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At-Home with Gila Svirsky

3 March 2002
Subject: About moral backbone


So who’s winning? It’s been a blood-soaked weekend: Since Thursday, the Israeli army killed 26 Palestinians in refugee camps (and 230 wounded), and Palestinian extremists killed 20 Israelis (and dozens wounded). Add that together and you have a staggering amount of heartache, on either side. Everybody’s losing.

Children on both sides, needless to say, were also killed. A light has gone out, permanently, for these families.

As I watched the ultra-Orthodox walk around the area of the bomb in Jerusalem scraping stray bits of flesh off the sidewalk for later burial, two Israeli commentators explained that this bomb was revenge for the attack on the refugee camps. This morning’s radio news, however, carried only the government spin: The Palestinian bombing in Jerusalem last night would have taken place whether or not the Israeli army had invaded the refugee camps. What are they saying? Answer: That our killing has no relationship whatsoever with their killing. A theory of cause and no effect.

Do Sharon and his government actually believe that brutality will convince the Palestinians to give up? Do the Palestinian extremists actually believe that suicide bombings will convince Israelis to leave the region? There is little evidence to support the unusual theory of human nature held by either side.

Meanwhile, on the Israeli side, more and more people have begun to despair of the deepening sea of blood:

I’ll close with one such voice – an excerpt from an op-ed in today’s Ha’aretz newspaper written by Michael Ben-Yair, Israel’s Attorney General from 1993 to 1996, on the subject of occupation and whether or not the soldiers who refuse to serve in the army are indeed lawbreakers:

...This is a harsh reality that is causing us to lose the moral base of our existence as a free, just society and to jeopardize Israel’s long-range survival. Israel’s security cannot be based only on the sword; it must rather be based on our principles of moral justice and on peace with our neighbors – those living next door and those living a little further away. An occupation regime undermines those principles of moral justice and prevents the attainment of peace. Thus, that regime endangers Israel’s existence.

...It is against this background that one must view the refusal of IDF reservist officers and soldiers to serve in the territories. In their eyes, the occupation regime is evil and military service in the occupied territories is evil. In their eyes, military service in the occupied territories, which places soldiers in situations forcing them to commit immoral acts, is evil, and, according to their conscience, they cannot be party to such acts. Thus, their refusal to serve is an act of conscience that is justified and recognized in every democratic regime. History’s verdict will be that their refusal was the act that restored our moral backbone.

May it restore our moral backbone, amen.

Gila Svirsky


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At-Home with Gila Svirsky

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© 2002 Gila Svirsky.

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