Czech public figures call on Václav Havel: “Do not use your name to whitewash Israeli war crimes"
In response to news about Václav Havel’s support for an international campaign to fight so-called ’delegitimisation’ of Israel and to fight against the worldwide boycott movement against Israelinitiated by the former Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar, ISM Czech Republic and Friends of Palestine Czech Republic issued an open letter signed by a dozen public, political and cultural figures.
Václav Havel, the first democratically elected president of the Czech Republic after the fall of the Berlin Wall, former Czech dissident and political prisoner, is internationally renowned for his struggle for freedom, democracy, freedom of speech and human rights, criticizing the abuse of power by the powerful and writing as a dissident in support of the ‘power of the powerless’, as he entitled one of his most influential essays of that time. He has received several prestigious awards, including a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Czech personalities and public figures such as Petr Uhl (journalist), Jan Kavan (former President of the UN General Assembly), Milan Daniel (journalist), Milan Kozelka (performer and author), Milan Kohout (performer and university lecturer) and others joined the appeal.
The full letter and its signatories follows:
Dear Mr. Havel,
As most citizens of the Czech Republic, we value your achievements in the field of upholding human rights as well as your tireless fight against the occupation of Czechoslovakia by a foreign army and its totalitarian and authoritarian regime.
It is for this reason that we were surprised by the news of your support of an initiative which stands uncritically on the side of Israel, a state which, for over 60 years, has failed to respect international law and UN resolutions, has illegally occupied the Gaza Strip and West Bank (including East Jerusalem) since 1967, and until today continues to violate the human rights of Palestinians.
The worldwide boycott movement (BDS), opposed by former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and his initiative, came out of the unified call of the civil society and is in a direct response to the failure of Israeli and world governments to honour their commitments to international law.
The boycott movement appeals to people of conscience around the world who feel it their duty not to stay silent towards evil in the form of war crimes and human rights violations. As such it constitutes a constructive effort by Palestinian civil society to achieve peace. It has become the only hope of a nation that is forced to live under a brutal military occupation, in an ever-widening system of apartheid or in the exile of refugee camps.
Over 8,000 Palestinian political prisoners remain in Israeli jails, unnoticed by the international community, while Israel continues with the colonization of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, the confiscation of Palestinian land and the brutal suppression of any form of civil protests. It is time that the international community meet its obligations towards Palestinian civil society and its legitimate fight for justice.
When in the past the Palestinians resorted to violence, the whole world condemned their actions and appealed to them to put down their weapons. Peaceful initiatives, however, have been marginalized by the world's political elites and media. Non-violent grassroots resistance has a long tradition in Palestinian civil society and it has many forms - from regular demonstrations against the illegal apartheid wall and Israeli colonies, strikes, through non-violent direct action (blocking bulldozers, setting up protest tents, planting olive trees, etc.) to activities aimed at boycotting Israel and companies that profit from the occupation.
Given the failure of other legal channels, the call for an international boycott, divestment and sanctions until Israel complies with international law, proved the most effective and morally consistent form of solidarity with the Palestinian people in their fight to end Israeli occupation, apartheid and constant denial of the Palestinian refugees’ right to return.
As such, it was endorsed by a number of prominent figures and human rights defenders. In addition to Archbishop Desmond Tutu is was joined by artists, writers and politicians around the world - from Naomi Klein, Iain Banks, John Berger, Arundhati Roy or Henning Mankell to artists and musicians, who refused to legitimize Israel’s behaviour by performing in Tel Aviv – The Pixies, Roger Waters, Gil Scott-Heron, Carlos Santana or Elvis Costello.
Therefore, we appeal to you in the spirit of your humanism to stand on the side of human rights, which we believe are indivisible, and not to provide the prestige of your name to a regime which will use it to justify its war crimes and to strengthen the system of apartheid. By supporting the Palestinian civil society initiative, you will send out a message of hope for a peaceful resolution of the conflict and give a voice to a nation, which has, for several decades, been completely silenced. Endorsing the call ofthe Palestinian civil society will contribute to the non-violent struggle against oppression and suffering, and it can reduce violence stemming from the dire situation of millions of Palestinians. Do this for allresidents both of Israel and Palestine, who deserve to live their lives in justice, under the rule of law, in peace and with dignity.
The open letter is supported by:
Petr Uhl, journalist
Jan Kavan, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs and former President of the UN General Assembly
Vladimír Laštůvka, the former head of the Foreign Committee of the Czech Parliament
Daniel Solis, analyst, candidate for the Senate
Miroslav Suja, candidate for the Senate
Vojtěch Filip, MP
Milan Daniel, journalist
Milan Kohout, performer and university lecturer
Milan Kozelka, author and performer
Zuzana Uhde, sociologist
Dr. Nidal Saleh, author and journalist
Daniel Veselý, translator and journalist
URL on old website: http://bdsmovement.net/?q=node/774