Will The Representatives of Israeli War Criminals in South Africa Resign?

In a moving open letter to Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres, a correspondent of Ha’aretz, Gideon Levy, has challenged him to resign, but to do it while “speaking out loud and clear, and telling Israelis all that you think about everything that is happening, especially about the evil we are perpetrating with our own hands”.

Levy, a former aid of Peres, previously published two open letters, also to Peres pleading with him to speak out against atrocities committed against Palestinians by Israeli governments. In 1989 when Peres served as finance minister in the Shamir government during the first Intifadah, Levy accused him of keeping silent in the face of the Israeli Defence Force’s conduct. At the time Levy believed that his former boss Peres, thought differently from Yitzhak Shamir and Yitzhak Rabin (known then as the “bonebreaker”), but was not “bold enough to speak up.”

Eleven years later, in 2002, Levy wrote another letter. This was after Oslo and the assassination of Rabin by a zionist zealot, and after Peres had yet again lost another election – this time to the office of president. Levy expressed the view that many Israelis viewed Peres as representing “the hope of something else.”

However in his latest letter, a disappointed Levy declares: “You no longer represent hope for anything.” He then lambastes Peres as a partner in crime for his role as a senior member of the Sharon government, which he accuses as a “government of crime.” Silence and inaction can no longer be justified by any excuse, says Levy because “you continue to serve in a government with blood on its hands, whose outstretched hand is still busy killing and jailing and humiliating, and you are a partner to all of its deeds.”

Levy asks Peres to talk to the head of surgery at Sheba Medical Centre, Professor Wafi Walden, who as a volunteer with Physicians for Human Rights travels to the occupied territories in order that “he’ll tell you what you are a partner to.” Walden, who is related to Peres, will “tell you about the hospitals in Bethlehem that were shelled by the IDF. He’ll tell you about the doctors and nurses who sleep in the hospital because they can’t get home. He’ll tell you about the dialysis patients forced to spend hours jostled about while travelling makeshift routes three times a week in a desperate attempt to reach the machines that their lives depend on. He’ll tell you about the people that have died at the checkpoints and about those who died at home because they didn’t dare to approach the checkpoints..”

Levy charges Peres for imprisoning an entire people for over a year with a degree of cruelty unprecedented in the history of the Israeli occupation. He writes that the government in which Peres serves as foreign minister, is trampling on three million people, and leaving them with no semblance of normal life. No going to the market, no going to work, no going to school, no visiting a sick uncle. Nothing. No going anywhere.

He reminds Peres that whereas he was previously forgiven, this will no longer apply. His reasoning is that anyone who is a partner in a government that deliberately sabotages every Palestinian effort to achieve quiet, that utterly humiliates their leaders, for whom vengeance is the sole motivating force, which cynically exploits the world’s post-September 11 blindness and obtuseness to do as it pleases, can no longer be forgiven!

The Israeli diplomat representing Sharon’s cruel government in South Africa must be confronted with a similar challenge to speak out against her regime’s barbaric policies and to resign. Or is it far-fetched to expect Tova Herzl to link up with Shimon Peres and together take to the streets in Ramallah facing Israeli tanks and calling for their removal?

(Mr. Iqbal Jasarat is Chairman of the Media Review Network, which is an advocacy group based in Pretoria, South Africa.)