Gaza conflict a battle of people’s values

A donkey and cart navigate a Gaza street. PHOTO: REUTERS
A donkey and cart navigate a Gaza street. PHOTO: REUTERS
This is a slightly abridged speech Dr Rod Pik made at a recent rally for Palestine held in Dunedin.

When my wife, May, our son, Leo, and I came to live in Aotearoa New Zealand seven years ago, we didn’t want to hear about Israel.

We knew that Israel would go on in its illegal military occupation of the territories, we knew that the racism and extreme nationalism were not going away, that they were getting worse. That’s why we left Israel.

But we certainly didn’t know we were going to protest, let alone speak, in a rally like this.

When we left the rally that took place here two weeks ago, we knew that Israel was not going to stop its massacre of the Palestinian people in Gaza so quickly. But we didn’t know it was going to expand to the West Bank. We didn’t know Israel would launch a concentrated attack on hospitals. That Israeli tanks were going to surround Shifa hospital and soldiers would enter and raid it; that 23 of the 24 hospitals in northern Gaza would be shut down, either totally or in part, because of Israel’s attacks and siege.

We didn’t know Israel would attack a children’s centre in Jenin, a children’s centre that had already been raided in July this year, with all facilities and equipment, including children’s books, destroyed.

It is not the first time that Israel has targeted medical facilities in the occupied territories — ambulances, medical staff, patients — later coming up with the same stupid lies about the reasons. So we were not surprised by the attacks on hospitals, although we did not expect it to be so open, systematic and focused.

We certainly did not expect dozens of Israeli doctors to publicly sign a statement justifying the attacks on hospitals.

I am a doctor who was trained and worked in Israel; my deceased father, a Holocaust survivor, was a hospital doctor for more than 30 years. Reading what those people who dare call themselves doctors wrote, we were shocked, infuriated and ashamed.

The realisation of what the state of Israel was, what the Zionist movement was and what lies we were brought up to believe was an extremely painful journey for May and me over the years. Every time we think we see clearly the evil nature of the beast, we are surprised, once more, by the depth and magnitude of that evil, by the crossing of yet another red line.

Growing up in Israel you are brainwashed from childhood. You are told "We are the victims. We go to war because we have no choice: We are only defending ourselves. The Arabs want to throw us into the sea, just because we’re Jews".

Every crime of the IDF is presented in the same idiotic narrative: they attacked, we fight back. The same narrative that is fed to the world in Western media this time as well: Hamas attacked, Israel is fighting back — perhaps going a little too far, but only fighting back.

You never hear about the context. You don’t hear about the Naqba, you don’t know that the state of Israel was founded by a systematic, pre-planned act of ethnic cleansing. You don’t hear about the provocations that preceded the 1967 war, in which Israel took over the West Bank and Gaza, as they have always planned to.

You don’t hear about the way Israeli soldiers have treated Palestinians in the territories for decades. The beatings, the murders, the imprisonment without trials, the torture, the starvation, the destruction of homes and infrastructure, the daily humiliations, the endless provocation.

You don’t hear about the Israeli soldiers bragging about it, telling jokes about it. You only hear the rage when the Palestinians dare to strike back, and how it makes another "military operation" unavoidable.

You hear the pretext, not the big plan, like Israel’s finance minister’s "decisive plan" of ending the conflict with the Palestinians by completing Palestine’s ethnic cleansing; the Israeli Intelligence Service preferred solution of transferring the entire surviving population of Gaza to Egypt — all documented, but downplayed. All completely consistent with what the founding fathers of Zionism already said in the 1930s.

You hear about the Israeli hostages, whose suffering the Israeli government cynically uses for its genocidal purposes, ignoring hostages’ families’ calls for ceasefire and negotiations. In fact, Israeli governments have repeatedly and deliberately provoked the Palestinians to the point of violence to trigger the carrying out of pre-planned attack operations against the Palestinian population over the years; they have supported militant over moderate Palestinian leaders, dragging the conflict in an increasingly violent direction that precludes any negotiations, knowing this would give Israel an advantage, being the stronger side.

This has been openly stated but downplayed. The rhetoric in the media has, of course, been very different. And the Israeli children are being taught songs about peace.

This cynical, brutal game, fully backed by the US and most other Western countries, and by the silence of coward politicians like Luxon and Hipkins, has to be exposed in order for it to stop once and for all. We have to call a spade a spade.

In 1988, Professor Yeshayahu Leibowitz, an Israeli religious Jewish intellectual, writer on Jewish thought and Western philosophy, used the term "Judo-Nazis" to refer to Israeli soldiers who attacked pregnant women and children and stopped injured Palestinians from accessing medical treatment in the occupied territories. Leibovitch was widely criticised for using this term, but refused to take it back, saying "we did not build gas chambers, but the intentions are identical".

He predicted that Israeli politicians would create concentration camps not only for Palestinians but also for people who hold views such as himself. Nowadays, Gaza is a death camp and people in Israel voicing views like I am voicing here today are being arrested.

Only a month before the current escalation started, on September 3, Avraham Burg, past chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, Speaker of the Knesset, and Interim President of Israel, wrote in one of Israel’s leading newspapers: "You have not listened to Leibowitz, and today Judo-Nazism is everywhere".

Family members from both May’s family and mine have been murdered in the Holocaust. We know how shocking it is to find your people on the other side of the equation, realising with horror that your own people have become the monster.

Ceasefire is necessary. It will only happen if the international community will force it on Israel and if our politicians, and the US government, will stop acting like cowards.

But the Judo-Nazism won’t be eliminated with a ceasefire. For this, a long and uncompromising journey, hopefully a peaceful one, will have to be taken. This will not be easy, and no doubt people who dare to speak the truth will be demonised, presented as "extremists" and anti-Semitic.

But when Israel has become the Nazi, there is no greater hypocrisy than calling its critics "anti-Semitic".

Keep learning, reading, demonstrating and putting pressure on the Israeli government. Uphold freedom of speech, particularly when the speaker has different opinions than yours.

Remember your values and that human lives are more important than your ideology, race, state and flag. Remember there are moral lines that must never ever be crossed or compromised.

 - Dr Rod Pik is a psychiatrist who was born and raised in Israel, before migrating to New Zealand.