PALESTINE: Open letter to Obama--call on Israel to stop suppressing Palestinian dissent

CPTnet
25 June 2009
PALESTINE: Open letter to Obama--call on Israel to stop suppressing Palestinian dissent

Dear President Obama,

On Tuesday June 15, you said of the protests in Iran, “When I see peaceful dissent being suppressed, whenever that takes place, it is of concern to me and it is of concern to the American people.”  For the last thirteen years, members of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) have witnessed the brutal suppression of peaceful dissent here in Palestine.  In the city of Hebron and the village of At-Tuwani, CPT supports vibrant Palestinian nonviolent resistance to Israel’s military occupation.  Every day, Palestinians hold nonviolent demonstrations and defy curfews and closed military zones.  They rebuild demolished homes and work their land despite the threat of arrest and attack.  Though their struggle is largely ignored by the media, we find inspiration in the way Palestinians are working for justice and peace.

We are deeply troubled by the way Israeli authorities respond to this nonviolent resistance.  On April 22, 2006, Israeli police beat and arrested the mayor of At-Tuwani village and his brother for doing no more than holding a peaceful demonstration against a low wall installed by the Israeli military to cut off the South Hebron Hills villages from the nearest large town, Yatta.   CPT has documented the Israeli army demolishing the homes of nonviolent resistance leaders, harassing them at checkpoints, and targeting them for arrest.

Too often, Israeli forces respond to nonviolent resistance with lethal force.  In the past nine months, Israeli soldiers have killed four residents of the village of Ni’lin during demonstrations against the Israeli wall.  Ahmed Mousa, age 10, was shot in the forehead with live ammunition on July 29, 2008.  Yousef Amira, 17, was shot twice with rubber-coated steel bullets in next day.  On December 28 2008, 22-year-old Arafat Rateb Khawaje was shot in the back with live ammunition.  The same day, Mohammed Khawaje, 20, was shot in the head with live ammunition.  On March 13, 2009, American demonstrator Tristan Anderson was shot in the face with a tear gas canister.  He still lies in the hospital in critical condition.  Each of these incidents raises a simple question: why do Israeli soldiers respond to unarmed protestors with deadly force?

When Israel arrests, attacks and kills Palestinians who practice nonviolent resistance, it is saying to the Palestinian people, “No matter your methods of struggle, no matter the justice of your cause, we will not share power with you.”  In this context, it is a grave mistake to call, as you did in your Cairo speech, for Palestinians to abandon violence without calling on Israel to do the same.  To speak as though there is no Palestinian nonviolent resistance movement is worse than naïve; it gives Israel permission to continue to ignore their cries for justice and freedom.

In his recent speech, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outlined his conditions for peace with Palestine.  He described a future Palestinian state that would not be a state at all.  Its borders and airspace would be controlled by others.  It would be demilitarized while Israel remained free to continue building a nuclear arsenal.  This is not a plan for peace.  It is a demand that Palestine submit to Israeli domination.

As Prime Minister Netanyahu makes these demands, his government continues to suppress Palestinian nonviolent resistance.  Unarmed demonstrators in Ni’lin are still met with tear gas and live bullets.  In Hebron and At-Tuwani, children on their way to school are still attacked by Israeli settlers and settlements continue to grow.  We ask you, President Obama, to demand that Israel stop its campaign of violence against the Palestinian people.  We echo the Palestinian nonviolent resistance movement’s calls for justice and human dignity.  Only justice will lead to peace.

In Hope,

Christian Peacemaker Teams-Palestine