Speech against the war in Gaza

I gave the following speech at the rally against the war in Gaza in Sydney today in front of roughly 5000 people:

Stop the War on Gaza Rally

I stand before you as a human being first and a Jew second.

The war against the Palestinian people in Gaza has shown Israel’s true face to the world. Over 1000 dead, including hundreds of children and thousands of injured, masks a deeper agenda; the need to crush Palestinian political rights and their hopes of statehood.

It will never succeed. We stand in solidarity today with the Palestinians in the occupied territories and throughout the world who loudly say; “you will never extinguish our right to be free”.

Gideon Levy, one of Israel’s finest journalists and moral beacon in troubled times, wrote last week in Haaretz:

“This is how Israel now looks to the outside world – its tanks in the burning streets of Gaza; more and more people being killed for nothing; tens of thousands of new refugees; an appallingly haughty foreign minister, and a growing clamour of condemnation and disgust from all over the globe.”

He expressed what many Jews are currently thinking. Israel does not speak in our name. Its action deeply shames us. We will cry out publicly against her crimes. We will work to isolate her from the list of civilised nations.

I agree with famed Jewish writer and activist Naomi Klein who argued in early January: “It’s time. Long past time. The best strategy to end the increasingly bloody occupation is for Israel to become the target of the kind of global movement that put an end to apartheid in South Africa.”

Millions around the world are newly emboldened after the war against Gaza to make Israel pay a price for its barbarity. I join them in this struggle.

I am often disheartened as an anti-Zionist Jew by the number of Jews able to defend and justify Israeli behaviour as “self-defence” or fighting an “existential” threat.

A senior Israeli military official explicitly outlined in October 2008 his country’s plans to commit war crimes. He said:

“We will wield disproportionate power against every village from which shots are fired on Israel, and cause immense damage and destruction. From our perspective, these are military bases. This isn’t a suggestion. This is a plan that has already been authorized.”

Such words are reminiscent of rogue states that should be shunned by the international community.

Leading American Jewish playwright Tony Kushner, speaking in front of the Israeli consulate in New York last week, reminded the assembled crowd that Jews should be the last people to support Israel’s indiscriminate onslaught against Gaza:

“Jews, with our millennial history of surviving oppression, really should have a deep sympathy and understanding”¦We should do better.”

And yet so many of us don’t. Israel’s Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter happily compared Israel’s war in Gaza to previous Western military war crimes:

“Europe and NATO did it in Kosovo, the Americans did it in Fallujah, and we are fighting to defend our citizens’ safety. Golda Meir once said that we can forgive the Arabs for killing our sons, but we cannot forgive them for making us kill their children.”

Is a senior Israeli politician seriously praising America’s massacres in Fallujah as a model for counter-insurgency?

Another leading Israeli politician, Avigdor Lieberman, last week demanded that Israel nuke the people of Gaza. “We must continue to fight Hamas just like the United States did with the Japanese in World War II.”

Who can continue to unconditionally support such a nation that last week disqualified two leading Arab parties from next month’s election?

Gaza is equally America’s war; funded, politically backed, armed and defended by the vast majority of the Washington elite. President-elect Barack Obama’s silence has been highly revealing and suggests he will likely continue America’s tradition of supporting Israel’s expansionist policies.

Our media is filled with Zionist spokespeople and their reliable political courtiers – Labor’s Kevin Rudd is equally subservient to the Zionist lobby as his predecessor Liberal Prime Minister John Howard – explaining why the Jewish state has to crush Hamas to “bring peace.”

Peace will only come when Israel treats the Palestinians as an equal partner, a people who deserve statehood and equal rights in the whole of Palestine.

We should be heartened, however, by the growing number of Jews globally who refuse to endorse the Zionist doctrine. Rabbis for Human Rights issued a letter condemning the violence. A veteran British Jewish MP, Sir Gerald Kaufman, said in parliament last week, “The current Israeli government ruthlessly and cynically exploits the continuing guilt among gentiles over the slaughter of Jews in the Holocaust as justification for their murder of Palestinians.” The Association for Civil Rights in Israel took out a full-page advertisement in Haaretz “grieving” for Palestinian children killed in Gaza.

Independent Australia Jewish Voices, a initiative I co-founded in 2007, released a strong statement against the war and has received hundreds of signatures, wide media coverage and solidarity with groups across the world.

As one of the founders of Independent Jewish Voices in Britain said last week, after being spat on by fellow Jews for daring to condemn the war against Gaza; there is a profound crisis in modern Judaism:

The moral blindness that leads decent, humane, sensitive people to look the other way when Israeli planes strike, or to reduce the gargantuan suffering of a people to the size of a single teardrop”.

Judaism is not Zionism. Not all Jews support Israel. We are a diverse people that can handle vigorous debate and dissent.

Until Israel understands that its actions are utterly unacceptable to the civilised world, its criminality will come at a high cost.

Many Jews around the world now share this view.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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