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Why Israel's 'seruvniks' say enough is enough
The Observer ^ | May 19, 2002 | Michael Sfard

Posted on 05/21/2002 7:55:47 AM PDT by ThreeOfSeven

Observer Worldview Extra


Why Israel's 'seruvniks' say enough is enough

The laywer representing Israeli conscripts who refuse to serve beyond the 1967 ceasefire lines explains why a growing number of soldiers are disobeying orders, in order to protect the basic values on which Israel was founded.

Observer Worldview

Michael Sfard
Sunday May 19, 2002
The Observer

It is said that in the first few years of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, no one seriously thought of holding on to these territories forever. It was at the time widely assumed, that these newly conquered lands were to be handed back to the Arabs as part of a peace agreement. I don't remember those days.

I was raised in a different Israel. In my Israel the small fundamentalist group of Jewish settlers has always enjoyed more political power than their relative share in the Israeli population. In my Israel both left-wing and right-wing governments enabled the colonialisation of these occupied Palestinian lands. My Israel paid, and is still paying, a heavy moral price for ruling another nation by the force of the sword. My Israel, built on the founding values of humanism, pluralism and democracy is being lost.

Three months ago an unprecedented petition by reserve soldiers was published in the Israeli press. The signatories declared their intention to refuse to serve the Israeli occupation and disobey any order to go, as soldiers, beyond the 1967 ceasefire lines. The number of signatories (known as 'seruvniks' for the Hebrew word 'seruv' - refusal) has increased rapidly from 50 in the first petition to 462 as of today. Though refusal in Israel was not uncommon, the scale of this petition is a novelty. Most of the signatories are hardened combat officers and soldiers, and all of them served many years in the occupied territories. Since the launch of the petition, about forty of those who have endorsed the petition have been sent to military prisons as a result of their refusal.

Almost all of the 462 who have signed, among them myself, are between twenty-five and thirty-five years old. None of us can remember a non-occupying Israel. Each and every signatory of the petition has individually reached the decision to spurn the state's demand that they will employ immoral and inhumane means of control over civilian population. And yet, I was amazed to discover how similar our stories are. How identical our personal transitions from being "good" and obedient soldiers to what our Attorney General described as "dangerous outlaws" have been.

As the legal adviser to many seruvniks - and someone who was incarcerated for three weeks for refusing to serve in the Hebron area a few years ago - I have had the privilege of escorting many of my fellow signatories from receipt of their call up papers, through the trial and, finally, visiting them in prison. Given their biographies, the act of refusal was by no means a natural decision. Rather, it was rather the product of a personal crisis, born out of moral agonies and a sense of deep concern for our country's future.

One might expect to hear horrifying stories of atrocities that the objectors witnessed before making their decision to no longer take part in the system. The truth of the matter is that most of the conscientious objectors reached their decision simply from experiencing "everyday" life in the occupied territories.

The occupation corrupted Israeli culture, it eroded our code of ethics, and it even contaminated the Hebrew language. In the name of the fight against the murderous and unforgivable terror that struck Israeli cities and towns, we grew accustomed to manning check-points in which thousands of Palestinians are being detained for hours and humiliated by young soldiers. We grew accustomed to pointing our rifles at children and women. We became tolerant to large-scale demolition of houses ('surface uncovering' in military jargon). Finally, we accepted a state-sponsored policy of assassinations, neatly labelled by Israeli spokesmen as "focused prevention". We learned how to distinguish between roads for settlers (Jews) and roads for 'locals' (Palestinians), and we were asked to implement discriminatory laws for the sake of the illegal settlements that have trapped our country in an endless messianic war. A war which the vast majority of Israelis never wanted.

As soldiers who witnessed, first-hand, the corrosive effect of the occupation on ordinary Israelis and Palestinians we could no longer bear its destructive implications for what we were raised to believe were Israeli values - respect for human life and dignity. The occupation chiselled out unequal relations between Palestinians and Israelis. It planted in many a seed of racism against Arabs.

Under such circumstances, hundreds of officers and soldiers who were always in the forefront of IDF's most prestigious units, who were used to risking their lives for the security of the State of Israel, began questioning both the morality of our presence in the occupied territories and the myth of its necessity. People who have no legal background grew to acknowledge that the command that sends them beyond the borders of democracy to rule another people inherently produces systematic human rights abuses and is therefore neither democratic nor legal.

Entering a village and arresting every male above the age of 14 for up to 18 days, as was done in the recent incursion to the West Bank, is inhuman, even if the mission is to find terrorists. Stopping an ambulance that carries a sick man or a pregnant woman is immoral even if you suspect that it also carries hidden weapons. And that is the tragedy of serving in the occupied territories: one cannot go there without detaining suspected ambulances and treating children in a manner that results in more hatred. The soldiers are placed in an impossible situation, coerced by the occupation's reality to act immorally.

As a lawyer I am allowed to visit these prisoners of conscience. Some arrive in prison filled with pride. Others are shocked by their own deed, and try to explain themselves to their families and friends in long telephone conversations. In prison, most of them discover how angry they are. Angry at the settlers that tangled us in a never-ending war. Indignant at the governments of Israel that enabled them to do so. Vexed at the Israeli Defence Force, which arrogantly took for granted that we would carry out any order.

The seruvniks come from the backbone of Israeli society. They were always seen by themselves and by others, as Israelis from the mainstream of our civic life. "I took seriously the values I was brought up on in this country", they tell me. We must now ask ourselves whether this was always simply rhetoric, or whether Israel has fundamentally changed. As seruvniks, we have chosen to speak out. To silence our voice would be to marginalise further the basic values upon which our country was founded.

· Michael Sfard is a lawyer practising human rights and criminal law in Tel-Aviv. You can read the seruvniks' petition - Courage to refuse - here, and you can write to the author of this piece at legal@seruv.org.il.

Send us your views

Email Observer site editor Sunder Katwala at observer@guardianunlimited.co.uk with comments on articles or ideas for future pieces.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2002


TOPICS: Extended News; Foreign Affairs; Israel; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: israel; occupation; palestine; refuseniks
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It takes moral courage to follow your conscience and go against the stream.
1 posted on 05/21/2002 7:55:51 AM PDT by ThreeOfSeven
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To: ThreeOfSeven
Another bit of swill by Leftists, about Leftists.

It takes moral courage to follow your conscience and go against the stream.

Just ask Jihad John Walker! Whom, I assume, you also find a heroic figure.

2 posted on 05/21/2002 8:12:02 AM PDT by veronica
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To: ThreeOfSeven
Growing number?? GROWING???

Hmm.. really now! I haven't heard of a new one since 6 months ago! Somebody better get a handle on reality... or stop spreading this incredible swill.

3 posted on 05/21/2002 8:18:42 AM PDT by besieged
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To: ThreeOfSeven
It takes moral courage to follow your conscience and go against the stream.

That's why you're not on the west bank helping with the murder of Israelis, I guess.

I may be wrong. You may be there.

4 posted on 05/21/2002 8:18:48 AM PDT by Cachelot
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To: besieged
Hmm.. really now! I haven't heard of a new one since 6 months ago! Somebody better get a handle on reality... or stop spreading this incredible swill.

The article doesn't say when the latest refusenik joined, but it does mention that the group has grown rapidly and is now up to 462. That's not bad.

5 posted on 05/21/2002 8:26:14 AM PDT by ThreeOfSeven
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To: besieged
400 Harvard and MIT Jew-hating professors (all Lefties of course) circulate a petition against Israel, the press has an orgy.

Over a thousand (I forget if it is 2 or 4) pro-Israel Harvard and MIT professors, led by Harvard President Lawrence Summers, sign a counter-petition the press snoozes.

400 (IF there are that many - I am dubious) refuseniks whine in Israel, the press has an orgy. Thousands serve, and circulate a counter-petition, the press snoozes.

6 posted on 05/21/2002 8:27:23 AM PDT by veronica
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To: ThreeOfSeven
The article doesn't say when the latest refusenik joined, but it does mention that the group has grown rapidly and is now up to 462.

They CLAIM there are 462. In fact, these characters held a meeting a couple of months and only slightly more than 200 :) showed up. Either there are not 462, or some of them do not have the stones to show up in public. And that 462 or so number has not changed in months.

7 posted on 05/21/2002 8:31:32 AM PDT by veronica
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Comment #8 Removed by Moderator

To: ThreeOfSeven
If the figure of 462 is true that's less than 1 in a thousand reservists. Somehow I don't think the IDF is worried.

An extra 4000 reservists over and above those drafted volunteered for the last op.

9 posted on 05/21/2002 8:42:47 AM PDT by anapikoros
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To: anapikoros
Their numbers are less important than their message.
10 posted on 05/21/2002 8:45:39 AM PDT by ThreeOfSeven
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To: ThreeOfSeven
It takes moral courage to follow your conscience and go against the stream.

Yeah, unfortunately very few Muslims have either courage or conscience, so they follow the steady stream of Islamic hate.

11 posted on 05/21/2002 9:11:42 AM PDT by liberalism=failure
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To: ThreeOfSeven
'seruvniks' translated = marxist idiot apologists for evil

No courage there, just infinite stupidity

12 posted on 05/21/2002 9:15:29 AM PDT by liberalism=failure
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Comment #13 Removed by Moderator

To: ThreeOfSeven
The article doesn't say when the latest refusenik joined

Last I checked the list (a long while back) there were lots of multiple entries and lots of fake entries. Frauds, swindlers, your basic bottomfeeders. Of course you enjoy that collection.

Here's hoping that the Israeli govt does the sensible thing with the ones of them that actually are real: shoots them.

14 posted on 05/21/2002 9:29:14 AM PDT by Cachelot
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To: ThreeOfSeven
Their numbers are less important than their message.

Their message is "My name is Quisling". So is your message, come to think of it.

15 posted on 05/21/2002 9:31:10 AM PDT by Cachelot
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To: ThreeOfSeven
It figures that you would love these traitors. You are one and same with these types.
16 posted on 05/21/2002 9:48:56 AM PDT by ohioman
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To: Cachelot
Their message is "My name is Quisling". So is your message, come to think of it.

That's the exact opposite of the truth. The seruvniks refuse to betray Israel's ideals. They refuse to become quislings for the Israeli occupation. They are pro-Israel in the best sense of the word. I support American ideals of liberty and justice for all. That's why I oppose the Israeli occupation.

17 posted on 05/21/2002 10:00:06 AM PDT by ThreeOfSeven
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To: ThreeOfSeven
I support American ideals of liberty and justice for all. That's why I oppose the Israeli occupation.

And how does the Israeli "occupation" go against those ideals?

Answer--it doesn't.

To defend the guilty is to betray the innocent. Whether it is your intention or not, you are on the side of evil.

18 posted on 05/21/2002 10:12:45 AM PDT by liberalism=failure
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To: liberalism=failure
And how does the Israeli "occupation" go against those ideals?

The article mentions some of the ways the Israeli occupation goes against the right of Palestinians to liberty and justice: "check-points in which thousands of Palestinians are being detained for hours and humiliated by young soldiers", "large-scale demolition of houses", "a state-sponsored policy of assassinations", "discriminatory laws for the sake of the illegal settlements".

To defend the guilty is to betray the innocent. Whether it is your intention or not, you are on the side of evil.

Look in the mirror when you say that.

19 posted on 05/21/2002 10:42:54 AM PDT by ThreeOfSeven
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To: liberalism=failure
I think you're taking it wrong.

I admire those who stand up and question their government's actions, when done on legiotimate grounds (ie: moral, ethical, etc).

And the fact that the refuseniks have their day in court, while any counterparts in the PLO have their day with a bullet in the head, does more to make me sympathetic to Israel than any blind pro-zionist blah-blah that accuses anyone of being unamerican and fascist and pro-terrorist just because they do not worship israel.

I am against the current Israeli tactics, which are none too new. The PLO (just another mafia-clone) is in fact an Israeli creation as much as anyone's. I think they should have taken the recent opportunity, taken out Arafat and the PLO leadership, annexed the occupied territories, begin assimilation of the palestinians as future citizens (with fierce sedition laws and enforcement), and count on a larger, more prosperous and less troubled nation.

Idealism? Somewhat, but I am a firm believer in giving someone something to live for rather than die for.

20 posted on 05/21/2002 10:46:41 AM PDT by Cobra Scott
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To: Cobra Scott
The PLO (just another mafia-clone) is in fact an Israeli creation as much as anyone's.

Ummm... no. The Arabs created the PLO, with some cheering on from the Euros. Your claim is an exceedingly delusional one.

begin assimilation of the palestinians as future citizens

Assimilation of large masses of Arab Muslims into Israel as citizens is impossible. The only way these people will ever become citizens of Israel is as corpses. They can then be dead citizens. Live, they'll be human bombs with rabies, bent on the final destruction of anything Jewish, be it the state, the religion, or the people.

But you know all this.

21 posted on 05/21/2002 11:00:15 AM PDT by Cachelot
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To: ThreeOfSeven
That's the exact opposite of the truth.

Save it for the sheeple. I know what you are.

22 posted on 05/21/2002 11:02:37 AM PDT by Cachelot
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To: ThreeOfSeven
The article mentions...."check-points in which thousands of Palestinians are being detained for hours and humiliated by young soldiers"...

Oh boo hoo. And with homicide bombers trying to sneak into Israel Jews DAILY (sometimes putting bombers in ambulances), what would you prefer? A ticker-tape parade for the perps? Are you against the new methods WE have employed at airports? Where 'thousands of busy Americans are being detained and searched' (humiliated??) by security people?

"Large-scale demolition of houses"

Hardly. Try removal of illegal squatters nests and bomb factories.

"a state-sponsored policy of assassinations".

I doubt we plan to bring Osama Bin Laden here for trial.

"discriminatory laws for the sake of the illegal settlements".

The settlements are not illegal.

23 posted on 05/21/2002 11:04:20 AM PDT by veronica
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To: ThreeOfSeven
These people are akin to draft dogers! They sit back and let others act in their place and call it a moral decision. They are spoiled, good for nothing leeches who should be deported to Jordan.
24 posted on 05/21/2002 11:06:21 AM PDT by Cold Heat
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To: Cachelot
Not true.

There are Arab Israelis who fought alongside Israeli Jews in all three wars. They consider themselves loyal Israeli citizens. How can that be? Because they have a stake, and they know that whatever social, moral or ethical problems their government has, it beats the heck out of the corrupt states surrounding them.

As for the PLO, Israel agreed to self rule except for military units, and in essence helped to create the racketeering organization. Of course, easy to point fingers in hindsight, but I don't think its a policy that bears any fruition of peace, and annexation and assimilation do.

25 posted on 05/21/2002 11:06:31 AM PDT by Cobra Scott
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To: ThreeOfSeven
Correction to my post above:

....Oh boo hoo. And with homicide bombers trying to sneak into Israel DAILY to kill Jews...(sometimes putting bombers in ambulances)...etc.

26 posted on 05/21/2002 11:07:22 AM PDT by veronica
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To: wirestripper
I'm sure many of them are as you describe.
27 posted on 05/21/2002 11:07:53 AM PDT by Cobra Scott
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To: wirestripper
dogers=dodgers
28 posted on 05/21/2002 11:08:46 AM PDT by Cold Heat
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To: ThreeOfSeven
I support American ideals of liberty and justice for all.

You must really dislike the Arab states and Arafat then. No free press, no free elections, women treated like dogs, in Arafat's case 'traitors' lynched in the public square, (in front of children), despots and dictators (Arafat is a Marxist by the way) galore...

29 posted on 05/21/2002 11:18:00 AM PDT by veronica
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Comment #30 Removed by Moderator

To: Cobra Scott
As for the PLO, Israel agreed to self rule except for military units

Oh. You believe the PLO has only existed since Oslo. So you don't even know the most basic basics. Go back and read your modern history :).

31 posted on 05/21/2002 12:03:02 PM PDT by Cachelot
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To: jd1467
What is shameful is that we send money to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, from whence came the Sept 11 hijackers. We should give all that money to Israel. Let Israel take over the oil fields in Saudi Arabia. All our problems, and Israel's, solved in one fell swoop. Israel conducted a moral war in Jenin. Door to door instead of bombings. Israel is a very moral, too moral as compared to it's neighbors, country.
32 posted on 05/21/2002 12:03:34 PM PDT by scratchgolfer
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To: Cobra Scott
I admire those who stand up and question their government's actions, when done on legitimate grounds (ie: moral, ethical, etc).

There's no legitimate grounds here. So, I don't admire them any more then the maggots they're defending.

And the fact that the refuseniks have their day in court, while any counterparts in the PLO have their day with a bullet in the head, does more to make me sympathetic to Israel than any blind pro-zionist blah-blah that accuses anyone of being unamerican and fascist and pro-terrorist just because they do not worship israel.

I would not endorse a bullet in their head nor a bullet in the head of the average Berkleyite, BUT I do of course reserve and intend to excercise the RIGHT I have to tell them what worthless garbage they are.

I am against the current Israeli tactics, which are none too new.

What "tactics' are these, fighting terrorism? < mock horror > God forbid! </ mock horror >

The PLO (just another mafia-clone) is in fact an Israeli creation as much as anyone's.

This sounds like liberal scapegoating. Just as the black mugger is the creation of white "oppression". I hate scapegoating, its mraxist crappola, and it makes me sick.

I think they should have taken the recent opportunity, taken out Arafat and the PLO leadership, annexed the occupied territories, begin assimilation of the palestinians as future citizens (with fierce sedition laws and enforcement), and count on a larger, more prosperous and less troubled nation.

Not a bad suggestion, however the Palestinians have had all the opportunities to assimilate that any other group of Arabs, several of whom have assimilated themselves within Israel and have done quite well for having done it. But the Palestinians blew it.

Idealism? Somewhat, but I am a firm believer in giving someone something to live for rather than die for.

The Palestinians have had everything to live for. They could have assimilated themsleves into Israel society, where they would have been better off than living in ANY arab land, but they opted for hate instead. They could have had they're own state. But they opted for hate instead. They can still have their own state, but they still are opting for hate.

IMO They should be thrown out. And let all those arabs who claim to love them and grieve for their pseudo-oppression give them land to live on.

The Palestinians have been their own worst enemies, not Israel, and they deserve everything they get and more. They could have had it all, a democracy to live in, or in lieu of that, their own state, but instead every step of the way they opted for hatred, and envy. WHat a worthless bunch of losers. To hell with them.

33 posted on 05/21/2002 12:16:54 PM PDT by liberalism=failure
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To: jd1467
Israel has lost whatever 'moral' authority it once claimed. It is shamefull that the U.S. government continues to support this rogue nation.

Looks like some of the rest of the "seven" have shown up.

34 posted on 05/21/2002 12:19:41 PM PDT by liberalism=failure
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To: Cachelot
Ummm... no. The Arabs created the PLO, with some cheering on from the Euros.

Right you are. It was Hamas that the Israelis created and funded.

35 posted on 05/21/2002 12:23:28 PM PDT by Zviadist
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To: veronica
You must really dislike the Arab states and Arafat then. No free press, no free elections, women treated like dogs, in Arafat's case 'traitors' lynched in the public square, (in front of children), despots and dictators (Arafat is a Marxist by the way) galore...

Yes, as a matter of fact! I'd like to see all the corrupt autocratic Arab regimes, all the Kings and Sheiks and Presidents-for-life overthrown and replaced by governments more responsive to the people. Israel proper deserves credit for being a western-style democracy. However, the Israeli occupation is a form of tyranny, the opposite of democracy.

36 posted on 05/21/2002 12:24:45 PM PDT by ThreeOfSeven
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To: Cachelot
Not what I said. But since you bring it up, they did in fact legitimaize a terrorist organization at that point. Kind of like having IRA members in parliament.

Once again, I realize it is all too easy to criticise in hindsight, and I think Israel made concessions, some of them viewed as necessary evils, in the interests of moving forward. I just don't think anything is moving forward.

37 posted on 05/21/2002 12:30:39 PM PDT by Cobra Scott
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To: ThreeOfSeven
The article mentions some of the ways the Israeli occupation goes against the right of Palestinians to liberty and justice:

Bwahahahaha and where in all the Muslime world would they have more rights?????

I've always thought the the definition of a loser is not a person who never had anything, but rather a loser is someone who could have had everything and threw it away.

The Palestinians could have assimilated themslves into a prosperous democracy, and had rights. But instead they opted for hate.

THey could have had their own state, but again instead opted for hate. And still are.

The Palestinians are truly the worlds biggest losers and self defeating morons. They deserve every bad thing that happens to them and more.

38 posted on 05/21/2002 12:31:51 PM PDT by liberalism=failure
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To: liberalism=failure
The Palestinians could have assimilated themslves into a prosperous democracy, and had rights. But instead they opted for hate.

The Palestinians may still be able to assimilate themselves into a prosperous democracy, if they can finally shake off the Israeli occupation.

39 posted on 05/21/2002 12:36:29 PM PDT by ThreeOfSeven
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To: liberalism=failure
I think you and I disagree in extent.

The Palis are pawns in the Arab world. But I don't see any way out for them until Israel forces them in or out, one way or the other. I believe there is speculation that the IDF has contingency plans to force an eventual refugee evacuation into Jordan. I would rather see them take the opposite course.

I think our biggest difference is that I think it is possible, and (I gather) you do not.

40 posted on 05/21/2002 12:38:31 PM PDT by Cobra Scott
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To: ThreeOfSeven
And which prosperous democracy would that be?

I maintain that total annexation and assimilation, by force, is the only salvation they will know.

41 posted on 05/21/2002 12:39:49 PM PDT by Cobra Scott
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To: ThreeOfSeven
However, the Israeli occupation is a form of tyranny, the opposite of democracy.

And if the "occuption" was ended what would happen? Answer--The creation of a terrorist state where autocrat Arafat offers NONE of the liberty and justice you claim to be in favor of.

Your very questionable cited tyranny versus a very evil and malignant one.

Bottom line under yours and the seruvniks way there would be Less justice, less liberty and less safety for the civilized world.

Please excuse me if I am not rushing to join the apparatchiks... er, I mean seruvniks on this one.

42 posted on 05/21/2002 12:43:01 PM PDT by liberalism=failure
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To: Cobra Scott
I maintain that total annexation and assimilation, by force, is the only salvation they will know.

You must realize that the suicide bombings will continue under such a plan, and the necessity of "incursions" will be no less, and the euroweasles will become even more shrill in their idiotic condemnations.

Forget it, get it over with, throw the bums out.

43 posted on 05/21/2002 12:46:40 PM PDT by liberalism=failure
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To: ThreeOfSeven
The Palestinians may still be able to assimilate themselves into a prosperous democracy, if they can finally shake off the Israeli occupation.

Every Muslim country except Turkey is autocratic. I.e. only one muslim country out of the 50 or 60 out there is democratic.

Sounds like pretty damn lousy odds to me.

44 posted on 05/21/2002 12:50:51 PM PDT by liberalism=failure
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To: Cobra Scott
I maintain that total annexation and assimilation, by force, is the only salvation they will know.

Where did you get the idea that Israel wants to assimilate the Palestinians?

45 posted on 05/21/2002 12:58:50 PM PDT by ThreeOfSeven
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Comment #46 Removed by Moderator

To: Zviadist
Right you are. It was Hamas that the Israelis created and funded.

You are a malevolent idiot, Zviadist. This is the creator of Hamas:

Is that you, by any chance?

47 posted on 05/21/2002 1:18:35 PM PDT by Cachelot
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To: ThreeOfSeven
This seems like a good thread for this link::

Libi - The Fund for Strengthening Israel's Defense,

48 posted on 05/21/2002 1:34:21 PM PDT by veronica
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To: Zviadist
Right you are. It was Hamas that the Israelis created and funded.

Your out there 'theories' are better suited to that other website. Where all manner of strange conspiracy theories, revisionist Middle East history, and more malevolent revisionst history rule the day.

49 posted on 05/21/2002 1:40:41 PM PDT by veronica
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To: Cachelot
You are a malevolent idiot, Zviadist. This is the creator of Hamas:

Why am I not surprised to see that you continue to flout the rules here as you wallow in the sewer of your obsessive hatred and racism and its manifestation in personal attack.

On the specifics, however, I guess those respected international news organizations that report on this are just either self-hating or Pali propagandists:

Israeli support for Islamic extremists, as an opposition force to the secular pro-PLO movement, eventually blew up in Israel's face. Hamas, for example, which was born out of the Moslem Brotherhood with Israeli encouragement, is to this day a central factor in the Palestinian resistance and political system.

50 posted on 05/21/2002 1:50:36 PM PDT by Zviadist
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