The letter below was sent out by Rebecca Vilkomerson, head of Jewish Voice for Peace today, along with the photo above, and a link to a letter to be sent to newspapers.
16 year-old Mohammed Abu Khudair was found dead in East Jerusalem, the victim of what appears to be a price tag attack following the killing of three Israeli teenagers on the West Bank. He was the 10th Palestinian killed by the IDF or right-wing extremists in the last two weeks.
We mourn his death as we do all lost lives. And we also know we must speak the truth, so that we may change the conditions that make such unthinkable violence possible in the first place.
The ongoing Israeli occupation is at the heart of this crisis.
In addition to these deaths, across the West Bank the army has sealed off entire towns, arrested more than 400 people, and raided over 100 homes. Gazans have been subjected to more than 34 bombing raids in the same period.
These are not isolated or even rare instances of human rights violations, but the intensification of the daily enforcement of the Israeli occupation. Palestinians are subjected to home demolitions, checkpoints, arrests, and indefinite detention not randomly and occasionally, but daily and systematically.
The shedding of just one child’s blood is too much and cause for deep mourning. While we mourn the 3 Israeli teenagers who were killed in the West Bank, we also mourn families of the 1,384 Palestinian children killed by the Israeli military since 2000, according to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. That’s 1 Palestinian child killed by the Israeli military every 3 to 4 days.
The Israeli government is endangering lives and both fomenting and feeding off an atmosphere of vengeance and racism.
The Israeli government has continued to show little regard for either Israeli or Palestinian life. The pronouncements of Cabinet ministers, IDF officials, and the Prime Minister Netanyahu make it clear that revenge, not justice, is the main agenda. Emerging reports suggest that the government knew the fate of the teens long before that information was released, but withheld that information – indicating that the government’s primary aim has been to exploit the kidnapping to attack the infrastructure of Palestinian society.
Meanwhile, hundreds rioted in the streets of Jerusalem, chanting “death to the Arabs” and “we want war” while attacking Palestinians on the street, or in shops. Settlers burned down a Palestinian sheep farm in a price tag attack.
All lives are precious.
We refuse to mourn only the deaths of Palestinians, or only the deaths of Israelis. But that does not mean we can ignore the enormous power difference between Israelis and Palestinians, or pretend it is just a “cycle of violence” with no root cause or context. Each of these horrific incidents that harms both peoples happen in the context of an ongoing occupation, itself inherently a system of daily violence. And it is a system that by its very nature puts the lives, dignity, and human rights of all in jeopardy.
It is our responsibility to speak the truth.
The media in both Israel and the United States have thus far failed to offer critical reporting that can help readers understand the content of occupation or the degree of violence inflicted by the Israeli government’s escalation. But we can change that narrative – and we have to, if we want to end the occupation and injustice.