20 March 2006
Dear Ms. Stone,
In an interview with the Israeli paper Ha’aretz you stated that your visit to Israel did not imply taking sides. “I am not for or against one side,” you insisted, adding: “When my children fight, I don’t choose any side, either. I love them equally.” Your comments reveal a surprising level of naivete and a basic lack of understanding of the context. In a situation of undisputed colonial oppression, when you are not “for or against” either side, you are essentially on the side of the oppressor and a supporter, perhaps an unwitting one, of the status quo of colonial domination and oppression. Israel and the Palestinians are not exactly two equal parties engaged in some silly quarrel where it is hard, if not pointless, to place the blame. Even if you decided to ignore all that and deal “fairly” with both sides, how can you explain the exclusion of one “side” from your itinerary?
Israel is recognized by the United Nations and the absolute majority of nations across the world as a repressive occupying power that maintains illegal colonies in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT), violates international law, UN resolutions and basic human rights of the Palestinian people. These are not abstract notions, at least not to us. Israel denies millions of Palestinian refugees their internationally recognized right to return to their lands; it is building settlements and a monstrous Wall, both of which were declared illegal by the International Court of Justice; it is destroying Palestinian homes; it is killing Palestinian children with impunity; it is uprooting hundreds of thousands of Palestinian trees; and its ubiquitous roadblocks are imprisoning Palestinian civilians, denying them access to health care, schools and jobs. Moreover, Israel maintains a system of racial discrimination against its own Palestinian citizens reminiscent of South African apartheid. These injustices, among others, have been well documented by leading human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Physicians for Human Rights and B’Tselem.
Your leisurely visit to Israel at a time when it is escalating its violent oppression of the Palestinians to unprecedented levels is most unwelcome. It ignores the Palestinian civil society’s Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), a non-violent and morally sound call intended to bring about Israel’s compliance with international law and its respect for Palestinian rights. No matter what “peace” project you claim to be supporting, your celebration of your birthday in a country whose name has become synonymous with injustice is a stone’s throw away from collusion in perpetuating this injustice.
Ms. Stone, peace without justice, as our universal basic instincts tell us, is not peace at all. It is submission to injustice. The best way you could sincerely promote peace here is by having the moral courage to speak out against Israel’s occupation, Wall and denial of our basic rights. Wouldn’t you have done that in any similar situation elsewhere?
This letter was written by the Acting Steering Committee of the Palestinian Civil Society’s Campagin for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions