I wrote the following statement on behalf of War Resisters League as an organisational statement on the bombings in Israel.


WRL Statement on Suicide Bombings, March 1996


"We at the War Resisters League extend our heartfelt sympathies to all Israelis in the wake of the terrible bloodshed from the recent wave of terror bombings. In such a small country the devastating nature of these attacks can't be overstated. We condemn the bombings in the same spirit in which we have denounced acts of violence committed by Palestinians and Israelis, by military forces, individuals and clandestine cells. We recognize that in the comfort of the U.S. we do not experience the horror of Israelis: wondering if our child, cousin or neighbor was on that bus. (Although foreign visitors were also killed and Israeli Arabs could have been on the busses, the targets selected were in primarily Jewish neighborhoods.) In a similar way, we haven't endured the denial of civil and national rights, the squalor of Palestinian refugee camps, the jailings, beatings and killings so common to Palestinian families in recent decades.

The immediate desire to stop the attacks at all cost is understandable. No one wants to see more people die. Unfortunately, it is also impossible to prevent future bombings with true certainty. Shimon Peres openly acknowledged that such assurances couldn't be made as he declared an all-out war on Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Extreme police and military measures, by either the Israelis or Palestinian Authority forces, may serve as the justification for a renewed wave of attacks and counterattacks. The history of Israel is rife with such exchanges.

While it had great shortcomings and limitations, the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians remains the best long-term hope for an end to this terrible violence. As long as Palestinians are denied their fundamental right to self-determination they will continue to struggle, as they should. Lasting peace will come to Israel and Palestine only after the establishment of a Palestinian state. The sooner this occurs the better the chances of a successful and relatively peaceful transition. The hope that such an option is still open grows slimmer by the day. We wish the Palestinians would wholeheartedly embrace nonviolence as a guiding principle of that effort, but despite much progress in this area, they haven't forsaken the sword. (Neither have the Israelis.)

Although at this present moment Israelis are the victims, neither side has clean hands. The recent wave of violence was initiated by the assassination of Yahya Ayyash. Israel has chosen to remain silent on whether they were responsible for his murder. This is only the most recent in a long legacy of assassinations, invasions and attacks launched by the Israeli military and security forces. Does the fact that they are carried out by a government make them more acceptable?

There are signs of hope, though they are hidden deeply below layers of anger and fear. The voices we have heard of ordinary Palestinians speak out against the bombings. Within Hamas itself there is discord about these attacks. The isolated acts of a small group, no matter how horrible they may be, should not be allowed to hold the future of millions of Palestinians and Israelis hostage.

As in confronting other terrible human-created tragedies, we as pacifists are left without obvious answers. At the same time that we offer words of caution and try to point out the danger of renewed militarism, we recognize that the answers we offer will only be effective in the long-term. We regret that this offers so little solace today."