On a cold Saturday morning I was one of a handful of folks conducting a street canvas action at the Embarcadero. It was hosted by the folks at Dialogues Against Militarism, whose peace delegation just got back from Israel & Palestine. The occasion was a day of solidarity with Israeli teenagers who have refused to join the IDF (or IOF, Israeli Occupation Forces)–and who have been imprisoned as a result. We handed out information about the Palestinian situation and about these Israeli teenagers and Palestinian human rights activists who have been arrested. Then we asked people to write letters to those still in Israeli prison.
In Israel it is compulsory for all young men and women join the army for a period of two years. However, a growing number of youth and soldiers have responded to the horrors they have seen caused by the IOF in the West Bank and Gaza by actively refusing to enlist and opposing the occupation. These Israeli Jewish and Arab teenagers wrote an open letter to the Israeli government, now called the “Shministim Letter”. Here are a few excerpts:
“The occupation creates an unbearable actuality for the Palestinians in the occupied territories. The checkpoint policy, land annexation, the building of the apartheid wall, paving of roads for Israeli’s only, settlement projects, and assassinations – all these have been sowing destruction in the West Bank for over 4 decades. The siege on Gaza and the prevention of importing materials, including basic food products and humanitarian aid, undermines the basic minimal living conditions of Gaza’s residents. We cannot tolerate such a reality…
There is no military solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – only peace will ensure life and security for Jews and Arabs in this country…
Our objection to becoming soldiers of the occupation stems from our loyalty to our values and to the society surrounding us, and it is part of our ongoing struggle for peace and equality, a struggle whose Jewish-Arab nature proves that peace and co-existence is possible. This is our way, and we are willing to pay the price.”
As a consequence, they have been charged and imprisoned, like those in our military system who resist. On the other side of the fence (actually, the same side–the side working for peace) are imprisoned Palestinians working for peace and who have been non-violently resisting the occupation. Three major leaders: Jamal Juma, Mohammad Othman, and Abdallah Abu Ramha are all being held in jail right now on outlandish charges or without any charges at all. They are all leaders of nonviolent grassroots movements, key figures in coordinating the voices of villagers whose land has been taken by the Israeli separation wall, annexing 50% of the West Bank.
U.S. tax dollars pay for the ammunition Israel fires every week on Palestinians in the West Bank. Palestinians, including children, are regularly injured and sometimes killed–their houses and other buildings demolished. Millions of Palestinians are struggling for their lives and their livelihood, and grassroots organizations like Jamal Juma’s Stop the Wall are key to a peaceful future.
Upon talking with people Saturday going to and from the farmer’s market, I wasn’t expecting much response. However, I found that there were more people than I expected who were concerned about the situation. I also found that non-Americans tended to be more aware of what is going on, as Europe and other places don’t quite have the media black out that we have here. This just highlights the importance of doing this type of outreach.
For more information on how you can help:
Sign the Petition in solidarity with the Sministim: http://www.petition.fm/petitions/shministim