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Delivering testimonies to Israeli soldiers in Occupied Palestine

P | 07.10.2003 17:06 | Anti-militarism | London

Today, 7th October, in Nablus Occupied Palestine international and Palestinian peace activists along with members of the medical relief committess delivered letters to Israeli soldiers at the numerous checkpoints around the city. These letters contained testimonies from refuseniks explaining why they had refused military service and calling on their Israeli countrymen/women to do the same; thoughts about the scenes they had witnessed by the internationals and messages from the children of Nablus.

A soldier reads a letter at Huwarra checkpoint
A soldier reads a letter at Huwarra checkpoint

And continues reading...
And continues reading...

And continues....
And continues....

Robert hands a soldier a letter at Huwarra
Robert hands a soldier a letter at Huwarra

Internationals approach the soldiers at Awarta checkpoint
Internationals approach the soldiers at Awarta checkpoint

A soldier with a letter at Awarta
A soldier with a letter at Awarta

The soldier with the letter in hand asking me where I am from
The soldier with the letter in hand asking me where I am from

A sticker on a soldiers water bottle at Awarta calling for refusal
A sticker on a soldiers water bottle at Awarta calling for refusal

The sticker stands proud without the soldiers' knowledge
The sticker stands proud without the soldiers' knowledge

More stickers this time on the back of a jeep at Awarta
More stickers this time on the back of a jeep at Awarta

Osama, happy with the day and displaying his message
Osama, happy with the day and displaying his message

Gush Shalom
Windows in Tel Aviv
Women in Black

We have prepared the following statements from Refuseniks at the trial of Yoni Ben Artzi and some of the international activists in Nablus. On Tuesday the 7th of October at 2.30 in the afternoon we will perform an action delivering these statements and information about refusenik support groups to the soldiers at all of the check points (or as many as we are able) which surround and attempt to strangle Nablus.
We invite you to join us and help deliver this information to soldiers all over the occupied territories. Use our statements or add your own.

The conscience is the most basic part of human dignity, the part of the personality which defines the essential values; the part which if broken, breaks the whole person.
- Dov Henin

Citizen of Israel, we invite you to have the courage to read the following testimony of soldiers who have refused their military service. If you believe in the occupation we challenge you to rethink your position. If you have doubts, act upon them.

.Haggai Matar:
I believe that all human beings have inalienable rights such as the right to life, the right to equality, to welfare, to education, to association, to democracy. All of these rights are violated in countless ways by the occupation--mainly violated as regards the Palestinians, but in many ways also regarding Israelis
The right of Palestinians to life is violated by the policy of liquidations and by the constant military activity in populated areas which causes the death and wounding of civilians. The right to equality, both of Palestinians and of Israelis living within the Green line, is violated by the policy of settlement which takes land, resources and basic human dignity from Palestinians and which discriminates against most Israelis in the division of national resources. The right of Palestinians to welfare and to education are violated by the ongoing closures and curfews which cause the sky-rocketing unemployment figures and the severe disruption of the educational system

Matan Kaminer:
My decision to refuse enlistment does not mean that I am against the State of Israel, against the people of Israel, or against the Israeli society of which I am part. On the contrary, I feel impelled to do all I can for Israeli society. I have done so in the past and intend to go on doing so. The occupation is a terrible crime; an immoral and malignant crime against another society which spreads also to our own society, strangling and poisoning it.

Shimri Tzameret:
For years, I have known that I was not going to join the army. I know it with as much certainty as I know that I will never kick a homeless person lying on the sidewalk, never rape a woman, and when I will have a child--never abandon it. We all of us have our own reasoning and my reasons are a bit different from those who spoke before me. I feel that there is no need to detail what the occupation is doing to the Palestinians. What it is doing to ourselves is reason enough.

I am refusing: the army being in the territories is not a way to stop terrorist attacks; it causes them.

Another point: what the occupation is doing to our society. I want to tell about Rami, whom I met in the prison. I sat with him for hours, listening. It is incredible how many terrible things he had witnessed in just three months of service in the territories. He told me about the young boy who threw a stone at the lieutenant-colonel's jeep which did not hit the jeep. But the colonel still chased the child, caught him and beat him brutally with the butt of a rifle. And another child which a Shabak agent tied up, and then urinated on him. When Rami tried to protest, the man shouted: Go away; I am conducting an interrogation. And he also told me of soldiers looting a shop, and then destroying everything which they could not carry. And he told me about how he could not stand it anymore, and how he sat in the toilet for several hours in the night, the barrel in his mouth, the finger on the trigger. In the end he ran away, and that's how he got into prison. That's what happens to the sensitive people. The non-sensitive ones, those who get used to these Wild West norms, afterwards bring these norms into the Israeli society itself. We are corrupting ourselves. I am not willing to be part of the main instrument of corruption

David Hacham-Herson:
I am a God-fearing Jew, and as such forbidden to take part in denying freedom and serving in occupied territory. I am imprisoned, but yet feel freer than most of the Israelis I've met, for one simple reason: I don't bear the burden of vindictiveness and the perverse gratification attending it. I don't bear the burden of denial and callousness. I am concerned for humans as such. For those denied the right to live like me, with food and clothes and fun and good health and dreams of success and a car. I am concerned for people who are humiliated every day, who are denied the right to work, who are imprisoned within their towns and villages. I am concerned for those whose homes have been demolished and their fruit groves devastated.
I am concerned because I know that the terrible hatred towards me is justified. This hatred has led to horrifying and perverted manifestations, like the young suicide bombers, but we create the conditions that lead to this monstrosity. I am concerned because I know that the cries of exultation over the killings drown out the sobs of the numerous victims, Jews and Arabs, of the widows and orphans, of the cripples who will suffer for the rest of their lives because of that pride and callousness.

As internationals who have watched you doing your "work" and listened to you tell us why you have to "follow orders" we have our own observations:

The soldiers I have met tell me all the time, that they cant refuse because if they do they wouldn’t get a job, or they wouldn’t get a good apartment. In my country it is similar but I have refused, because I don’t believe in war, I believe in love and peace. I refused eight years ago but now I have a good job, I have a nice apartment and all my friends and especially my family respect and love me for refusing. They say that I'm strong and I feel strong. Give love and peace a chance and follow your heart.
- Robert, Austria

Dear Soldiers, I have looked into your eyes and I feel that I have seen enough suffering, that you don’t want to be killers. If you wish to refuse and you're scared of the government we wish to help you have courage. We want to join you in shouting "enough!" To tell all the world that Sharon is a criminal. To walk towards Tel Aviv, holding children's hands and say in a high voice "This is the hour for Peace!" If something is changing in your heart, we have addresses and information to support you. REFUSE NOW!
- Simona, Italy

After just one short week in Israel and another in the occupied territories, I have seen enough to convince me of the fundamental wrongness and degrading criminality of the occupation. This occupation is designed for the systematic persecution and terrorization of Palestinians and has the inevitable effect of dehumanizing Israelis and their society.

This is obvious to me, not from the most obvious abuses (assassinations, demolitions, air strikes on apartment buildings and the killing of civilians) of which I know, but from smaller details charged with tragic meaning: pretty young girls armed with assault rifles, boys who don't even shave restraining and blindfolding men - stealing their dignity - merely for trying to work. The look of entrenched smugness on the face of soldiers who refer to Palestinians as "they", "them" and worse. Who learn to love and abuse power before they learn compassion.

More than this though, I learned from one particular image: a mother sitting on the steps of her beautiful house, laughing at something her son has said, then holding her face and crying at its threatened demolition. Then crying and laughing at the same time. Traumatized and beautiful. A victim of your occupation.

We all have mothers.

You're just following orders. Do you really want to be a part of this occupation
-Joshua, Australia

My name is Federica, I have spoken with many of you, in various situations and perhaps some of you remember me… What I have understood from your arguments is that this situation does not appeal to you either. You don’t want to see your families or your children or your friends die… Unfortunately those who decide policy do not want peace, they do not want the tragedy to end. The occupation is not a means to uncover terrorists, it is a means of destroying a people. If you destroy the life of a people, they become tired of living a life that is not a life – they will put an end to their suffering with an outbreak of violence that produces the same suffering in your families. They do not want this, it is their desperation that does this, it is the occupation that does this. They do not understand why they are hated, why they are massacred, why they cannot LIVE THEIR LIVES.
The occupation is an intentional means to pursue economic and territorial interests. You are not an instrument for peace, you are being used to continue a war, to continue the occupation and the designs of your government. Designs that do not lead to peace but to the deaths of women and boys like you, to the deaths of mothers and sons. There is no difference between a Palestinian face and an Israeli face, there is no difference between a son who is born in Palestine or Israel. Imagine every person without a name and without a face. Imagine every person as a friend. It doesn’t matter if they are Palestinian or Israeli. Imagine these friends, boys like you, dreaming of another lifestyle, of ways for better living.
We have only one life. We choose how we live. You have the opportunity to find a better course, a course for peace, to help end the occupation. The occupation, in which you participate, seeks land, power, water and wealth but if it succeeds, those who exploit you now will not share the spoils later. The reality is before your eyes, think about what you have been told and have come to believe, look at what is in front of you and consider – too many invasions in the night, too many sons leave the house and do not return to their mothers, too many husbands are murdered , too many desperate mothers, too many demolished houses, too much slaughter in the history of this people… too many dead men in Israel, too many children killed, too many suicides, too much violence. In every part of this land, people want to protect their families, their country – no one wants to see more dead. So who wants these deaths? Who wants the massacres to continue? In both Israel and Palestine there is death every where… why? Is this security? Do you think this is a good way?
Do you know that the governments pursue their own interests in this situation. You know that you won’t share their ‘booty’… they do not want peace. You can refuse to continue this absurd job. You can see that they do not want peace, but their own ends.
If you want to discuss this with me – and I want to know your thoughts also – write me,
For information on soldiers who have refused service, refused to continue the occupation, refused the deaths, you can find websites below.

-Federica, Italy

The last word is for the children:

Message to the israeli sodiers,
I am Ahmad, 13 years old, last year you shot my friend, he is the same age as me, After each time you came to my family’s house to destroy it and then left afterwards, I decided to start throwing stones, I think throwing stones is the only way I have to ask you to leave because I don’t speak Hebrew nor English but last month I was shot by a rubber bullet… I just want to ask you why??? You just kill people, and you don’t want peace.. I want to tell you it is not enough to stop killing people - please don’t be part of army that kill people…

For the israeli that destroyed my house,
I remind you that you destroyed my house, and I lost my school bag, I am very angry about you, I want to throw stones but when I throw stones please throw stones back.
- Bilal, 11 years old



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  1. Ms — Zarina Bhatia