We have learned that you have been invited by the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest, NJ to participate in a “NJ State Legislators and Jewish Community Leaders Mission to Israel.” We ask you to consider that this trip will not be a genuine fact-finding mission, but rather a trip designed to expose you to an entirely one-sided view of the situation in an effort to try to whitewash Israel’s current actions in Gaza.
The invitation letter said that on this trip you would be afforded “an opportunity to meet with the people most affected.” Family members of the 1,200 Israelis killed on October 7 certainly were deeply affected. But will you be given the opportunity to meet with the family members of the more than 20 times as many Palestinians killed by the Israeli military, who have also been profoundly affected?
Former hostages and the families of those held hostage are also “people most affected.” But will you be given the opportunity to meet with a diverse group of these people, including those who insist that a ceasefire is needed to secure the release of others? And will there be scheduled meetings with the families of the thousands of Palestinians held without charge in Israeli prisons?
Another group it would be important to meet with are some of the two million people in Gaza whose food situation the United Nations warns is at the crisis level, a quarter of whom are facing “catastrophic conditions.” And if this can’t be arranged, will you be given the opportunity to meet with UN humanitarian aid officials? Unfortunately, this isn’t easily done in Israel, because the Netanyahu government has revoked the visa of the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories and has rejected a request for a visit from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
One meeting that you will certainly not be having is with B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights group. B’Tselem has called for an immediate ceasefire, noting that “Israel has waged an unconstrained attack on the population that includes bombing on an unprecedented scale. Thousands of tons of bombs have been dropped on thousands of targets throughout Gaza, with the IDF [Israeli military] Spokesperson clarifying that ‘the emphasis is on damage, not accuracy.’”
Nor will you be meeting with Human Rights Watch, which has reported that “The Israeli government is using starvation of civilians as a method of warfare in the Gaza Strip, which is a war crime,” and that “Israeli officials have made public statements expressing their aim to deprive civilians in Gaza of food, water, and fuel – statements reflected in Israeli forces’ military operations.”
Another group no doubt not on the trip itinerary is Amnesty International. Amnesty too calls for a ceasefire. In addition to finding that Israel has engaged in “either direct attacks on civilians … or indiscriminate attacks,” Amnesty has documented that “US-made weapons facilitated the mass killings of extended families.” It demands that “In the face of the unprecedented civilian death toll and scale of destruction in Gaza, the US and other governments must immediately stop transferring arms to Israel” that will be used to violate international law. And Amnesty warns that a “state that continues to supply arms being used to commit violations may share responsibility for these violations.”
You could also visit with 18-year-old Tal Mitnick (whose father grew up in Highland Park, New Jersey) though you would have to meet him in prison, where he is currently confined for refusing to serve in the Israeli military. Mitnick expresses solidarity with the innocent in Gaza. “There is no military solution to a political problem,” he wrote. “I refuse to believe that more violence will bring security. I refuse to take part in a revenge war.”
None of this information or these sources will be part of the trip you are being invited to join. This is a propaganda trip (what Israelis call “hasbara” or “public diplomacy”) rather than any sincere attempt to inform. We urge you to decline this invitation and stay home, and do some real fact-finding, including holding listening sessions with your constituents in New Jersey, a large majority of whom, based on national polling, support a ceasefire. We are confident that, if you do so and apply elementary principles of morality, you will join us in calling for an immediate ceasefire.
Jewish Voice for Peace of Northern New Jersey
Jewish Voice for Peace of Central New Jersey
If Not Now – Highland Park Circle