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We in Israel are facing a real crisis. Israel's occupation of the West Bank appears unending while the Gaza Strip grows more isolated and impoverished. The recent fighting in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel, with millions of civilians on both sides paying such a heavy price, only emphasized how far we are from negotiations to resolve this situation. More than four million Palestinians live without the basic rights we in Israel take for granted. While they live only a few miles away, they are separated from us by physical obstacles as well as mental barriers of fear and prejudice.
In this reality, it is inspiring to see the work of groups like B'Tselem – Israelis who share my conviction that protecting human rights is both necessary and possible. B’Tselem has championed human rights for decades, developing powerful ways to turn research into advocacy and action. And I am grateful for their work.
If you are like me, you go to B’Tselem to receive reliable information and thoughtful analysis on the human rights situation in the Occupied Territories. It is information compiled by Israelis committed to universal values of justice who also care deeply about Israeli democracy and share your concern for Israel’s future. Their information fuels profound and necessary discussions on television talk shows, in newspaper columns and at dinner tables and coffee shops across Israel – and challenges our policymakers in the corridors of power.
B’Tselem is not afraid to be bold – from distributing cameras to Palestinians living near the most militant settlements to demonstrating why sections of the Separation Barrier must be dismantled. B’Tselem does not shy away from the issues our politicians prefer to ignore. This is a lesson for us all – it is not simply about politics or timing. It is about human equality, about ending violence, promoting dignity for all people and giving our neighbors freedom and respect.
The fact that the occupation has continued for forty five years is infuriating and outrageous. I personally do not understand how a country can regard itself as a democracy while maintaining a prolonged regime of occupation, repression and discrimination with no apparent intention of ending it. Sadly, we cannot end the enormous injustice that is the occupation in the near future. B'Tselem holds fast to the vision of an end to the occupation and works toward this goal. It also addresses the injustices, big and small, the localized abuses and the arbitrariness that disguise and justify themselves with countless methods and excuses. All of this B'Tselem exposes and battles against tirelessly.
B'Tselem's work is a real source of pride and I hope you will join me in supporting their efforts to ensure the dignity of all human beings. Their work gives us cause for hope, that in spite of so many obstacles, Israelis and Palestinians can build a better future.