Kathy Engel: Letter to East Hampton Star

28 July 2006

Dear David:

In 1982, 24 years ago, as Israel dropped U.S.-made bombs, devastating Lebanon, I was a writing fellow at the Blue Mountain Center in the Adirondacks. Every day my new friend, the Palestinian artist Kamal Boullata, returned from the small phone booth speechless, or in tears, having spoken to relatives in Beirut. Not knowing what to do, I wrote a short letter to this paper, to Helen, saying that I thought it was important for American Jews to protest the invasion. I quoted the late Jewish pacifist poet Muriel Rukeyser who said "Disowning is the only treason." All summer letters flared in the paper in response.

Today, 24 years later, the situation is worse. It is complex, it is historic, and it is and has always been polarizing. I believe that, to some extent, Americans' unwillingness to distinguish between anti Semitism, a clear, ever present danger as are all forms of racism and bigotry; from criticism of Israeli policies; has contributed to one of the most dangerous situations in world history. Just as we must be able to criticize our country's policies as part of an open and healthy democracy, showing that the people are often distinct from the government; so must we be able to criticize the policies of Israel. Our government, with our tax money, pays Israel more than $3 billion a year in economic and military aid, and has rushed “emergency” shipments of bomber jet fuel and “precision-guided” bombs to Israel at the height of this crisis.

The ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and the brutality towards the Palestinian and Lebanese people cannot be justified. There is no balance. All casualties are devastating but Israel is armed and supported by the greatest super power in the world and is targeting civilian populations. There is no possible equivalent in Palestinian or Lebanese ability to fight and we all know it.

The United States has the opportunity, and the mandate, to join the world in calling for an immediate ceasefire, to begin negotiations. The refusal to do so at the Rome meeting this past week can only be read as a signal to Israel to continue in this horrific bloodbath. This must stop. It is up to us, taxpayers, voters, and the people of the United States, to insist that our government stop Israel from a destruction beyond repair. Further, the more Israel, with U.S. support, engages in unlawful, all-out war against the citizens of Gaza and Lebanon, the more rage is stoked against Israel and the U.S.; and the more isolated both countries are, standing alone with weapons of mass destruction and a world looking on in horror.

We must call for immediate ceasefire and negotiations. We must call for an end to all fighting in the Middle East, as we call for our troops to be brought home from Iraq. Enough.

East End Women in Black, responding to a call issued by the founding Women in Black in Israel/Palestine, in concert with concerned people around the world, and along with other local peace communities, is holding weekly emergency vigils. The August 6th Vigil will be 5 p.m., Bridgehampton Monument.


Kathy Engel



This letter was published by the East Hampton Star Thursday August 3, 2006.

East End Women in Black vigils continue on Sundays at 5pm; on August 13 and August 27 at the Bridgehampton Monument and August 20 at the Sag Harbor Wharf.