“The State of Israel is facing a catastrophic situation, which could, alarmingly soon, lead to extensive bloodshed. It is time for the international community to act decisively. Substantive external pressure – political, economic and cultural – offers the only chance of emerging from this impossible situation before it is too late“, wrote Dr. David Harel and Ilana Hammerman in a recent article in the London based Guardian newspaper. Hammerman is an Israeli writer and translator and Harel is vice-president of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities.
“We represent a group of intellectuals and cultural figures central to Israeli society, several of whom are world renowned in their fields. (…) We fully intend to stay here and continue to contribute, but we are horrified by the situation and fear deeply for our lives and those of our offspring, and for the lives of the 13 million Jews and Arabs who live here and who have no other homeland”, they argue.
What makes their public appeal especially interesting is that Harel and Hammerman are both Zionists, though of the “soft’ variety. They believe in the idea of a Jewish State of Israel. But they are genuinely concerned about the situation of the Palestinians in the West Bank which Israel occupied in 1967, and believe that only ending the occupation can save Israel from what they see as an impending catastrophe.
Their focus is solely on the issues arising from the occupation of the West Bank. In their op ed, they make no reference to the other issues facing Palestinians, including the over 5 million refugees who cannot return to Israel because they are not Jewish, nor to the laws inside Israel which permit or even promote discrimination against its own citizens of Palestinian origin, culminating in the flagrantly discriminatory Nation State Law which the Israel Knesset just passed.
They make it clear that while they support a boycott of goods from Israel’s illegal settlements in the West Bank, they would not support BDS, or any boycott of Israel itself.
(However, in a recent telephone interview with Canadian David Kattenburg, Harel did go further, indicating that he would not oppose a 1 state solution if representatives of both Israelis and Palestinians could work out some agreement that ensured equality for everyone.)
Not surprisingly, Harel and Hammerman’s call for outside pressure on Israel generated a huge discussion among Jews,both inside Israel and in the Jewish “diaspora”. The article has been recopied hundreds of times. Thousands have responded to their appeal, including this letter from Sylvia Laale, a concerned Canadian Jew living in Ottawa. Her letter to Harel is reprinted with permission.
To: David Harel and Ilana Hammerman
Re: June 29/18 article in The Guardian: As Israelis, we call on the world to intervene on behalf of Palestinians
I write this as a diaspora Jewish woman who in the last 2 decades has become increasingly concerned and troubled observing Israel treating West Bank Palestinians and Gazans in ways that remind me of how Jewish people were treated in Europe for almost 2 millennia. My family of origin is Ashkenazi Jewish…many of whom emigrated from Poland to Canada before WW2 and some who unfortunately remained in Poland.
Over the decades my willing embrace of Israel’s behaviour towards Palestinians and Gazans has diminished significantly. I now see such behaviour in the same way you describe in your article–it contributes to an ongoing, unending mistreatment by ‘us’ against ‘them’–it cannot and will not lead anywhere but to disaster for both Israel and the Palestinians. And I believe you are correct that ‘there will be no future and no life for [you] or the Palestinians’.
In the last few years, I have come to the conclusion that the only way for Israelis to be safe in their country is to ensure that the Palestinians have all the rights, benefits, safety and freedoms that Israelis have, including a country that is equally theirs (irrespective of one state or two states). While I understand that you are pleading with the world to step up to the plate, I do not see that happening in the short term…unless you, the group you represent, help us understand at a profound level what is actually going on between the Israelis and the Palestinians…and exactly how this will lead ultimately to calamity at a level of destruction that seems incomprehensible right now. We cannot yet imagine it, therefore we have trouble believing it.
You have asked the us to intervene as individuals, and as organizations and as countries. I would like to suggest that people in North American need to be ‘educated’ about your situation as well as that of the Palestinians. That being said, are any members of your group interested in or willing to come to Canada and speak to people across this country about what is going on and why you are so deeply concerned? And we live in Ottawa, our nation’s capital which may offer other benefits in terms of speaking perhaps to politicians.
I deeply appreciate your openness and honesty and your profound concern for both peoples. Like you, many of us know that this cannot go on…that we are headed for disaster. We need your voice here to help us get your message across.
Sylvia Laale, Ottawa
Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue. We accept guest columnists from time and encourage brief comments (under 100 words) from serious readers. To learn more about what we do, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.