Joint commemoration of Israeli and Palestinian dead an ‘insult’ on ‘this holy day’
In response to a joint Israeli-Palestinian memorial ceremony organized by “Combatants for Peace” in the Tel Aviv Harbor, Naomi Enoch, chair of the state-owned company that operates the harbor, said that the ceremony was an outrage, and condemned its participants. In the last year, 67 Palestinians were killed by Israel, and four Israeli citizens were killed by Palestinians.
Haggai Matar, +972
“Combatants for Peace,” a movement of Israeli and Palestinian ex-fighters devoted to reconciliation, ending the occupation and peace, holds a ceremony each year on the eve of Israeli Memorial Day in commemoration of everyone who died in the conflict. This year, the event was held in the Tel Aviv Harbor, a trendy outdoor mall full of shops and restaurants and run by a state-owned company called “Otzar Mif’aley Yam” (Treasure of Sea Initiatives). When Enoch, chair of the company’s board, heard about this, she released the following statement:
Memorial Day is meant to honor the memory of Israeli casualties in war and terror attacks. As a government company, we believe that any attempt to link the memory of fallen IDF soldiers with Palestinians who have been killed is an insult to the citizens of this state, to the memory of the fallen and to the bereaved families. It is a pity that the organizers of this ceremony do not feel compassion for residents of Israel, its citizens and the bereaved families, and choose to desecrate the holiness of the fallen. Unfortunately, the event is held within a private business in the harbor, and the company has no way of stopping it. The only thing we can do is show our discontent with those groups who consider themselves ‘humane’ yet choose to kick the values on which they were brought up, ignoring the feelings of the public on this holy day.
It should be noted that Enoch’s appointment came as a result [of] political pressure by Minister of Transportation Israel Katz (Likud), whose office is in charge of the harbor company. In spite of Enoch’s statement, which was backed by several Likud MKs, the ceremony took place as planned, but was met with a demonstration by right wing extremists.
According to the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, 16,774 Israeli soldiers have died since the founding of the state in 1948, including 50 in the last year. As these deaths include those resulting from accidents, disease, suicide (in the last decade, an average of 30 soldiers committed suicide each year), suicide bombings and combat – I asked the IDF to send a breakdown of the causes of death of these 50 soldiers. The request was denied.
According to B’Tselem, since last year’s Memorial Day, not a single soldier was killed by Palestinians. Four Israeli civilians were, however, including one minor. In the same time frame, 67 Palestinians were killed by Israeli armed forces, including 26 non-combatants – of which seven were minors.
Combatants for Peace
WHO ARE WE?
The “Combatants for Peace” movement was started jointly by Palestinians and Israelis, who have taken an active part in the cycle of violence; Israelis as soldiers in the Israeli army (IDF) and Palestinians as part of the violent struggle for Palestinian freedom. After brandishing weapons for so many years, and having seen one another only through weapon sights, we have decided to put down our guns, and to fight for peace.
That only by joining forces, will we be able to end the cycle of violence, the bloodshed and the occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people. We no longer believe that it is possible to resolve the conflict between the two peoples through violent means; therefore we declare that we refuse to take part any more in the mutual bloodletting. We will act only by non-violent means so that each side will come to understand the national aspirations of the other side. We see dialogue and reconciliation as the only way to act in order to terminate the Israeli occupation, to halt the settlement project and to establish a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem, alongside the State of Israel.
WHAT ARE OUR GOALS?
To raise the consciousness in both publics regarding the hopes and suffering of the other side, and to create partners in dialogue.
To educate towards reconciliation and non-violent struggle in both the Israeli and Palestinian societies.
To create political pressure on both Governments to stop the cycle of violence, end the occupation and resume a constructive dialog.
HOW DO WE OPERATE?
Since the beginning of 2005 we have been organizing meetings between Israeli and Palestinian veterans, in which both sides tell about the violent actions that they have taken part in and about the turning point which led them to understand the limits of violence. Naturally, these meetings were fraught with many fears, however we soon learned that despite years of fear and hatred, there is more that unites us than divides. Therefore we have decided to act together in the following ways:
To continue with the combatants’ meetings, which allow each side to understand the other’s narrative, via the approach of reconciliation rather than conflict.
To implement an educational lecture series in public forums on both sides (universities, youth groups, schools etc.). The lectures will be given jointly by an Israeli and a Palestinian veteran, who will concentrate on the transition from violent struggle to the recognition of the limits of violence.
To create joint projects which educate towards non- violence.
To create joint frameworks in order to become familiar with the culture, history and current needs of the other nation.
To set up Bi-National media teams, which will act in order to influence public opinion in Israel, Palestine and the rest of the world.
To participate in demonstrations and other non-violent actions against the occupation as a bi-national group.