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415 prominent Jewish and Palestinian academics decry Israeli apartheid 

August 8, 2023 at 1:39 pm

Israeli deputy and former speaker of the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, Avraham Burg [THIERRY MONASSE/AFP via Getty Images]

More than 400 prominent academics and public figures from Israel, Palestine and the Jewish community have united to sign an open letter that establishes a “direct link” between the Israeli government’s ongoing judicial overhaul and its occupation of Palestinian territories. The letter, a resounding call to action, urges the Jewish community in the US to break its “silence” and engage in meaningful discourse.

Railing against the controversial judicial overhaul, the letter says that the purpose of the proposal is “to tighten restrictions on Gaza, deprive Palestinians of equal rights both beyond the Green Line and within it, annex more land, and ethnically cleanse all territories under Israeli rule of their Palestinian population.”

Highlighting the critical importance of equal rights as a safeguard against dictatorship, the letter emphasises that regardless of the political framework – be it one state, two states, or other possibilities – equal rights for all citizens must be upheld.

“Without equal rights for all, whether in one state, two states, or in some other political framework, there is always a danger of dictatorship,” the letter states. Repeating that Israel operates “a regime of apartheid,” the letter says that the Palestinians have been “the elephant in the room” in the ongoing protests, which have continued for over seven months.

“Palestinian people lack almost all basic rights, including the right to vote and protest. They face constant violence: this year alone, Israeli forces have killed over 190 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and demolished over 590 structures. Settler vigilantes burn, loot, and kill with impunity,” they write. The latest deadly violence in the occupied West Bank was the killing of a 19-year-old Palestinian by an Israeli terrorist.

Individuals including foundation leaders, scholars, rabbis and educators, signed the letter calling for meaningful action. The signatories encourage support for Israel’s ongoing protest movement while insisting on the imperative of equality for Jews and Palestinians within both the Green Line and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). Furthermore, they advocate backing human rights organisations and promoting their work within communities, alongside endorsing education curricula that provide an honest portrayal of Israel’s historical and contemporary context.

Among the distinguished signatories are over 100 academics affiliated with Israeli universities, including notable figures such as former Jewish Agency head and Knesset member Avraham Burg. In 2021 the ex-Knesset speaker said that Israel has little to do with the essence of Judaism.

“Jewish state is an oxymoron,” said Burg as he explained that a state is a tool in the hands of the people and it cannot have a Jewish essence or the essence of any religion. “Community and culture can be Jewish,” but as soon as you give a state a Jewish essence, a religious essence, it’s no longer a democracy that belongs to its people.”

The letter additionally presses the Jewish community to urge its representatives to work towards ending the occupation and curtailing military aid being utilised in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. It also calls for a halt to Israeli impunity in international organisations including the United Nations.

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