Liberty Bell Vigil of Women & Men in BlackOn Friday, June 8, more than one hundred vigils in support of Women in Black were held in cities around the world; 3,000 women and men, Israeli and Palestinian, in Jerusalem; 500 in San Francisco; hundreds in major European capitals and major North American cities.
In each vigil slogans were different, but all agreed in demanding an end to the Israeli Occupation.
In Philadelphia, there were two vigils, one at the Israeli consulate and one at the Liberty Bell.
The Women-and-Men-in-Black vigil at the Liberty Bell, organized on two days notice, included 23 adults & 3 kids, and leafleted hundreds of tourists. It was initiated by The Shalom Center, and involved a range of local and national Jewish leaders, including several rabbis.
There was a simultaneous vigil at the Israeli consulate, with a somewhat different ethico-political stance.
Among the Liberty Bell participants were Rabbi David Mivasair, Reconstructionist/Renewal rabbi in Vancouver, just back from a year in Israel where he worked closely with Rabbis for Human Rights; Susan Saxe, chief operating officer of ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal; Rabbi Julie Greenberg, director of the Life Center for Jewish Renewal; Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director of The Shalom Center; Mark Seal, exec of the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation; Rabbi Brian Walt, of the Reconstructionist congregation Mishkan Shalom; the Hazzan of a Conservative Philadelphia synagogue; and others of varied backgrounds.
The leaflet read as follows.
End the Israeli Occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, & East Jerusalem
Bring the Settlers & Soldiers Safely Home
End Suicide Bombings & All Other Attacks on Civilians
Today the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is 34 years old.
Today we mourn dead Israelis and dead Palestinians, many of whom might well be alive today if the occupation had ended.
Today we stand with Women in Black in Israel, who say: "Our sorrow over the recent bombing in Tel Aviv knows no bounds, and we again condemn the use of violence as a political tool. Neither Israelis nor Palestinians, children above all, should be pawns in the struggle. Now, more than ever, this tragedy underscores the urgency of our work for a just peace. Therefore we declare END THE OCCUPATION!"
Today we stand with Uri Avneri, former Member of Knesset, who after the Tel Aviv bombing said:
"For me, the frontline does not pass between Israelis and Palestinians, but between the Israeli and Palestinian peace lovers on one side and the war-mongers of both peoples on the other.
". . . The collaboration between the Islamic fanatics and the extreme right-wing in Israel is a fact of life, as is the cooperation between the likes of Faisal Husseini and the Israeli peace activists.
"If not stopped by international forces, the Israeli government will choose escalation. In the ping-pong game between [Israeli right-wingers] and [Hamas], the ball is a human skull."
For more than a decade, Women in Black in Israel have gathered at Friday noon in vigils to call for an end to the occupation, which is now 34 years old. It began as a defensive response in 1967, but now costs hundreds of Israeli and Palestinian lives and prevents the emergence of a viable, peaceful Palestinian state.
Why do Women in Black, Avneri, and other Israelis connect their sorrow and anger at the Tel Aviv bombing with the occupation? Because they are convinced that the occupation is stirring rage and despair among Palestinians so deep that some are driven over the edge into willingness to kill themselves if they can also kill Israelis. This despair would diminish if the occupation were ended.
This despair is also manipulated by forces that do not want peace at all like Hamas. They, and Israeli extremists as well, may well try to use murder to prevent and destabilize any peace, even after the occupation has ended. But their ability to win popular support will be much less if Israelis are no longer bombing and assassinating Palestinians, and Palestinians are no longer shooting at Israeli soldiers and settlers.
Beneath the diplomatic card-shuffling at Camp David and since, even during the years of the "peace process," on the actual ground the Palestinians were being squeezed into tighter and tighter places.
- The number of settlers actually doubled, from 200,000 in 1993 to 400,00 today.
- Huge roads were driven through Palestinian farms and houses, to isolate these settlers from desperate and angry Palestinians.
- More than 80,000 olive trees the basis of many village economies were uprooted.
- More than 1200 homes were demolished for adding rooms without permits though no permits were granted Palestinians to meet such family needs.
- Today, Israel has cut the Palestinian territories into small enclaves, separated by corridors of Israeli settlements and soldiers and military checkpoints.
- Israel is besieging and blockading Palestinian towns and villages, not to supervise entry into Israel but to isolate them from each other.
- These acts have shattered the Palestinian economy, and forced the shuttering of many of its schools.
Ending the occupation would mean bringing Israeli settlers and soldiers back home in safety. It would not be an Israeli defeat or a Palestinian victory. It would be a victory for both peoples and a defeat for the war party on each side.