“We Are Ashamed!” – Czechs Denounce President’s Israel Visit

16 January 2024 | Prague, Czech Republic

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

On January 15, Czech President Petr Pavel paid a state visit to Israel, where he met with President Yitzhak Herzog, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli political leaders. This visit can only be interpreted as being made in support of Israel’s war crimes in Gaza. As citizens of the Czech Republic, we wish to distance ourselves from this state visit and to clearly state that we are ashamed of it. We do not want to be seen as a “dear friend of Israel”, as President Herzog named the Czech Republic for its long-standing blind support for Israel.

Being a dear friend means being committed to support and understand. However, we can have no understanding for Israel’s current war crimes in both the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank, and we cannot unfailingly support a country that has been pursuing a policy of apartheid and settler colonization against the Palestinians for more than 75 years. While President Herzog spoke of a “hypocritical world” in his talks with our President, we do not wish to live in an illusory world where Israel is “the only democracy in the Middle East”, nor with the hypocritical notions that Israeli occupation will bring peace or that the war on Gaza means security.

A secure world is not built on occupation, on a blockade, on oppression and racism. Security, like friendship, is gained through trust; it is earned through dignity and equality. But Israel does not offer dignity and equality to its non-Jewish inhabitants – nor does it want to. Israel’s crimes have earned it no trust. We too, along with the rest of the world, have condemned the barbaric attacks on Israeli civilians. However, like the UN Secretary-General, we see that they did not happen in a vacuum and that “it did not all start” on October 7 – as President Petr Pavel and his advisers appear to think.

In the face of Israel’s brutal war on Gaza, we consider President Pavel’s statements in Israel to be ill-informed and extremely inappropriate. The deaths of 28,000 people, the destruction of two thirds of the buildings and the displacement of almost two million people in the Gaza Strip are not the fault of Hamas, as the Israeli government is claiming, but that of the direct perpetrators: the Israeli public authorities and army. Israel has chosen the path of collective punishment, the path of massive destruction and of both targeted and mass killing of Palestinian civilians. Israel plans and executes this war: no one else is responsible for its actions in Gaza. Already, Israel is being held accountable for war crimes and suspected genocide before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague – a court that we fully support and trust to carefully consider all the principles Israel is violating.

In an unacceptable demonstration of cynicism, President Pavel deplored the civilian casualties on both sides, even mentioning the Palestinian children dug out from the rubble, only to immediately express his concern that “these images might obscure reality”, meaning the Israeli narrative on its war against Gaza. These words are all the more scandalous that children are the primary victims of this war, being killed every day in large numbers. This horrific crime is a matter of particular interest in the ongoing ICJ investigation and for the international institutions tasked with protecting them.

It is undignified for representatives of a Central European country that repeatedly experienced occupation to belittle the suffering of the Palestinians and to try to free Israel of its accountability for its war crimes against the civilian Palestinian population. Why give Israel the blind support that we would never give to any other country waging war and occupying another nation? Our leaders have once again missed an opportunity to remain silent. This is a sad demonstration that Czech politicians are willing to support Israel in almost anything they do – even at the cost of international isolation detrimental to our country.

The problematic nature of our president’s visit is not mitigated by a humanitarian donation that is to be divided equally between Gaza – which is under attack and being leveled by Israel – and Israel itself. The donation is supposed to go to Gaza indirectly, while going directly to Israel. This only demonstrates the uninformed nature of our foreign policy, as though we didn’t realize who is occupied and who is the occupier, or who really needs our help.

As citizens of the Czech Republic and representatives of a Czech advocacy group with a long-standing focus on occupied Palestine, we consider it necessary to firmly express our disapproval of our President’s visit to Israel and to clearly state: Not in our name!

Our letter calling on the Czech President not to travel to Israel or to request a trip to the Gaza Strip to meet with the local population was not acknowledged by the President’s Office and received no response.

We are raising our voices again. Although today is mainly about Palestine and the Palestinians, it is also about ourselves and our conscience. Let us not allow people who truly need our solidarity to be killed, maimed or displaced in our name.

We are ashamed of our President today. Let us not be ashamed of ourselves tomorrow!

Not in our name! – For a just peace in the Middle East

Prague, January 16, 2024 

The original Czech version is here:

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