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by Jeff Halper
CounterPunch 5 August 2008


Only We Can End the Conflict
An Israeli Jew in Gaza

sail to gaza

(from Sameh Habeeb’s

In another few days, I will sail on one of the Free Gaza movement boats from
Cyprus to Gaza. The mission is to break the Israeli siege, an absolutely
illegal siege which has plunged a million and a half Palestinians into
wretched conditions: imprisoned in their own homes, exposed to extreme
military violence, deprived of the basic necessities of life, stripped of
their most fundamental human rights and dignity. The siege violates the most
fundamental principle of international law: the inadmissibility of harming
civilian populations. Our voyage also exposes Israel’s attempt to absolve
itself of responsibility for what is happening in Gaza. Israel’s claim that
there is no Occupation, or that the Occupation ended with “disengagement,”
is patently false. Occupation is defined in international law as having
effective control over a territory. If Israel intercepts our boats, it is
clear that it is the Occupying Power exercising effective control over Gaza.
Nor has the siege anything to do with “security.” Like other elements of the
Occupation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, where Israel has also
besieged cities, towns, villages and whole regions, the siege on Gaza is
fundamentally political. It is intended to isolate the
democratically-elected government of Palestine and break its power to resist
Israeli attempts to impose an apartheid regime over the entire country.

This is why I, an Israeli Jew, felt compelled to join this voyage to break
the siege. As a person who seeks a just peace with the Palestinians, who
understands (despite what our politicians tell us) that they are not our
enemies but rather people seeking precisely what we sought and fought for –
national self-determination I cannot stand idly aside. I can no more
passively witness my government’s destruction of another people than I can
watch the Occupation destroy the moral fabric of my own country. To do so
would violate my commitment to human rights, the very essence of prophetic
Jewish religion, culture and morals, without which Israel is no longer
Jewish but an empty, if powerful, Sparta.

Israel has, of course, legitimate security concerns, and Palestinian attacks
against civilian populations in Sderot and other Israeli communities
bordering on Gaza cannot be condoned. Under the Fourth Geneva Convention,
Israel, as an Occupying Power, has the right to monitor the movement of arms
to Gaza as a matter of “immediate military necessity.” As activists
committed to resisting the siege non-violently, I have no objection to the
Israeli navy boarding our boats and searching for weapons. But only that.
Because Israel has no right to besiege a civilian population, it has no
legal right to prevent us, private persons sailing solely in international
and Palestinian waters, from reaching Gaza – particularly since Israel has
declared that it no longer occupies it. Once the Israeli navy is convinced
we pose no security threat, then, we thoroughly expect it to permit us to
continue our peaceful and lawful journey into Gaza port.

Ordinary people have often played key roles in history, particularly in
situations like this where governments shirk their responsibilities. My
voyage to Gaza is a statement of solidarity with the Palestinian people in
their time of suffering, but it also conveys a message to my fellow

First, despite what our political leaders say, there is a political solution
to the conflict, there are partners for peace. The very fact that I, an
Israeli Jew, will be welcomed by Palestinian Gazans makes that very point.
My presence in Gaza also affirms that any resolution of the conflict must
include all the peoples of the country, Palestinian and Israeli alike. I am
therefore using whatever credibility my actions lend me to call on my
government to renew genuine peace negotiations based on the Prisoners
Document accepted by all Palestinian factions, including Hamas. The release
of all political prisoners held by Israel, including Hamas government
ministers and parliamentary members, in return for the repatriation of the
Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, would dramatically transform the political
landscape by providing the trust and good-will essential to any peace

Second, the Palestinians are not our enemies. In fact, I urge my fellow
Israeli Jews to disassociate from the dead-end politics of our failed
political leaders by declaring, in concert with Israeli and Palestinian
peace-makers: We refuse to be enemies. Only that assertion of popular will
can signal our government that we are fed up with being manipulated by those
profiting from the Occupation.

And third, as the infinitely stronger party in the conflict and the only
Occupying Power, we Israelis must accept responsibility for our failed and
oppressive policies. Only we can end the conflict.

In the Israeli conception, Zionism was intended to return to the Jews
control over their own destiny. Do not let us be held hostage to politicians
who endanger the future of our society. Join with us end the siege of Gaza,
and with it the Occupation in its entirety. Let us, the Israeli and
Palestinian peoples, declare to our leaders: we demand a just and lasting
peace in this tortured Holy Land.

Jeff Halper, the head of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions,
was a nominee for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. He can be reached at

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