The War Resisters League decries the horror of Gaza with a broken heart and a grief that only strengthens our commitment to the broken rifle, the icon of our 85-year-old organization.
The rhetoric justifying violence—for Israel, for Israel’s backers in Washington, for Hamas—is deep and layered and rooted in real grievance and pain. But ultimately, this war (if that is the appropriate term for a conflict between a major military power and a non-state militant group), like all wars, is fueled by a raw and brutal combination of the will to power, political expediency, and the belief that might makes right. The War Resisters League condemns all those factors without equivocation.
We have watched the seeds of future wars planted on the battlefields of victory and watered by armistices that deliver only privation, division, and desperation. We know that the effective means of minimizing the appeal of violence and extremism—and ensuring security—is and always has been only through freedom and justice. We believe that the most effective means of fighting for freedom and justice, including freedom from foreign military occupation, is through strategic nonviolent action.
We know, too, that Israeli security and Palestinian rights are not mutually exclusive but mutually dependent upon each other. We therefore support the many Palestinians and Israelis who, despite the war crimes committed by both sides, are continuing to struggle nonviolently for freedom and justice.
Amid much diplomatic doublespeak and the conflating of vengeance with defense, we listen for the voices of Gazans, Palestinians, and Israelis who call out for an end to bloodshed, who call out for peace, and who have a vision and the tools to build that peace. We strain to hear these brave voices above the din of myopic fear-mongering and rationalizations.
We know that the solution for the Middle East will be built from this vision and these tools—but only if we in this country help it. There is a wide range of actions we can take, and pressing reasons for people here to take them.
The war is waged “over there.” But it is bought and paid for here in the United States. Through successive U.S. administrations, both Democrat and Republican, Israel has received more military aid than any other country. This unconditional military support, along with concomitant diplomatic and financial support, makes the Israeli sieges, occupation, and colonization of Palestinian territory possible. U.S. tax dollars buy the F-16 fighter jets, the M-60 tanks, the transport planes and attack helicopters, missiles, and depleted uranium munitions that Israel wields with such devastating effect.
Many groups are organizing pro-peace forces to demand that Congress and the new White House withdraw that support. The War Resisters League has joined in and endorsed protests, rallies, and marches; we have crafted letters to editors; we have opposed one-sided Congressional resolutions that blame Palestinians for the violence done to them. Beyond those efforts, however, there are two areas that WRL has focused on more intently than have many other groups: War tax resistance and conscientious objection.
War tax resistance—as a symbolic “no” to war and as a concrete deduction of the funds available to foment war—is a key component of WRL’s work; at this moment, it is also a first step towards ending the “war” against Gaza by ending taxpayer-financed U.S. military support for Israel. Finally, we affirm “the right to refuse to kill” and urge support especially for Israel’s conscientious objectors, the high school seniors who face repeated jail terms for refusing to be inducted into the Israeli Defense Forces, the occupying power in Palestine.
The laws of war were clearly defined in the last century, primarily in the treaties and agreements collectively known as the Geneva Accords: No collective punishment. No indiscriminate attacks—military action must be taken against military targets. No use of overwhelming firepower—military action and re-action must be in proportion with the threat or counter-attack. .
The laws of war fill volumes and are never followed. But: what if war only killed uniformed combatants in a targeted, commensurate and proportional way? Would it be just and appropriate then? For that kind of war to occur would mean that exploitation, empire, and occupation were no more. That kind of war has never happened and never will.
WRL therefore affirms, now as it ever has, that all war is a crime against humanity, and that we will struggle nonviolently for the end of all war, and for the removal of the causes of war, including racism, sexism, and human exploitation.
For more suggestions of actions to take in this crisis, see: