An Israeli Officer's Response To President Bush

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.

His 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 more fatalities.

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"?

Most 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.

This 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.