Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Impassioned Plea for Peace by Director of Givat Haviva

The Givat Haviva Institute's executive director Yaniv Sagee
The Givat Haviva Institute is a seminar center and educational complex originally established by the kibbutz federation associated with the Hashomer Hatzair movement.  It is dedicated to advancing relations between Israel's Jewish and Arab citizens.  The following is most of the opening address by its executive director Yaniv Sagee, for its conference in support of Israeli-Palestinian peace, February 19, 2014:

. . .  From the day it was founded, 65 years ago, by the kibbutzim of Hashomer Hatzair, Givat Haviva has been committed to peace. We have organized this conference together with our Palestinian associates from Al Tawasul, out of a sense of urgency shared by citizens who are holding hands, demanding their leaders to make peace.

It was almost a year ago that President Obama visited here in Israel.  He chose to make his keynote speech at a public event, addressing the entire nation. In that speech, he said:
That's where peace begins -- not just in the plans of leaders, but in the hearts of people.  Not just in some carefully designed process, but in the daily connections -- that sense of empathy that takes place among those who live together in this land and in this sacred city of Jerusalem.
And let me say this as a politician -- I can promise you this, political leaders will never take risks if the people do not push them to take some risks.  You must create the change that you want to see.
This is our role – to inspire the hearts for accepting peace. That is the purpose of this conference, and those that will follow it, in Israel and in Palestine.

I am standing here before you as a member of a kibbutz from the Hashomer Hatzair movement, Ein Hashofet. I am standing here as the son of a Holocaust survivor. My father was an orphan and a war refugee who lost his father and his home as a child, and found new life when he arrived with his mother to the Land of Israel in July 1948, following the establishment of the State of Israel.
However, my father's freedom was only gained following the Palestinian catastrophe, the Nakba. The freedom of one people is inseparable from the destruction of the other.

I am standing here before you as a Zionist who believes in the indisputable moral right of the Jewish people for its own national homeland. [Even so], I am standing here and I say: Enough.  Enough with the evil, destructive occupation.  Enough with the wars and the rivers of blood of innocent victims on both sides.  Enough is enough! The time has come to put an end to fear and hatred.  The time has come for reconciliation and peace – for our own sake, for the sake of our children, for all the inhabitants of the Middle East and the entire world.

97 years ago, on November 2, 1917, the United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour, made a declaration in the name of His Majesty's government, identifying with the Jewish Zionist aspirations:
His Majesty's government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.
92 years ago, the League of Nations, which preceded the UN, approved of this declaration as global policy. This policy was expressed in the UN decision from the 29th of November 1947 on the establishment of a Jewish State beside an Arab State – here in this land.

Today, almost 100 years after the Balfour Declaration, 66 years after the establishment of the State of Israel, we no longer need anybody's recognition as to our place as the national homeland of the Jewish people. There is no dispute about that. The dispute is about the image of the Jewish State as the conqueror of another people, as discriminating against its Arab citizens, as a country where Judaism and democracy collide. This is not the state that was founded in 1948 as the manifestation of the Zionist vision.  This is what we might have if there is not peace, and soon! Without peace, there is no chance for democracy, justice and equality.

The Israeli Declaration of Independence opens with the following words: "Eretz Israel [The Land of Israel] was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and national identity was formed."  It goes on to define the clear vision for the State of Israel:
THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open to the immigration of Jews and for the Ingathering of the Exiles from all countries of their dispersion; will promote the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; will be based on the precepts of liberty, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; will uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of race, creed or sex; will guarantee full freedom of worship, conscience, language, education and culture; will safeguard the sanctity and inviolability of the shrines and Holy Places of all religions; and will dedicate itself to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
This is the Zionist vision for the State of Israel: The national homeland of the Jewish people as a country providing full and complete equality to all its citizens, living in peace with its neighbors and loyal to the principles of the United Nations.  People who support this in Israel nowadays are referred to as extreme anti-Zionist leftists, and those who are acting to make this vision impossible are considered true Israeli patriots.

Cry the beloved country, for the forces of destruction have overtaken you!  Cry against the destruction of Judaism, Zionism, and the spirit of Israel! Cry, for things have turned, and now the founders and builders of modern Israel are publicly condemned as traitors.
Audience at Givat Haviva conference

I assert that it is the other way around.  Naftali Bennett, members of his Jewish Home party, Likud ministers and its Knesset Members who participated a week ago in the demonstration against the peace process led by their own government – they are all post-Zionists. They are the destroyers of the Zionist Movement and of modern Israel.  If they have the upper hand, it will be the end of the Zionist enterprise that gave rise to this country. If they have the upper hand, this will be one state, undemocratic, [denounced] by the entire world. That is their alternative, which we will oppose with all our might.

I would like to counter the shameful slandering of John Kerry, of the United States and of the European Union with a word of thanks. Thanks to those nations of the world who do not give up on us, who do not let us get away with it. Thank you, Mr. Kerry, for years of supporting the real Israel, culminating with your insistence on making peace based on the Two State Solution.

There is no other peace but one that is grounded in the 1967 borders. These are the lines that will warrant the future of Israel as a sane, democratic country, as the national homeland of the Jewish people where all citizens are equal.  

I would like to thank all of you for coming today to Givat Haviva. It is our duty to act with all our might to convince, to influence, to make sure we do not miss the opportunity. Let us hold hands, citizens of Israel and of Palestine, and demand peace. Here, in Israel, Jews and Arabs are going to work together as one front, in order to create for ourselves the future of a common, egalitarian society that lives in peace with its neighbors.

I would like to wish my friends and partners, the Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel, that together we will bring the peace that will put an end to their conflict between their country and their national identity.

I would like to end my words with an appeal to our leaders, Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas: It is your responsibility! You have the ability to bring peace! If you will it, you can bring peace, reconciliation, and a new future for our children. If you refuse, you will lead us to great destruction, to blood and hatred, to the continued suffering of the Palestinian people and to the obliteration of the vision of the State of Israel. The time has come for the leadership of the brave. History will remember you either way. Will it be as leaders who saved their peoples and built paths to peace? Or will it be as leaders who brought destruction, pain and blood?

From here, today, we want to send you our support and our faith in your ability to make peace!
Be strong and of good courage!

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