Two Israeli peace activists, Sahar Vardi and Micha Kurz, described their political awakening at a public forum at the Uniting Church, Balmain, on August 15. Vardi and Kurz explained their gradual realisation of the truth about Israel's oppression of the Palestinians and their determination to take action against it to an audience of about 60 people.
The Australian Jewish Democratic Society has organised Vardi and Kurz’s Australian speaking tour. Their events in Sydney were sponsored by the Coalition for Justice and Peace in Palestine, Jews Against the Occupation (Sydney) and the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies.
Vardi is a 21-year-old Jewish peace activist and refusenik from Jerusalem, who was jailed in 2008 for refusing her mandatory military service. She was released in January 2009 and has since worked since with the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions and the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity movement. She has spoken at many international forums to promote equal rights for Palestinians.
“Jerusalem is a deeply segregated city,” Vardi said. “When the Separation Wall began, we saw it dividing Palestinian villagers from their land. A group of friends and myself refused to go into the Israeli army and have continued to campaign for Palestinian rights ever since.”
Kurz is a co-founder of Israeli veterans group Breaking the Silence and is the co-director of Grassroots Jerusalem. He has been an outspoken critic of Israeli policies in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since he finished his military service.
In his work with Grassroots Jerusalem, Kurz maps social inequalities, justice issues and environmental problems in and around the Jerusalem area.
He told the meeting: “The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) is used to assist expansion of extremist Jewish settlements into Palestinian territory.” As a new Israeli Defence Force recruit, Kurz said he realised his role was to help enforce the oppression of the Palestinians and he decided to not take part any more.
“The Palestinian city of East Jerusalem has continually been squeezed and divided up over the years, while Israeli West Jerusalem has expanded massively. The Palestinians were told to accept a state that wouldn't control its water supply, its borders or its capital, Jerusalem.
“With over 500,000 settlers inside its territory, that made an independent Palestinian state impossible.”
Both speakers urged international support for BDS and a campaign to demand genuine Palestinian national rights.