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Draft Resisters Parent’s Forum

Draft Resisters Parent’s Forum

Speaking Truth to Power:

An Ode to Humanism in the Testimony of Young Israelis Refusing to Join an Army of Occupation

Despite the fact that the date was chosen arbitrarily, the deliberations that took place in the Jaffa military courtroom are a tribute to Bastille Day. In the framework of the trial of the five draft resisters who are refusing to join the IDF because their conscience does not permit them to serve in an army of occupation, the court heard the testimony of Shimri Tsameret, Adam Maor and Noam Bahat. (The other two, Haggai Matar and Matan Kaminer testified in a previous session). The values of freedom, equality and solidarity were woven into the testimony of the three. The courtroom was packed with supporters, including Israel Prize laureates Shulamit Aloni and Professor Dan Meron.

The trial began with the testimony of Col. Noam Burstein, who heads the Conscript Division in the Mobilization Base. In this capacity Burstein was responsible for the repeated sentencing of the conscientious objectors. In the cross examination by Adv. Dov Khinin, the defendents’ attorney, Burstein admitted that he had never seen any official order or regulation dealing with conscientious objectors and that he does not know of any such official procedure, despite the fact the during the period that he holds his position, he was personally responsible for sending tens of conscientious objectors to prison. Burstein admitted that he had never been present in any briefing on the subject of conscientious refusers and that he had never received any tools from the IDF to deal with the subject. He explained that the method of dealing with refusenicks is a “mixture of personal discussions and prison sentences”, which often convinces the refusenick to change his mind and agree to be mobilized.

After this, the court continued to hear the testimony of Shimri Tsameret. In the first part of his testimony on June 24, 2003 Shimri began to explain the motives for his conscientious refusal. He concentrated on the tremendous damage done to Israeli society by the endless occupation. Previously he talked about the damage from terror acts, the psychological harm to soldiers serving in the occupation and the seepage of corrupt norms into Israeli society. “ I believe that the war we are engaged in,” he said, “could be avoided and only political egoism as well as errors of judgment prevent the public and its leaders from being stopped. This is a war of choice and not necessity and its victims are unnecessary. “

Shimri gave examples of a list of subjects that vanish from the public’s agenda because of the ‘security situation.’ Among other matters, he cited social problems, economic polarization, ecological issues, and discrimination between different groups. This distorted public agenda, totally determined by the occupation and problems stemming from it, leads to the loss of faith of the public in its leaders and to the degeneration of the media. and the deterioration of Israeli democracy. During the testimony, the prosecution staff was augmented by General Enat Ron, head of the army prosecutor’s office. By chance, a few minutes after her appearance, Shimri cited her as being responsible for denials and whitewashing in the case of the death of a child, Khalil el Morabi. He expressed sorrow over the lack of any media coverage in this affair as a symptom of the very same moral degradation which he reviewed.

Shimri concluded his testimony with a number of personal experiences, some of which were based on participation in the activities of women from MachsomWatch (Checkpoint Watch) and other events regarding his family history. In citing the conclusion of the play “Ashkavah” (Requiem) by Hanoch Levin, he explained the individual’s commitment to assume personal responsibility and to shape his own life and the life of the society in which he lives. “It is forbidden to give up on the dream”, he said. “It is the refusal to give up on my hopes and my dreams – which has motivated me in my decision to refuse.”

Adam Maor testified after him. Adam spoke of a number of cases which typified the evils of the occupation and the critical role of the IDF in enforcing these evils. It was like that in the Kfar Yanoun affair, as well as the Southern area of the Hebron hills. “Any person who saw or heard about what happened in Yanoun would be shocked. Every sane person would understand that Avery Ron, the settler, is the leader of all of the activity in the area and is a terrorist, and even a model of terrorism. But I want to stress at this point that my wrath is not directed at the settler, Avery Ron and his gang. Religious and nationalist fanaticism and severe manifestations of racism such as these are things that have happened all over the world and in every period. Many groups, including the Jewish people, have suffered such pogroms. The question is, in my mind, what does the sane majority do in such cases. Of course, if Avery and his gang would come to my house and rob me, no one would permit this to go on for two hours, or more than once. Of course, if the Yanoun residents would enter a settlement, the army would respond with speed. But when Avery and his gang torment Palestinians they enjoy immunity if not full cooperation. The sane majority in this case does not stop the terrorists, it finances them, defends them and cooperates with them. Thus, people who have nothing in common with these fanatics, defend them, discriminate between them and their victims, and implement many of the deeds that the IDF performs to advance the criminal settlement project such as the annexation of land from Palestinians for military purposes, so as to build new settlements and the like. When the IDF becomes a tool in the hands of fanatics, all its soldiers, either as a result of a lack of understanding or simply not caring, become fanatics themselves.”

Adam talked about his meeting with Brian Avery and his sincere admiration for the International Solidarity Movement volunteer who was seriously wounded when he tried to defend Palestinians in Jenin. He concluded his testimony by telling of his love for music and how this guides him in his refusal to deny a normal life from the Palestinian population. “If you participate in the occupation you become responsible for it, responsible for the immoral acts perpetrated in the territories and responsible for the terrorist actions.” Noam Bahat testified after him. His testimony was devoted mainly to his role as an educator and the deep contradictions that he discovered between the educational system which disseminates “occupation values” and between his understanding of morality. In cases where the law harms the interest of the weak, physically and spiritually, violates their freedom, discriminates against them, renders them illegitimate or denies them freedom of expression or freedom of conscience or other freedoms anchored in basic freedoms, I consider it my civil and moral duty to violate the law. You can try other things, but if they are not successful you cannot allow the law to eliminate people’s basic rights."

Noam analyzed the values inculcated in Israeli youth via the educational system and discussed his efforts as a youth leader to change this reality. He also discussed the way he was exposed to the level of crime perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinians. He expressed amazement over how very few, the number of people who know about these tensions. He determined “that everything that appears evil is indeed evil, but people refuse to understand that they are Goliath and want to see themselves as David, small, weak, heroic and wise. In truth we are just another country exploiting and tormenting the Palestinian people and workers almost to the point of slavery. In the face of this reality,” testified Noam, he feels that he "must refuse to join the IDF".

The date of the continuation of the trial is yet to be determined.

Checks earmarked for "legal aid" to New Profile, POB 6187 Ramat HaSharon 47271

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