The following statement has been issued by the Australian Jewish Democratic Society: We write as supporters of the State of Israel and align ourselves with those who seek a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Though the current hostilities in Gaza and Lebanon are but another round in this long-standing conflict, we have no hesitation in unreservedly condemning those, chiefly in Hamas and Hezbollah, who have triggered the current escalation of hostilities.

 

However their irresponsible actions have to be seen against a background in which Israeli military operations in Gaza over the past few months have resulted in more than a hundred Palestinian deaths. As with most military conflicts, the people who suffer disproportionately and die in the largest numbers are civilians — people who are not actively participating in the conduct and prosecution of the war.

 

Yet Israel’s response to attacks against its soldiers has resulted in the deaths of over 400 Palestinian and Lebanese civilians, with the numbers growing each day. The destruction of infrastructure such as power stations, roads and fuel depots has affected many thousands more. In turn, Israel’s response has triggered rocket attacks by Hezbollah on Israel’s northern cities, with resulting civilian casualties. In the last few years, Israel has abandoned most relations with the Palestinians in the occupied territories and has avoided negotiations to resolve the conflict itself.

 

It has carried out targeted assassinations against those Palestinians considered a threat, unilaterally withdrawn from Gaza and some other parts of the West Bank, and erected a fence to keep terrorists out of Israel. Israel is now paying the price for its refusal to engage with the Palestinians, and shows no inclination to alter its self-destructive policies. The short term effect of Israel’s unilateral approach has been to fragment the Palestinians and Lebanese, and consequently strengthen the militants. The long term effect will be to prolong the armed conflict, with Israel having to take increasingly strong military action with each new attack on its soldiers and citizens.

 

As concerned supporters of Israel, we believe that this is no time to remain silent. We urge the Israeli government to rethink its strategy, and we call on the international community, especially the UN, to continue all diplomatic means, including prisoner exchange, to achieve a ceasefire as a forerunner to the resumption of face-to-face talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians.