End the occupation NOW, for Israelís sake, for humanityís sake

A speech made by Mary Schweitzer, a tireless activist for peace and co-existence, at the weekly Peace Now rally in Jerusalemís Paris Square, near the Prime Minister's residence, under the slogans: Stop the Destruction of the State of Israel! Stop Occupation! Stop Hatred!

As we continue mourning dead children in Rafah, Tel Aviv, Hebron, Netanya, Jabalea, Haifa, Jenin, Jerusalem, Nablus and throughout both our lands, it seems that pain and suffering are all we have in common. But there is more: our pain and suffering are reflections of our humanity and it is our humanity that Israelis and Palestinians share.

When I embraced Judaism some 40 years ago, people asked me how I could put anything above the ability to forgive my enemies. I replied that justice and humanity come first, and these are the essence of Judaism. For only through embracing justice and humanity am I able to deal with the unforgivable.

As a young woman I knew about being a victim and about the dream of a homeland. I understood the right to a homeland, the right to security, the right to freedom of movement and the right to justice and humanity. Understanding these was the primary motivator that brought me, some 20 years ago, to leave the land of my birth and adopt the land of my fathers. I raised three children here. It is their homeland: their mother tongue is not their motherís tongue. I strove to teach my children the rights and obligations incumbent upon a Jew. I taught them about their historical right to the Land of Israel.

I taught them about their historical obligation to abide by the commandments of justice and humanity, to recognize that we must seek a State of Israel that embraces justice and democracy -- not an Eretz Israel (i.e. Land of Israel) that destroys them. If the Zionist dream lacks the humanity of its Jewish heritage it can only become a nightmare. We cannot have peace and security while denying them to those with whom we share a common homeland. It is no longer possible to deny the role that we, the Jews of Israel, have played in the no-longer-deniable realities of the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza - in the occupation of Palestine. As much as I want to shriek "propaganda lies," I know it is true that a progressive banality of evil has become associated with my people.

I have come to realize that my personal security cannot be gained at the expense of someone else's. The occupation nurtures itself on a false sense of right and might. It de-humanizes its victims and, consequently, its perpetrators as well. If I strip my Palestinian sister of her humanity, I lose everything moral and beautiful and positive in the Jewish and human values I embrace. When personal and cultural histories become a foundation for oppression, when stubborn unwillingness to see the otherís profound despair and rage blind me, I must return to my foundations and ask myself what has gone wrong.

I see the passion with which Palestinians and Israelis argue over their rights and the wrongs done to them. They are all good people who seek a fair solution, but they lack the conviction that they themselves are the only ones capable of taking the steps necessary to build the better future they so desire. The solution requires compromise; it demands that we reach out honestly and positively to take a chance. It demands that we retain our humanity by preserving that of others.

I call upon all friends of Israel to recognize that whatever our governments are telling us, the solution can only be found in people meeting and speaking and sharing and risking together, in people refusing to give in to terror and hatred and fear. Those who fan the flames of hatred in the name of a homeland or a dogma are not true leaders. Leaders are those who recognize past errors and increase awareness of our common humanity. Leaders are those who create workable compromises. The task is too big and too important to be left to "leaders".

I call upon each of us to do more than we have ever done to speak out, to embrace our humanity and to seek to find the path to our better tomorrow. End the violence and the hatred by refusing to continue to serve them; end the occupation that breeds them. End it NOW, for Israelís sake, for humanityís sake.