Dear friends, members of the South African Jewish Community,
Shalom. We are writing to you as Israeli citizens and fellow Jews who are witness to the daily brutal oppression of the Palestinian people.
Palestinians in the occupied and/or besieged territories are living under Israeli control in almost all areas of their lives; their movements are severely limited even within the occupied territories where they need to get permission from Israel to leave those areas which is often arbitrarily denied.
Palestinians face numerous indignities at the hands of the Israeli military and can be arrested and incarcerated without charge, due legal process or access to legal representation. Palestinians have no vote in the elections of a state that effectively controls their lives even though Jews living in the West Bank, on illegal settlements, have the right to vote.
A main hindrance to any sustainable and just peace is the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the blockade of Gaza, which have created intolerable conditions for the Palestinian people. Most Israeli Jews, like most white South Africans during apartheid, fail to recognise that the conduct of the Israeli state in denying the Palestinian people the same rights that Israelis possess is at the core of the problem. Successive Israeli administrations have failed to end the discriminatory occupation, and this is a moral blot on the Jewish conscience.
The oppression of Palestinians is not limited to those of them living within the West Bank and Gaza. At this moment, two Bedouin villages in the Negev, Atir and Um el-Hiran, are facing brutal uprooting, to make way for new communities built by the Jewish National fund (JNF), as part of the racist Prawer Plan. These communities will, in practice, be, Jewish communities, built on the ruined lives of Palestinians, a continuation of the Nakba, the violent uprooting Palestinians have been experiencing since 1948.
Israel cannot call itself a moral Jewish state if its institutions, social practices, government policies, corporations, educational and legal systems do not support generosity, care, inclusiveness and compassion. Israel’s fabric is one of domination, occupation, exclusion, racism and violence. The current Zionist project is morally bankrupt and not representative of Jewish traditions of social justice, as argued by more and more Jewish dissidents who criticize Israeli policies.
Of the small minority of white people who joined the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, a disproportionately large number were Jewish. Joe Slovo, Ruth First, Dennis Goldberg were but some of those South African Jews who made the moral decision to join the struggle for justice, bravely disavowing their privilege as white people and aligning themselves with South Africa’s oppressed, despite having to suffer for such choices.
We see ourselves in a similar situation; a small minority who supports the Palestinian struggle and calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS). We are explicit in our rejection of Israel’s occupation, violence and apartheid policies against Palestinians and we are committed to political, economic, civil and social equality for all.
We appeal to you, who have lived through apartheid in South Africa and have seen the immense and long-lasting suffering that is a consequence, to consider whether Israelis have the right to impose such an unjust and unequal regime on Palestinians.
From 7 to 13 March 2016 #IsraeliApartheidWeek will be held across South African towns and cities as part of the global movement to isolate Israeli state institutions and other complicit Israeli and international institutions, until Israel ends its occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza and respects all rights of its Palestinian citizens and Palestinian refugees. As Israeli citizens, we are reaching out to South Africans in general, and South African Jews in particular, to encourage you to support this campaign.
We ask you to use this time to seriously discuss and contemplate the meaning of Jewish faith, life, and humanity in a time of Israeli occupation, apartheid, and violence. Peace is not possible without justice and an acknowledgement of wrong paths taken.
The Jewish tradition promotes the healing and repair of the world (tikkun olam); the mitzvot pursue justice and righteousness and compassionate action. We believe that we cannot be true to our heritage and also support the current hegemony in Israel. We ask you to stand with us in calling for change. \
We shall be happy to address any comment or question you may have
Boycott! Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from Within (Israeli citizens for BDS)