As an organization rooted in Jewish values, Jewish Voice for Peace's Triangle Chapter is disturbed to learn that Tzipi Livni is being hosted by Duke University exactly two weeks after our observance of Yom Kippur, our holiest of holy days.
For those unfamiliar with Livni, who has been charged as an international war criminal by three nations due to her military leadership in Occupation Cast Lead, we encourage you to read Duke senior Lama Hantash's October 21 article "Don't Bring an Accused War Criminal to Campus.” This article enumerates and cites many of Livni's egregious activities, including overseeing military action which claimed many of the nearly 1500 lives lost throughout Israel's 2008-2009 Operation Cast Lead—most of whom were civilians and over 300 of whom were children.
While her more recent endeavors pay lip service to equal rights and bipartisanship, she remains at her core an Israeli apologist, spinning attention away from its human rights abuses, and her own, by creating the illusion of a moderate Israeli left playing the good cop to Netanyahu's bad cop and maintaining an unacceptable status quo.
For Jewish people, two weeks ago marked a culmination of 40 days of contemplation, atonement, prayer, and t'shuvah. It is a time when custom dictates that we check in with those with whom we have conflict and make right our wrongs to the best of our ability. Our great sage Maimonides outlines nine steps to help us in this task of accountability.
The first step is recognizing what we did as wrong or hurtful. Livni shows no acknowledgement of her crimes. In 2009, near the end of Operation Cast Lead, she stated, "[Israel] is a country that when you fire on its citizens it responds by going wild—and this is a good thing."
The second step is to feel remorse about having done it. Yet Livni has said when talking about Operation Cast Lead and her arrest warrants that she would “repeat each and every decision.” Her comments reveal a taste for violence rather than an attitude of remorse.
The third stage of t'shuvah is to stop engaging in the harmful activity. In 2008, after hundreds of Gazans had just been killed, Livni ordered an aggressive international media campaign to gain support for the IDF’s operation. Livni's speaking engagement at Duke this week falls into this established pattern of propagandizing on behalf of the State of Israel, demonstrating that she fails this step as well.
We could pursue the remainder of Maimonides' list, or we could pause and realize that this war criminal poses a threat to Palestinians both in their ancestral homeland and in diaspora. Palestinian and other students at Duke should not be retraumatized as the educational institution responsible for their growth hosts Tzipi Livni. Duke does not need to pay Tzipi Livni a rumored massive honorarium and provide her with a platform from which she can continue to advance her harmful agenda. In so doing, Duke becomes complicit in Israel's ongoing project of ethnic cleansing.
Beth Bruch, Gabriel Baldasare and Mark Sfeir are members of the Triangle chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace.
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