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A Petition for a Just Peace in Israel/Palestine

  

The Israeli and Palestinian people are our friends.

We refuse to be the enemies of either, and we refuse to silently watch the possibility for peace repeatedly falter under shortsighted and undemocratic policies that subjugate one people to the other. We value peace, freedom, and equality and believe that US foreign policy and grants of foreign aid are best guided by these democratic principles. Our deepest moral interests are not well-served when, as a nation, we lend support to governments that oppress indigenous peoples, discriminate based on ethnicity and/or religion, deny workers’ rights, violate international law, or infringe upon any people’s life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Our support and tax dollars should not flow to those whose actions are inconsistent with these principles.

Given the unresolved conflict in Israel/Palestine, we are particularly concerned with our nation’s history of support for the State of Israel. As discussed below, we urge withdrawing financial/military support until there exists mutual recognition of each other’s sovereign right to exist in peace and security consistent with International law and the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. The ongoing strife predates the United Nations partition plan of 1947. However, the partition remains a momentous event. The vast majority of the Jewish people living in pre-1948 Palestine (territory west of the Jordan River that had been part of Mandatory Palestine) had emigrated there during the previous 25 years. At the time of the partition they owned less than 7% of the land, and represented one-third of the total population of Palestine. However, the partition plan allocated approximately 56% of pre-1948 Palestine for a Jewish State. The leadership of the Jewish Agency, which since its establishment in 1929 had been largely responsible for facilitating the immigration and settlement of European Jews in Mandatory Palestine, accepted the U.N. partition plan. The Palestinian Arabs and the Arab States did not accept the plan on the grounds that it violated the provisions of the United Nations Charter, which granted people the right to decide their own destiny. Armed conflict between Jewish militias and Palestinian Arabs escalated. On May 14, 1948, Britain relinquished its Mandate over Palestine, disengaged its forces, and the Jewish Agency proclaimed the establishment of the State of Israel on the territory allotted by the partition plan. Neighboring Arab armies entered the territory to support the Palestinian Arabs. The Israeli forces defeated the Arab forces and in the process seized more Palestinian land. By the end of the war in 1949, Israel controlled 77% of Palestine – all sectors except the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. During these events more than half of Palestine’s native population were uprooted, 531 villages destroyed, and eleven urban neighborhoods emptied of their inhabitants. These actions resulted in more than 700,000 Palestinian refugees. The Palestinians mourn these events, associated with the birth of the State of Israel, as the “Al Naqba” (the catastrophe). This tragedy is the source of continued conflict, human suffering and death.

The Occupation. Since 1967, Israel has usurped additional portions of Palestinian land and has maintained a military occupation of the West Bank and control of Gaza. These geographical remnants, the remaining 22% of pre-1948 Palestine, are internationally acknowledged as the State of Palestine. However, in contravention of international law, i.e., that no state may acquire territory by force, the State of Israel has permitted settler outposts and has built city settlements within the West Bank. In 2011, Israeli settlement population within the West Bank and East Jerusalem was estimated at over 520,000. The International Court of Justice in its July 9, 2004 Advisory Opinion, concluded that Israel’s building of these settlements and wall within the Occupied Palestinian Territories breached international law.

U.S. Military Aid to Israel. U.S. military aid has helped transform Israel’s armed forces into one of the most technologically sophisticated militaries in the world. Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II, having received through year 2013, $121 billion (current, non-inflation-adjusted dollars in bilateral assistance.) This aid has helped Israel build a domestic defense industry, which ranks as one of the top 10 suppliers of arms worldwide. As a nation, therefore, we are complicit in the occupation.

We have a responsibility to act. This continuing conflict is contrary to our nation’s self-interest as well as the moral and democratic values we cherish. Diplomatic efforts to help our Israeli and Palestinian friends reach a just peace fall short because the common sense element of basic fairness continues to be eclipsed by political expediency and the misguided views shared by some that all of Israel/Palestine belongs to the Jewish people. For the sake of peace, the Palestinian Authority recognizes the State of Israel and accepts a two-state solution based on the 22% of historic Palestine. The ongoing occupation, the expanding Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, as well as the opposition to a Palestinian State proclaimed by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu during the March 2015 Israeli elections demands a response. We call on our leaders to use our nation’s full diplomatic options to ensure the following:

End West Bank settlements.  The Israeli settlement project, and the settler violence, home demolitions and land dispossession it has entailed must stop. We support the UN Human Rights Council’s 2013 recommendation that Israel “cease all settlement activities without preconditions” and “ immediately initiate a process of withdrawal of all settlers from the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”

End the occupation; remove the wall. The settlement infrastructure including Israel’s military checkpoints, by-pass roads, and its separation wall built on Palestinian lands subject the people of the West Bank to humiliating and oppressive living conditions. This matrix of control and subjugation must end. So too, the Israeli occupation policy of “demonstrating a presence” through intrusive home searches, arrests, imprisonments, and indefinite detentions including that of minors must stop. Israel must withdraw from the entire West Bank, including from East Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley.

End the isolation of Gaza. Israel’s imprisonment and blockade of Gaza, in effect since 2007, must also end. From 2007 through June 2012, 37 Israelis were killed and 380 injured in attacks launched from Gaza, 40% of whom were civilians. During this same period nearly 2,300 Palestinians were killed and 7,700 injured by Israeli forces. Israel’s legitimate security concerns can be addressed without resulting in the de facto collective punishment of the Gaza residents, that for example, during the 22-day Cast Lead assault on Gaza ending January 18, 2009, killed some 1,400 Palestinians including 300 children and left thousands injured, homeless, and the already dire economy in ruins. Similarly, during its eight-day assault on Gaza in November 2012, Israel air strikes, killed 168 of whom 101 are believed to be civilians, including 33 children and 13 women. Israel’s 50-day military Gaza offensive initiated on July 8, 2014 killed over 2,100 Palestinians, of whom at least 70% were civilians, including over 500 children. More than 11,000 were wounded and over 100,000 made homeless. 73 Israelis were killed: 67 soldiers and 6 civilians, including one child and one migrant worker and 469 Israeli soldiers and 255 civilians were wounded. The living situation for the 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza has become increasingly desperate. 90% of the water extracted from the Gaza aquifer is unsafe for human consumption and due to over-extraction the aquifer may become unusable by 2016. Unemployment exceeds 40%, and 57% of the Gaza population is food insecure. Who benefits? Ending the Israeli imprisonment of Gaza and negotiating a just peace will eliminate conditions that contribute to this cycle of death and destruction.

Share Jerusalem. Regarding the City of Jerusalem, we recognize that it is sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians – all part of the history and life of that holy City. Thus a sincere peace deal must include the sharing of that great city.

Palestinian refugees. During the past 65 years, the Palestinian refugee population has grown to five million, of whom 1.5 million live in 58 refugee camps scattered through Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Gaza and the West Bank including East Jerusalem. We believe that Palestinian refugees’ right of return, a result of one of the largest refugee tragedies in history, must be part of the peace deal. UN Resolution 194 recognizes this right.


Mutual recognition and human rights. Believing as we do in self-determination, the people of Israel and Palestine must chart their future together. Regardless of what the peace agreement may stipulate and what boundaries might be declared, Israelis and Palestinians must recognize the other’s sovereign right to exist in peace and security. The principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights must be upheld. In the event of a two-state solution, fair borders based upon the pre-1967 demarcation line (Green Line) must be established – with equal rights extended to Palestinians who are, or seek to become, citizens of Israel as well as to Israelis who seek to remain in and/or become citizens of Palestine.

Our call to action. 

We call on our government, guided by the above principles, to act as an ardent and fair peace broker. If this is not possible, we ask our government to give the task to an international body, such as the United Nations, which will work with Israelis and Palestinians to reach a just peace, providing both peoples the security and freedoms they deserve and that we ourselves demand. Peace and justice must be given a chance. We encourage the use of non-violent forms of civil and economic pressure – including the tools of diplomacy, boycott, divestment and sanctions and withdrawal of U.S. military and foreign aid as a means of bringing peace and justice to the people of Israel and Palestine.

**your signature**

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