Dr. Reuven Moskovitz is an 82-year-old Holocaust survivor whose subsequent life has been
dedicated to peace. In 2001 he received the Mount Zion Award and in 2003 he
received the Aachen Peace Prize.
Since his arrival in the Middle East, Dr. Moskovitz has worked for a just and sustainable peace between Jews and
Palestinians. In 1972 he co-founded the peace village Neve Shalom/Wahat al
Salam, where Israeli Jews and Palestinians live
side-by-side in peace. After the Six Day War of 1967, he became the secretary of the
Movement for Peace and Security.
So why was Dr. Moskovitz recently
manhandled by Israeli soldiers? He was aboard a small boat, the Irene, that was
trying to deliver humanitarian aid and children's toys to Gaza when it was boarded and hijacked by
Israeli soldiers. Dr. Moskovitz expressed his disbelief that "Israeli soldiers would treat nine Jews this way. They just
hit people." He furthermore explained: "It is a sacred duty for me, as a
[Holocaust] survivor, to protest against the persecution, the oppression and the
imprisonment of so many people in Gaza, including more than 800,000 children.
Another passenger, Rami Elhanan, whose daughter Smadar died in a suicide bombing
at a shopping centre in Jerusalem in 1997, said that reconciliation with the
Palestinians is the surest path to peace. "Those 1.5 million people in Gaza are
victims exactly as I am," he said.
Another passenger, Jewish peace activist and former Israel Air
Force pilot Yonatan Shapira said there were "no words to describe what we went through during the takeover." Eli Usharov, an Israeli reporter, confirmed Shapira's account, saying the takeover was executed
with unnecessary brutality and that he saw Shapira tasered.
Yonatan Shapira's brother Itamar Shapira, a member of the Combatants for Peace movement,
was also a passenger.
Another peace activist on board was Rami Elhanan, an Israeli whose
daughter Smadar died as the result of a suicide bombing.
He believes reconciliation with the Palestinians is the
surest path to peace.
"Those 1.5 million people in Gaza are victims exactly as
I am," he said. Elhanan added, “We
are banging our head on a very hard wall of hatred. Our hope is to make little
cracks on that wall, so that in the end it will fall.” [The government of Israel
has created walls twice as high as the Berlin Wall and herded millions of
completely innocent Palestinian women and children inside those walls, where
they can be kept "out of sight, out of mind." Think of the movie District 9, if
you want to understand the terrible circumstances inside Gaza and Palestinian
refugee camps. The "security walls" created by the government of Israel have
little to do with real security, since most of the walls are not built on the
borders of Israel, but snake through Occupied Palestine, stealing land and
valuable water sources from Palestinians by allowing Jewish robber barons to
squat on the land and claim to "own it, in defiance of international law, the
Camp David accords, a plethora of UN resolutions, and simple humanity. Why are
innocent women and children being penned inside giant corrals, like cattle?
Jewish "settlers" and the government of Israel have destroyed over 1.4 million
trees, including multitudes of olive trees which Palestinian farmers depend on
to feed themselves and their families. Think of the movie Avatar. The most
radical "settlers" seem to believe the land must be "cleansed" of any evidence
that the Palestinians ever lived there, so rather than stealing buildings and
trees that have considerable value, they use bulldozers to eradicate any traces
of Palestinian existence. Israel is the only nation on earth that regularly
destroys the homes and trees of farmers in a fanatical, racism- and
religion-inspired quest to "cleanse" the land of evidence that other people
When peace activists of the Gaza Flotilla tried to break the Gaza blockade
recently, nine Turkish activists were killed. The official Israeli government
"explanation" for their deaths was that they were "terrorists." However it's
obvious that Dr. Moskovitz is not a "terrorist," but a man whose entire life has
been dedicated to peace. So why are peace activists being manhandled and killed
by Israeli soldiers?
And why was a Jew trying to break the blockade of Gaza? In his own words:
"It is a sacred duty for me, as a [Holocaust] survivor,
to protest against the persecution, the oppression and the imprisonment of so
many people in Gaza, including more than 800,000 children."
"I as a Holocaust survivor cannot live with the fact
that the State of Israel is imprisoning an entire people behind fences," Dr.
Moskovitz said, adding that "it's just immoral."
"What happened to me in the Holocaust wakes me up every
night and I hope we don't do the same thing to our neighbors," he said,
adding that he was comparing "what I went through during the Holocaust to what
the besieged Palestinian children are going through."
Reuven Moskovitz's life
mission has been to turn foes into friends: “We are two peoples, but we have one
The boat’s cargo included children’s toys and musical instruments, textbooks, fishing nets for Gaza’s
fishing communities and prosthetic limbs for orthopedic medical care in Gaza’s
hospitals. (As Jimmy Carter recently pointed out, Palestinian children have been
denied crayons and coloring books, and are being treated more like animals than
The Irene was flying multicolored peace flags carrying the
names of dozens of Jews who have expressed their support for this action, and as a
symbol of the widespread support for the boat by Jews worldwide. (There are over
200 primarily Jewish organizations which work on a daily basis to end the denial
of basic human rights and Justice to Palestinians. Those organizations include
Jews for Justice,
Rabbis for Human Rights, the Israeli
Committee Against Home Demolitions and
Breaking the Silence,
which publishes the testimonies of Israeli soldiers who have "come clean" about
the real policies and actions of the Israeli government and military.
Here is an account of what happened, according to an article published by
Haaretz on Wednesday, September 29, 2010.
Haaretz is Israel's oldest daily newspaper and is considered the most
influential Israeli newspaper, according to Wikipedia.
Jewish Gaza-bound activists: IDF used excessive force in naval raid
by Yanir Yagna
Israel Defense Forces soldiers used excessive force
while taking over a Gaza-bound aid ship organized by Jewish and Israeli
activists, the boat's passengers said Tuesday, countering the military's
official version claiming that the takeover had been uneventful.
Earlier Tuesday the IDF reported that Israeli naval
commandos peacefully boarded the Jewish aid boat attempting to break a naval
blockade on Gaza, saying "IDF naval forces recently boarded the yacht Irene,
and it is currently being led to the Ashdod seaport along with its passengers."
However, testimonies by passengers who were released
from police questioning later in the day seemed to counter the IDF's claims,
with Israeli activist and former Israel Air Force pilot Yonatan Shapira saying
that there were "no words to describe what we went through during the takeover."
Shapira said the activists, who he said displayed no
violence, were met with extreme IDF brutality, adding that the soldiers "just
jumped us, and hit us. I was hit with a taser gun."
"Some of the soldiers treated us atrociously," Shapira
said, adding that he felt there was a "huge gap between what the IDF spokesman
is saying happened and what really happened."
The former IAF pilot said he and his fellow activists
were "proud of the mission," saying it was organized "for the sake of a
statement – that the siege on Gaza is a crime, that it's immoral, un-Jewish, and
we have a moral obligation to speak out. Anyone who stays silent as this crime
is being committed is an accessory to a crime."
Eli Usharov, a reporter for Israel's Channel 10 affirmed
Shapira's version of the events, telling Haaretz that the takeover was executed
with unnecessary brutality.
"They used a taser gun against Yonatan. He screamed and
was dragged to the military boat," Usharov said, adding that both Yonatan and
his brother Itamar were handcuffed.
The Channel 10 reporter also said that the activists
managed to have a serious heart-to-heart conversation with the troops once they
were all placed on board the military vessel, and that "overall the atmosphere
Here is another account from a Jewish source, this one by
Jews for Justice for Palestinians:
Jewish Boat to Gaza boarded by Israeli forces
For updates go to the Jewish Boat for Gaza website:
The Jewish Boat to Gaza has been boarded by Israeli
28 September, immediate release:
The Irene, a boat carrying nine passengers and aid for
Gaza’s population has been boarded by the Israeli navy and denied access to
The boat is flying a British flag and its passengers
include citizens of the US, the UK, Germany and Israel. Two journalists are also
Last contact with the boat’s captain, Glyn Secker, was
at 0937 GMT, when their path had been cut off by an Israeli destroyer. Reports
from news sources indicate that the boat has been surrounded and boarded and
members of the crew have been handcuffed and had their phones taken. At this
point they were less than 20 miles from Gaza’s shore. Since then there has been
The occupied Gaza Strip’s territorial waters end 12
nautical miles from shore, but the Israeli blockade is enforced at 20 miles from
Israeli attorney Smadar Ben Natan who is representing
the passengers has asked to see her clients immediately.
Local group Physicians for Human Rights-Israel has asked
for permission to send an independent doctor to visit the passengers
immediately, after hearing from organizers that at least one passenger suffers
from serious chronic health problems and is in need of medical care.
Speaking from London, a member of the organizing group,
Richard Kuper of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, has condemned the Israeli
army’s apparent action and said that this boat and its fate are a symbol of the
chances for peace in the region. The way it is being treated by Israeli
authorities indicates that they have no real intentions of reaching peace, he
said. He called for worldwide support for the boat and its message of protest
against the siege of Gaza and the occupation.
Media Contacts in London: email@example.com
European Jews for a Just Peace, Jews for Justice for
Palestinians (UK), Juedische Stimme fuer einen gerechten Frieden in Nahost
(Germany), American Jews for a Just Peace (USA), Jewish Voice for Peace (USA),
Jews Against the Occupation Sydney. Visit
www.jewishboattogaza.org and join us
on Facebook and Twitter: #jewishboat2gaza
Speaking from London, a member of the organizing group,
Richard Kuper of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, said that the Jewish
Boat to Gaza is a symbolic act of protest against the Israeli occupation of the
Palestinian territories and the siege of Gaza, and a message of solidarity to
Palestinians and Israelis who seek peace and justice.
"Israeli government policies are not supported by all
Jews," said Kuper. "We call on all governments and people around the world to
speak and act against the occupation and the siege."
Regarding the threat of interception by the Israeli
navy, Kuper said ‘This is a nonviolent action. We aim to reach Gaza, but our
activists will not engage in any physical confrontation and will therefore not
present the Israelis with any reason or excuse to use physical force or assault
According to Gulf Times, Yonatan Shapira, an Israeli former military pilot and
crew member of the British-flagged sailing boat, said the Jewish activists were not seeking
confrontation. “We have a policy of non-violence and non-confrontation,” he said.
“But if the Israeli army stops the boat, we will not help them to take it to Ashdod,” he said of the southern Israeli port where
other blockade runners have been taken after being stopped by warships. But Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak has repeatedly
warned that Israel will intercept any ship nearing Gaza, which is run by the Islamist movement Hamas.
In May 2010, Israeli forces intercepted a six-ship flotilla
heading for Gaza but the raid went badly wrong and nine Turkish activists were
killed, prompting a wave of international condemnation.
Vicky Rossi Interviews Peace Activist in Palestine Reuven Moskovitz
TFF, September 22, 2006
Vicky Rossi, TFF Associate
On the occasion of the Summer
University in Tamera, Portugal, I had the good fortune to gain many
insights, away from the well known government rhetoric, into the
issues that underlie the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As part of the Summer
University, Sami Awad, Reuven Moskovitz and others gave open, constructive
and inspiring talks on the historico-political foundations of the conflict
and also on possible ways forward to a sustainable peace.
The 10-day Summer University offered me the opportunity also to conduct one formal interview and three informal
conversations with participating Palestinians and Israelis. Through the
views and initiatives of these grassroots activists, a clear and plausible
way forward to peace and reconciliation can be envisioned.
Interview # 1 of 4
Peace activist, co-founder of Neve Shalom,
winner of the Aachen Peace Award 2003.
Dr. Reuven Moskovitz was born in 1928 in
Schtetl Frumsiaca in the northern part of Romania. Expulsed from his home by
the Nazis, he managed to avoid the concentration camps and emigrated to
Palestine in 1947, where he became a co-founder of the Kibbutz Misgav-Am
situated on the Lebanese border. He studied history and Hebrew culture at
the University of Tel Aviv and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In 1974
he completed his doctorate on the subject of “Germans and Jews between the
power of spirit and the powerlessness of violence”.
Since his arrival in the Middle East he has
been actively and vocally working for a just and sustainable peace between
Jews and Palestinians. In 1972 he co-founded the peace village Neve Shalom /
Wahat al Salam in Israel, where Israeli Jews and Palestinians are learning
how to live together in peace. After the Six Day War, he became the
secretary of the Movement for Peace and Security.
Reuven Moskovitz has consistently shown the courage to question the policies of his own government. In 2001 he was
awarded the Mount Sion Award and then in 2003 he was jointly awarded,
together with Nabila Espanioly, the international Aachen Peace Award.
Vicky Rossi: You were born in Romania. When then did you move to Israel?
Reuven Moskovitz: The first time I came to Israel was in 1947, but before the shooting began I went
back to Rumania for a time. Then I returned to Israel in 1949. The war was over
and that for me was a shock because I couldn’t believe that Jews and Jewish
soldiers were also able to commit atrocities.
Vicky Rossi: What was the first incident that really brought this realization to you?
Reuven Moskovitz: The first incident was when I was brought by my friends to a kibbutz and there they
sat me in an armchair. I wondered, since we were a new kibbutz, where the
armchair came from. They answered, “Oh, from our neighbours”. I asked, “What do
you mean from our neighbours, did we buy them?” They said, “No, they have left.”
But I had a friend who explained to me what really happened. I was really,
really shocked. They were driven out and some were also massacred. Not mass
massacres, just small numbers, for example they put 10 or 15 people to death in
the small villages in order to keep the population quiet.
Vicky Rossi: How did your friends know all of this? Did they witness it or did they hear second hand?
Reuven Moskovitz: I myself didn’t witness any of this, but my friends they did. They told me exactly
what they experienced. For example, there was a group of soldiers and they saw
an Arab peasant working. One of the soldiers said to the others, “I will show
you that I can shoot him directly in the bottom” and he did it. When I heard
that I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it. Or cases of robbery, not just in
houses where they were driven out but even in places where they refused to
leave. For gold, for money, for…
Vicky Rossi: When we talk about “they” are we talking about the Israeli soldiers?
Reuven Moskovitz: The soldiers, yes. But also – and I was shocked – also the kibbutz because it was
evident that they had war bounty, confiscated property.
Vicky Rossi: What was your immediate reaction to the knowledge that people had been badly treated and property had been stolen?
Reuven Moskovitz: My reaction was to say we have to protest, to make an outcry. Before the war, in a
village not far from us there was an attempt to have I would not say friendly
but correct relations between us. After the war, the kibbutz tried to convince
the army to bring the refugees back, but we discovered later that there was a
clear policy by Ben Gurion that nobody should be allowed to come back.
Vicky Rossi: The military would have had their orders then, but how did the ordinary people become supportive of this policy? Did the media
play a role?
Reuven Moskovitz: You must understand that it was the time after 1945, after the liberation from the
camps. At that time the British didn’t allow the Jews to return so they were
fighting for the right to come here. You know it was a very important
achievement for the Zionist movement. That movement succeeded in convincing the
majority of the Jewish refugees that the only place they could go was Israel. As
a matter of fact, at the time, the Americans didn’t want it and other countries
didn’t want it either. So we were under the shock of thousands and thousands of
Jews coming from Europe and explaining about the fire and destruction there and
their experiences in the concentration camps.
What most people are unable to understand is the concept
that to build a new identity for the Jews living in Israel that identity is that
we are the survivors of the Holocaust even if the majority of Jews living in
Israel were not refugees, they were not survivors. But that’s our identity, yes.
The Arab countries then made a huge mistake. They didn’t recognise the decision
to partition the land. And then the Arab countries made the invasion in 1948.
But, for example, although the Egyptians invaded they did not go as far as Tel
Aviv. They invaded the southern part of Palestine and they stopped exactly on
the border where the United Nations decided it should be the place of the
Palestinians. However, this fact was ignored. In the schools and in the army, it
was said, “Look 5 armies tried to destroy us.” There was consensus that the most
important thing was security…we are the survivors. The supreme task is security.
It doesn’t matter what or how we do it. We have to keep quiet. There was a kind
of censorship, not everything could be published - although there were some
protests against this - for example even in 1952 Palestinians were driven out
from Ashkelon and other places. However there was a systematic process of
indoctrination which said that although the Nazis were defeated in Europe they
continued to be represented in the form of the Arabs and the Palestinians, who
want nothing else but to destroy Israel.
There was a ceasefire agreement in 1949 and according to
this agreement we annexed 20% of what was supposed to be Palestine according to
the United Nations Resolution. There again Ben Gurion established the slogan:
“Not one square metre of land back to the Palestinians. Not one Palestinian
back.” The remaining Palestinians – there were about 180,000 of them – they
would be citizens of Israel, but second class citizens because they had to live
under military rule, very harsh military rule until 1965.
Vicky Rossi: You mentioned the word “indoctrination”. I can
understand the importance of the idea of security immediately after the events
of the World War II, yet Israel continues to this day to suggest that its
actions, many of which are violent in nature, are necessary for its own
security. When you co-founded Neve Shalom / Wahat al-Salam, were you motivated
by the need to move away from this indoctrination?
Reuven Moskovitz: Yes of course, but you must understand that for me Neve Shalom was in 1975/76. Prior
to that there was the period of the military government and military
retaliations. For example, there was a case where a mother and her 2 children
were murdered – a frightful thing of course but then the decision was taken to
teach “them” a lesson.
Vicky Rossi: Which year are we talking about here?
Reuven Moskovitz: It was 1952/53. In response, Ariel Sharon was sent by Ben Gurion to make a military
action to blow up about 50 houses, but Ariel Sharon didn’t warn the people to
leave the village. He went there, laid the dynamite in the houses and about 69
Vicky Rossi: In which village was this?
Reuven Moskovitz: Qibia. This was a terrible thing. The world was shocked that 69 civilians in the night
were killed by such an explosion and Ariel Sharon was the military commander of these actions.
Vicky Rossi: So in those times, prior to you co-founding Neve
Shalom, what actions were you taking in the face of such events?
Reuven Moskovitz: First of all, I joined the peace movement, but at that time there was the problem of
who exactly was the peace movement. There was a very small peace movement by
Martin Buber, but it wasn’t really relevant. Another peace movement was the
peace movement supported by the Soviet Union, so then there was the question of
collaboration with the communists. The left wing party, Mapam, they didn’t want
to collaborate with the communist party because the communists were
anti-Zionists. But the only party, aside from the small movement of Martin Buber
that was calling for the return of the refugees of 1948/49 was the communist
party. It was a Jewish-Palestinian party.
There were other problems too. About 3 years after the
war, there was the question of what we should do with the villages nearby. The
houses had been destroyed and there were only ruins there, but there were fig
plantations and other fruits. The idea came from the Jewish government to annex
this land from our neighbours. Representatives came and said, “Listen, you do
not have land. You can have the land of your neighbours. It has remained
unharvested for years, so you can have it.”
At the beginning this was a moral problem, but then the
majority consensus was that if we didn’t take the land, the land would be given
to people who had arrived just yesterday. The majority felt that they had been
there over the bad times and had suffered, so why should they have land 50
kilometres from their homes when they could have land right there. However, I
was part of a group of 50 young persons and we had principles. We asked
ourselves why we should take the land of our neighbours. We felt guilty. I
didn’t want to join the communist party as I was very happy in the kibbutz, but
when the majority agreed to take the land of our neighbours, we openly declared
that as a sign of protest in the coming elections we would vote for the
communist party. But the communist party was anti-Zionist so there was a rule in
place that each person who voted for the communist party must be expelled from
the kibbutz. So although we had been working very hard in the kibbutz for some
years, we were expelled.
Vicky Rossi: That was a form of nonviolent protest then. You knew
what the results would be for you personally.
Reuven Moskovitz: Exactly. I hoped that they would understand. I told them, “So what if I voted for the
communist party. I want to continue working in the kibbutz”, but rules were
rules and so we were expelled from the kibbutz. We continued to work and
demonstrate against the military government.
Vicky Rossi: What kind of demonstrations?
Reuven Moskovitz: There were huge demonstrations for example against the agreement with Adenauer on
compensation. We said it is impossible to compensate with money the loss of
million of Jewish lives. Nowadays I think that perhaps we were not right as it
helped the State of Israel to bring hundreds of thousands of Jews to this land.
In 1956/57 my dream was to try to work together with Arabs. When I finished
university, I wanted to build a Jewish-Arab school. That was my dream, but it
wasn’t so easy. There was the problem of money.
Vicky Rossi: Was that the only problem?
Reuven Moskovitz: No, there was also the problem of place, of trust. The Arabs didn’t know if they
wanted to take part. The Jews didn’t know if they wanted it either.
Vicky Rossi: And these were the Arabs in Israel that you wanted to work with?
Reuven Moskovitz: In Israel, yes, in Israel. What I did was to arrange meetings between peace schools
in the Arab villages. In the 1950s I had decided through teaching to change the
minds of our people, of the students, to make them understand that the concept
of security and retaliation is wrong and will bring us to nothing. It will only
sow hatred. But the turning point in my life was the Six Day War in 1967 because
I was sure that this war was provoked by Israel. We attacked. But again, through
indoctrination, the government and the newspapers succeeded in frightening our
people. There was an atmosphere of Holocaust: if we don’t do anything then such
and such will happen, so we must … And I was almost certain that it was provoked
by our own policy. Why? Because I began to study history. For example, I
discovered that in 1953, the Commander-in-Chief of the Israeli army gave a
lecture to certain politicians in which he said that the army was convinced that
Israel is not able to maintain security along the 1949 borders. He said the
borders were unnatural, very complicated and we would never be assured of
security. We must do something in order to straighten the borders. It was clear
that there were Israeli military retaliations going on which were not only
responses to acts initiated from the other side, but were also retaliations i.e.
simply provocations, to provoke the Arab side into a war. In the meantime we had
become the strongest army in the Middle East.
Vicky Rossi: Where did you find this information about the Commander-in-Chief’s lecture in 1953?
Reuven Moskovitz: It was mentioned in the diary of our foreign minister, who later became the Prime
Minister of Israel, Moshe Sharett. He stated in his diary that he was shocked to listen to that lecture.
Vicky Rossi: Is this a published diary then?
Reuven Moskovitz: Yes, it was published but after 1967, although I myself got hold of the document
earlier. It was clear, for example, that Ben Gurion had once said that Israel
needed to find an Arab politician – a Prime Minister or a General - that could
be bribed with some millions into making the first moves towards war in order to
give Israel the opportunity to change its borders. Even in the Yom Kippur War,
we were attacked, but as a matter of fact we also provoked the attack because we
didn’t want to go back to the earlier borders.
At the time I was secretary of the peace movement and I
was sure that the Egyptians, under Nasser, wanted peace with Israel. Later, this
was even truer of Sadat, who – following the War of Attrition - was persuaded
through US mediation to prepare a document stating that Egypt would be prepared
to recognise Israel – the first time an Arab country was going to do that – on
the condition that Israel would withdraw to the internationally recognised
borders with Egypt. Sadat didn’t even ask for the Gaza Strip to be returned.
But Golda Meir didn’t want this. She and her closest
advisors wanted other borders, not exactly along the Suez Canal but to annex
from El Harish to Sharm El Sheik, half of Sinai, in order to create the
“necessary” security borders for Israel.
Vicky Rossi: With regard your dream to start a Jewish-Arab school, when and how
did that come about?
Reuven Moskovitz: Well, it happened after my studies in Germany in 1974 when I completed my doctoral
dissertation on the subject of “Germans and Jews between the power of spirit and
the powerlessness of violence”. Many people were revolted because they felt that
I was making the claim that Israel was Nazi. In fact I wanted to warn that even
if we are strong now, this path will bring us to the same point as Germany if we
do like the Germans in the past and continue to believe that we can only succeed
through power and violence.
When I came back to Israel, the peace movement was in a
very difficult situation after the Yom Kippur War (1973). I knew a man called
Bruno Hussar who had tried to set up a Jewish kibbutz but had not been
successful. I went to visit him on his land, which was a very beautiful place,
and I suggested to him that we could build there a peace school in a community
of tolerance, a community of dialogue – not only dialogue between us and the
Palestinians but also dialogue between cultures, between Islam and Judaism.
Bruno accepted and so I became a co-founder. I used my past experience in the
kibbutz to bring water and electricity, to build roads and houses. My own
students were ready to come there so I built homes for them and their families.
Vicky Rossi: What were the challenges and the rewards of working
together as Israelis with Palestinians? Can you see how your these experiences
could be used to promote further initiatives today?
Reuven Moskovitz: Listen, I am not a politician, but I am a political thinker. I’m a dreamer on the one
hand, but a realist on the other. I know something about history: I know it is
good to take small steps, but I also know that unless the political system
encourages those small steps they will not succeed. In Neve Shalom the problem
was that I proposed not only to do spiritual work – work on spirituality – but
also to be ready to speak with our neighbours about politics. That was a problem
for Bruno, the first founder of Neve Shalom, and others. They were afraid that
that would bring a bad name to Neve Shalom as a nest for Palestinian
We had many harsh discussions on this issue. It was my opinion that we should
mix spiritual work and political work. In an article I wrote at the time, I
stated that although we are not politicians, we must educate the people coming
to Neve Shalom in the spirit and consciousness that this is a land of two
peoples, of more than one religion. Each attempt to transform this land into the
land of one people only will bring war. We must finally understand that the only
way to keep peace is through the recognition that this is a land of two people.
Vicky Rossi: So, a one-state solution would be your preference then?
Reuven Moskovitz: Eventually a one-state solution, in the future, yes. But meanwhile we have to agree to two
states and we have to give up the structure of a Jewish state. In my opinion we
can’t consider the Palestinians as a “minority”. They are not a minority. They
didn’t come from outside. They were born here as were their parents and
grandparents. They have been here for hundreds and thousands of years. We must
give them a special status. So that’s one problem, but then there is also the
issue that we must declare the state of Israel not as a Jewish state but as a
state of all the people living there like the Palestinian people. But still to
this day this issue is not resolved and it is a very, very contentious topic.
Vicky Rossi: You say that small, grassroots initiatives will not
work unless they are supported by the higher political structures. Right now
(August 2006) it looks like the situation in the Middle East is very challenging
and that the Israeli government is not particularly supportive of grassroots
peace initiatives, of which there are quite a number, so how can those
initiatives develop and strengthen?
Reuven Moskovitz: Projects like Neve Shalom do not present a danger for the Israeli state. Without an
agreement which gives the Palestinians the possibility to establish a state, I
can’t see a future for Neve Shalom and similar projects. For Israel it is very
important to have the fame of being a democratic state, but I don’t think they
can maintain this image much longer because it seems clear to me that the policy
is to get rid of the Palestinians some how, or to enclose them in three
bantustans. I think in the future there will be resistance from the Israeli
Palestinian side, who make up 20% of the population of Israel.
In the future there is no chance of continuing with the
system of two states because in 40 or 50 years time we will be a minority not
only in the Middle East but in Israel/Palestine itself. This is not only a
problem that we face – it is an international problem.
Vicky Rossi: Are you talking about demographics, the number of children that are being born?
Reuven Moskovitz: exactly. There are two possibilities: either to be an apartheid state that oppresses the
majority in Israel/Palestine; or if we want to be democratic, there will be a
Palestinian state. The solution is the one-state system like in Belgium, where
there is a political balance that safeguards the interests of the minority.
Unfortunately, today only 5-10% of Israelis would be open to such a solution.
Vicky Rossi: What can the international community do to assist this process? The
international community has come under heavy criticism recently for remaining
silent. The recent escalation in violence in Gaza and the war in Lebanon has
presented the world with a moral issue, yet the “international community”, for
want of a better word, has been slow in making any declarations, the United
Nations seems powerless because of the US veto. So, what should the
“international community” be doing?
Reuven Moskovitz: I think that’s a historical task for you. I think also it is a test for the
vitality of the democratic basis of the European Union. I think what is needed
is to find a way to bring Israel to accept the building of a Palestinian state
along the borders of 1967. Those borders represent no more than 20% of what
Palestine used to be and yet the Palestinians would accept that. The
Palestinians are not even asking for the borders of 1948 which represented 46%
of what Palestine used to be. In order to do this, I think Europe must give up
the American concept of using Israel to keep the Middle East under control.
There is a huge opportunity today to develop in Palestine a democratic society.
I think people like Sami Awad [See interview here] are going to be important in
the future in this democratic process.
If there is one people in the Middle East ripe for democracy it is the Palestinians. But it all depends on international decisions,
for example, the existence of a Jewish state and a Palestinian state could be
guaranteed through the establishment of an international force along each border
so that no other state could threaten Israel or the Palestinians. The
international community must create a framework in which Israel finally gives
the Palestinian community the chance over 3, 4 or 5 years to show that they are
able to manage a state. And they are able. The problem is that as soon as we
make some agreements, it is not the Palestinian side, it is our side that then
takes some steps back in order to avoid the establishment of a Palestinian
To solve this problem as a matter of fact is very simple.
We human beings are able to complicate things in such a way. Europe just needs
to put Israel on the spot more. We no longer have the unconditional support of
Germany, or of Europe, and in spite of the fact that we are so connected to the
United States, for the future of Israel and for the Israeli economy the
relations with Europe are much more important.
*This transcript represents an accurate but
non-verbatim representation of the original interview.