The Bigger Picture: The City in the Global Village


Israel's Military Refuseniks (Jan 2002)

First 50, then 100, and now more than 200 reservists - officers and soldiers - of the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) have signed a public letter, refusing to serve in the Occupied Territories. They say that "the price of Occupation [of the West Bank and Gaza Strip] is the loss of IDF’s human character and the corruption of the entire Israeli society." They therefore "declare that we shall not continue to fight this War of the Settlements. We shall not continue to fight beyond the 1967 borders in order to dominate, expel, starve and humiliate an entire people."

The ’refuseniks’, as they have been dubbed, have their own website, where you can find many messages praising and supporting their courage and bravery, but others that call them traitors, cowards, and fools. Israeli society is deeply divided, and while there are those who want a just peace and who despair and are ashamed of the actions of the Sharon government, there are others for whom peace means in effect the subjugation of the Palestinian people. Other reservists, only this time a group of ex-generals, are openly canvassing a plan which involves the military occupation of Palestinian cities in the Occupied Territories, the destruction of the Palestinian Authority, and a declaration that no other sovereignty than that of Israel will be recognised west of the Jordan River. The same ex-generals are openly advocating the gerrymandering of electoral boundaries in Israel itself in order to reduce the level of representation of Israeli Arabs in the Knesset, the country’s parliament.

But such extreme proposals are not only coming from outside the government and the IDF. Benny Elon of the rightwing Moledet Party, and tourism minister in Israel’s coalition government, is preaching ’transfer’ as a solution to the conflict. This he says will be based on the principle: "I will close the universities to you, I will make your lives difficult, until you want to leave".