Artists sign petition urging end to Gaza violence

Author Amos Oz, Yoram Kaniuk among 100 leading personalities calling for long-term cease-fire and talks.

Amos Oz 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Amos Oz 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
As the Israel Air Force continues to hit targets inside Gaza, and Palestinian rockets pepper the South of the country, and elsewhere, around 100 leading personalities from the Israeli world of culture and the arts joined a petition to put an end to the violence and begin a dialogue between the sides.
The petition is called “We Have to Talk,” and the list of well-known figures includes the likes of celebrated playwright and author Yehoshua Sobol, award-winning writer Yoram Kaniuk, internationally acclaimed author Amos Oz, filmmaker David Ofek, Batsheva Dance Company founder Ohad Naharin and author and journalist Yuval Ben-Ami.
The petition opens with the words, “Our hearts are with you, residents of the South. It is the government’s duty to protect you, but its way is not our way.”
It goes on to call for a long-term cease-fire and for talks, either directly or through an international mediator, “because the residents of the South, like the people of Gaza, have the right to look up to the sky with hope and not with fear.”
“I think we have to strive for one thing, that this campaign should end in negotiations, and with an agreement with Hamas, an agreement that is properly and legally signed, with guarantors,” said Sobol.
“Experience shows that any military campaign like this, if it achieved any lull at all, it was always temporary and, if there is no agreement, ultimately that leads to another round of violence.” According to Sobol, the talks and eventual agreement have to take place between what he called the legitimate representatives of both sides. “The agreement has to be with Hamas because they are the sovereign body in Gaza. I think we have to do everything we can to get to that, and that has to happen through serious negotiations.
Each will submit its claims and, at the end of the day, we will get to an agreement that is acceptable to both sides.”
Ron Arad, a celebrated Israeli designer, artist and architect who has been living in London for almost 40 years, also signed the petition.
Arad said he was not too hopeful that the petition will move things along, but that he felt he had to do something.
“If there is any possibility that something will impact on somebody, you have to go for it,” he said.
“It is easy enough to get into the inferno, but it is not easy at all to extricate yourself from it. We know the military solution doesn’t work.”
Sobol said he felt it was the duty of all artists to make their voices heard in such situations.
“There is a danger of society taking on a bestial nature,” he declared.
“This is not a simple war. The danger is that, with this type of war, public morals become contaminated. I saw the talkbacks on the Internet after the four Palestinian children were killed [on Sunday], and [those] talkbacks were shocking. There were Israelis who were close to expressing joy over the fact that four children were killed. The danger is not just from the missiles, but also from our society becoming morally corrupt. We have to remember that there are human beings on the other side, not animals. You have to end a war with a treaty,” he continued.
“I saw a clip of a demonstration on King George Street in Tel Aviv, on YouTube. There was the gathering of the left-wingers on one side of the street, while the right shouted insults and awful slogans, like ‘Death to the Arabs’ and that sort of thing. There was an MK in there too, I don’t know his name. That was shocking.”
For Ben-Ami, the petition is also a means of getting his voice, and those of like-minded people, out there. Like Sobol, Ben-Ami said he was worried about what developments in the South are doing to Israel’s moral fiber.
“At the moment, we are seeing the almost complete disintegration of the Israeli public’s moral standing.
When I read a survey that claims that 84 percent of the Israeli public supports this violent and foolish campaign, I am happy that at least a few public figures are willing to stand up to this.
There was a similar petition during the Second Lebanon War. The calls are not exactly the same but it is the same spirit.”