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Last update - 02:26 16/06/2003

IDF refuseniks tell Palestinians that suicide bombings must end

By Arnon Regular and Lily Galili

Some 100 IDF draft resisters who refuse to serve in the territories have published a call in the Palestinian press for an end to suicide bombings.

The letter was carried by the Palestinian news agency Wafa, apparently after it was approved by Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, and appeared in leading Palestinian newspapers, including Al-Quds, the most widely distributed newspaper in the West Bank, Al-Hayyat Al-Jedida - the official PA newspaper - and El-Ayyam, which is published in Ramallah.

Initiated by five draft resistors now awaiting hearings on their appeals to be allowed to do civilian national service instead of service in "the occupation army," the letter says: "The suicide bombings by Palestinian organizations kill innocent people - children, the elderly, men and woman, Jews, Arabs and foreigners, supporters of the occupation and opponents of the occupation.

"These actions are not moral ... this cold-blooded, indiscriminate and random killing horrifies most Israelis to the point that it makes the the work of justifying the occupation much easier for Sharon and his colleagues.

"We, the refuseniks, take responsibility for what is happening in Israeli society through our declared acts of resistance, and we are ready to pay the price; the price that you, our comrades on the Palestinian side, might pay is much higher, but we believe that ... a Palestinian struggle without harm to civilians will be much more precise. Rallies, general strikes, and joint activities with the Israeli peace movement are all much more effective acts of resistance than any suicide."

It was the first time the refusenik movement, which now has 524 registered conscripts and reservists, have undertaken an action other than individually refusing to serve and going to jail.

There was much debate inside the group before the publication whether Palestinians would regard the letter as a form of patronization, but the group decided that since they are paying the price - in prison - for their refusal, it would offset that possible negative reception in the Palestinian public.