By Tom Jordan
At a press conference held in Jerusalem on February 6, a petition was presented which called for an immediate cease-fire and a negotiated end to the Gulf War. It was signed by 126 Israeli peace activist and public figures. A number of the signatories also addressed the press.
Professor Yeshayahu Leibovitz maintained that Israel was drawn into this war in the Gulf because of its government's unwillingness to withdraw from the occupied territories, and that "continued occupation and oppression of the Palestinians must eventually lead to a full-fledged fascist regime inside Israel and to the unification of the entire Arab world in a war against Israel".
Retired Israeli Major General Matti Peled criticised the United States government for starting the war unnecessarily, without giving sanctions enough time. He pointed to South Africa — a country which is richer and more highly developed than Iraq, and which succumbed to lesser sanctions than those imposed on Iraq.
"Had Bush declared his willingness to convene an international conference after the Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait", said Peled, "Saddam would have faced the dilemma of either withdrawing or losing his image as 'the saviour of the Palestinians'".
Peled has also written an open letter to the leaders of the French Socialist Party and the Socialist International following reports in the Israeli press that a high-ranking delegation from these bodies intended to propose that the Socialist International end its recognition of the Palestine Liberation Organisation.
He warned that this would be a "wrong and retrograde step, which may severely damage any chance of achieving peace in the Middle East.
"The Iraqi missile attacks upon Israel's civilian population are a criminal act, justly condemned throughout the world. As an Israeli citizen, who is personally endangered by these missiles, I certainly share in that condemnation ... However, all of this must not blind the world to the fact that the same right-wing Israeli government is determined to hold on to its military rule in the occupied territories."
Peled criticised the severely enforced curfew on the Palestinians in the occupied territories and the arrest of Palestinian leader Sari Nuseibeh. Nuseibeh was being held without trial for allegedly spying for Iraq. But there was no evidence that would stand up in a court of law.
Peled added in his open letter that there was no solution possible
to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without the recognised leaderships of both peoples coming together for negotiations.
Another critic of the war is Dr Avishail Ehrlich, who said that it was fair to criticise German firms for selling chemical weapon components and technology to Iraq, but the Israeli government was selling weapons to dictatorial governments all over the world.
A letter was read to the Jerusalem press conference from reserve soldier Ofer Kasif, who has already served three prison terms for refusal to perform military service in the occupied territories and is about to undergo a fourth term. He stated that the war is being used by the Israeli government to increase the oppression of the Palestinians, and that now more than ever he regards his refusal to serve as a duty.
Knesset member Hashen Mahamid reported that he had met many Palestinian families who were on the edge of hunger in the West Bank. n