The Unheard Voices Against the Occupation

07/24/2014 06:01 pm ET | Updated Sep 23, 2014

Among Jewish Americans and Israelis themselves, there is a diversity of opinion on the Israeli invasion of Gaza and on the Occupation of the Palestinian people. If there is to be any peaceful and just solution to the nightmare we are witnessing each day -- to senseless destruction, the bloodshed, the displacement of families, and the other atrocities and human rights violations taking place in Gaza -- these voices must be heard.

"To not be outraged at the killing of children is to risk your very soul," tweeted Rob Schneider, former Saturday Night Live comedian and actor, on the bombing of Gaza and the deaths of Palestinian children.

And Jon Stewart went out on a limb on The Daily Show recently with a sketch that parodied what passes for public discourse about Israel and Palestine these days. Although it was satirical, the segment, which was most effective, was the host's response to those who had condemned his criticism of the latest Israeli offensive in Gaza.

At least one athlete of Jewish descent has expressed opposition to Israeli military policy. New York Knicks player Amar'e Stoudemire -- who is also African-American, has applied for Israeli citizenship, and had to postpone hosting his upcoming basketball camp in Tel Aviv due to security concerns -- posted a photo on Instagram with a message that read "Pray for Palestine." The message was subsequently deleted.

Meanwhile -- Jews of conscience, initially a group of 200 peace activists, academics, religious leaders, journalists, Holocaust survivors and others -- have signed a petition on addressed to President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu "unequivocally condemning Israel's ongoing massacre in Gaza, whose victims include hundreds of civilians, children, entire families, the elderly, and the disabled." Invoking the tradition of the civil rights movement, the group quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who, in opposing the Vietnam War in 1967, said "For the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent."

This letter from politically conscious Jews characterizes the Netanyahu government as an "apartheid" government that does not speak for them, and calls for an end to U.S. military support for Israel. "In the face of incessant pro-Israel propaganda, we heed Malcolm X's warning: 'If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing'" the petition continued.

As progressive American Jews protest the occupation and the Israeli ground operation in Gaza, their Israeli counterparts are doing the same. In cities such as Tel Aviv and Haifa, hundreds of Jews and Arabs have rallied against the Gaza operation and have called for Israel's pullout from Gaza, resulting in arrests by police and physical attacks from right-wing and neo-Nazi protestors.

A most potent example of the Israeli peace movement is Breaking the Silence, the organization of veteran IDF soldiers who are exposing Israeli society to the realities of life in the Occupied Territories, and the human rights violations that are committed against the civilian population. The organization collects and publishes testimonies from soldiers who have served in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem since 2000, holds lectures and other events, and exposes the public to the humiliating and dehumanizing conditions faced by Palestinians that are not reported in the Israeli media, and to which society turns a blind eye and often chooses to ignore.

"Soldiers who serve in the Territories witness and participate in military actions which change them immensely. Cases of abuse towards Palestinians, looting, and destruction of property have been the norm for years, but are still explained as extreme and unique cases," according to the Breaking the Silence website. "Our testimonies portray a different, and much grimmer picture in which deterioration of moral standards finds expression in the character of orders and the rules of engagement, and are justified in the name of Israel's security."

So, in Israel and in the U.S., there are voices of conscience, those who do not like what the Likud government and its coalition of settlers, hatemongers and religious zealots is doing in their name. Those who seek peace are not ceding territory to the folks who bang the drums of war, whose only tools for conflict resolution are guns, missiles and F-16 jet fighters. It is painfully apparent their input is needed, in conjunction with Palestinian civil society, to help build bridges, break the cycle of violence and halt the land grabbing.

In Israel, if the reactionary political leadership have not lost their minds, then even worse, they know exactly what they are doing, as they engage in "mowing the grass" -- periodically killing Palestinians as a matter of policy. This, as the Israeli government attempts to manage in perpetuity an unsustainable Occupation and keep 1.8 million Gazans imprisoned in the back yard.

And in the U.S., a dysfunctional and spineless political elite still falls in line with AIPAC, as evidenced by the unanimous Senate vote in favor of Israel's Gaza invasion, although everyone insists they don't want to see babies die.