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At-Home with Gila Svirsky


Jerusalem
25 January 2002
Subject: Unprecedented Call to Refuse Military Orders


Friends,

Yes, there’s definitely growing criticism inside Israel of Sharon’s policies. More and more Israelis are beginning to say that his iron fist approach is only provoking violent responses by the Palestinians. The buzz in Israel all week was whether or not some of Israel’s actions – the demolition of homes or assassinations, for instance – constituted war crimes or not. This “war crimes” talk, in which the Gush Shalom movement took the lead, infiltrated much of the media last week. And this weekend’s Ha’aretz carries a report of the lost credibility of the official Israeli army spokesman.

Let me not overstate the critique, but it is beginning. In my opinion, there are two main reasons for this. The first was the brutal demolition of homes in the Gaza Strip, leaving hundreds of Palestinians homeless. Israel’s claim that “no one lived in these homes” was drowned out by the photos, journalistic reports, Red Cross aid, UN statements, and reports of all the human rights agencies, including Israel’s trustworthy B’Tselem. The second disheartening event to Israelis was an assassination of a Palestinian by the Israeli army, which shattered almost a month of ceasefire. Whether this was a deliberate act to destroy the ceasefire (and thereby avoid negotiating for peace) or not, no one could deny that the effect was renewed terrorism inside Israel, including deadly spray-shootings on the streets of Hadera and Jerusalem. Even our Deputy Defense Minister (Dalia Rabin Pilosoff) characterized the assassination as “bad timing.”

And so, Israeli citizens – even those who believe that an iron fist is the only way to deal with Palestinians – are beginning to wonder if Sharon has acted well or wisely to protect Israeli civilians. In a sense, having Ariel Sharon as prime minister also has a positive aspect – it gives clarity to the issues. Either one supports Sharon (occupation and repression), or one supports efforts to make peace. The two are not compatible.

Many Israeli peace organizations have never stopped explaining that occupation and peace are not compatible, and have relentlessly kept up their day-to-day protests, vigils, tree-plantings, home rebuildings, checkpoint monitoring, blockade dismantling, etc., etc. The Coalition of Women for a Just Peace has been able to create mass rallies for peace on several occasions. But recently, we are seeing more in the media and even on the streets. A broad spectrum of peace organizations is planning a huge rally in Tel Aviv next week (Saturday, February 2nd), which I’ll report about another time

But I saved the most significant for last: In today’s Ha’aretz newspaper, a large ad signed by 53 combat soldiers and officers in the Israeli army, announces, “We hereby declare that we shall continue to serve the Israel Defense Forces in any mission that serves the defense of the State of Israel. The mission of occupation and repression does not serve this goal and we refuse to participate in it.” (Full text below.)

This is an unprecedented call by Israeli soldiers to other Israeli soldiers not to serve in the army of occupation. It is an incredibly courageous act for soldiers to announce that they will no longer continue fighting in the territories “for the purposes of domination, expulsion, starvation, and humiliation of an entire people.” This is a very powerful statement for soldiers still on active duty, and in the rich moral tradition of Yesh Gvul and New Profile (two organizations that have consistently advocated this position), but in unprecedented numbers. The media have flooded them with interviews all day. May their numbers multiply. I will keep you informed.

With more hope,

Gila Svirsky


The full ad:


We, combat officers and soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), raised on the values of Zionism, sacrifice, and giving to the Jewish people and the State of Israel, who have always served on the front line and were the first to fulfill every mission, regardless of how difficult, in order to defend and strengthen the State of Israel;

We, combat officers and soldiers, who serve the State of Israel for long weeks every year, despite the high personal price we pay, who have performed reserve duty throughout the territories and have been issued orders and instructions that have nothing to do with the security of our country, orders whose sole purpose was to perpetuate domination over the Palestinian people;

We, who have personally witnessed the terrible bloodshed on both sides of the conflict;

Who have seen that the orders we were issued undermine all the values we were taught in this country;

Who understand today that the price of occupation is the loss of humanity of the IDF, and corruption of Israeli society in general;

Who know that the territories are not Israel, and that ultimately the settlements will be evacuated;

We hereby declare that we will not go on fighting a war for the peace of the settlements.

We will not go on fighting beyond the “green line” for the purposes of domination, expulsion, starvation, and humiliation of an entire people.

We hereby declare that we shall continue to serve the Israel Defense Forces in any mission that serves the defense of the State of Israel. The mission of occupation and repression does not serve this goal – and we refuse to participate in it.

[A list of the name, rank, and unit of 53 IDF soldiers]


This ad was funded by the participants themselves.

For information and contributions, call (03) 765-1002
Website: http://www.seruv.org.il



At-Home with Gila Svirsky

Introduction
Letters from Jerusalem, 2001
Letters from Jerusalem, 2002
Letters from Jerusalem, 2003
New & recent letters from Jerusalem (2004)
Resources and Links


© 2002 Gila Svirsky.

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