Revised version, June 1:
We regret and deplore the killings which took place as Israeli troops, in defiance of international law, boarded and assaulted, wounded many and killed some of the participants in a flotilla seeking to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza (itself a morally outrageous policy) to bring humanitarian aid. We ask all people of peace to participate in memorials for those peace activists who have been killed (and we call upon all synagogues around the world to say Kaddish for those people at their Shabbat services this coming weekend), and for prayer for the speedy recovery of all those wounded in this attack (mostly peace activists, but also the Israeli soldiers who boarded the boats with violence).
We invite all peace-loving people to attend a public memorial for those who died in this assault in Lafayette Park opposite the White House on Sunday, June 13, at 11 am – 2 pm, sponsored by Tikkun, the Network of Spiritual Progressives, and many other groups, and which will include a larger consideration of U.S. policies. Memorial prayers and prayers for healing will be said at 1 pm.
We call upon Israel to conduct an objective, credible investigation to determine all the levels of responsibility for this criminal act, and to punish those from the top of the government down through the IDF who were responsible. If the past is any guide to the present moment, the Israel hasbara (public relations “explanation” operation) will now be working full time to put the blame on the people who sought to bring aid to Gaza, claiming that they were the violent ones and maybe even claiming that they were bringing military equipment or something of the sort.
Yet there was no need for any of this to have happened. Israel could have waited for the boats to arrive at shore and then sent military to search what was being brought to Gaza to ensure that it was in fact humanitarian aid. Moreover, as the Israeli peace movement Gush Shalom pointed out on May 31, the core of the issue remains Israel’s attempt to starve and punish the entire population of Gaza for the activities of Hamas.
We call upon the international community to stop the blockade and, if necessary, to introduce an international force into Israel/Palestine to protect each side from the other, and then to implement the creation of a two state solution, freeing both sides from the violence of the other, and giving to each side the security and self-determination to which both sides are entitled. We call upon President Obama to use this moment to take decisive steps to create the Palestinian state while providing Israel with all necessary security, and providing the Palestinian people with protection from those in Israel who have used violence to prevent Palestinian national self-determination. We continue to abhor and denounce those in Israel and those in Palestine and Gaza who resort to violence to achieve their ends, including some in Hamas and including some Israeli settlers. We acknowledge that the Israeli treatment of Gaza cannot be understood separate from the violent attacks on Israeli civilians from the shelling of Israeli cities from Gaza, nor that shelling understood apart from the blockade of Gaza by Israel, nor that violence from Gaza apart from the violence of the Occupation, nor the Occupation separate from previous acts of violence by Palestinians, nor that previous violence separate from the larger context of the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians by Israel during the founding of the State, nor that expulsion separate from the hostility of Palestinians to the creation of the State, and the story goes on and on. It’s time to stop with the blame game and simply put an end to the struggle on both sides.
We continue to support the State of Israel’s right to exist as a homeland for the Jewish people, and for Palestine to exist as a homeland for the Palestinian people and the right of current Palestinian/Arab Israeli citizens to continue to reside in Israel as well as be accorded equal rights with its Jewish citizens. The violence must stop. The peace process is going nowhere. The time for decisive action to impose a just and peaceful resolution to the conflict arrived decades ago, and must be grabbed now. What level of barbarity needs to happen for the U.S. and the international community to act decisively? How many more deaths?
We mourn the lives lost, the many who have been wounded, including both those on the humanitarian aid mission and Israelis sent by a crazed and irresponsible government into actions that put their lives in danger. Israel’s security was never threatened by this flotilla of humanitarian aid, and it was only macho political motivations that led Israeli leaders to order this insane assault. Israel deserves better than Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, and the world has to recognize that this current Israeli government will never bring peace or stability to the Middle East. While we continue to deplore Hamas and all that it has introduced into the equation, complicating attempts to make peace and doing what it could to stir hatred, and while we call on Hamas to free IDF soldier Jonathan Shalit, we believe that the world and the Israeli people and the Palestinian people deserve peace and justice, and that it is our human obligation to bring that to the peoples of the Middle East. A first step is to end the blockade of Gaza. We call upon all who protest Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza to maintain a strict non-violent discipline, and to affirm the humanity of all sides in this conflict (including that of soldiers in the Israeli army, religious fundamentalists both Muslim and Jewish and Christian, Gaza residents who tragically support Hamas, American Jews who walk lockstep with Israel, Israelis who shut their eyes to the suffering they are causing to the Palestinian people, and the list goes on), even as we insist on bold and compelling action to stop the conflict. May God guide us.