we are well aware of what happens when the lives of one people are deemed to be worth less than those of others.

Israel needs your support to break out of the cycle of violence:

We encourage you to tell your community leaders to critically examine the Israeli government policies they rally behind. We urge you to support the moderate voices in Israel, forces that find themselves increasingly under attack by their own government and the Israeli media, and even physically assaulted by right winged vigilantes. We ask you to write to your congressional representatives to share your conviction that Israel can only be safe and prosperous if it stops the killing of civilians, ends the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank and guarantees freedom and equality to all of its citizens. We invite you to start a fruitful dialogue with us.

Thank you,
IFSF | Israelis For a Sustainable Future

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  • COMMENTS

    1. Sami

      Give me a break. Crocodile tears all over the place. They wanted death and not their wish is being delivered. No one care about the Palestinians any more. They yearn for death and cry when they get it. Hamas is a disease and Israel’s bombs are the perfect remedy. Enough with the dead baby porn. That is what happens in war.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ray

        I take back the comment about your parents; it was out of line.

        Reply to Comment
      • Bronwen

        Sami, you are out of your mind.

        Reply to Comment
      • Helen

        Sami, no wonder the world is so messed up with people like you and your obnoxious thinking. Shame on you.

        Reply to Comment
    2. Erica

      Where was this letter published?

      Reply to Comment
      • Pedro X

        It is an on-line thing made up of anti-Israel and anti-occupation individuals.

        Reply to Comment
    3. Hernan Kurfirst

      Comments like the one of Sami, make cristal clear that sionism is a nazi ideology and that Hitler won and continues winning. Most of the jews today are cristianized jews, western white suprematist engage in a crusade, and most of the jewish elite is in the forefront of it togheter with the most reaccionary forces in the west. Lets be clear: they are criminals, just like ISIS or even worst, because they dont have the guts to kill someone with their one hands.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Mari Flors

      Thank you for this very serious and balanced opinion. I have struggled to verbalize what you have written. I support you and am willing to continue this movement toward equitable consideration of both sides.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Boxthorn

      So a bunch of Israelis who fled are giving advice?

      Brave Sir Robin ran away
      Bravely ran away away,
      When danger reared it’s ugly head,
      He bravely turned his tail and fled,
      Yes brave Sir Robin turned about,
      And gallantly chickened out.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ray

        Brave, like the “brave” Jews who fled Europe AFTER the defeat of Nazism?

        Reply to Comment
    6. Gustav

      “We believe this war could have been avoided.”

      Only one way. By allowing Hamas and their cronies to take pot shots at Israeli civilians from here to eternity.

      “We don’t believe all Palestinians want to kill us.”

      I believe that too. But I also believe that enough of them DO want to kill us or at least to send us back to where they claim we belong.

      “And we are happy to explain where we are coming from.”

      I wish they would. For instance, what do they think would happen if we go back to the 1967 lines? This is what would happen:

      We would have to invent an iron dome to intercept sniper’s bullets because sure as hell, those Palestinian Arabs who DO want to kill us would fire bullets at our international airport from the highlands that overlook the airport.

      Reply to Comment
    7. aida shibli

      thank you for this courage, building sustainable future for both sides starts by naming the injustice but does not stop by it, we are a group of Palestinians and Israelis who are for the last 8 years working on creating a living model for sustainability in mater and human please read more about us in http://www.prvme.org and http://www.tamera.org ,we would love to be in contact with you.

      Reply to Comment
      • Zev Davis

        Aida, allow me to ask you a question, and according to the question, i think we might begin to dialogue. From my understanding, this issue is based on counterclaims for the SAME LAND–that is, we are talking about a dispute. For Islam and Arabs, Falastin was granted to them by Allah and for Jews to live there in a duly constituted nation is an insult to the Umma Islamia and the Arab people. The Jewish narrative begins with Abraham and continues to this day. Jews don’t hedge, but for obviious reasons it sounds better if you call the Land of Israel aka the current State of Israel “stolen”, well, it sells better. I am not sure secular Western people by the Allah thing, nor the they accept the God gave Abraham thing, either.

        If it’s “stolen” then the Jewish presence in Falastin/the Land of Israel is illegal, if it’s disputed, that is, we are dealing with a claim for the same turf, you can discuss the issue around a table, or attempt to gain it by force of arms. Palestinian Arabs have tried a number of times and failed to wrest ard-al-Islam aka ard-al-Arab several times, and lost. For some reason they continue to use the force of arms, at least Hamas does. The PlO seems to be backing down on the Allah arguement, and is willing to talk, maybe.

        So far that is what I understand.

        Apart from that, I wonder what you think about this thought. Given that there are secular Moslems in the Palestinian body politic for whom the Allah thing is more “personal”, and less national. I wonder if it were possible that secular Israelis,for whom the God thing is also personal, might come together.

        For the record, the chances of Fundamentalist Arabs have a better chance of acting out their beliefs towards secular Moslems in place where the governance is Arabic, but Jews tend do not tend to be as fastidious about making specifically “religious” laws, except for Israel, in certain case, maintaining the Millet system, from Turkish days, regarding personal status.

        It’s a trade off. In an Israeli governance you don’t get hassled for not covering your hair, or otherwise being a “non-Observant” Moslem. In an Arab Islamic governance there is a chance you may.

        Millions of Moslems in the subcontinent of India remained in the secular Hindu Republic of India where their religion was “their own business” In an Islamic Republic of Pakistan, it would not be necessarily so. if you translate that equation to secular Palestinian Arabs, perhaps a secular binational State where Jews and Arabs live together would be a better option.

        Of course, a Palestian Patriot would have to forgo one of his or her basic ideals, a personal freedom from themselves over a free nation of “their own”, but … sometimes that is the choice.

        Zev Davis

        d2343@012.net.il

        Reply to Comment
    8. Pedro X

      Israelis in US

      I took a quick look at the names of the signers of the on-line letter. Lisa Goldman is one. How is she Israeli? She hails from beautiful British Columbia. She lived briefly in Israel, moved on to Japan and then to the United States.

      I looked at the name of Assaf Oron who says he holds US citizenship and lives in Seattle. He also in an known anti-Israel anti-occupation activist.

      He links to cites like Village Voices and Occupation. The current lead story on Occupation by Harry Seigman of the Norwegian Peace Building Resource Center says Palestinians have a right to violent resistance against Israel. Peaceful?

      Why would anyone in Israel or elsewhere pay attention to these individuals.

      Reply to Comment
      • Goldmarx

        Henry Siegman is a past President of the American Jewish Congress; that’s why he is taken seriously.

        Reply to Comment
      • Pedro, anyone can sign the letter on our website. We don’t ask for proof of Israeli citizenship or amount of time lived in Israel. While it is possible that some of the signatories are not in fact Israeli, we can assure you that the initiators of this letter were all Israeli nationals who have lived in the US for a handful of years, and that our meetings were held in Hebrew (!).

        As is typically the case with group letters, we do not all have the same personal opinions. We as a group do not endorse the views of any individual signatory. (Again, anyone can sign the letter – we can’t screen the signatories.)

        Reply to Comment
    9. Tomer

      Israelis living in US are losers. They have nothing important to tell anyone.

      Reply to Comment
      • Dave

        Except, of course when they buy into your shtick, then they’re ok, eh? I live out in Los Angeles. I know a whole crew of Israelis who live out here who do nothing except pretend they’re living back there. They live in neighborhoods well stocked with plenty of Noa’s, Dan’s, Yair’s and Revitals. During the week they send they’re kids to “Hebrew Immersion Academies” and on the weekends to an Israeli Scout Troop in Beverly Hills. When they go out to dinner, it’s not to sample some of the excellent Mexican food, Thai food, etc, that LA has to offer. It’s to a place called “Itzik HaGadol” for overpriced hummus and salatim in Encino. The only other immigrant group in the US who likes to pretend they’re going home tomorrow are recalcitrant Cubans waiting to restore the re-animated remains of Batista to power. Pathetic. Yeah, they’re losers, but only because they moved 10,000 miles and they’re still trying gain your approval. What a joke.

        Reply to Comment
    10. sharonne meyerson

      it is easy to sit here in the US and criticize israel. maybe you would have something different to say if you still lived there. and just so you know, i left too. i know the downfalls of the israeli govt and the problems and the issues. i am israeli. but to say we should sit there and take it and let hamas kill us – well, that just takes a special person doesn’t it.

      Reply to Comment
      • Sharonne, many of us moved to the US in the last few years and are planning on going back soon. We are in constant contact with our families who live in Israel. Rest assured that their safety, and our own safety when we move back, is a very high priority for us.

        We’re certainly not saying that Israelis should just “sit there and let Hamas kill them”. We believe that true safety for the people of the Western Negev and elsewhere in Israel can only be guaranteed by diplomatic means. And even if military action is occasionally unavoidable, we believe that it must be carried out with the utmost regard to civilian life.

        Reply to Comment
        • Gustav

          @israelis for a Sustainable Future

          “… And even if military action is occasionally unavoidable, we believe that it must be carried out with the utmost regard to civilian life.”

          What more can Israel do to avoid civilian casualties? It announces targets and tells civilians to evacuate (via leaflets, phones etc) before attacking those targets. If they don’t leave, why are the casualties Israel’s fault?

          At other times, shots go astray in response to enemy fire. Can you invent more accurate weapons which never go astray? Are you aware that in the heat of war, armies even inadvertently kill their own? There is a term for it. It’s called friendly fire.

          Fact: civilians die in all wars. Not just in Israel’s wars. NATO too is responsible for many civilian deaths in Afghanistan, Iraq and Serbia. The only way to avoid civilian casualties is to have no wars. So do you think we should just let Hamas take pot shots at us forever, anytime they feel like it?

          Reply to Comment
          • RICK

            The joke about Werner Von Braun, the WWII German scientist who lead the creation of the V2 and then was rehabilitated to help US rocketry later, was an interview; “Dr. Von Braun, isn’t it true that you oversaw the V2 project at Pennemundi that rained terror on London?”..(answer with thick German accent, “We only were responsible for getting the rockets up, not for targeting where they came down.” When several heads of UN schools in Gaza, particularly in Beit Hanoun, stipulated that they had repeated given IDF exact GPS locations of schools multiple times in preceding hours before being repeatedly shelled resulting in dozens of dead children, women, and men, and whole neighorhoods were leveled, the claims of “collateral damage” and such are an insult to our intellegence, and the actions remain an outrage to humanity. Please read the Goldstone Report for exquisite detail of the war crimes commited by Israeli military- the well documented and repeated mass killings. There is no excuse for such actions whatsoever, anymore than there were for MeLai or other imperial /colonial massacres.

            Reply to Comment
    11. Susan

      I have to check out these people further. I opposed the Gaza invasion, but I haven’t found a protest or a group that I could join. They were too extreme and one-sided in their the criticism of Israel, or there were anti-Zionists involved. I would need to see a lot more before I made up my mind.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Shlomo Libeskind

      This could have been a good article had it expanded next into a discussion of just how to secure a just and safe “peace”. Instead we are left with the simplistic idea that if Israel withdraws from West Bank and stops the Gaza blockade there will be peace. In fact, this would be a dangerous step leading toward the destruction of Israel. What is needed is a negotiated withdrawal that guarantees security for Israel, recognition by Hamas and other Palestinian factions, recognition by Israel of a Palestinian state based on the ‘67 borders with a capital in East Jerusalem and minor land exchanges, all internationally guaranteed for both states. In addition there must be a resolution to settle the longtime Palestinian refugees living outside Israel, within the Palestinian state or other Arab states. Because it doesn’t touch on these issues, the article makes it seem as if peace would be a natural sequel to Israel withdrawal from the West Bank and the opening of Gaza. But these two actions taken without the guarantees listed above would give Hamas the opening it is looking for (as stated in their charter) to enter Israel, conduct kidnappings and terrorism within its borders, and bring a reign of terror down on the entire region.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Linda Peacerider

      Beautiful dreaming, but what of the non-stop barrage of Hamas launched bombs into Israel? That FACT is the root of this evil.

      Reply to Comment
    14. bor

      I’m afraid the sentiments expressed in this letter are naive and misleading.

      “We believe that supporting equal rights for both peoples is the only way to build a better Israel and a better Palestine and we want the American Jewish community to stand behind that message.”

      Tha vast majority of the American Jewish community already believes in this ideal. In poll after poll strong support for a two state solution has been evident.

      “The belief that being ‘pro-Israel’ means uncritically supporting the actions of the Israeli government and military does not help the Israeli people.”

      First, it’s never “uncritical.” Usually issues are discussed in great detail and at great length within Jewish publications such as Forward, Tablet, JTA and many local Jewish publications, not to mention blogs.

      Second, supporting Israel and the Israeli government actually helps a great deal. To remind you, along with hundreds of NGOs that stand against Israel, there are also dozens and dozens of governments, thousands and thousands of left-oriented (as well as bigoted) academics, journalists, newspaper publishers and editors, and, of course, the apparatus of the UN. Against all of this, you have a small number of activist Jews and non-Jewish Zionists. Your group would like to even weaken that little bit of support. That seems quite foolish if you are truly concerned about the safety and security of your families in Israel and yourselves if you go back.

      “The Israeli people do not benefit from being oppressors.”

      Nor do they claim to benefit. Barak, Sharon, Olmert and Netanyahu, all elected PMs, have all stated unequivocally that they do not wish to be oppressors of the Palestinians. Of those, two PMs made far reaching peace proposals, one evacuated Gaza and the current PM froze settlement constructions and tried talks on two occasions.

      “Israeli society does not benefit from ruling over 4 million Palestinians. The Israeli soldier does not benefit from risking his or her life in wars that could have been avoided.”

      The vast majority of Israelis, Israeli leaders and American Jews agree on this point.

      “The Israeli people gain nothing from perpetuating the occupation.”

      Unfortunately, Israel’s experience in Gaza disproves this.

      “Israeli children learn nothing from being taught everybody wants to kill them.”

      Then you should ask Arab, Palestinian and Muslim political and religious leaders from teaching this to them. Do you folks not watch the news, read newspapers, surf the Internet and see precisely this threat of people, countries and nations seeking to kill Israelis everywhere?

      “And the Israeli population does not grow stronger from rising aggression within it, from a loss of tolerance and from a surge of violent racism against the Palestinian citizens of Israel.”

      Absolutely true. And, interestingly, Israel’s leadership has said the same. When Khdeir was murdered after the three Israeli teens, the Israeli government at the highest levels declared this crime to be terrorism.

      “But maintaining the occupation is what this war is all about.”

      Absolutely false statement. This operation was about maintaining Israeli security.

      “Unfortunately, the regimes in Israel are becoming increasingly cynical,”

      You need to look up the word regime. It does not apply to Israel’s governments.

      “willing to sacrifice as many people as necessary to maintain their position of power and their control over the Palestinian people.”

      Absolute lie. If this were true, the Israelis would have gone much deeper into Gaza than they did. It appears they did not wish to see more soldiers die and get injured. This disproves your ridiculous and libelous claim.

      “We believe this war could have been avoided.”

      Temporarily, perhaps. But the only difference would have been that in the next few months or year, there would have been an even better armed Hamas engaging in war.

      “We don’t believe all Palestinians want to kill us.”

      Yeah, but the ones who control Gaza do. The ones who don’t have zero control or influence.

      “We believe that a biased media attempts to draw symmetry that does not exist.”

      The media certainly is biased against Israel. Read Richard Behar’s article in Forbes the other day. The media has been shameful regarding this conflict in its anti-Israel bias.

      “Just look at the numbers. Look at the pictures.”

      The numbers? The numbers are provided by Hamas. Their “Health Ministry” provides them. Israel is fighting with the lowest civilian to combatant death ratio in modern times. The pictures are horrifying, but that doesn’t tell us anything other than war should be avoided, which is precisely why you should have written this letter to the Palestinians, to to American Jews.

      “Throwing blame at international criticism isn’t making Israel look any better.”

      It makes no difference whether it makes them look better or not if it’s TRUE.

      “Taking action to stop human rights violation would.”

      Cut it out. Israel isn’t Syria or China.

      “We obviously do not condone any form of anti-Semitism in this discourse,”

      Of course you don’t, but the truth is that you are providing the anti-Semites with great cover. Maybe this is not the time to do so?

      “…but we also feel that dismissing the entire discourse as anti-Semitism is not helpful to anyone.”

      You should tell that to the anti-Israel movement, not to us.

      Your letter is perhaps well-meaning, but it is foolish fluff that doesn’t hold water.

      Most of all, we believe that blood is blood, all equal and all worth the same. And we are well aware of what happens when the lives of one people are deemed to be worth less than those of others.

      Reply to Comment
      • Gustav

        @Bor

        An excellent response. I was thinking of doing the same but you beat me to it. I am glad because you did a much better job to debunk the open letter in this article than I would have.

        Reply to Comment
      • JohnW

        Not Holocaust survivors. Those are the Kapos who survived the Holocaust by turning the whip on their brothers. Now they are doing it again.

        Sponsored by the International Jewish anti-Zionist Network. That says it all.

        Reply to Comment
      • bor

        That letter contains significant errors and lies. Signatories should be ashamed.

        Reply to Comment
    15. Beverly McDevitt

      It gives me hope for Israel, something that I had lost.

      Reply to Comment
      • I cannot believe this is written by Israelis. You don’t have the chutzpah enough to live in 972, it is a disgrace to those brave who are still living and holding on amidst the barrage of rockets. In this piece, you failed to mention that Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, leaving there infrastructure, millions of dollars in a greenhouse industry, and Israel got nothing in return but violence and terror. You should have harbeh boosha al haroshim shelachem!

        Reply to Comment
    16. Iqbal dawood

      I read this appeal to the Jewish community in the USA. I fully agree with what they are saying and urge Jews and Arabs and all Muslims to give positive responses to peace and prosperity for Noth israeli es and Palestinians instead of negative comments.The time is come for Israel and USA to realise the world hates them for their global policies and there is no other choice but to make all efforts to make peace.

      Reply to Comment
    17. CLIFF BELL

      THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM HERE IS WHY DON’T THE PALESTINIANS WORK TO ERADICATE HAMAS? IF THEY DO NOT BELIEVE AS HAMAS DOES, GET RID OF THEM. I AM SURE OTHERS WOULD HELP TO ATTAIN THIS GOAL IF THEY ARE UNABLE TO DO IT THEMSELVES. BUT I THINK THE PALESTINIANS DO NOT DISAGREE WITH HAMAS EVEN IF THEY SAY THEY DO.

      Reply to Comment
    18. Average American

      Let’s take a step back and look at the larger perspective. Like the reason behind Israel’s actions, the objective of Israel, the reason Israel was created. That reason is to expand outward to control all of The Land Of Israel for The Jews. This phrase of The Land is a Zionist phrase and has been used by every PM of Israel, including Netanyahu, so he believes in it too, and is carrying on the same objective. What does the Land Of Israel look like on a map? Just look at the map on Begin’s terrorist Irgun posters. It shows Syria, Lebanon, half of Iraq (to the Euphrates), Jordan, and Gaza too. Some people add the Sinai (to the river of Egypt). What we’re witnessing is Israel’s deliberate advance to that objective, and Israel doesn’t care what it has to do to get there.

      Reply to Comment
      • Kiwi

        You forgot. It also shows the moon.

        But what does your above post show? It shows your stupidity, lies and your hatred.

        Reply to Comment
        • Average American

          That’s all you have to say? A silly comment about the moon meant to deflect the topic. You don’t want to talk about Zionism? Don’t want to talk about race-defined nations?

          Reply to Comment
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