An open condolences letter to the family of Mohammad Abu Khdeir and the Palestinian people

(Translated from Hebrew by Idit Arad and Matan Kaminer, and published at Haokets english edition)

Our hands shed this blood, our hands set Mohammad Abu Khdeir on fire, our hands fanned the flames. We have been living here for too long to claim that we did not know, we did not understand, we were not able to foresee. We witnessed the actions of the vast machine of incitement to racism and revenge operated by the government, the politicians, the educational system and the media. We watched Israeli society become neglected and poor, till the call to violence in all its different forms became an outlet for many, fighting for their place in the margins of society, teenagers and adults alike. We saw how the meaning of being Jewish has been emptied and sharply reduced to be identified with nationalism, militarism, a struggle for land, hatred of Gentiles, shameful exploitation of the Holocaust trauma and the “Teaching of the King ". More than anything, witnessed how the State of Israel through its various governments, has passed racist policies, enacted discriminatory laws, laboured to enshrine the occupation regime, preferring ongoing violence and victims on both sides rather than reaching agreement.

Our hands shed this blood, and we wish to express our condolences and our pain before the family of the boy Mohammed Abu Khdeir, who are experiencing an unthinkable loss, and to the Palestinian people. We oppose the occupation policy of the government. We are against the violence, racism and incitement which exist in the Israeli society. And we refuse to identify our Jewishness with it, the Jewishness which includes the words of the rabbi of Tripoli and Aleppo, the wise Hezekiah Shabtai who said: "'Love thy neighbour as thy self' (Leviticus xviii). This love of one another does not only refer to the love of one Jew or Israeli to the other, but to loving our neighbours, those who are not Jews.  It instructs us to co-exist with them through love, and pursue their safety and welfare. That is not only what common sense tells us, but also the holy Torah, whose ways are pleasant ways, and she commands us to go about our life in such a way, despite and in the face of the acts of state and the words of our official representatives.

Our hands shed this blood, contrary to the prohibition of murder in Judaism and Islam. Therefore we pledge to continue our struggle inside Israeli society, Jews and Palestinians together, in order to change society from within, fight its militarization, bring forth an awareness of those who are in the minority and therefore are its victim. We will fight against the choice of war and indifference to the rights and lives of Palestinians and the continued favouring those who Jews within it. We shall strive to offer a human bond – a bond which is political, cultural, historical, Israeli- Palestinian and Jewish – Arab. A bond which can be in part reached through the history of many of us who are Jews of Arab origins and as such members of the Arab world. Our way is that of a struggle for civil equality and economic change, on behalf of many the marginalized and oppressed groups in our society: Arabs, Ethiopians, Mizrahim (Jews of Arab origins), women, the religious, migrant workers, refugees, and many more. The stronger side in the conflict has on the face of it the ability to break down the racist regime and the cycle of violence in a nonviolent way, and we seek to lead in such a way, in the face of the complacency of many Israelis who prefer to allow the regime of injustice and the cycle of violence remain in place, and expect “solutions” to somehow spring out of this never-ending “merry-go-round” of violence, its current face being the war against Gaza, thus bringing only more death and calls for revenge from both sides of the fence, and any sort of agreement more further away.

Our hands shed this blood, and our wish is to create a joint civil fight with any Palestinian group who will wish to join us in our struggle against occupation, against the violence of the regime of occupation, against the discrimination of Palestinian human rights. A fight for the end the occupation, either through the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the Palestinian territories, or through the establishing one state for all in which we will be equal citizens.

מוחמד אבו חדיר

Our hands shed this blood. By saying so out loud in our society we are forever accused by the nationalistic propaganda of one sidedness. Of condemning only Israel’s crimes and not those committed by Palestinians. To which we replay first and foremost: We think that he who supports or justifies the killing of Palestinians supports by implication and in fact encourages the killing of Israeli Jews. And vice versa, he who supports or justifies the killing of Israeli Jews supports by implication and in fact encourages the killing of Palestinians. The wheel of revenge is vast and fast-moving, and we are against any form of violence, and seek a non-violent solution to this violent situation. Objecting Netanyahu’s way does not mean support for Hamas, the reality is not dichotomous, and more options exist on the axis between Netanyahu and Hamas. In addition, we must emphasize: we are Israeli citizens and the centre of our lives is in Israel, and therefore our main criticism is that of Israeli society, which we seek to repair. These murderers came from amongst us. There are of course grounds on which one can criticise other societies. Nevertheless we think that every person’s duty is to first examine closely and critically the society in which he or she lives, any only after so doing to apply this approach to other societies. If we were Palestinians we might have turned our efforts to criticism of the Palestinian society, and perhaps we would have tried to create a left-wing alternative to its current regime. We are aware of the criticism that in matter of pact is present within Palestinian society of its rulers. Sadly support of it by us, the citizens of the occupying state, does not always help the growth of such voices within Palestinian society. We are also aware of the lack of symmetry between the State of Israel, which is a military and economic regional power occupying millions of Palestinians, denying for the last few decades their rights, and Palestinian society that suffers from an inward split, most of the sons of which are exiles, that has no independence, and which is run under Israeli military control, and is in a state of occupation. 

Our hands shed this blood, and we know most of the innocent Palestinians murdered over the last sixty-six years by Israeli Jews did not receive due justice. Their murderers were not arrested, tried, or put in jail, unlike the six Israeli Jewish youngsters suspected in the murder of Mohammad Abu Khdeir. Most innocent Palestinians were killed by men in uniform, sent by the government, the army, the police or the secret services. When these men have killed innocents, whether from the air, with artillery or on the ground, this has sometimes been defined as a “human error” or a “technical glitch”. Reference to them included only a faint apology (such cases were rarely investigated and mostly end with no indictments, and simply dissolve into thin air). Most are ignored by law enforcement agencies, the military and the media. The unique speed with which the suspects were apprehended this time is due to the fact that these murderers, like those of the Jewish Underground (who were quickly pardoned), like Ami Popper, Baruch Goldstein etc., were not in uniform. With the exception of the soldiers convicted of the Kufr Qasem massacre in 1956, who spent no more than a year in prison, military personnel in Israel have seldom been tried for such crimes, including in the cases of the worst atrocities.

Our hands shed that blood, and even now, when Benjamin Netanyahu wishes to express his condolences and to condemn the murder of Mohammad Abu Khdeir, he does so, in the same breath expressing a racist and dangerous claim of the moral superiority of Israel over its neighbours: “there is no place for such murderers in our society. In that we stand apart from our neighbours – In their society murderers are seen as heroes and have squared named after them. But this is not the only difference. We prosecute those who incite to hatred, whilst in the Palestinian Authority incitement is carried out by the official media and the educational system, calling by large for Israel's destruction”. "Netanyahu forget that several individuals suspected to be war criminals served in Israeli governments, some under his very leadership, and that the head counted of innocent people murdered in the last 66 years of the conflict paints a very different picture. When you look at the numbers of Israeli Jewish citizens and that of Palestinians, you find the numbers of Palestinians is very much higher. He also forgets, or tries to make us forget, the widespread incitement propagated by his own government in recent weeks, and his own words on revenge after the discovery of bodies of the three Jewish boys – Gilad Sha’ar, Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrah, killed two and half weeks ago, when all of us were in deep Shock: " The revenge for the blood of a small child has not yet been created the devil, nor the revenge of the blood of such young and pure boys". There were those who interpreted the "blood revenge" in terms of an eye for an eye and a child for a child, the logic of which would leave us all blind, orphaned and bereaved.

Our hands shed this blood, and instead to declaring days of fasting, mourning and repentance, the government has now decided to go on a military operation in Gaza, which it calls "solid rock". We call on the government to stop this operation at once and to strive for calm and for a peace agreement. Gaza has become in recent years the main opponent of Israeli governments. Gaza is the history of all of us; she is the oblivion of it too. She is the most painful place in Palestine/land of Israel, and in its very cemetery is buried the poet Rabbi Israel Najara, who might well be chanting from the heavens some words in defence of both us and the Palestinians. Gaza is mainly made out of refugees, deported from the coast in 1948 and since 1967 its sons have built up many of the houses which they are now bombing. All around Gaza, in the Israeli development towns, lives a population made out mostly of Jewish refugees from the Arab world and their descendants. They were pushed to leave their countries of origin after the war of independence in 1948, in the operation labelled poetically "from the ship to the village". As they arrived to the shores of Israel they were sent by trucks at in night time directly to those development towns, so that they do not stop in the centre of the country and "God forbid," stay there. In the south they worked in the fields and factories of the southern kibbutzim and moshavim around these towns. Gaza is all endless wars and invasions since the war of 1948: retaliations, 1956, 1967, the invasion of Ariel Sharon Gaza in 1970, and after in 1987, 2000, 2009, 2012, 2014. Gaza is yours and our hopelessness, and our common origins seem to be pushed further and further away: After forty years where the possibility of a painful historic compromise between the two national movements, Palestinian and Zionist, was on the table, this option is gradually evaporating. The conflict is being reinterpreted in mythological and theological terms, in terms of revenge and avenging that revenge, and all we promise to our children is many mores wars for a generations to come, spreading killings amongst both people, and the building of an apartheid regime which will take even more decades thereafter to dismantle.

 

Our hands shed this blood, and we think we must examine together our common, bloody and tragic one hundred years old history in the context of that of the world. At the beginning of this time period European colonialism was at its height. It captured large parts of Asia and Africa, exploited economically and militarily the people it occupied. It treated these cultures as inferior and primitive, and massacred many. Following that many nationalistic movements, even in countries just freed from colonialism, adopted violence as a guiding organisational principal, and sought to “cleanse” those they considered foreign in their own National territory, on grounds of race / nationality / religion / ethnicity / culture, and thus brought on themselves a continuous state of war. We seek to work against this tendency in world history. Through the various communities of our society: Jews and Palestinians, Arabs and Israelis, Mizrahi and Ashkenazi, traditional, religious, secular and orthodox. We chose to oppose the walls, separation, dispossession, deportations, racism and colonization, and to offer a joint and common future as an alternative to the present depressive, oppressive and violent state of our society. A future which does not surrender to the cycle of violence and revenge but in its place offers justice, reparation, peace and equality. A future which draws on the common elements of our cultures, humanity and religious traditions, so that our hands will not shed more blood but will have to luck and opportunity to reach out to one another in peace, with the help of god, Insha’Allah.  

Signatories:

Orly Noy, Yossi Dahan, Inbal Jamshed, Yossi Granovsky, Eliana Almog, Eyal Sagi Bizawi, Varda Horesh, Herzl Cohen, Sivan Shtang, Yossi Vazana, Dori Manor, Yardena Hamo, Itay Kander, Avri Herling, Michal Chacham, Mirit Arbel, Yoav Moshe, Avi – Ram Zoref, Sa’ar Gershon, Yotam Kadosh, Tziki Eisenberg, Noam Gal, Amit Lavi, Sarit Ofek, Mati Shmuelof, Andre Levy, Chico Bahar, Naama Kti’i, Ronnie Karni, Tal Gilboa, Rebecca Mondlak, Arnon Levy, Noam Ben-Horin, Avtasham Barakat, Udi Aloni, Diana Danielle – Schramm, Yoram Meltzer, Rami Adot, Chamutal Guri, David China Woolf, Izzy Wolf, Yael Aharonov, Yonathan Mizrachi, Naama Sason, Idan Cohen, Zvi Ben – Dor Banit, Inbal Eshel – Chahansky, Matan Kaminer, Yotam Schwimmer, Hagit Mermelstein, Asaf Philip, Aliza Weston, Eli Bar, Dafna Hirsch, Yael Ben Yefet, Maya Spector-Behar, Erez Yosef, Yael Golan, Noa Eshel, Efrat Shani – Shitrit, Sigal Primor, Aviad Markowitz, Ilona Pinto, Tamar Novick, Dganit ElKayam – Cassuto, Alimi Sarah, Itai Snir, Diana Achdut, Liron Mor, Yoni Silver, Or Shemesh, Gal Levy, Dana Kaplan, Daniel Shoshan, Ziv Yamin, Michal Nitzan Re’ut Bendriam, Yuval Ayalon, Yuli Cohen, Oren Agmon, collected Ja’akobowicz, Jonathan Vadai, Michal Goren, Eli Oshorov, Yuval Dreyer – Shilo, Tal Shefi, Yehuda Ben-el, Moran Tal, Nurit Ben-Zvi, Eli Shmueli, Dalit Metzger, Menashe Anzi, Meir Amor, Shoshi Shamir, Eran Kalimil Misheiker, Noa Heine, Sahar Shalev, Eli Edelman, Ran Segev, Albert Swissa, Sergio Yachni, Roy Hassan, Zilla Zalt, Mazal Moyal Cohen, Abigail Eren Hozen,, Efrat Issachar, Shlomit Carmeli, Uri Ben – Dov, Tamar Mokady, Yahav Zohar, Yif’al Bistri, Yair Meyuchas, Rony Mazal, Odelia Goldratt, Idit Arad, Eldad Zion, Yotam Cohen, Noa Mazur, MIchali Bror, Or Barkat, Oz Rothbart, Esther Attar, Ronit Bachar Shachar, Adi Keysar, Ela Gringoz, Noga Eitan, Tamar Saraf, Hila Chipman, Yegev Bochshatav, Tomer lavi, Roni Henig, Vered Kupiz, Shai Shabtai, Yael Gviraz, Tamar Achiron, Gai Ayal, Hagit Bachar Morris, Amira Hass, Avraham Oz, Yael Barda,  Moti Fogel, Pnina Mozpi- Haaller, Yuval Ivri, Almog Behar.

This article was first published in Hebrew on Haokets, and in my blog.
and in Italian

אודות almog behar

"צִמְאוֹן בְּאֵרוֹת", "אנא מן אל-יהוד", "חוט מושך מן הלשון", "צ'חלה וחזקל".
פוסט זה פורסם בקטגוריה english, מאמר. אפשר להגיע ישירות לפוסט זה עם קישור ישיר.

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