Truth From The Land Of Israel

As of the latest count, 41 Israeli soldiers - conscripts and reservists, including several  officers up to the rank of major - are at this moment behind bars, for refusal to serve in the  occupied territories, refusal to serve as gusrds over Palestinian prisoners, or refusal to  serve in the Israeli armed forces altogether.

As is the decades-long pratice of the IDF, refusniks are subjected to "diciplinary  proceedings by the commanding officer" - i.e., an "instant trial" taking place behind closed  doors, and usually lasting five minutes or less, and are denied the chance of a court  martiall.in which the refusnik can be represented by a lawyer, call witnesses and have the  press and general public present. True, a court martial  can hand down a sentence of years-long imprisonment for disobedience while the "disciplinary proceeding" is limited  to a  maximum  of 28 days; but there is nothing in the miltary code to prevent a soldier getting a  new order immeriately upon release from prison and upon his refusal being immediately  sent back behind bars; the only sanction against it is a strong public protest.

The latest such case seems to be that of Conscientious Objector Yigal Rosenberg,  imprisoned on April 29 for the fourth consecutive time. (His prison address: Ig'al  Rosenberg, Military ID 7303585, Military Prison No. 4, Military postal code 02507, IDF,  Israel.)

Forces just doubled....

Rosenberg had been among the original signatories of the "Highschool letter", which was originally  signed by 63 Jewish-Israeli youths facing conscription and sent to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon last  summer. Recent events have made the text even more relevant, and it has now been  refreshed and signed by 124 shministim (12th graders) who are up for conscription this year:
To: Prime Minister Ariel Sharon  We the undersigned, youths who grew up and were brought up in Israel, are  about to be called to serve in the IDF. We hereby lodge to you our protest against the aggressive and racist policy pursued by the Israeli government's and its army, and inform you that we do not intend to take part in the implementation  of this policy.

We strongly object to Israel's violation of human rights. Land expropriation,  arrests, extra-judicial executions, house demolition, closure, torture, and  the prevention of health care are only some of the crimes the state of  Israel perpetrates, in blunt violation of the international conventions it has  ratified.  These actions are not only illegitimate; they do not even achieve their  stated goal - increasing the citizens' personal safety. Such safety can only be  achieved through a just peace between the government of Israel and the Palestinian people.

  Therefore we will follow the dictates of our conscience and refuse to take part in acts of  oppression against the Palestinian people, acts which should properly be  called terrorist acts. We call upon everybody facing miltary service - persons of our own  age, conscripts, soldiers in the standing army, and reservists to do the same.

Please pass it on to whoever you think may be eligible to sign. The email  for endorsement is Haggai Mattar's: haggai@hotmail.com

The complete list of signers, as well as a response letter sent to the youths by bereaved Palestinian families, and other responses are available at  http://oznik.com/petitions/010822.html . The Hebrew version is at  http://oznik.com/h/petitions/010822.html

The Support Forum for Conscientious Objectors (matzpoon@yahoo.com 051-596492),  of which Rosenberg is a member, is regularly orgainising the  distribution of  thousands of flyers to youngsters, entitled: "Just Say No"; holds regular activist meetings  in Tel-Aviv and Haifa; and will hold solidarity envents in both cities (May 23 in Camera  Obscura, Tel Aviv; May 29  HoTenTot Gallery, Haifa); for more info call Dani Ben Simhon  051-596492.

Sergeiy Sandler  of New Profile has compiled a detailed list of all 41 imprisoned refusniks,  including biographical details, exact lenth of remaining term, the threat of reimprisonment  etc, as well as addresss to which protests and solidarity letters can be sent. Reproducing it  in full would make this billboard impossibly bulky, you can get the full text and constant  updates from <sergeiy@netvision.net.il.  Here we can only quote the words of two prisoners:

Victor Sabransky: "I was raised on democratic values and believe in full equality  among people. I am sure the main reason I have not until now declared refusal is  the fear... and the social pressure applied by the Israeli society to  enlist in the State's military forces... I am not a soldier at all, I am  still a boy and I was born into this world to live and not to die in the  Territories for the misguided policy of the State and the Military..."

Amnon Hillel "It is the duty of every human being to do whatever in his or her power to  stop the terrible oppression perpetrated by the government of Israel, through its army,  against the Palestinian people, and lately also against Israelis and internationals  trying to protest against the policy of occupation, degradation, killing,  revenge, discrimination, intimidation and the other forms of violence  practiced by the army. There never was and there never will be any true justification to the terrible violence practiced by the army". 


[11] Better prisoner than prison guard

Five prisoners are threre behind bars becuse they refused to be prisone guards over  Palestinians. Shay Biran, Yiftah Admoni, Alon Dror and Tomer Friedman, four 20-year-old  conscripts, were sent to guard Palestinian detainees in the Ktziot detention  camp (also known as 'Ansar 3'). In this detention camp people are held in  exceptionally poor conditions. (A detailed report of the situation there and of efforts to  ameliorate it by judicial appeals is available from the Adalah human rights organization  <adalahorg@hotmail.com.)

All four soldiers refused to perform this duty and were sent to 28 days in prison on 25 Apr.  This is the first known case of four soldiers from the same unit refusing together; hitherto,  a refusnik was usually alone in his unit, with perhpas a few others sympathising but not  sharing his act.)  (Prison addresses: Shay Biran, Military ID 6993743: Yiftah Admoni, Military ID 6961658;  Alon Dror, ID 7014088; Tomer Friedman,  ID 6993743 - all of them at  Military Prison no. 6, ilitary Postal code 01860, IDF,  Israel.

Three of the four objectors wrote letters explaining their refusal. Highlights from these letters in English were posted on IMC-Israel: http://www.indymedia.org.il/imc/israel/webcast/display.php3?article_id=25414

The full Hebrew text is available on the website of Yesh-Gvul, at: http://www.yesh-gvul.org/sadir-letters0402.doc

A fifth guard-turned-prisoner is First Sgt. Rafram Haddad (26), a reservist with the military  police  and in civilian life an art student and journalist with the Jerusalem weekly "Kol  Ha'ir" was sentenced on April 29 to 28 days jail for refusing to serve as a guard at the Megiddo detention camp.  (Prison address:  Rafram Haddad, Military ID 5118505, Military Prison No. 4,  Military postal code 02507, Israel.) 


[12] Refusnik battlion commander

The cause of refusal gained an unepected strenth this week when Lieutenant-Colonel  Yoram Rubinfeld, commander of a reserve battalion, announced to the  battalion's gathered officers that he would not be commanding them on the battlion's entry  into the Occupied Territories. Rubinfled is not a member of any refusers' group, and seems  to have taken this step on his own initiative.

Meanwhile, the petition of university lecturers expressing support for student refusniks is  gathering momentum, despite - or perhaps becuase - of last week's vicious extreme right  demonstration which called for expulsion of these lecturers, and also despite Education  Minister Limor Livnat's call to have them prosecuted.

So far, nearly two hundred faculty members of Israeli universities signed, and the  signatures of more of them can be sent to Anat Biletzki <anatbi@post.tau.ac.il. (This is  just for faculty members. Sorry.) On Tuesday night, the statement will go up on the seruv  website (where you can now see two preliminary statements http://www.seruv.org.il/ ).