Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Open Letter to the People of Gaza

Dear Friends of Citizen Voices

Please read and sign and/or reply to the letter below. You may pass it along to like-minded people but please keep in mind that its critical stance toward Israel will not be helpful to those who cannot tolerate such criticism. We need to engage them differently, especially Jews, many of whom I believe are still traumatized, if only secondarily, from the Holocaust. That doesn't excuse what the Israeli government has been doing but I don't want to intentionally provoke someone whom I know can't tolerate, for what ever reason, the truth.

Also note that I was advised to leave out the word "jihad" by someone because westerners tend to associate it with terrorism and violent resistance. I decided to keep it in because the letter really is to Gazans who know or should know its true meaning as "righteous struggle", i.e. like what CJME and other peace and justice groups have been doing.

Shalom and Salaam,

Jim Fleming


Dear Friends,

We, citizens of the United States, are deeply saddened and disturbed by the recent destruction of your homeland and killing of your people by the Israeli Defense Forces, an action which has been shamefully funded and justified as "defense" by our own government. The massive killing of civilians and destruction of infrastructure in Gaza is yet another cruel blow by the Israeli government against the Palestinian people. Such rampant escalation of violence and destruction, coming on the heels of an inhumane and prolonged blockade, can not be tolerated and must not be repeated.

Right now most of the Arab and Muslim world and much of the rest of the world is outraged by Israel's aggression which the U.N has condemned as out of proportion to the rocket attacks fired by Hamas fighters. Even though the official response of the new U.S. administration has been little different from that of previous ones, there is likely to be a shift toward a more critical posture toward Israel.

Ironically the humanitarian crisis and the greater than 100:1 ratio of Gazan to Israeli deaths in this conflict puts Gaza and Hamas in a position of advantage in the eyes of the world. Israel has clearly overreached; Israel has clearly been the primary aggressor. In the eyes of the world Palestinians are being seen as the real victims. Sadly, but in truth, this situation presents an opportunity to build support for a true Palestinian state, however this advantage will certainly vanish if there are renewed attacks on Israel including by rockets and suicide bombings.

We are not being moralistic here. It is not a matter of whether renewed attacks are justified or not. It is a matter of practicality. It is a matter of innocent lives being saved. Moreover, the cause of justice for Palestinians will not be served by more attacks on Israel which is likely to unleash more attacks on Gaza and cause potentially sympathetic countries including the U.S. to withdraw from support for a Palestinian homeland. The Hamas leadership knows these attacks inflict no significant damage on Israelis as a whole or on Israel's military machine. They only inflame Israeli hatred. But the most potent weapon Israel has at its disposal is the term the "terrorist". Once this potent word is uttered, the dialogue is over and somehow the rationalization for anything Israel does is made in the name of "defending itself".

Israel's inhumane policies and actions in the Occupied Terrorities are already being compared to the apartheid system of South Africa and their recent attacks on Gaza could clearly be characterized as "terrorist" in nature. But those with the power in the region, especially the U.S. are not ready to apply these damning labels yet, labels which have been shown to be capable of toppling powerful, repressive and unjust regimes.

The anguish and rage which must be felt by your people is difficult for most of us in the U.S. to understand and it is impossible to say how any of us would respond if we too had been subjected to decades of indignities. A natural reaction would be to strike back. Unfortunately there are many Israelis who would welcome another opportunity to punish the Palestinians, perhaps even harder--amazingly a large majority of Israelis supported the recent attacks and invasion of Gaza. But the Hamas leadership could make a strategic decision to denounce attacks on Israel and take steps to be sure attacks don't occur on their watch. If they do, their status will rise in the eyes of the world and Israel's oppressive behavior will be highlighted. Already there are calls for prosecution of israel for war crimes and support for a thorough investigation of the recent massive, almost month long Israeli aggression will not be silenced as long as Gazans are shown to be
focused on recovery and peace rather than revenge. Support for Palestinians will increase and support for the apartheid structure will crumble. Further, those groups in Israel, now a minority, which are promoting peace and justice for Palestinians will rise in status and become real players in the Israeli government.

The suffering and oppression of your people and that of all Palestinians must stop. We support you in your struggle for justice but righteous struggle, jihad, need not be violent. Violence only breeds more violence--until one side decides to cease. It take great courage and strength, but non-violent struggles do succeed.

In the name of the innocent people who died in the recent onslaught in your homeland; in the name of peace and justice for your children and ours; in the name of God who is Merciful; we urge you and your leaders to use the power of words and the power of non-violence resistance to set a new course for peace and justice in your region. We will support you. The world will support you. We beg of you: seize this opportunity for change.

In Peace and Solidarity,

James L. Fleming, M.D.






1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sending a message to Palestinians in Gaza