The last issue of Communalism Combat (February 2010) was devoted entirely to reproducing excerpts from testimonials of Israeli women soldiers published by ‘Breaking the Silence’, an organisation of Israeli war veterans who are staunchly opposed to their country’s occupation of Palestinian land and the daily humiliation of Palestinian Arabs. Our attention has since been drawn to the fact that now Israeli teenagers too are refusing to join the army. Reproduced below is a moving statement written jointly by a group of young Jews and Arabs.
We, the undersigned young women and men, Jews and Arabs from all parts of the country, hereby declare that we will toil against the occupation and oppression policies of the Israeli government in the Occupied Territories, and in the territory of the land of Israel, and therefore refuse to take part in actions related to such policies, which are carried out in our name by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF).
We are all community activists and contribute in various ways to a variety of sectors in Israeli society. We believe that contribution, cooperation and volunteerism are a way of life and should not be limited to just two or three years. Our conscientious objection stems directly from our volunteer experience, from the values we believe in, from our love of the society that we are a part of and in which we live, from our respect of every human being and from the aim of making our country a better place for all of its inhabitants.
The occupation creates an unbearable actuality for the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. The checkpoint policy, land annexation, the building of the apartheid wall, paving of roads for Israelis only, settlement projects and assassinations – all these have been sowing destruction in the West Bank for over four decades. The siege of Gaza and the prevention of importing materials, including basic food products and humanitarian aid, undermine the basic minimal living conditions of Gaza’s residents. We cannot tolerate such a reality.
The claim put forth by the spokespersons of the government and the army, that the continuation of the occupation arises from security reasons, has no substance. No country that has fought for its independence has ever been defeated by military means. The suffering of the Palestinian people and their subjugation is the cause of violent resistance. Israel’s public will never be safe as long as the Palestinian nation is under occupation. There is no military solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – only peace will ensure life and security for Jews and Arabs in this country.
The Israeli government frequently boasts that Israel is “the only democracy in the Middle East”. The occupation is a complete contradiction to this claim. Can a government that controls the lives of millions of people who did not take part in elections be called a “democracy”? Can military rule of a civilian population be considered anything other than a dictatorship?
The Israeli army claims that it is “the most ethical army in the world”. However, time and again reality proves that occupation and ethics cannot stand together. When young armed men are sent on policing missions in the midst of occupied disenfranchised persons, when the government attempts to repress the struggle of the disenfranchised for independence by force – the stage is set for the injury of civilian population and committing of war crimes. Those who carry out such actions are not “exceptions” or “bad apples”. The occupation is the cesspool in which such actions fester. The occupation has led the Israel army to breach international treaties, UN decisions and recommendations of the International Court and even Israeli law, time and again.
Settlement policy is racist in principle. In the name of a messianic ideology it has created a reality of apartheid in the West Bank. Disenfranchised Palestinians and privileged settlers live contrastive lives side by side. Settlers participate in the election of the government that administers their affairs while the Palestinians live under military rule. Settlers enjoy social-security benefits and economic benefits while Palestinians live a life of poverty and enslavement. Settlers are tried under Israeli law in Israeli courts while Palestinians are tried at military courts without the basic right of a fair proceeding. Any human opposed to racism finds this reality repulsive and untenable.
There are those who claim that we are objectors although the Israeli government is the most consistent objector – in objecting to peace. The Israeli army is not a “defence force” but an aggressive occupation force. The Israeli government does not extend an olive branch; rather, it upholds violent nationalism.
The occupation is a continuous crime against Israeli society. Employment of Palestinians under slave conditions in the Israeli job market causes a deterioration of conditions for all workers in the market and brings about a violation of their rights. Instead of investing in social budgets, the Israeli government has been investing for more than 40 years in the building of villas and bypass roads in the settlements in order to alter ground reality. The warped norms and the violence that young soldiers confess to in the Territories have permeated the Green Line and are expressed in a rise in violence and racism throughout Israeli society.
Out of a sense of responsibility and concern for the two nations that live in this country, we cannot stand idle. We were born into a reality of occupation and many of our generation see this as a “natural” state. In Israeli society, it is a matter of fact that at 18 every young man and woman partakes in military service. However, we cannot ignore the truth – the occupation is an extreme situation, violent, racist, inhuman, illegal, non-democratic and immoral, that is life-threatening for both nations. We that have been brought up on values of liberty, justice, righteousness and peace cannot accept it.
Our objection to becoming soldiers of the occupation stems from our loyalty to our values and to the society surrounding us and it is part of our ongoing struggle for peace and equality, a struggle whose Jewish-Arab nature proves that peace and coexistence is possible. This is our way and we are willing to pay the price.
Members of the Seniors’ Letter Group 2009-2010
(The Shministim Letter 2009-2010 is inspired by generations of conscientious objectors in Israel and around the world who opposed their governments by saying: “We will not fight your wars! We object to being enemies!”)
Archived from Communalism Combat, March 2010, Year 16- No.149, Breaking Barriers 3