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At-Home with Gila Svirsky

9 April 2002
Subject: After the Outrage and Tears


I just returned to Israel from two weeks abroad, and took two more days to get a perspective on what I see and hear, which I would now like to share with you:

First, the overwhelming picture before us is of death and destruction wrought by the Israeli army in the Palestinian cities, Jenin above all. In addition to the hundreds killed and thousands wounded, we have irrefutable evidence that the Israeli army has barred ambulances from evacuating the dead and wounded, has bulldozed homes in large numbers (sometimes with the families still inside), and has withheld access to water, electricity, and phone communication for periods of a week and more. Can you imagine life with no water, while men, women, and children are bleeding to death around you? And finally having to bury the corpses in an empty lot nearby, after days of keeping them at home?

These go well beyond the ongoing acts of brutality, mass arrests, vandalism, theft, and humiliations, which are also rampant. A senior officer was quoted in Ha’aretz today as saying, “When the world sees pictures of what we have done there, it will cause enormous damage to us.” It’s no wonder that the media are not given access. Listening to the report from the field at the emergency board meeting of B’Tselem last night, I was not the only one with tears in my eyes.

This is no time for analysis, although I have much to say: About the complicity of Peres, about the appalling anti-Semitism unleashed internationally by legitimate anger at Israeli, and about how horrifying terrorism in Israel and the so-called “war against terrorism” in the US have given license to what is happening. Introduce Bush-Cheney-Rice-Sharon-Mofaz, and the recipe for Violence-Begets-More-Violence is complete. Today’s killing of 13 Israeli soldiers in Jenin only drives home the tragic futility of Israel’s military might.

Rather than analyze, this is a time to act. Here in Israel, the peace and human rights movement is working tirelessly on every imaginable front. Soldiers who refuse to serve the occupation are going to jail; convoys of food and medical supplies hastily collected have been distributed and more are being collected; human rights workers are risking their lives to monitor action; peace activists have braved hailstorms of teargas and stun grenades in facing army checkpoints; foreign activists have served as human shields throughout the territories. In my history of activism, I recall no parallel sense of urgency, in which lives and daily bread are being set aside to pursue a cause. But I also recall no parallel feeling that a calamity of our own making is unfolding before our eyes.

I implore you to take action of your own. Contact relevant officials (some addresses are given below). If you’re Jewish, make a point of saying that. Tell them:

  1. International monitors must be dispatched to the region at once to end the terrible violence.
  2. The root cause of the conflict is the Israeli occupation of the territories. This must come to an end.

Other things you can do, even if you have limited time:

  • If you have just 1 minute to give, forward this letter to others on your list.
  • If you have 10 minutes to spare, write a check to the organization of your choice (see the links at for a few suggestions).
  • If you have 20 minutes, call, fax or write (make it brief!) any of the officials below.
  • If you have an hour, write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper (brief and from the heart).
  • If you have more time, get involved. See “Get Involved - Find an Organization Near You” at for some suggestions.
  • If you’re an American Jew, join the Tikkun Community ( or the newly formed Brit Tzedek v’Shalom - Jewish Alliance for Justice & Peace (

Whatever you can do is valuable.

Finally, I can’t help but note that Israel marked Holocaust Memorial Day today. When will we finally extricate ourselves from this trauma and apply ourselves to instilling its true lesson, that of tolerance?

Shalom / Salaam from Jerusalem,
Gila Svirsky



Note: If you have time, print out and fax a letter (or make a phone call), as those are more effective than e-mail.

President George W. Bush
Phone: (202) 456-1414
Fax: (202) 456-2461

Secretary of State Colin Powell
Phone: (202) 647-4000 (202-647-5150) Bureau of Near East Affairs
Fax: (202) 261-8577

Ms. Mary Robinson
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Mr. Kofi Annan
Secretary General of the UN
Phone: (212) 963-5012
Fax: (212) 963-4879

Mr. Terje Rod Larsen
Representative of the UN in Palestine
Tel: + 972 8 282 2914
Fax: + 972 8 282 0966

Council of the European Union

Javier Solana - EU special envoy

At-Home with Gila Svirsky

Letters from Jerusalem, 2001
Letters from Jerusalem, 2002
Letters from Jerusalem, 2003
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© 2002 Gila Svirsky.

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