How Israeli Racism Eliminates Israeli Shame

I am posting below the text of one of the most powerful and moving speeches I have ever read in my whole life (of getting on for three score and ten). It was delivered on Saturday 17 June in Rabin Square, Tel Aviv, by Nurit Peled-Elhanan, one of Israel’s most eloquent and courageous peace activists.

Nurit is a lecturer at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and in 2001 she was the recipient of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

She was born in Israel, studied at the University of California in Los Angeles and the Sorbonne (University of Paris) and received her Ph.D at the Hebrew University. She specializes in Israeli educational materials, with emphasis on the visual and verbal presentation of Palestinian and Mizrahi Jews (Jews of Middle Eastern descent). Her current work analyses the presentation of Palestinians in Israeli history and geography textbooks.

Peled-Elhanan’s family is active in the peace movement. Her father is the famous Israeli general-turned-peace activist, Mattiyahu Peled. Rami Elhanan, her husband, co-founded the Parents Circle – Family Forum. Their two sons are “refuseniks”, Israelis who refuse to serve in the occupied territories with the Israeli military; and they are involved with Combatants for Peace, a movement of former Israeli and Palestinian fighters.

In September 1997, Nurit’s 13 year-old dauhgter, Smadar, was killed by a Palestinian suicide bomber. Following the death of her dauhgter, Nurit said:

“My little girl was murdered because she was an Israeli by a young man who was humiliated, oppressed and desperate to the point of suicide and murder and inhumanity, just because he was a Palestinian. There is no basic difference between the soldier at the checkpoint who prevents a woman who is having a baby from going through, causing her to lose the baby, and the man who killed my daughter. And just as my daughter was the victim (of the Israeli occupation), so was he.”

The following is the text of Nurit’s speech on the 40th anniversary of the occupation.

By way of introduction to it, I’ll say only this much. If I (or any other Gentile) had much such a speech, I would have been condemned and reviled by Zionism’s verbal hit-men as the most rabid anti-Semite in the world. They might even have pressed for me to be arrested and charged with inciting anti-Semitism or somesuch other nonsense.

It is a great honour for me to stand on this stage beside my friend and brother Bassam Aramin, a man of the Palestinian peace camp, one of the founders of the Combatants for Peace movement of which two of my sons, Alik and Guy, are members of. Only last week, on Tuesday in Anata and on Thursday in Tul Karem, the Combatants for Peace movement succeeded in organizing two massive gatherings and recruited thousands of Palestinians to their goal – a joint non-violent struggle against the occupation through close cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians. If not for the racist laws of the State of Israel all those thousands of people could be with us here this evening to prove once and for all that we have a partner.

Bassam and I are both victims of the cruel occupation that has been corrupting this country for forty years now. The two of us came this evening to lament the fate of this place that has buried our two daughters – Smadar – the bud of the fruit* and Abir – the perfume of the flower*, who were murdered at an interval of ten years, ten years during which this country has filled with the blood of children and the underground kingdom of children on which we tread day by day and hour by hour has grown to overflowing.

But what unites Bassam and me is not just the death that the Occupation sentenced us to. What unites us is principally faith and a willingness to raise the children that have been left to us so that they will never again allow corrupt, greedy and power-hungry politicians and generals who thirst for blood and conquest to rule over their lives and set them against each other. No more will they allow the racism that has spread over this country to lead them off the path of peace and brotherhood that they have paved for themselves. Because only that brotherhood can bring down the wall of racism that is being built before our very eyes.

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