Ceasefire NOW! - joint Israeli-Palestinian call
The escalation in and around the Gaza Strip is causing terrible suffering to people - to men, women, elderly and children, Palestinian as well as Israeli civilians. The military offensive conducted by the Israeli armed forces has so far caused hundreds of Palestinian casualties; many of them were unarmed civilians. The siege and economic blockade have reduced most of the Gaza Strip's population to abject poverty, devastated its economy, and caused the death of critically ill patients, denied access to vital treatment. The Palestinian attacks on Sderot have severely traumatized its population, far beyond the physical casualties caused among them.
This is not a conflict between two equal forces. The most powerful army in the Middle East, backed by the world's single remaining super-power, is daily using tanks, fighter planes, helicopters and gunships against the lightly-armed militias and overcrowded population of a small area whose people have lived under occupation and in poverty long before the present siege.
Yet the individuals caught in the fighting are all suffering - on both sides of the fighting, among both peoples. The pain of living in daily fear, of being wounded and mutilated for life, of grieving for the loss of loved ones, is the same pain - whether one's country be oppressed or oppressor, occupied or occupier, rich or poor, powerful or powerless.
The attacks on both sides of the border feed on each other and intensify each other. Palestinians in Gaza, rightly feeling themselves still living under occupation despite the Israeli 'disengagement', seek to resist occupation, but when some use launching of rockets against civilians, they manage only to provide an additional justification for tightening the siege on Gaza and the escalation of Israeli violence.
The cycle of violence and bloodshed goes on and on, and the threat of an overall invasion and re-conquest of the Gaza Strip is openly and repeatedly made by the Israeli military and political leaders - with the cost estimated at hundreds or thousands of casualties.
We, the undersigned - Israelis and Palestinians - do not accept this grim reality as inevitable. There is a clear and obvious alternative to bloody escalation and strangulating siege, an alternative providing hope: an end to the siege of Gaza, and a ceasefire and cessation of all hostilities.
The siege of Gaza and the collective punishment of its population are totally unacceptable. It is a medieval form of war which is in utter contradiction to the present norms of human rights and international law - which Israel, as an occupying power, is bound to respect. There should be an immediate end to the siege, unconnected with any other issue, and the Gaza Strip must have free access to the outside world, for the free passage of persons and goods.
It has already been clearly seen that the suffering inflicted on Palestinian civilians in Gaza did not and cannot solve the problem of Sderot. The only solution is a complete and mutual ceasefire, an end to all armed attacks by the Israeli occupation on Palestinians, including all shootings by infantry, tanks, artillery, aircraft and gunboats, and all targeted killings, armed incursions and arrests across the border, and an end to launching of rockets by Palestinians on Israelis. In addition, this should involve a reopening of the prisoners issue, starting with negotiations on the exchange of Israeli soldier Gilead Shalit with Palestinian prisoners.
We regard such a ceasefire as an entirely realistic, achievable and desirable act, which would save lives, alleviate misery and create better conditions for any attempt to achieve peace between the two peoples - while understanding that no long-lasting solution is possible while the Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem continue to live under occupation.
This is an initiative of the Israeli and Palestinian coalitions which worked together for the January 26 convoy and simultaneous demonstrations against the siege