By senior member of the ISL, Yossi Schwartz,
published in: DissidentVoice / July 19th, 2010
If the price for the release of one thousand Palestinian political prisoners is an Israeli soldier who was part of the criminal siege of Gaza, then so be it.
You understand that the Israeli government is responsible for the fact that Shalit is still a prisoner because Netanyahu’s government refuses to release the Palestinian prisoners that Hamas demands. You are willing to exchange Shalit because in your eyes the life of one Israeli is more valuable than the lives of one thousand Palestinians. As long as you hold to this racist outlook, you remain prisoners of the Israeli state. All 11,000 political Palestinian prisoners should be released, because they belong to a nation struggling against the oppression that you are part of.
What you do not understand is that the Israeli state is responsible for the criminal siege of Gaza, where 1.5 million people are living in a huge open-air prison, most of them refugees expelled by the Israeli state in 1947-8 and their descendants. You have not demanded an end to the siege, or the return of the Palestinian refugees, or the release of all Palestinian political prisoners – because you still believe that the enemy is the Palestinian nation and in particular those who have dared to struggle against their oppression.
You believe that the Hagana, Etzel and Palmach, organizations which used terror against the Palestinians, were freedom fighters, but that the Palestinians who are struggling for their freedom are terrorists.
You do not understand that it is not the Palestinian people who are your enemy but the racist imperialist state, Israel. A state that is not only oppressing the Palestinians but is a death trap for you as long as you support and identify yourselves with this state.
In your eyes Shalit is an innocent solder who did his duty. You do not see that this so-called duty was a crime. We understand the pain that Shalit family feels. They cannot hold him, speak with him, or be sure that he is well, But we also understand the pain the families of 11,000 Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli jails. They cannot hold their children, speak with them, or be sure that they have not been tortured.
We do not hear from you that you even begin to imagine the pains of the Palestinian families. For four years you were concerned with Shalit, but you were never concerned with the suffering of the people in Gaza.
We hear and see from you a different message. You want to be sure that if your son or brother is sent to commit a crime in the service of the Israeli state, then the state will do everything it can to release him – so that he will be able to commit another crime. “I call on Prime Minister Netanyahu to listen to the nation and do more than he has done so far to free my brother,” Yoel Shalit told supporters at the Herzliya college.
The president of the Interdisciplinary Center, Uriel Reichman, said: “People have said this wave of protest is a sign of weakness. The opposite is true. What is happening here is an expression of Israeli strength and of the principle that all Israelis are responsible for one another.”
You want a strong imperialist Israel, and you think that the way to guarantee that Israel will be strong is that every soldier who oppresses the Palestinians and who is captured has a good insurance policy guaranteed by the state.
As long as you will continue to think and feel like this, not only the Palestinians and the Arab workers and peasants in Lebanon, in Gaza, in the West Bank and in other states in the region will suffer from the Israeli state – but you will never be safe and free, because those who oppress cannot be free.
Israel is not different from the apartheid regime that existed in South Africa. The Palestinians are the blacks of Palestine and the Israelis the Afrikaners of Palestine. The Jews suffered in Europe, but the Palestinians are suffering in this country that was stolen from them. You live on their lands and in their houses or on the ruins of their houses. As long as you will not see this you will be the prisoners of the Israeli state and the imperialist states that support Israel. They will use you as mercenaries fighting for profits and the political control of the region by the big corporations.
It does not have to be so. You can live in this country as free and secure people. However, this will happen only when you side with the oppressed Palestinians and struggle with them for a different state – a state without racism, without national oppression and without the exploitation of workers. That means a workers’ state as part of a Socialist Federation of the Middle East. The Palestinians, including the refugees, are much more numerous than you are, and a workers’ state will be a Palestinian state. Yes, you will have to live as a minority in Palestine. But you will gain security and equality. You will not be afraid any more for the lives of those you hold dear. You will be able to live in solidarity with the Palestinians.
We know that most of you will say, this will never happen. You are wrong – the days when Israel was a very powerful state are over. Israel and its backer, the U.S., are declining powers. The future – if humanity will survive – belongs to the workers and the oppressed. Your only future is with them, not as masters but as brothers and sisters.
Yossi Schwartz is a member of Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights (Canada) and a member of the Bar of Ontario and Israel. He is currently residing in Israel.