June 21, 2006

Israeli support for CUPE Israel boycott

Here's a letter doing the rounds from Israelis to the Canadian Public Employees Union, supporting the latter's boycott of Israel.
Letter of support from Israelis to CUPE

As Israelis we express our support of the CUPE boycott of Israel, honor your courageous initiative, and fervently hope that it will set an example for many others to follow.

We assure CUPE that it is no more anti-Semitic to criticize and oppose Israeli government policies than it was anti-American to oppose the Vietnam war or is anti-Canadian to oppose the present war in Iraq. It is never anti-Semitic to oppose injustice, destruction, gross inequity, and inequality. We also assure CUPE that Israel, having the 4th most powerful military in the world, is in no existential danger.

As citizens devoted to the promotion of peace and democracy in the region, we denounce the international community’s continued economic investments in our country, which directly and indirectly support Israel's daily violations of international law and accelerated colonization of the occupied territories. We fear the potentially irreversible damage created by Israeli occupation, by Israel’s unilateral plans, and by the international community’s impotence in ending Israel’s occupation. We realize that Israel’s Occupation of Palestinians and their lands will very likely not end without international sanctions.

Israelis, as well as Palestinians, will benefit from ending the Occupation. Symmetry does not exist between occupier and occupied, oppressor and oppressed. Yet Israelis suffer from loss of life, increase in militarism, and a steady devaluation of human life. This latter is particularly evident from the socio-economic sphere and the affliction of post-traumatic distress.

Successive Israeli governments have spent enormous amounts of money on expansion, to the detriment of social benefits for the Israeli population. While it is true that had there been no Occupation, Israeli governments might not have spent the money on social benefits, the fact that expansion continues a pace reveals Israel’s intention to rid the West Bank of as many Palestinians as possible and to prevent the emergence of a Palestinian state.

To this end, money is spent on maintaining a large military presence in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, on erecting the apartheid wall at 4 million dollars a mile, with 400 miles planned (twice the length had it been built on the ‘green line’), and constructing 6,000 more units in highly subsidized settlements (this past year alone, some 12,000 new settlers moved into the West Bank, 4,000 more than were evicted from the Gaza Strip). Much money goes also for constructing super-highways for Israelis-only in the Occupied Territories, as well as for new lookout towers (that can double as sniper towers), and checkpoints galore (mainly separating Palestinian communities).

While all this is taking place at considerable economic cost, poverty in Israel has increased sharply. Israel now has the dubious notoriety of having the worst poverty level in the Western world. Over ¼ of Israelis now live under the poverty line. 1 of every 3 children goes to bed hungry. And every 4th elderly person is poor. No wonder, then, that Israel's elderly are “Suicidal,” as Yedioth Ahronot revealed in a report showing that over 50 percent of suicides in Israel every year are committed by people aged 65 and over. There are additional worrying trends. Not only are the few rich getting richer and the numerous poor getting poorer, but also many in the middle class who have jobs are sliding into poverty due to low wages.

One result of the increased poverty is that now 25% of Israelis forego medical care because they cannot afford it. 75% of the poor cannot afford medication. But of all the sad statistics, one of the more shocking is that 40% of Holocaust survivors—170,000 aged individuals--now live in desperate straits. It is shameful that of all places in the world, in Israel, Holocaust survivors live in dire poverty and misery.

The worsening economic conditions contribute, in turn, to escalation of violence. Thus, for instance, one of every five elderly Israelis is subject to abuse, mainly by spouses or children. And the Israeli police recorded a 24% increase in violence among youth the first months of 2006.

A direct cost of Occupation and a threat to Israel's welfare is post-traumatic stress, which can result in addiction to drugs and alcohol, and can also contribute to violence.

A counselor at a rehabilitation center terms the malady “a ticking bomb," Help, he relates, is unavailable for many soldiers who have gone "into terrible distress of drugs, beatings, violence, impatience, ... soldiers who clashed with a civilian population, and when they were discharged understood that they had been wrong." Hundreds, he reveals, "are roaming about with the feeling that there is no point to living, and the path to suicide and drugs is very easy. We are afraid that former soldiers will commit criminal acts as a result of their distress."

On the Palestinian end of the Occupation, the situation is far worse both economically and security-wise. For Palestinians, Occupation means a loudspeaker in the middle of the night ordering residents out of their homes, regardless of winter or summer, hot or cold, wet or dry. Occupation means long waits at checkpoints, even in emergencies. Occupation means that one needs permits to go to one’s fields, permits that are often not given, and even when given, the Palestinian farmer often finds that the military gates that control accessing his fields are closed and fail to open, and, for that matter, fail to open also for children on their way to school. Occupation means land theft and the uprooting of olive trees, some of which are 100s of years old, all of which are means of sustenance, some now the only means. Occupation means curfews, during which sick people can and do die. Occupation means that one’s home can turn into rubble in minutes, as bulldozers or explosives demolish it, along with its furnishings, toys, family photograph albums, computers, and all else. Occupation means imprisonment. In January 2006 as many as 9,000 Palestinians were incarcerated in Israeli facilities. Israeli Occupation means apartheid. Four instances of this are water, roads, home construction, and checkpoints. Of 960 million cubic meters of water that is generated in the West Bank, Palestinians are allowed to use only one-tenth of it. The rest goes to Israelis. On average, a Palestinian citizen in the West Bank is allowed to use no more than 36 cubic meters of water per year, while Israeli settlers in the West Bank can use up to 2,400 cubic meters. Palestinians are not allowed to use ‘settler’ roads, which are highly superior to Palestinian ones in the Occupied territories, are not allowed to build houses or even to add rooms, while Jewish settlement building continues uninhibited. Checkpoints have also recently become separated. Israelis, tourists, and Jews from abroad can go from the Territories to Israel via many checkpoints, but Palestinians having permits are allowed to enter Israel through but 11 of them, forcing Palestinians fortunate enough to have a permit to enter Israel to travel far out of the way on their way to work or to medical care.

For the above reasons, we Israeli Seekers of Peace and Justice express our sincere gratitude to CUPE’s boycott initiative. Boycott and divestment are non-violent means of pressuring governments to change their policies--means now sorely needed to compel the Israeli government to end its occupation of Palestinians and their lands.

For signatures: http://www.geocities.com/liveletlive2001/signatories_so_far.htm
Thanks to Frank Fisher for posting this to the Just Peace list.

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