Tuesday’s Austin American-Statesman arrived on local doorsteps with an op/ed by Bernice Hecker of the newly formed Austin chapter of the national organization Jewish Voice for Peace. Read the full article below or at the Austin American-Statesman.
Tuesday, March 31, 2015 print edition
The hearts of many Jews here in the U.S. were broken earlier this month when they heard the results of the Israeli elections. Netanyahu’s party, the right-wing Likud, not only got more votes than any other party but prevailed after he announced that there would never be a Palestinian state on his watch and that the Arab citizens of Israel did not deserve to vote. He thundered, “The rule of the right wing is in danger, the Arab voters (citizens of Israel) are moving in droves to the ballot boxes, the leftist associations are busing them in, the Arabs are coming to the ballots.”
Can you imagine the uproar there would be if a candidate for president in our own country gave a speech warning about black, Asian or Latino voters going to the polls?
We in the Austin chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace have been paying attention for some time to the plight of Palestinians in Israel as well those in Gaza and the occupied West Bank. We are not surprised but are deeply saddened. This is a moment of reckoning for Americans, particularly American Jews: Given the racist incitement and rejection of the two-state solution, American Jews and others who express support for peace will need to rethink their relationship to an Israeli government that is explicitly anti-peace. As Israeli journalist Noam Sheizaf wrote, “For years we have been hearing that Israel will either end the occupation or cease to be a democracy. Could it be that the Jewish public in Israel has made its choice?” What will be the choice of the Jewish public in the U.S.?
After the recent elections, it is now evident that Israel’s policies on settlement expansion, the ongoing siege of Gaza, periodic senseless cycles of warfare and systematic discrimination will not change without strong actions from the international community. From B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories: “The election results show, loud and clear, that the voting public in Israel favors the ongoing occupation in its present form: a military rule that denies basic rights to millions of people, settlement expansion and its inverse, the expropriation of Palestinian lands and the dispossession of its owners, and an entire occupation apparatus that entrenches two separate legal systems, unjust military courts, and a permit regime controlling most aspects of Palestinian life.”
The verdict is brutally clear. Millions of Palestinians who live in Gaza and the occupied West Bank and who have lived for more than two generations under Israeli control again did not get to cast a ballot in an election that impacts their daily lives and their future in the most fundamental way.
For those of us who grew up being taught that Torah and righteousness would emanate from Jerusalem, we now are forced to recognize instead that arms sales, racist policies and hatred are the reality of Israel today. The recent election reaffirmed that which Jewish Voice for Peace has been saying for quite some time: External pressure is the only way to end Israel’s endless settlement expansion and separate and deeply unequal apartheid system.
As Jews say about difficult but worthy endeavors, “It is not incumbent upon us to finish the work, but it is incumbent on us to start,” and, “If not now, when?”
The Austin chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace welcomes Jews and others who want to reconcile Jewish upbringing and traditional beliefs with the political realities in Israel. Jewish tradition inspires us to work for peace, social justice, equality, human rights, respect for international law and a U.S. foreign policy based on these ideals.