Tuesday, May 21, 2002

Speech by Reuven Kaminer at the PDS and Peace Movement demonstrations in Berlin

As a veteran activist in the Israeli peace movement and the Israeli leftallow me to greet you in the name of a vibrant, growingly militant and dedicated community of protest composed of hundreds of thousands women and men in Israel who have come to this conclusion:

The 35 year old occupation of the Palestinian territories, an occupation that manages to combine almost every ugly form of repression: the denial of human and national rights, the closures which jail the populace in their own neighborhood, village or town; the curfews which choke off any kind of normal existence and make the tasks of daily life into a vale of suffering. Military incursions aimed at the entire civil population under the guise of the fight against terror. Checkpoints that turn the freedom of movement into a ghastly joke, into a long unending battle against daily frustration. Targeted killings designed to humiliate the Palestinian community and to demonstrate its helplessness against the operations of the NATO-scaled army which calls itself for some inexplicable reason, the Israeli Defense Forces.

This 35 year old occupation which affects primarily the 3.5 million Palestinians living under occupation is also directed against the best interests of the people of Israel. This occupation is wrecking our economy, spreading unemployment and poverty, this occupation is poisoning public discourse with more and more chauvinist, racist and McCarthyite tendencies. This occupation is debasing the humanist traditions of Judaism and the democratic heritage of the Jewish people and polluting our culture with militarism and fanatic fundamentalism. And worst of all, this horrible anachronism, this ugly attempt to go back and remain in the era of colonialism, this occupation is also costing the lives of more and more of our sons and daughters and of more and more of our citizens.

As a veteran activist I call on you to pay your respects to different contingents of the peace community:
Let us honor WIB, who have been maintaining a weekly vigil in Jerusalem at Hagar Square and all over Israel against the occupation since the first days of the first Intifada back in December 1987. WIB stand at their posts rain or shine, winter or summer, but even more important, WIB stand at their post even after a terrorist attack has resulted in the death of tens of civilians less than a few hundred meters from their vigil. Women in Black stand at their post even when demonstrating settlers confront them when they exploit a funeral to launch their complaint against the government.

It is not an accident that many women’s peace groups have built on their stubborn devotion and unlimited dedication to build a broad coalition of womens’ peace groups in Israel, it is not an accident that almost 150 WIB groups are meeting and demonstrating against war and violence in countries all over the world.

Let us honor Tayush, (which means partnership in Arabic) a product of the current Intifada, a group built organically from its very inception of the active participation of Israeli Jews and Israeli Palestinian Arabs. Every weeks hundreds activists load up truckloads of food and medical equipment and travel to the heart of the occupation, to areas under closure and siege and demand their human right to extend humanitarian assistance to isolated villages. Going through the IDF barriers or around them, with or without permission of the IDF, the trucks get thru, Israelis and Palestinians meet and talk about a better life and a better future, one based on equality and human dignity for all.

Let us honor the many hundreds of Israelis who have announced to their country and to the whole world that they have the courage to say no and that they refuse to be soldiers in a never ending dirty war, that is pushing the country to the brink of more and more serious war crimes. Let us honor the veteran refusenick group Yesh Gvul, which has been educating reservists that they do not have to and should not fulfill illegal and immoral orders. Let us honor the establishment of a refusenick organization of almost one hundred twelfth graders who have announced to the mobilization authorities that they just won’t go or that they will enter the army when and if the army promises not to send them to the territories. And let us note an even more remarkable development, the officers’ letter, signed by now by more than four hundred reservists with backgrounds of distinguished combat experience. There are more than forty refusenicks languishing in Israeli military prisons from all three groups and the military prison is the school which is teaching them how to unite and how to fight the occupation together in more and more effective ways.

I would like to mention the hundreds of devoted activists of Peace Now whose movement has joined the call to get out of the territories for the sake of Israel and return to the negotiating table. Just ten days ago 100,000 Israelis returned to Rabin Square to declare that they have overcome the myths and lies of the Barak era and they have come to the realization that the key to peace is in Israeli hands and the path is blocked by the Sharon-Peres government which prefers settlements and annexation till the bitter end!!

There are tens of other important groupings such as Gush Shalom whose clear messages inspire all sections of the movement, there are important human rights groups such as B’tselem working to get out the truth about what is going on…but I cannot mention them all.

But I want to tell you a secret about the occupation. You know that Sharon runs the occupation. You know that Peres runs around doing apologetics for its continuation. You know the Labor Party is co-responsible for the continuation of the occupation because they insist on remaining in the national unity government. But the secret is that the occupation belongs to George W. Bush. It is Bush’s occupation because he pays for it, he writes the checks and he supplies the military arms and the strategic cover for it, he supplies the falsehhoods and prevarications that the occupation is about the fight against terror. He is one of the chief ideologues of the occupation. George W, after all is said and done, it is your occupation and you will either get rid of it or choke on it.

We, the progressive section of the world community are the most consistent opponents of terror. But, it there is one thing that is worse than terror, it is state terror, The violence by the state against innocent civilians which exploit their monopoly of power and control to dominate the world is the worst form of terror. George W. you cannot confuse us - we know that terrorists can and do circulate in dark suits and at distinguished venues.

Together, Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs we will carry on the struggle for a just peace, a peace based on complete Israeli withdrawal to the June 1967 borders, the establishment of two capitals in the city of Jerusalem, dismantling of the settlements which have become a cancer eating away at all hopes for stability and reconstruction in the area, and a fair and just settlement of the Palestinian refugee problem. This is the path to peace and there is no other one.

Together we will renew our efforts to reject, overcome and destroy all forms of racism, especially anti-Semitism and anti-Arab and Anti-Moslem prejudice and discrimination. We have a treasure and a deposit from history to maintain, this treasure and deposit is the unity of a broad anti-fascist front, the very same front that fought Nazism and anti-Semitism here and everywhere it spread. The struggle against racism was and is the struggle for democracy and peace.