An Open Letter to

Dear Mr. President,

I take the liberty to address you as the host of the UN World Conference Against Racism (WCAR), Durban, 28 August – 7 September 2001.

I write as an individual citizen of the State of Israel; Chair of AL-BEIT: Association for the Defence of Human Rights in Israel; and expert on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Honorary Research Fellow at the Institute for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, University of Durham and the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter.

Witnessing on TV news bulletins the Israeli armour roll into Ramallah and other cities in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip; and shocked by the intensifying war crimes and state terrorism perpetrated by the Israeli occupation army against the Palestinian people allegedly in response to Palestinian individual and/or militia acts of terrorism; and dismayed by the invasion of the Israeli tanks into the Headquarters of President Yasser Arafat in Ramallah – I was motivated to write this Open Letter and urge you to act to the best of your ability to stop the atrocities caused by the Israeli occupation and perpetrated by the Israeli occupation army.

As an individual human person I have the humanitarian duty, like all other human persons worldwide, to raise my voice and mobilize to the best of my ability against injustice and against the perpetration of war crimes wherever they may be committed. As a citizen of the State of Israel, let alone a citizen of the State of Israel classified as a Jew, I have an additional responsibility to shout in protest louder and mobilize more urgently against injustice and war crime perpetrated by my Government, since, as a citizen of the State of Israel, these atrocities are, alas, committed in my name.

I therefore raise my voice as loud as I am able to and shout: NOT IN MY NAME!. Not in my name as an individual person. Not in my name as a citizen. Not in my name as a Jew.

As an expert on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict I am acutely aware that the Palestinian people, expelled and ethnically cleansed from their homeland under the cover of the 1948 war, resisting for nearly forty years the Israeli occupation of 1967, and struggling for their survival in the ugly shadow of the Sharon Government, are now threatened with the horrific dangers of additional massacres and renewed ethnic cleansing.

The Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is fully committed to the maintenance and expansion of the illegal Israeli settlement project in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Unless the Government of the State of Israel is firmly made to understand that its failure to end the Israeli occupation and illegal Israeli settlement projects will meet with African, European and international sanctions – it will, I am afraid, not be deterred. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and a good many of his Ministers, seem to believe that, if necessary, they would be justified to advance their illegal designs for the occupied West Bank (including Jerusalem) and Gaza Strip also through the perpetration of war crimes on a massive scale, attempting to repeat the mass ethnic cleansing perpetrated by the Israeli army under the cover of the 1948 war, and expel the Palestinian people resident in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip – this time under the cover of “war against terrorism”.

I beg you President Thabo Mbeki, in this critical circumstance, please urgently intensify your action in defence of the Palestinian people victimized by the Israeli occupation and threatened with renewed mass massacres and ethnic cleansing. Do not allow the fact that Israel will not mass annihilate Palestinians in gas chambers and burn their bodies in crematoria blind you to the cruel inhumanity of the Israeli occupation and the real danger hanging over the Palestinian people of massacres and mass expulsion from their home villages and towns.

At this time Israeli troops sealing off Ramallah and other Palestinian cities. I get e-mail reports to the effect that people are not allowed to go out nor allowed in. Those travelling, desperately searching for alternative ways and traveling in groups, have Israeli troops firing upon them. Women carrying their children who were trying desperately to flee from Ramallah, carrying infants and toddlers in their arms, together with their young children, are reduced to running along in the rain through the fields, slipping and falling on the rocks, trying to reach safety, with Israeli jeeps speeding across the terrain pulling up from every direction and shooting at the women and children, chasing down people, hunting them in the fields.

With Ramallah and other Palestinian localities under total and extended curfew, Israeli troops are reported to systematically break into homes, tear families asunder and take away every man 15-60 years of age and herd them into detention camps and/or dump them in the Gaza Strip. Many families are not able to trace their relatives and fear for their lives. Please, President Tabo Mbeki, urge your colleagues in the African Union, the European Union, and the Non-Aligned Movement to act NOW and not wait until we hear that hundreds if not thousands of Palestinians have been annihilated in mass massacres similar to Sabra and Shatila twenty years ago and Deir Yasin, Duwayma and Tantura fifty odd years ago.

I want to draw your attention to Articles 2 and 4 and their respective Joint Declarations in the EURO-Mediterranean Agreement Establishing an Association Between the European Communities and Their Member States of the One Part, and the State of Israel of the Other Part signed on 1 June 2000. I believe South Africa and other African states have similar agreements with the EU. I urge you, President Tabo Mbeki, to act as forcefully as you can as an individual, and as the President of the Republic of South Africa representing your State in the African Union, the European Union, and the non-Aligned Movement, with the view to motivate the AU, the EU and the UN to exercise their responsibilities under the UN Charter, the Maastricht Treaty and the African Charter in order to secure that the State of Israel, a member state of the United Nations Organization, comply with the terms of the requirement of all international conventions to which the State of Israel is a signatory, including the in the EU-Israel Association Agreement above, namely, that it base its internal and international relations on respect for human rights and democratic principles.

In my humble estimation, Israeli occupation and settlement policies, let alone the current atrocities and war crimes perpetrated by the Government of the State of Israel against the Palestinian people, cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be said to be consistent with respect for human rights and democratic principles and represent a blatant violation of an essential elements UN Covenants and international law.

In order to reduce the danger of further massacres and ethnic cleansing such as are likely otherwise to be perpetrated by the Israeli occupation army against the civilian Palestinian population – the AU, the EU and the UN need to inform the Government of the State of Israel that unless Israel complies with UN Security Council Resolutions, beginning with immediate compliance with the most recent Resolution of 29 March 2002 within a period of no longer than one week, to be followed with subsequent compliance of all UN resolutions relevant to the question of Palestine including UN Security Council Resolutions 242, 338 and 194 – the AU, the EU and the UN will act witout delay to suspend the privileges accorded to the State of Israel under all relevant UN Covenants and other international agreements, including the said EU-Israel Association Agreement.

I am afraid that nothing short of that will do.

Please President Thabo Mbeki, please act NOW!


Uri Davis  (Dr)

Uri Davis is Chair of AL-BEIT: Association for the Defense of Human Rights in Israel.