Letter

From Mr David McReynolds, New York City

(former Chair, War Resisters International, Socialist Party Presidential candidate in 1980, 2000) 9th October, 2003



The bombing within Israel which took twenty lives was tragedy enough, but the Israeli response - the air strike on Syria, is, for those who were sitting on the fence, a final straw.



First, no one who cares about peace applaud attacks on civilians anywhere, whether on Palestinians by Israeli air strikes, or by Palestinians on Israelis within its 1967 borders. Those of us who reject violence as a method of social change would go further and oppose the use of violence even against the Israeli civilians and military within the Occupied areas of Gaza and the West Bank, but do so with the understanding that it is more honorable to fight and die struggling against an oppressive Occupation than to submit quietly.



Second, I wish there was a "Palestinian Gandhi" who could lead a march of Palestinians, starting from the compound where Arafat has been confined to the seats of Israeli power, and that the organizers could call upon international forces to join that march. But those of us who choose nonviolence cannot impose that tactic and that strategy on others. Each group that is oppressed will struggle in its own way.



No Israeli (and no supporter of Israel anywhere in the world) has the right to condemn suicide attacks against Israeli forces in the Occupied Territory unless they have been even more forceful in condemning the Israeli Occupation.



Third, the attack on Syria defies international opinion, violates moral and legal codes, is an act of aggression which should lead to more than a UN condemnation of Israel. It should lead to economic sanctions against Israel and, in the case of the United States, a categorical opposition to all US military and economic aid to Israel until Israel has dismantled every settlement in the Occupied Territory and withdrawn behind its 1967 borders.



Fourth, Israeli leaders have put the lives of the people of Israel at risk by pursuing a consistently brutish and cruel policy which has not resulted in peace for the Israelis, which amounts to a cultural genocide for the Palestinians, and which has clearly expanded the problem of violence and terror in the Middle East. The facts bear this out - it is not an opinion, it is a matter of record. Once and for all, the attack on Syria, coming as it does after the US invasion of Iraq (which was supposed to establish peace in the Middle East) suggests that Israel and the US are linked as outlaw states.



Fifth, we must be emphatic in "disconnecting" opposition to Israeli policy from anti-Semitism. To oppose Sharon is not anti-Semitic. If there is a "cause" of anti-Semitism in the Arab world (and indeed it is a profound tragedy that such anti-Semitism is widespread) it is a reflection of the actions of Israel. It is not the existence of Israel which occasions this widespread hostility but the actions of Israel against the Palestinian people, and in particular the Occupation.



Sixth, it is now folly for Israel and its defenders to refer to it as a "democratic state". It is not. Not so long as it denies elementary human rights - primarily the right of full self-government - to the Palestinian peoples can it lay claim to being democracy. Like South Africa before it, during the apartheid period, it grants real liberties to those in Israel, and one appreciates the fullness of debate within Israel, and rejoices at the sense of morality shown by so many Israelis. But when Israel denies similar rights to people over whom it has exercised control since 1967 it is clear that we are not dealing with a democratic state.



Seventh, it is very hard for anyone in the United States, which has violated international law so perversely and so widely, from Afghanistan to Iraq, from Indochina to Panama, to feel at ease in pointing the finger at another country - in this case Israel. Clearly we must oppose the actions of our own government first. Among those actions and policies, however, is the consistent support for Israel, backed by economic and military aid. If and when US military and economic aid is withdrawn from Israel then I would agree that Americans would have no more reason for concern with the policies of Israel than we do with the policies of countries in Africa, Latin America, Russia, etc. But it is precisely the deep links the US has with Israel which requires that we speak out on this issue.



These points must be carried into the Presidental arena by being raising with candidates from either party, at the national level and at the Congressional level.