We joined the protest against Tsipi Livni — here’s why
We joined the protest against Tsipi Livni — here’s why
The Sydney Left Jewish Collective and Jews Against the Occupation were strongly opposed to our community’s hosting of former Israeli Foreign Minister, Tsipi Livni in Sydney last week, and were proud to join the wider protest against her visit.
We did so for a very simple reason: Ms Livni, by her own admission, has taken actions that potentially amount to war crimes. We’re pretty sure most Jews don’t think war criminals should be given the red carpet treatment. And we are frankly dismayed that our community leadership has become so numbed to the excesses of Israeli militarism, that they think a leader responsible for the indiscriminate killing of civilians is an appropriate guest at a community event, let alone a Jewish day-school.
‘Operation Cast Lead’
Almost 11 years ago, over three weeks in December and January 2008 and 2009, Israel dropped 1500 tons of explosives on Gazan neighbourhoods, as part of ‘Operation Cast Lead’. Explaining Israel’s military strategy a month later, Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai said: “We have to determine a price tag for every rocket fired into Israel … even if they fire at an open area or into the sea, we must damage their infrastructures and destroy 100 houses.”
In case there is any doubt, houses are where families live.
Then-Foreign Minister Tsipi Livni wholeheartedly agreed. During the bombardment of Gaza on January 12 she declared: “Hamas now understands that when you fire on [Israel’s] citizens it responds by going wild, and this is a good thing.” A week later, just after fighting ceased, she asserted her role in directing Israel’s response: “Israel demonstrated real hooliganism during the course of the recent operation, which I demanded.”
As a result of this ‘wild’, ‘hooligan’ response, up to 900 Palestinian civilians were killed, including hundreds of children. We say to Tsipi Livni: Wild hooliganism in military action has another name: war crimes.
We note that arrest warrants for Ms Livni have been previously issued in Britain, Belgium and Switzerland for her alleged role in shaping Operation Cast Lead.
This eruption of violence did not occur in a vacuum. It followed a 4 month ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. As is the case with many past ceasefires between these parties, the peace was broken by Israel, when an Israeli military raid killed a Hamas fighter near the Gazan town of Deir al-Balah on November 4, 2008.
And it occurred 18 months into the punitive military and economic blockade of the Gaza Strip, which Israel imposed after Palestinians in Gaza aided Hamas to victory in Palestinian Legislative Council elections — rather than Israel’s preferred victor, Fatah.
This blockade, a human rights catastrophe in itself, continues today, imprisoning almost 2 million people behind wire, gunboats and snipers. It has regularly prevented the importation of even the minimum amounts of food and supplies, as calculated by the Israeli military itself, necessary to avoid starvation, let alone maintain basic standards of health and wellbeing. The blockade has intentionally immiserated the Gaza Strip for 12 long years. It must end immediately.
‘Operation Cast Lead’, just like the blockade, was intentionally disproportionate and punitive — as Yishai and Livni’s comments made clear.
But it is no surprise that the harshest military policies are visited upon Gazans, the majority of whom are 1948 war refugees whose homes now lie inside Israel. Gaza is the current front in Israel’s continuous war on non-Jewish demographics, in the maintenance of a Jewish majority, as Israel’s recent indiscriminate shooting of protesters at the Gazan border has made clear. These refugees must be allowed to return home.
Some may point to Livni’s involvement in peace negotiations as a positive. However, it is clear that Livni has never been willing to consider the compromises — on settlements, on sharing Jerusalem, and on refugees — that are necessary for a true peace. Rather, her motivations have been the segregation of Jewish and Palestinian populations, as quickly and cheaply as possible. Ms Livni also continues to defend Israel’s military excesses against Gaza.
We are well aware that our views on Israeli politics are at odds with those who style themselves our Jewish communal leadership. We do not accept the dispossession, oppression and destruction of Palestinian communities. And we know that our communal leadership does not represent or reflect the community’s diversity of views.
However, we are confident that all Australian Jews agree on the unacceptability of indiscriminate attacks on civilians. If architects of terrorism against Israeli civilians were hosted in Australia, Jewish communal bodies would be outraged, and we would join them.
It is past time for our community institutions to grapple with the long history of Israeli military ‘hooliganism’. Israeli leaders responsible for atrocities, for war crimes, for the indiscriminate killing of civilians — whether by rifle, bomb or missile — must not be welcomed in our community. Ms Livni must not be welcomed, should not have been welcomed.
As we are taught: לֹא תַעֲמֹד עַל דַּם רֵעֶךָ
Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbour. Preserve life. Every person killed in this conflict is a life abandoned. Every civilian killed especially so. The callous disregard of Israel, and our community leaders, to the loss of Palestinian lives is a stain on our soul and a betrayal of our values. And that is without mentioning the Jewish and other lives that Israeli leaders have been willing to sacrifice for extreme ideological or political aims.
We call our appointed leadership back to the path of righteousness. We condemn the Israeli military’s murderous hooliganism, and reject all who enable it. They are not welcome here.