Not In My Name, a Chicago-area Jewish peace group, will hold an all day vigil on Friday, July 26, from 8 AM to 5 PM, to protest Israeli's missile attack in Gaza Strip that killed 15 people, including 9 children. This attack, whose stated objective was the assassination of Salah Shehade, leader of the Izzedine al Qassam brigade in Gaza (the military wing of the militant Islamic group Hamas), was a direct response to Hamas leader Sheikh Ahamad Yassin's unprecedented public call for suspension of suicide bombings within Israel in return for an Israeli withdrawal from West Bank towns and villages.
"Once again we watch in horror as Ariel Sharon acts decisively to destroy any prospect of peace between Israelis and Palestinians," stated Steven Feuerstein, spokesperson for NIMN. "Sharon and his government's commitment to a military solution, and their vision of an expansionist Israel, is leading the entire region to war. Ariel Sharon threatens the safety and security of Israelis and Palestinians alike. He must be stopped, and the only way that will happen is for President Bush to turn off the spigot. No more military aid to Israel until it ends the occupation. No more of our hard-earned tax dollars used to finance tank and fighter jet attacks on Palestinian children."
On July 22, 2002, Hamas leader Sheikh Ahamad Yassin made an unprecedented public call for a suspension of suicide bombings within Israel in return for an Israeli withdrawal from West Bank towns and villages. This was the culmination of long, patient negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas leadership, aimed at paving the way to a resumption of a political process that would replace bloodshed.
The Sharon government should have responded immediately and positively to this opening. Yet the past 20 months have shown the world that Sharon always chooses the path of conflict over negotiation. Predictably, within hours of Sheikh Ahamad Yassin's announcement, Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer sent two US-made F-16 fighter planes on a bloody killing mission in Gaza. Just as predictably, Hamas is now calling for revenge.
Who can doubt that there will soon be another horrific suicide bombing? And who bears responsibility for this missed opportunity, for the next cycle of retaliation and bloody Israeli deaths? Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who, once again, has lured death to the doors of the Israeli citizens, gloated, "[T]his operation, in my view, is one of the great successes and of course demands that we will all be on full alert." (Ha'aretz 7/23/02).
The time has come for the United States to end its uncritical support of a government that poses such a threat to the safety and security of its own people. The United States must end its no-strings-attached policy of handing Israel almost $3 billion a year in military aid. Only then will we see a shift in Israeli policy, and a willingness to negotiate in good faith with Palestinians, so this terrible occupation can finally end.