[Marxism] Israeli refuseniks
marvgandall at rogers.com
Thu Feb 5 07:23:38 MST 2004
When Israelis say, 'Hell no, we won't go'
By Bradley Burston
Its simply chilling name has a distinct ring of George Orwell, but when
the army of the one of the world's most military-conscious nations
creates a conscience committee, nothing is that simple.
It has been eight years since the IDF conscience committee was set up.
But the need for a such a body has deepened dramatically amid the moral
complexities of the war in the territories and a consequent steep rise
in the awareness of the pilots, elite commandos, grunts and draftees who
have come forward - some quietly, some openly - to say that hell no,
they won't go.
Although pacifism and refusal to serve have been in evidence since
Israel was born in war in 1948, the issue has always been of extreme
sensitivity in a country in which formally universal military service
has left an indelible mark on the development of language and culture,
on the conduct of commerce, and on the vocabulary and practice of
The issue came to the fore once again this week, as the army continued
to struggle in myriad ways with its relationship to its "sarbanim," a
term ill-rendered into English as "refuseniks."
Refusal to serve, and attitudes toward those who refuse, have long
functioned as a sensitive barometer of Israeli society as a whole. When
Yesh Gvul (There is a Limit), a movement of sarbanim, arose during
then-defense minister Ariel Sharon's 1982 invasion of Lebanon, those who
refused to fight in protest over the controversial war were widely
condemned as traitors, their manhood was questioned, and their act was
interpreted as granting aid, comfort and encouragement to Israel's
Clearly, in the interim, and especially in the three years of the war in
the territories, something has changed.
"When you speak to the young, you see that for them, refusal has become
an option," says Haaretz commentator Lily Galili. "This one wants to be
a pilot, and this one wants to refuse. It is nearly the same level of
choice - either this or that.
"This legitimacy seen in the act of refusal is something new in Israeli
society," Galili says.
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