A Statement by Jewish Voice for Peace of Northern NJ
We grieve for the over one thousand Israeli civilians unjustly killed on Oct. 7. We grieve, too, for the many thousands of Palestinian civilians unjustly killed since then. And we are in utter anguish at the prospect of the mass killing that faces the two million Palestinians trapped in Gaza.
Israeli officials have ordered a siege on Gaza’s civilian population, while declaring (in the words of reservist major general Giora Eiland) that “creating a severe humanitarian crisis” is their intention. Gaza, he says, “will become a place where no human being can exist.” And the response from the U.S. government has been to declare its unconditional support for Israel, rushing more weapons to them, and even vetoing a UN Security Council resolution calling for a pause in the fighting to allow for the delivery of humanitarian supplies.
A ceasefire and a lifting of the siege are urgent necessities!
But of course this crisis didn’t begin on October 7, 2023. It began 75 years ago when Israel drove three-quarters of a million Palestinians from their homes and seized their land. A majority of the residents of Gaza are refugees or the descendants of refugees from that initial ethnic cleansing, what Palestinians call the Nakba, the catastrophe. In 1967, Israel took over the Gaza Strip, along with the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Millions of Palestinians in these territories have been living under Israeli occupation ever since. In 2005 Israel withdrew its forces from inside Gaza, but, as the UN and international human rights organizations attest, the occupation of Gaza continues because Israel – which controls all imports, exports, and movement of people in and out – effectively controls the territory. When the prison guards move to the perimeter, the prisoners are still incarcerated.
Over the years Israel has repeatedly bombarded Gaza, killing thousands of civilians, and destroying their infrastructure. Some years ago, the UN warned that the territory would become unlivable by 2020, with mass unemployment, food insecurity, and polluted water. When a flotilla of vessels tried to bring in humanitarian aid in 2010, the Israeli Navy attacked the ships, killing 10. In 2018, when Gazans marched to the border fence, Israeli snipers repeatedly fired on protesters who posed no imminent threat to life, killing nearly two hundred people.
And all the while, the U.S. government has provided Israel with billions of dollars in military aid and full diplomatic backing.
In 2005, Palestinians tried another non-violent method of attaining their freedom. They called for an international campaign of boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against the Israeli state as a way of pressuring the government to end its oppression of Palestinians, just as similar measures helped undermine South Africa’s system of apartheid. In response, Israel and its apologists have relentlessly accused BDS supporters of antisemitism and pushed to outlaw BDS efforts. Sadly, New Jersey, among other U.S. states, has passed legislation imposing penalties on supporters of BDS, ignoring warnings from civil libertarians that this was a flagrant violation of First Amendment rights.
In the months before October 7, Israeli settlers – protected by the military – unleashed pogroms on Palestinians in the West Bank, in an effort to expel as many as possible and seize more land. And the Israeli government – the most rightwing in the country’s history, including outright fascists – made no secret of its intention to annex as much Palestinian land as possible.
Cage people up in a densely populated, miserable strip of territory, deny them their own ports or airports, bomb them every so often, make clear that further dispossession is the goal, and block all possibilities of nonviolent protest, and it is no wonder that there will be explosions of rage, including Hamas’s heinous Oct. 7 attack on civilians.
What must be done:
- Tell members of Congress to demand an immediate ceasefire and a lifting of the siege of Gaza. Ask them to support H.Res.786, “Calling for an immediate de-escalation and cease-fire in Israel and occupied Palestine.” Hundreds of thousands of lives are at risk! It must not happen!
- Tell members of Congress to end all military aid to Israel. No killing in our name!
- Tell members of Congress to demand that Israel end its occupation of Palestine and dismantle all its settlements, which are in violation of international law. No annexations! No more dispossession!
- Tell the New Jersey state legislature to rescind its undemocratic restrictions on people’s right to non-violently boycott, divest from, and sanction the Israeli state. We have a First Amendment right to oppose Israel’s crimes!
To contact U.S. Congressional representatives, https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative, or call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121. To contact NJ legislators: https://www.njleg.state.nj.us/legislative-roster.