Submitted by Marilyn Turkovich on Wed, 2010-11-24 20:44
Mother, Anti-War Activist, Peace Advocate, Author
(1957 - )
George, your reckless and wanton foreign policies killed my son, Spc. Casey Austin Sheehan, in the illegal and unjust war on Iraq. Helping to bring about your political downfall will be the most noble accomplishment of my life, and it will bring justice for my son and the hundreds of other brave Americans and tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis your lies have killed.
Additional Quotes by Cindy Sheehan
58% of the American public are with us. We're preaching to the choir, but the choir's not singing, if all of the 58% started singing, this war would end.
I admire President Chavez for his strength to resist the United States. Instead, Bush is waging a war of terrorism against the world.
I believe that any candidate who supports the war should not receive our support. It doesn't matter if they're Senator Clinton or whoever.
I was told my son was killed in the war on terror. He was killed by George Bush's war of terror on the world.
I would love to support Hillary for president if she would come out against the travesty in Iraq. But I don't think she can speak out against the occupation because she supports it.
I'm just so honored that the universe chose me to be the spark that has set off a raging inferno.
I've always admired President Chavez for standing up to imperialism and the meddling of the American government in South America.
If we stick together as an American people we can bring down the war criminals that are running our country right now.
It's up to us, the people, to break immoral laws, and resist. As soon as the leaders of a country lie to you, they have no authority over you. These maniacs have no authority over us. And they might be able to put our bodies in prison, but they can't put our spirits in prison.
My son was killed in 2004. I am not paying my taxes for 2004. You killed my son, George Bush, and I don't owe you a penny.
So what really gets me is these chickenhawks, who sent our kids to die, without ever serving in a war themselves. They don't know what it's all about.
The war in Iraq will end, our troops will come home, Bush will be impeached and he will be brought to justice.
We can't let somebody rise to the top who will pardon these war criminals. Because they need to go to prison for what they've done in this world. We can't have a pardon. They need to pay for what they've done.
We haven't been happy with the way the war has been handled. The president has changed his reasons for being over there every time a reason is proven false or an objective reached.
We really need to stop the imperialist tendencies of countries like the United States and Great Britain.
What is the 'noble cause' for which you sent our country to war.
When I was growing up, it was 'Communists'. Now it's 'Terrorists'. So you always have to have somebody to fight and be afraid of, so the war machine can build more bombs, guns, and bullets and everything.
Cindy Lee Miller Sheehan was born on July 10, 1957. A longtime resident of California, she is one of the strongest, most personal and persistent voices in the movement against the war in Iraq. Patrick and Cindy Sheehan had four children – Casey, Carly, Andy, and Janey. Casey was the eldest. The whole family was active in the church – Cindy was once a Youth Minister. They were a tightly knit family, which, according to Cindy, “did everything together.”
Cindy’s world changed forever when, on a mission on April 4, 2004 to help other troops in Sadr City, Spc. Casey Sheehan was tragically killed. She and other military families met with President George W. Bush in June of 2004. By October, Cindy decided her son’s death would spur her into action. She wrote, “I was ashamed that I hadn’t tried to stop the war before Casey died…Well, I now felt that if I couldn’t make a difference, I would at least try.” Her quest to end the war, bring soldiers home, and hold politicians responsible for the decisions that sent the troops to Iraq initially, has been indefatigable.
During the January 2005 Presidential Inauguration of George W. Bush, Cindy was speaking at the opening of Eyes Wide Open: the Human Cost of War. The American Friends Service Committee had created a traveling exhibition of combat boots, each pair representing a U.S. military casualty. From this experience, the idea for Gold Star Families for Peace was born. In an interview, Cindy describes the organization as one that “I founded in January 2005. When a mom has a child killed in a war, she becomes a Gold Star Mom. Well, we expanded the idea to include all family members because an entire family is affected because of the death.” It is a support and activist group, and can be found here at http://www.gsfp.org/ .
In early August of 2005, Cindy, or “Peace Mom”, as she has come to be called, camped in a ditch near President Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas. She was requesting a second personal meeting with the president, who had declared that the fallen soldiers had died for a “noble cause”. Cindy wanted to know exactly what that cause was, and to demand an immediate end to what she viewed as an unjust and immoral war. So many people, activists, and celebrities stopped by or joined in to show their support, that her somewhat spontaneous demonstration became known as “Camp Casey”. A few days later, a neighbor offered the Camp Casey participants some land to use as their base. Camp Casey has become a regular protest event, gathering when President Bush is in Crawford for holidays and vacations. Cindy has purchased land where the protesters can camp.
Between Camp Casey operations, Cindy has traveled extensively, meeting with people and leaders from all over the world, and been featured in many protests and rallies. She is credited with having revived the anti-war protest, and providing a name and face for the peace and justice movement. Her published works include Not One More Mother’s Child – an account of her first year of activism, Dear President Bush – a collection of writings and speeches, and Peace Mom: A Mother’s Journey through Heartache to Activism.
Submitted by Marilyn Turkovich on Mon, 2010-11-22 14:24
War Resister, Writer, Peace and Human Rights Advocate
Activists in the U.S. are like the “tank man” in Tiananmen Square in China. We have always had to jump in front of the ship of state to keep it on a self-correcting course. Whether the issue was slavery, labor rights, women’s suffrage, civil rights, Vietnam, Central America, or Iraq, it is the determined protests of those who will settle for nothing less than justice or peace that have altered the course of history.
The moral arc of the universe doesn’t bend toward justice by gravity.
During the civil war in El Salvador, Charlie Clements worked as a physician in rural villages that were bombed, rocketed, or strafed daily by their own government. One day a peasant asked, “Why don’t you carry a weapon like the other doctors?” Charlie explained that after Vietnam he had become a Quaker and something about the Quaker belief in non-violence. The peasant shook his head in disdain saying, "You gringos are always concerned about violence done with machetes or machine guns. I used to work on the hacienda,” and pointed in the distance. “I fed the dogs there bowls of meat and milk even when my own children were hungry. If the dogs were ill, I took them to a veterinarian, but my children died without ever seeing a doctor. You will never understand violence or non-violence until you understand the violence to the spirit from watching helplessly as your children suffer."
Charlie wasn’t always committed to non-violence. He was a Distinguished Graduate of the Air Force Academy and after training as a pilot, he volunteered for Vietnam. After nine months as a pilot in SE Asia, he concluded the war was immoral and refused to fly further missions. He was placed in a psychiatric ward and discharged with a 10% mental disability.
Charlie soon realized that same piece of paper also implied he was 90% intact and that was sufficient for acceptance to medical school. Treating patients was a great social awakening as he began to understand that exploitation, poverty, or injustice were often the underlying reasons why people were sick or injured.
In 1980 while working in a clinic for undocumented farm workers, Charlie heard stories from Salvadoran refugees about death squads killing teachers, physicians, and priests. When the U.S. began sending helicopters and military advisors there, he feared another Vietnam was unfolding. He volunteered his skills as a physician in an area controlled by the FMLN-guerrillas. Upon returning from El Salvador, Charlie testified in Congress and crisscrossed the country speaking about the brutality of U.S. foreign policy in the region. He led Congressional delegations to the region and raised millions of dollars for humanitarian assistance. Witness to War (Bantam, 1984) is the account of his journey of conscience from Vietnam to El Salvador, which was also the subject of an Academy Award (1985) winning documentary of the same title.
When the civil war ended in 1992 Charlie was a special guest the signing of the Peace Accords in Mexico City and seventeen years later he was a guest at the inauguration of Mauricio Funes, the first FMLN candidate to win the presidency. .
In 1997 as President of Physicians for Human Rights Charlie represented that organization at the treaty signing and a week later at the Nobel prize ceremony for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) Following an emergency human rights mission to Iraq in early 2003, he was so angered by the lies and deception of the U.S. government that he returned to full time human rights work as the president and CEO of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (www.uusc.org). He is now the director of the Carr Institute for Human rights at the JFK School at Harvard University. He lives in Brookline, MA with his wife, son, and daughter.
When asked what sustains him, Charlie offers a quote from the Talmud: “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Love mercy now. Walk humbly now. Do justly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”
Submitted by Marilyn Turkovich on Sat, 2010-11-20 16:04
Army Colonel, Foreign Diplomat, Anti-War Activist, Peace Advocate
(1946 - )
I have served my country for almost thirty years in some of the most isolated and dangerous parts of the world. I want to continue to serve America. However, I do not believe in the policies of this Administration and cannot --- morally and professionally --- defend or implement them. It is with heavy heart that I must end my service to America and therefore resign.
Patriotism can manifest in many forms, and has for Mary Ann Wright. She has been a career military woman, a State Department diplomat, and for the past few years an influential spokesperson in the anti-war movement. Ann Wright grew up in Bentonville, Arkansas, and attended the University of Arkansas, where she holds a Master’s and a Law Degree. She also has a Master’s Degree in National Security Affairs from the US Naval War College. In her junior year at the University of Arkansas, she attended a three-week Army training program after meeting with a visiting Army recruiter. That experience helped inform her decision to join the service.
There she would remain for 13 years in active duty, with another 16 years in the Army reserves, retiring as a Colonel. Ironically, part of her work was special operations in civil affairs, in the event of troop invasions into countries like Iraq. Ann helped to develop, as she explained, “plans about how you interact with the civilian population, how you protect the facilities – sewage, water, electrical grids, libraries…It’s our obligation under the law of land warfare.” Ann requested a release from active duty from the Army and joined the State Department. For the next 16 years, she served as a foreign diplomat in countries such as Nicaragua, Somalia, Uzbekistan, and Sierra Leone. She was on the team that reopened the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan in December, 2001, after the fall of the Taliban to US forces.
In all those years, Ann Wright was proud of her representation of America. However, on March 13, 2003, the eve of the US invasion of Iraq, Col.. Ann Wright sent a letter of resignation to then Secretary of State Colin Powell. She felt that without the authorization of the UN Security Council, the US invasion and occupation of a Moslem, Arab oil-rich country would be a disaster. Only two other State Department officials resigned at that time over the imminent invasion. In an interview, Ann explained that, in Foreign Service, “Your job is to implement the policies of an administration…if you strongly disagree with any administration’s policies, and wish to speak out, your only option is to resign. I understood that and that’s one of the reasons I resigned – to give myself the freedom to talk out.”
Talk out she has. Since resigning, patriotism for Ann Wright has been as an anti-war activist. She worked with Cindy Sheehan organizing Camp Casey, and appeared in the documentary “Uncovered: The Truth About the Iraq War”. She travels and lectures on foreign policy issues. She has been arrested five times in the past year for protesting Bush’s policies, and has referred to herself cheerfully as a “felon for peace”. This retired Army Colonel has also recently been temporarily banned not only from two military bases for placing postcards there about a showing of the documentary “Sir, No Sir”, but from the US Capitol area (her case is still pending), and the National Press Club (this a lifetime ban), for voicing opinions and questions concerning Bush’s policies and the Iraq war.
Submitted by Marilyn Turkovich on Mon, 2010-05-24 16:38
When I started to work for peace, everyone perceived me as deviant.Fighting was normal.Hating each other was normal.
John Blake, CNN, April 16, 2010
Fatmire Feka glanced at the skies over her Kosovo village. Storm clouds darkened the horizon, and rain started to fall. "I felt as if God was crying tears of pain," Feka says. "God was crying because he knew what was about to happen."
It was a chilly Tuesday morning on April 20, 1999, and Feka was on the run. Village guards had warned her family that Serbian paramilitary units were rounding up Albanian Muslims for execution. She ran out of her home with her family and fled to a nearby forest to hide. As the 11-year-old Feka headed to the forest, she could hear bombs exploding and rifle shots crackle behind her. What happened next would leave Feka with nightmares that remain to this day. She would lose her older brother, Sami, and her older sister, Sadete. Both are still missing.
Feka, now 22, is an internationally known peace advocate who travels around the world talking about reconciliation. Yet she admits that talking about forgiveness is far easier than practicing it. "I have been struggling with this forgiveness thing,'' she says. "I cannot forgive anyone because I don't know what happened to my brother and sister. I don't know who took them, for what reason, and who I am supposed to forgive?"
Why the 'truth must be spoken'
It's a long way from Kosovo to Afghanistan, but Feka's story offers some insight into the difficulties that may await the Afghan people. NATO forces are escalating attacks against the Taliban. Yet many observers say only a negotiated settlement with the Taliban will ultimately bring peace to Afghanistan. But the challenges would not end with a settlement. Afghans who saw their loved ones brutalized or murdered by the Taliban will face the same challenge that Feka faces: How do I live again with the people who caused me so much pain?
The short answer is forgive them and move on. Feka's experience, though, suggests that doing so can take years and be excruciatingly difficult. Feka says that before she could forgive, "the truth must be spoken." She wanted to know what happened to her brother and sister."If I know the truth -- who did it and for what reason -- I will be able to make peace," she says.
How Feka moved on
Feka says she thought she would die on the last day she saw her brother and sister. When she ran for her life, she says she saw dead bodies on the side of the road. While resting at night, she could hear screams and shots in the distance. During a recent speech, Feka told her audience about one image from her journey that set her and the other children on edge.
"I remember children were crying, but what scared us the most were that adults were crying, too." She says she lost contact with her brother and sister after her family decided to split up. Her 19-year-old sister, Sadete, and her 17-year-old brother, Sami, decided to accompany her uncle as he made a run for a safe region in Northern Kosovo.
Her uncle returned four days later, alone and bleeding from a bullet wound to his shoulder. He said Serbians had attacked them, and he could not remember what had happened to Feka's brother and sister. Feka says she hated Serbians after her siblings' disappearance. Then she met Rudy Scholaert, then a manager for World Vision, an international Christian humanitarian organization. Feka's family was staying in a homeless shelter with other Muslim families. Scholaert taught English to the kids in the shelter and talked to them about moving beyond revenge and violence.
One day, Scholaert says he gave the kids crayons and paper. He asked them to draw what peace meant to them. The kids drew pictures of burned-out homes, tanks and guns -- except for Feka. "She drew a beautiful home with red flowers, trees, birds and a bright sun," Scholaert says. "She then said to me: 'This was my home before the fighting. This was a peaceful place. I wish we could go back to this time.' "
With World Vision's support, Feka founded "Kids Clubs for Peace" after she turned 12. The club uses meetings, skits and songs to bring together youth from differing ethnicities in Kosovo. Feka's message, though, wasn't something some of her Muslims neighbors wanted to hear. She was criticized by other Muslims. She says her mother once slapped her for being a public advocate for peace.
"When I started to work for peace, everyone perceived me as deviant," she says. "Fighting was normal. Hating each other was normal."
The meeting that transformed Feka
What helped Feka change wasn't a march but a meeting with another Serbian. When she was 16, she attended a World Vision summer camp that brought together Serbian and Muslim youths. One day, a Serbian teenager asked Feka to share her story.
After Feka did, she noticed something odd. The Serbian teenager was crying. And so were the other Serbian children in the room. "That was such a powerful thing," she says. "That not only changed my life, but all the children in the room. I realized that not all Serbians are bad."
Scholaert, the World Vision worker who first encouraged her, says he visited Feka at the camp and saw her change. "Fatmire was so proud to introduce me to her new Serbian friends and to show me the Serbian words that she had learned," Scholaert says. "She really did want to make things right at an early age."
Others started to notice. In 2005, Feka was selected as one of the "1,000 Women of Peace across the Globe." The women were subsequently nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Today, Feka speaks at rallies and peace conferences around the world. She also has a new home. Scholaert, the World Vision worker, has put Feka and her two younger sisters up in an apartment in Toronto, Canada. He made a bet with Feka when she was a girl: Do well in school, and I'll pay for your education. Feka now attends a university in the multicultural city of Toronto.
She says releasing her hatred of Serbians has been liberating. "Working for peace was the best thing I ever did." Other burdens remain, though. Feka says she used to pray to God about her sisters and brother every day. But she recently stopped. "It has been 11 years, me praying every single day without missing a day," she says in her heavily accented English. "But [God] hasn't helped."
Her mother remains in Kosovo. Feka says her mother wants to be there in case some word comes about Feka's sister and brother. But the waiting and the not knowing is brutal, Feka says. "We wish their bodies could rest in peace," she says. "It's difficult to wait every day, every hour, every minute for some news to come." On some nights, Feka dreams of reuniting with her brother and sister. But not all the dreams are reassuring. She had one recent dream when her sister tried to cross a river and was swept away. She pleaded for Feka's help, but Feka couldn't save her.
Her war may be over, but Feka says it still leaves its mark. When she walks through the streets of Toronto, Feka says she marvels at how easily Canadians of varying ethnicities get along. It still doesn't seem real to her. In some of those moments, she says she feels like the 11-year-old girl in Kosovo who saw God cry tears of pain.
"This is a dream life," she says. "I'm not used to this. I will never get used to it."
Submitted by Marilyn Turkovich on Sun, 2010-05-02 14:14
Leading Israeli novelist David Grossman (b. 1954, Jerusalem) studied philosophy and drama at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and later worked as an editor and broadcaster at Israel Radio. Grossman has written seven novels, a play, a number of short stories and novellas, and a number of books for children and youth. He has also published several books of non-fiction, including interviews with Palestinians and Israeli Arabs. Among Grossman`s many literary awards: the Valumbrosa Prize (Italy), the Eliette von Karajan Prize (Austria), the Nelly Sachs Prize (1991), the Premio Grinzane and the Premio Mondelo for The Zig-Zag Kid (Italy, 1996), the Vittorio de Sica Prize (Italy), the Juliet Club Prize, the Marsh Award for Children`s Literature in Translation (UK, 1998), the Buxtehude Bulle (Germany, 2001), the Sapir Prize for Someone to Run With (2001), the Bialik Prize (2004), the Koret Jewish Book Award (USA, 2006), the Premio per la Pace e l`Azione Umanitaria 2006 (City of Rome/Italy), Onorificenza della Stella Solidarita Italiana 2007, Premio Ischia - International Award for Journalism 2007, the Geschwister Scholl Prize (Germany), the Emet Prize (Israel, 2007)and the Albatross Prize (Germany, 2009). He has also been awarded the Chevalier de l`Ordre des Arts et Belles Lettres (France, 1998) and an Honorary Doctorate by Florence University (2008). In 2007, his novels The Book of Internal Grammar and See Under: Love were named among the ten most important books since the creation of the State of Israel. His books have been translated into over 25 languages.
Uri, my dear son
As the Lebanon war raged in 2008, David Grossman, the celebrated Israeli writer, publicly urged his government to accept a ceasefire. Just days later, his soldier son was killed by one of Hizbollah's final anti-tank missiles. This is the eulogy he read at the funeral.
At 20 to three in the morning, between Saturday and Sunday, the doorbell rang. Over the intercom, they said they were from the army. For three days, every thought begins with: 'He/we won't.'
He won't come. We won't talk. We won't laugh. He won't be that kid with the ironic look in his eyes and the amazing sense of humour. He won't be that young person with understanding deeper than his years. There won't be that warm smile and healthy appetite. There won't be that rare combination of determination and gentleness. There won't be his common sense and wisdom. We won't sit down together to watch The Simpsons and Seinfeld, and we won't listen to Johnny Cash, and we won't feel the strong embrace. We won't see you going to talk to your brother, Yonatan, with excited hand movements and we won't see you hugging your sister, Ruthie, the love of your life.
Uri, my love. All your short life, we have all learned from you, from the strength and determination to go your own way. To go your own way even if there is no way you could succeed. We followed with amazement your struggle to get into the tank commanders' course. How you never compromised with your commanders, because you knew you would be a great commander. You were not satisfied to give less than you thought you could. And when you succeeded, I thought here's a man who knows his own abilities in such a simple and wise way. Here's a man who has no pretensions or arrogance, who isn't influenced by what others say about him, whose source of strength is internal.
From childhood, you were like that. A child who live in harmony with himself and those around him. A child who knew his place, and knew that he was loved, who recognised his limitations and strengths. And truly, from the moment you forced the army to make you a commander, it was clear what kind of commander and person you were. We hear today from your comrades and your subordinates about the commander and friend. About the person who got up before everyone else in order to organise everything and who went to sleep only after everyone else had. And yesterday, at midnight, I looked at our house which was quite a mess after the visits of hundreds of people who came to console us and I said to myself: 'Well, now we need Uri, to help us organise it again.'
You were the leftie of your battalion and you were respected for it, because you stood your ground, without giving up even one of your military assignments ...
You were a son and a friend to me and to Mummy. Our soul is tied to yours. You felt good in yourself and you were a good person to live with. I cannot even say out loud how much you were 'Someone to Run With'. Every furlough you would say: 'Dad, let's talk' and we would go, usually to a restaurant, and talk. You told me so much, Uri, and I felt proud that I was your confidante.
I won't say anything now about the war you were killed in. We, our family, have already lost in this war. The state of Israel will have its own reckoning ...
Uri was such an Israeli child; even his name was very Israeli and Hebrew. He was the essence of Israeli-ness as I would want it to be. An Israeli-ness that has almost been forgotten, that is something of a curiosity. And he was a person so full of values. That word has been so eroded and has become ridiculed in recent years. In our crazy, cruel and cynical world, it's not 'cool' to have values, or to be a humanist, or to be truly sensitive to the suffering of the other, even if that other is your enemy on the battlefield.
However, I learned from Uri that it is both possible and necessary to be all that. We have to guard ourselves, by defending ourselves both physically and morally. We have to guard ourselves from might and simplistic thinking, from the corruption that is in cynicism, from the pollution of the heart and the ill-treatment of humans, which are the biggest curse of those living in a disastrous region like ours. Uri simply had the courage to be himself, always and in all situations - to find his exact voice in every thing he said and did. That's what guarded him from the pollution and corruption and the diminishing of the soul.
'In the night between Saturday and Sunday, at 20 to three in the morning, our doorbell rang. The person said through the intercom that he was from the army, and I went down to open the door, and I thought to myself - that's it, life's over. But five hours later, when Michal and I went into Ruthie's room to wake her and tell her the terrible news, Ruthie, after first crying, said: 'But we will live, right? We will live and trek like before and I want to continue singing in a choir, and we will continue to laugh like always and I want to learn to play guitar.' And we hugged her and told her that we will live.'
We will derive our strength from Uri; he had enough for many years to come. Vitality, warmth and love radiated from him strongly, and that will shine on us even if the star that made it has been extinguished. Our love, we had a great honour to live with you. Thank you for every moment that you were ours.
Father and Mother, Yonatan and Ruthie.
Translated from the original Hebrew by Joseph Millis, world news editor of the Jewish Chronicle
Grossman's Speech at the Yitzhak Rabin Memorian June 11, 2006
The annual memorial ceremony for Yitzhak Rabin is the moment when we pause for a while to remember Rabin the man, the leader. And we also take a look at ourselves, at Israeli society, its leadership, the national mood, the state of the peace process, at ourselves as individuals in the face of national events.
It is not easy to take a look at ourselves this year. There was a war, and Israel flexed its massive military muscle, but also exposed Israel's fragility. We discovered that our military might ultimately cannot be the only guarantee of our existence. Primarily, we have found that the crisis Israel is experiencing is far deeper than we had feared, in almost every way.
I am speaking here tonight as a person whose love for the land is overwhelming and complex, and yet it is unequivocal, and as one whose continuous covenant with the land has turned his personal calamity into a covenant of blood.
I am totally secular, and yet in my eyes the establishment and the very existence of the State of Israel is a miracle of sorts that happened to us as a nation - a political, national, human miracle.
I do not forget this for a single moment. Even when many things in the reality of our lives enrage and depress me, even when the miracle is broken down to routine and wretchedness, to corruption and cynicism, even when reality seems like nothing but a poor parody of this miracle, I always remember. And with these feelings, I address you tonight.
"Behold land, for we hath squandered," wrote the poet Saul Tchernikovsky in Tel Aviv in 1938. He lamented the burial of our young again and again in the soil of the Land of Israel. The death of young people is a horrible, ghastly waste.
But no less dreadful is the sense that for many years, the State of Israel has been squandering, not only the lives of its sons, but also its miracle; that grand and rare opportunity that history bestowed upon it, the opportunity to establish here a state that is efficient, democratic, which abides by Jewish and universal values; a state that would be a national home and haven, but not only a haven, also a place that would offer a new meaning to Jewish existence; a state that holds as an integral and essential part of its Jewish identity and its Jewish ethos, the observance of full equality and respect for its non-Jewish citizens.
Look at what befell us. Look what befell the young, bold, passionate country we had here, and how, as if it had undergone a quickened ageing process, Israel lurched from infancy and youth to a perpetual state of gripe, weakness and sourness.
How did this happen? When did we lose even the hope that we would eventually be able to live a different, better life? Moreover, how do we continue to watch from the side as though hypnotized by the insanity, rudeness, violence and racism that has overtaken our home?
And I ask you: How could it be that a people with such powers of creativity, renewal and vivacity as ours, a people that knew how to rise from the ashes time and again, finds itself today, despite its great military might, at such a state of laxity and inanity, a state where it is the victim once more, but this time its own victim, of its anxieties, its short-sightedness.
One of the most difficult outcomes of the recent war is the heightened realization that at this time there is no king in Israel, that our leadership is hollow. Our military and political leadership is hollow. I am not even talking about the obvious blunders in running the war, of the collapse of the home front, nor of the large-scale and small-time corruption.
I am talking about the fact that the people leading Israel today are unable to connect Israelis to their identity. Certainly not with the healthy, vitalizing and productive areas of this identity, with those areas of identity and memory and fundamental values that would give us hope and strength, that would be the antidote to the waning of mutual trust, of the bonds to the land, that would give some meaning to the exhausting and despairing struggle for existence.
The fundamental characteristics of the current Israeli leadership are primarily anxiety and intimidation, of the charade of power, the wink of the dirty deal, of selling out our most prized possessions. In this sense they are not true leaders, certainly they are not the leaders of a people in such a complicated position that has lost the way it so desperately needs. Sometimes it seems that the sound box of their self-importance, of their memories of history, of their vision, of what they really care for, exist only in the miniscule space between two headlines of a newspaper or between two investigations by the attorney general.
Look at those who lead us. Not all of them, of course, but many among them. Behold their petrified, suspicious, sweaty conduct. The conduct of advocates and scoundrels. It is preposterous to expect to hear wisdom emerge from them, that some vision or even just an original, truly creative, bold and ingenuous idea would emanate from them.
When was the last time a prime minister formulated or took a step that could open up a new horizon for Israelis, for a better future? When did he initiate a social or cultural or ideological move, instead of merely reacting feverishly to moves forced upon him by others?
Mister Prime Minister, I am not saying these words out of feelings of rage or revenge. I have waited long enough to avoid responding on impulse. You will not be able to dismiss my words tonight by saying a grieving man cannot be judged. Certainly I am grieving, but I am more pained than angry. This country and what you and your friends are doing to it pains me.
Trust me, your success is important to me, because the future of all of us depends on our ability to act. Yitzhak Rabin took the road of peace with the Palestinians, not because he possessed great affection for them or their leaders. Even then, as you recall, common belief was that we had no partner and we had nothing to discuss with them.
Rabin decided to act, because he discerned very wisely that Israeli society would not be able to sustain itself endlessly in a state of an unresolved conflict. He realized long before many others that life in a climate of violence, occupation, terror, anxiety and hopelessness, extracts a price Israel cannot afford. This is all relevant today, even more so. We will soon talk about the partner that we do or do not have, but before that, let us take a look at ourselves.
We have been living in this struggle for more than 100 years. We, the citizens of this conflict, have been born into war and raised in it, and in a certain sense indoctrinated by it. Maybe this is why we sometimes think that this madness in which we live for over 100 years is the only real thing, the only life for us, and that we do not have the option or even the right to aspire for a different life.
By our sword we shall live and by our sword we shall die and the sword shall devour forever. Maybe this would explain the indifference with which we accept the utter failure of the peace process, a failure that has lasted for years and claims more and more victims.
This could explain also the lack of reaction by most of us to the harsh blow to democracy caused by the appointment of Avigdor Lieberman as a senior minister with the support of the Labor Party - the appointment of a habitual pyromaniac as director of the nation's firefighters.
And these are partly the cause of Israel's quick descent into the heartless, essentially brutal treatment of its poor and suffering. This indifference to the fate of the hungry, the elderly, the sick and the disabled, all those who are weak, this equanimity of the State of Israel in the face of human trafficking or the appalling employment conditions of our foreign workers, which border on slavery, to the deeply ingrained institutionalized racism against the Arab minority.
When this takes place here so naturally, without shock, without protest, as though it were obvious, that we would never be able to get the wheel back on track, when all of this takes place, I begin to fear that even if peace were to arrive tomorrow, and even if we ever regained some normalcy, we may have lost our chance for full recovery.
The calamity that struck my family and myself with the falling of our son, Uri, does not grant me any additional rights in the public discourse, but I believe that the experience of facing death and the loss brings with it a sobriety and lucidity, at least regarding the distinction between the important and the unimportant, between the attainable and the unattainable.
Any reasonable person in Israel, and I will say in Palestine too, knows exactly the outline of a possible solution to the conflict between the two peoples. Any reasonable person here and over there knows deep in their heart the difference between dreams and the heart's desire, between what is possible and what is not possible by the conclusion of negotiations. Anyone who does not know, who refuses to acknowledge this, is already not a partner, be he Jew or Arab, is entrapped in his hermetic fanaticism, and is therefore not a partner.
Let us take a look at those who are meant to be our partners. The Palestinians have elected Hamas to lead them, Hamas who refuses to negotiate with us, refuses even to recognize us. What can be done in such a position? Keep strangling them more and more, keep mowing down hundreds of Palestinians in Gaza, most of whom are innocent civilians like us? Kill them and get killed for all eternity?
Turn to the Palestinians, Mr. Olmert, address them over the heads of Hamas, appeal to their moderates, those who like you and I oppose Hamas and its ways, turn to the Palestinian people, speak to their deep grief and wounds, acknowledge their ongoing suffering.
Nothing would be taken away from you or Israel's standing in future negotiations. Our hearts will only open up to one another slightly, and this has a tremendous power, the power of a force majeur. The power of simple human compassion, particularly in this a state of deadlock and dread. Just once, look at them not through the sights of a gun, and not behind a closed roadblock. You will see there a people that is tortured no less than us. An oppressed, occupied people bereft of hope.
Certainly, the Palestinians are also to blame for the impasse, certainly they played their role in the failure of the peace process. But take a look at them from a different perspective, not only at the radicals in their midst, not only at those who share interests with our own radicals. Take a look at the overwhelming majority of this miserable people, whose fate is entangled with our own, whether we like it or not.
Go to the Palestinians, Mr. Olmert, do not search all the time for reasons for not to talk to them. You backed down on the unilateral convergence, and that's a good thing, but do not leave a vacuum. It will be occupied instantly with violence, destruction. Talk to them, make them an offer their moderates can accept. They argue among themselves far more than we are shown in the media. Make them an offer that will force them to choose between accepting it or prefering to remain hostage to fanatical Islam.
Approach them with the bravest and most serious plan Israel can offer. With the offer than any reasonable Palestinian and Israeli knows is the boundary of their refusal and our concession. There is no time. Should you delay, in a short while we will look back with longing at the amateur Palestinian terror. We will hit our heads and yell at our failure to exercise all of our mental flexibility, all of the Israeli ingenuity to uproot our enemies from their self-entrapment. We have no choice and they have no choice. And a peace of no choice should be approached with the same determination and creativity as one approaches a war of no choice. And those who believe we do have a choice, or that time is on our side do not comprehend the deeply dangerous processes already in motion.
Maybe, Mr. Prime Minister, you need to be reminded, that if an Arab leader is sending a peace signal, be it the slightest and most hesitant, you must accept it, you must test immediately its sincerity and seriousness. You do not have the moral right not to respond.
You owe it to those whom you would ask to sacrifice their lives should another war break out. Therefore, if President Assad says that Syria wants peace, even if you don't believe him, and we are all suspicious of him, you must offer to meet him that same day.
Don't wait a single day. When you launched the last war you did not even wait one hour. You charged with full force, with the complete arsenal, with the full power of destruction. Why, when a glimmer of peace surfaces, must you reject it immediately, dissolve it? What have you got to lose? Are you suspicious of it? Go and offer him such terms that would expose his schemes. Offer him a peace process that would last over several years, and only at its conclusion, and provided he meets all the conditions and restrictions, will he get back the Golan. Commit him to a prolonged process, act so that his people also become aware of this possibility. Help the moderates, who must exist there as well. Try to shape reality. Not only serve as its collaborator. This is what you were elected to do.
Certainly, not all depends on our actions. There are major powers active in our region and in the world. Some, like Iran, like radical Islam, seek our doom and despite that, so much depends on what we do, on what we become.
Disagreements today between right and left are not that significant. The vast majority of Israel's citizens understand this already, and know what the outline for the resolution of the conflict would look like. Most of us understand, therefore, that the land would be divided, that a Palestinian state would be established.
Why, then, do we keep exhausting ourselves with the internal bickering that has gone on for 40 years? Why does our political leadership continue to reflect the position of the radicals and not that held by the majority of the public? It is better to reach national consensus before circumstances or God forbid another war force us to reach it. If we do it, we would save ourselves years of decline and error, years when we will cry time and again: "Behold land, for we hath squandered."
From where I stand right now, I beseech, I call on all those who listen, the young who came back from the war, who know they are the ones to be called upon to pay the price of the next war, on citizens, Jew and Arab, people on the right and the left, the secular, the religious, stop for a moment, take a look into the abyss. Think of how close we are to losing all that we have created here. Ask yourselves if this is not the time to get a grip, to break free of this paralysis, to finally claim the lives we deserve to live.