An Open Letter to the Czech President Regarding Palestine and His Visit to Israel (January 2024)

This is the translation of the original letter in Czech sent to the Czech president, Mr. Petr Pavel on 9 January 2024, prior to his official visit to Israel (which took place on 15-16 January 2024).

Dear Mr. President,

As an advocacy group with a long-standing commitment to the Palestinian cause, and above all as citizens of the Czech Republic, we are calling on you to cancel your planned January state visit to Israel. If, however, you do go to Israel, we request that you to demand to visit the Gaza Strip and meet with the Palestinian people there. This would be in the spirit of the diplomatic legacy of Václav Havel, which you seek to build on.

In the almost three months of the war against Gaza, the Israeli army has killed over 22,000 Palestinians. Almost half of the victims are children. As a result of the Israeli bombardment and ground attack, almost two million people have been forced to flee their homes. Two thirds of the buildings and homes have been destroyed by the Israeli army, leaving the people homeless and with nowhere to return to. Israel is targeting civilians, infrastructure, hospitals, schools, mosques and churches on a daily basis. From the outset of the war, Israel cut off the civilian population in the Gaza Strip from running water and electricity. In addition to the shelling and shooting, this densely populated area therefore suffers from a severe shortage of medicine, food and drinking water. Thousands of children and adults have had their limbs amputated, often without anesthesia, which is in short supply after the cessation of humanitarian supplies to Gaza. Newborn babies die in incubators, pregnant women fear for their survival due to malnutrition, children wake up hungry at night and drink unsanitary water, malnourished mothers lose their milk and cannot breastfeed. Every day in Gaza is a struggle for survival: if Palestinians are not killed by bombs, they may die of starvation or contagious diseases. By mid-December, according to international human rights organizations, the number of mass graves in Gaza exceeded one hundred and twenty.

This policy of collective punishment cannot be justified by an attempt to eradicate Hamas, as the Israeli state and its army would have us believe. By its very disproportionality, it is unacceptable and must be firmly rejected and condemned. We ask you to condemn it for what this Israeli operation in Gaza really is and what the world’s leading human rights organizations call it: a war crime. Bear in mind that Israel’s actions are also condemned by many representatives of the international community and its institutions, including EU representatives. Many are now talking of the worst humanitarian disaster in recent decades. At the initiative of South Africa, the International Court of Justice in The Hague will begin investigating Israel on January 11 on suspicion of committing genocide.

In this situation, we consider it extremely inappropriate for you to make the announced state visit to Israel in mid-January, which cannot be interpreted otherwise than an expression of support for Israel in its war against Gaza and its people. By meeting with Israeli political leaders, which other world leaders tend to avoid today, you would legitimize not only Israel’s war crimes, but also the genocidal language used by these leaders – including the country’s President – to dehumanize Palestinians, to call for their expulsion or physical destruction and to call for the razing of Gaza. 

Dear Mr. President,

You were elected in the direct presidential elections as the candidate of civil society, on a platform of social reconciliation, respect for commitments to international institutions and international law, and the promotion of human rights.

However, none of these stated objectives is a priority in Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians. On the contrary, we have long witnessed a constant attempt by Israeli officials to deny these principles, leading to further violations of Israel’s obligations to international law.

The massacres of Gaza’s civilian population must not be rewarded with support and state visits. For foreign policy to be credible, it must be consistent – as Josep Borrell, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, recently pointed out. However, such a consistent, credible policy requires condemning the perpetrators of war crimes, including Israel.

As citizens of the Czech Republic, we are not and do not wish to be the “voice of Israel” in Europe, legitimizing its war on Gaza. We condemn the murder of Israeli civilians in early October, but for the same reason (the unacceptability of collective punishment and of killing of innocent civilians), we refuse to stand by and watch the war crimes that Israel is committing in Gaza. We support the demand for the release of Israeli hostages and Palestinian political prisoners.

We do not wish to see the Czech Republic’s blind support for Israel lead to our country’s international isolation, and we add our voices to the growing global solidarity with the hard-pressed Palestinians.

Prague, 9 January 2023

Not in Our Name! – For a just peace in the Middle East

Jewish Voice of Solidarity

International Solidarity Movement (ISM Czech Republic)

Friends of Palestine

Palestinian Club in the Czech Republic

The original letter in Czech here:

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