We Must Never Be Silent

We Must Never Be Silent

The following is excerpted from a piece published on July 27, by Jonathan Tasini, at Common Dreams.org. It turns out that Mr. Tasini, Senator Clinton’s Democratic primary opponent, has a deep family background in Israel, and argues passionately both against Israel’s current military campaign and for a secure future for Israel in a two-state solution. He has attempted to take on this issue in a nuanced way, in contrast to the stance of most American politicians. Even Ned Lamont, the dovish challenger to Sen. Lieberman in Connecticut, has voiced uncritical support for Israel in the current war. This is not meant as an endorsement of Mr. Tasini’s candidacy, nor even necessarily of his position on this issue, but only food for thought. – R. Seliger

…. while people view talking about Israel- Palestine as the ‘third rail’ of politics in New York, the
more I think about it, the more I realize that there are a growing number of people in the Jewish community who are willing to speak up, out of love for Israel, about the dreadful occupation and the never-ending violence that is spinning out of control, in large part because the United States-and politicians like Hillary Clinton, continue to blindly pursue a one-sided policy in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, a policy that is causing more death and sorrow for
civilians on all sides of the conflict….

It’s worth voters in New York knowing a little about where I come from on the issue of Israel-Palestine and the raging conflict engulfing the region today. I speak about Israel out
of love and pain….

My father was born in then-Palestine. He fought in the Haganah in the war of independence; my father’s cousin, whose name I carry as a middle name, was killed in that war. I lived in Israel for seven years, during which I went through the 1973 war: a cousin of mine was killed in that war, leaving a young widow and two children, and his brother was wounded. My step-grandfather, an old man who was no threat to anyone, was killed by a Palestinian who took an axe to his head while he was sitting quietly on a park bench. Half my family still lives in Israel. I have seen enough bloodshed, tears, and parents burying their children to last many lifetimes.

For that reason, I believe passionately in a two-state solution, which includes a strong, independent, economically viable Palestinian state existing alongside a strong, independent, economically vibrant Israel. It is the only solution that will bring peace to the civilians who now live in fear of death raining down from above-either because of the missiles of Hezbollah or the bombs of Israeli aircraft.

So, here is what I said – and did not say – that has touched off this discussion and the press coverage (I certainly hope there is such interest when I release my economic program). I did
not say that Israel is a terrorist state. I did say – and have said for a long time – that Israel has committed acts that violate international standards and the Geneva conventions. In Israel, my statement that the military has committed acts that violate the Geneva convention and international standards and has also engaged in torture (or, as it is called, ‘moderate pressure’) would be a subject of debate but hardly considered novel or particularly radical. Among the many sources for the truth, beyond my personal experience, is the English/Israeli human rights organization, B’Tselem. If you visit the organization’s website, you will find condemnation of both Israeli and Palestinian violence against civilians of each side.

Here is what B’Tselem says about the current escalation:
“…the organization reiterates that international humanitarian law (IHL) obligates all parties taking part in hostilities to refrain from launching attacks against civilians or against civilian objects. IHL requires that the combating sides direct their attacks only against specific military objectives, take cautionary measures to prevent injury to civilians, and refrain from disproportionate attacks, i.e. attacks directed against legitimate targets, but that are likely to cause excessive harm to civilians. Furthermore, IHL clearly forbids the intimidation and terrorising of civilians, as well as collective punishment.

“Over the past week, Israel has killed hundreds of Lebanese civilians in its attacks against targets in Lebanon. There is a concern that at least some of them were disproportionate
attacks, which constitute war crimes. In addition, Israel has launched deliberate attacks against civilian infrastructure throughout Lebanon, such as bridges, the Beirut international airport , the electricity supply and fuel reservoirs. There is a concern that such attacks are intended to put pressure on the Lebanese Government and not to obtain a specific military advantage. If this is the case, these attacks constitute collective punishment and a grave violation of IHL. Moreover, even if these targets constitute legitimate military objects, or civilian objectives that may be used for military purposes, Israel must respect the principle of proportionality and refrain from attacks that would cause excessive harm to civilians.”

The problem is not the debate in Israel. The problem is the debate – or lack thereof – in the United States. We should not allow the power brokers in Washington, DC to silence the voices of people who love Israel but are willing to stand up and be critical of its policies.

Senator Clinton’s spokesperson has called my comments ‘beyond the pale.’ With all due respect, it is Senator Clinton’s behavior, lack of leadership, and failure to call for a respect for international law that should be questioned by the press, the Jewish community, and the voters of New York. At a time when the violence against people on both sides of the border has killed hundreds of innocent people (mostly Lebanese), Hillary Clinton has fanned the flames of the
conflict by recognizing and condemning the violence only against Israelis and effectively encouraging military action.

I, too, have stated clearly, from the outset, that Hezbollah’s actions violate international law. But, to ignore Israel’s actions is abhorrent, weak, and cowardly….

By | 2006-08-03T14:41:00-04:00 August 3rd, 2006|Blog|1 Comment

One Comment

  1. Dvorah August 5, 2006 at 7:52 pm - Reply

    Campaign Shuns Debate:

    We must never be silent, it’s true. Meanwhile, Tasini is being shut out of the Town Hall debate with Sen. Clinton to be held at Pace University on August 22 because NY1 cable news is setting up the criterion that a candidate must have or must have spent $500,000.

    Time Warner owns NY1. You might say that Time Warner owns the debate. Time Warner contributed $101,000 to the Clinton campaign this year.

    We must never be silent, but just try to get heard.

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