A coalition of activists in Hawaii has asked Hawaii's Governor Linda Lingle, currently the only Jewish governor of a U.S. state, to withdraw her invitation to former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to speak at Hawaii's International Women's Leadership Conference this Sept. 22.
In its sixth year, the Leadership Conference brings to Hawaii "role models" for women of Hawaii. Because of her involvement in the Israeli attacks on Lebanon and Gaza, the activists consider Livni as an inappropriate role model. The Governor has not responded to the coalition's letter demanding that the invitation be rescinded. The letter was sent three weeks ago.
As Foreign Minister of Israel, Livni was a key cabinet member in the Israeli government's decisions to conduct massive military attacks Lebanon in 2006 and Gaza in 2008. The 22-day attack on Gaza in December 2008 into January '09 killed more 1,440 people, wounded more than 5,000, made 50,000 homeless and destroyed most government facilities in Gaza. In 2006, the 34 day attack on Lebanon killed over 1,000 Lebanese citizens and destroyed a large amount of the infrastructure of Beirut and other Lebanese cities and displaced more than one million.
The Israeli government's rationale for attacking Gaza was to stop the rocket attacks from Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza that had killed 30 Israeli citizens over the past six years. The Israeli attack on Lebanon followed a Hezbollah attack in northern Israel on two armored Israeli vehicles that resulted in three soldiers being killed, two wounded and two soldiers captured. Five more Israeli soldiers were killed during an attempt to rescue the captured soldiers.
The decision to authorize the Israeli military to attack Lebanon and Gaza with indiscriminate and disproportionate military force that killed large numbers of innocent civilians has been characterized by international human rights groups as a war crime. The three-year siege of Gaza as collective punishment on the civilian population for electing Hamas as their government is also considered a violation of international humanitarian law.
The Hawaii coalition is also asking other speaker/invitees at the Leadership conference to decline to participate if the invitation to Livni is not withdrawn by Gov. Lingle.
The other speakers at the conference are:
-- Jing Ulrich, from China, the managing director and chairman of JPMorgan's China equities business;
-- Catherine Ann from Canada, formerly homeless, but now the head of Consumer Connection, a multi-million dollar business venture providing employment to thousands in Canada;
--Senator Loren Legarda from the Philippines, a Filipino broadcast journalist and senator in the Philippines who has received awards in the Davos World Economic Forum as a Global Leader of Tomorrow and from the United Nations Environment Program for her advocacy for the environment;
--Mindy Gibbins-Klein from England, career coach and author of "The Book Midwife" ;
--Dr. Heidi Kraft from the United States, a former U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander who spent nine years as a U.S. Navy psychologist, and over seven months at a remote air base in western Iraq;
-- Michelle Rhee from the United States, Chancellor of the Washington, DC Public Schools and who founded the New Teacher Project, a non-profit organization which works with school districts to recruit and train new teachers;
--Inspector General Sieh-Brown from Liberia, the first woman Chief of the Liberia National Police and the first woman to head a national police, intelligence, security or military agency on the African continent;
--Hilaria Kramer from Switzerland, a world-renowned jazz trumpeter who has made a successful career in a historically male-dominated industry;
--Amanda Ellis from the United States, Lead Specialist for Gender and Development for the World Bank Group and head of a new global research program to document the ease of Doing Business for Women across 180 countries.
The coalition has written to conference sponsors asking them to withdraw their sponsorship if the invitation to Livni is not withdrawn. Sponsors of the event are major Hawaii businesses including American Savings Bank, TriWest Healthcare Alliance, Ko Olina Resort and Marina, Queen's Medical Center, Chevron Hawaii, Bank of Hawaii, Hawaiian Electric Company and Sheraton Hotels and Resorts, where the conference will be held.
Should the Governor refuse to disinvite Livni, coalition members will be at the conference on September 22 with appropriate signs to remind conference attendees of Livni's war background.
Two Israeli women high school graduates who refused to do compulsory military service will speak in Hawaii September 21 and 22. Both were put in prison for their refusal to do compulsory military service in Israel.
About the author: Ann Wright served 29 years in the US Army and Army Reserves and retired as a Colonel. She was a U.S. diplomat for 16 years and served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia. She resigned in March, 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq. She has co-led 3 trips to Gaza since January, 2009. She is the co-author of "Dissent: Voices of Conscience.".