“The undersigned therefore take this means of publicly presenting a few salient facts concerning Begin and his party; and of urging all concerned not to support this latest manifestation of fascism.”
That was the conclusion of a letter to the New York Times from a group of concerned Jews regarding Menachem Begin and his record of extremism before his visit to the United States in 1948. It was signed by Albert Einstein and Hannah Arendt, among others. We cannot be sure what those individuals would say about former Prime Minister Olmert’s upcoming visit to San Francisco, but it seems likely they would express grave concern.
Some facts are presented here as to why we will protest Olmert on Oct. 22 as a war criminal for his actions as prime minister.
Olmert’s attack on Lebanon in the summer of 2006 caused massive destruction as Israeli forces destroyed whole civilian neighborhoods. Even water treatment facilities were attacked despite the prohibition against targeting objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population. Statements by Israeli military officials were made indicating that the destruction of civilian infrastructure was indeed a goal of Israel’s military campaign designed to press the Lebanese government and the civilian population to turn against Hizbollah. Deliberate attacks against civilians to advance a political goal is the classic definition of terrorism. We hold Olmert accountable.
The long siege on Gaza intensified during Olmert’s term. It has left in its wake malnourished children and an ongoing humanitarian disaster. It is the economic strangulation of a whole people imposed on them as a response to their choice of political representation in 2006—although the roots of this economic siege begin long before that. This siege has been declared by multiple human rights and humanitarian organizations as illegal and unjust. We hold Olmert accountable.
Finally, there is the horrendous war on Gaza. The facts are laid out in great detail by the Goldstone Report. The Israeli military, under the direction of Prime Minister Olmert, committed multiple war crimes against the whole people of Gaza, in the process killing over a thousand people, including hundreds of young children, and destroying infrastructure and thousands of homes that mostly are yet to be rebuilt, due in large part to the cruel sanctions placed on Gaza by the Israeli regime. We hold Olmert accountable.
These are a few salient facts regarding Ehud Olmert and his crimes. We urge all concerned to take action.
Justice Goldstone has said that the Middle East suffers from a “culture of impunity” that allows these crimes to continue, saying that “Overlooking justice only leads to increased conflict and violence.” We believe this culture of impunity must end, and must end now. On Oct. 22 at 6 p.m., as Olmert makes his speech to those gathered inside the St Francis Hotel in San Francisco, we will gather outside in Union Square with the message that we demand accountability to international law. We will be silent no more.
Jim Harris is a long-time antiwar activist and resides in the Bay Area.