ISRAEL: More soldiers refuse to serve

May 15, 2002


Soldiers and officers continue to refuse to serve in Israel's reoccupation of the West Bank and Gaza. More than 450 reserve officers have signed the "Combatants letter", a statement pledging refusal to "continue to fight beyond the 1967 borders in order to dominate, expel, starve and humiliate an entire people".

According to Yesh Gvul, an Israeli group that supports the "refuseniks", as of May 6 around 30 soldiers were in jail for refusing to serve in the Occupied Territories.

On May 4, professors at the Hebrew University and Tel Aviv University announced that 244 professors and lecturers had signed a letter of support for the refuseniks. The letter said that the educators "wish to express our appreciation and support for those of our students and lecturers who refuse to serve as soldiers in the Occupied Territories... We hereby express our readiness to do everything in our power to help students who encounter academic, administrative or economic difficulties as a result of their refusal to serve in the territories. We call on the university community at large to support them."

The letter was initially signed by 40 faculty members at the Hebrew University. After Israel's minister of education called for the indictment of the signatories, a further 200 faculty members from other universities signed. The organisers of the letter said that they "value the courage, the integrity and the sacrifice of the conscientious objectors, and we're willing to display equal courage, integrity and sacrifice ... in order to support and defend them."

Incidents of "spontaneous refusal" are also occurring. A report posted on May 5 on the Gush Shalom Online forum stated that the "cause of refusal gained unexpected strength 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 battalion's entry into the Occupied Territories. Rubinfeld is not a member of any refusers' group and seems to have taken this step on his own initiative."

The number of refuseniks is likely to increase after the Israeli army called up reservists on May 9 in preparation for further attacks on Palestinian areas.

From Green Left Weekly, May 15, 2002.
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