by Shamai Leibowitz
June 27, 2002
I am an Orthodox Jew and a criminal defense attorney in Tel Aviv. I am also a tank gunner in reserve duty, and part of a group of 1000 soldiers who have refused to serve in the occupied territories. Many of them were imprisoned in military jails in the past few months.
Now that President Bush has enlightened us with his new "Plan" for the Middle
East, we can only wonder how long it will take him to realize that his plan
is useless and meaningless. Although his speech was riddled with rosy descriptions
he envisions for the utopian Palestinian State in the far future, George
W. Bush managed to avoid any mention of the present situation in the same
parcel of land where all these wonderful things are to materialize. No mention
of the fact that all West Bank cities had been invaded by Israeli military
forces; that hundreds of thousands of inhabitants are imprisoned in their
homes by a strict curfew, and that civilians appearing on city streets are
being shot at like dogs by Israeli tanks and Apache helicopters.
failure to understand that no progress can be made while a whole nation is
being brutally occupied is the basic flaw in his policy, and serves as the
best explanation why his Middle East plans have consistently become colossal
failures. Bush's delusional thinking that he can change the Palestinian leadership
by delivering a speech is mind-boggling. The American President thinks he
can just do away with any leader in the world he dislikes. This kind of thinking
is going to cost us a lot of bloodshed. It is only a matter of time until
Bush's "new outline" will turn to ashes as the flames in this region reach
higher and higher. Instead of offering a glimmer of hope, his plans resemble
the famous Biblical burning bush , i.e. more of the same (see Exodus 3;2).
This means more Israeli occupation, which will result in more terror and
Clearly, the terror attacks are abhorrent. They have no justification
in any sane polity. However, no amount of condemnation will stop them. Bush
fails to comprehend that the suicide bombings are a product of mass starvation
and humiliation of the Palestinian people. Bush's aides are doing us so much
harm by refusing to acknowledge that only an immediate end to the Israeli
occupation will bring an immediate end to the Palestinian uprising.
We are now witnessing a situation in which 3.5 million people have no
future, no hope, no vision, other than to become terrorists and avenge the
continued harassment and shelling by the Israeli army's helicopters, tanks
and artillery. While Bush has never set foot in this region, we have been
living here, watching how the Palestinians were trampled and denied basic
rights on a daily basis, besieged and occupied in every possible way. Our
Jewish sources teach us that where there is no justice, there is no peace.
The idea behind the Oslo accords, namely that we could "negotiate" a peace
agreement while remaining the Occupying Power, has proven to be romantic
nonsense. Can you expect a rape victim to negotiate with her attacker? Can
you expect a slave to negotiate with hismaster a "contract of freedom"?
Israelis know deep in their hearts that once we stop humiliating and oppressing
this nation, we will return to become a safe and secure democratic Israel
living next to a viable Palestinian State. Most intelligent people in the
world understand that the Palestinians had a right to a state of their own
many years ago. And there should have been an Israeli-Palestinian border
marking the two completely separate sovereign states. There is only one institution
in the world that is blind to this: the Israeli government.
means it is up to us, Israeli soldiers, to defend ourselves. Defend ourselves
from our government. And this can only be done through refusal to participate
in the occupation. It is our opinion that an Israeli soldier refusing to
dominate and starve millions of Palestinians is defending his state in the
best possible way. The reason is simple: If enough soldiers refuse, we will
eventually force our government to relinquish its death-grip over the West
Bank and Gaza. And this will save thousands of lives.
In a famous Jewish quote found in the Talmud, it is said: "If I am not for myself, who will be for me?" After Bush showed us how warped his understanding of reality is, he's left it to ourselves to save our nation from complete demise. We will push Bush aside, and do the job ourselves. We, the refusal movement, will continue to grow until thousands of Israeli soldiers announce enough is enough. Then, hopefully, this land which has been battleground for so many years will become a place of refuge, vision and hope for all its inhabitants.