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Avnery on the Hague court/Ben Artzi appeal

Avnery on the Hague court/Ben Artzi appeal/soldiers break the silence

International release, July 11, 2004

[] Uri Avnery -There are Judges in The Hague

[] Gila Svirsky: Thank you, your honors...

[] Military Court of Appeals Hears Jonathan Ben-Artzi's Case

[] Refusnik Reservist Chaim Feldman to be imprisoned tomorrow

[] Breaking the Silence – soldiers' testimonies from the Territories


[] Uri Avnery -There are Judges in The Hague

ðåñç òáøé áàúø âåù ùìåí

There are Judges in The Hague

Uri Avnery 10.7.04 One of the Israeli newspapers, Haaretz, put the two events on the front page: the 100th anniversary of the death of Theodor Herzl, the founder of the modern Zionist movement, and the judgement of the International Court of Justice , which declared the Israeli Separation Wall illegal. This coincidence may seem fortuitous. What connection could there possibly be between a historical anniversary and the latest topical event?

But there is a connection. It is expressed in one sentence written by Herzl in Der Judenstaat, the book that became the cornerstone of Zionism. This is what it said: "There (in Palestine) we shall be a sector of the wal l of Europe against Asia, we shall serve as the outpost of civilization against barbarism."

This sentence could easily be written today. American thinkers propound the "clash of civilizations ", with Western "Judeo-Christian" culture battling "Islamic barbarism". American leaders declare that Israel is the outpost of Western civilization in the fight against Arab-Muslim "international terrorism".

The Sharon government is building a wall for the purpose, or so it says, of protecting Israel again st Palestinian-Arab terrorism. It declares at every opportunity that the fight against "Palestinian terrorism" is a par t of the struggle against "international terrorism". The Americans support the Israeli wall with all their heart and their wallet.

Even the semi-official name of the barrier - the "Separation Fence" - emphasizes this tendency. It is intended to "separate" between nations, between civilizations, and indeed to separate culture (us) from barbari sm (them).

These are profoundly ideological reasons, mostly unconscious, for the building of the wall. On the surface, it seems to be a practical response to a real and present danger.

An ordinary Israeli will say: "Are you nuts? What are you talking about? What has this to do with H erzl? He died a hundred years ago!" But there is a direct connection. This is also true for another aspec t of the wall. In Herzl's day a phrase was coined that became the slogan of the Zionist movement in its early year s: "A land without a people for a people without a land." That is to say, Palestine is an empty countr y.

Anyone who tours the length of the planned path of the wall is struck by one aspect that leaps to t he eye: it has been determined without the slightest consideration for the life of the Palestinian human be ings living there. The wall crushes them as a man steps on an ant. Farmers are cut off from their fields , workers from the workplaces, pupils from their schools, sick people from their hospitals, the berea ved from the graves of their beloved ones.

It is easy to imagine the officers and settlers bent over the map and planning the path - as though through an empty space, with nothing there except settlements, army bases and roads. They argue about topog raphy, tactical considerations and strategic objectives. Palestinians? What Palestinians?

The Israeli Supreme Court that handed down its decision last week concentrated mainly on this point . It did not contest the generals' pronouncement that the wall is necessary. If the generals say so,

the court stands to attention and salutes. Neither did the court decide that the wall must be built on the Green Line, the internationally recognized border between Israel and the territories it occu pied in 1967, which is also the shortest and most easily defended line. But it recognized the fact that the territories contain a Palestinian population and demanded that their human requirements be taken in to consideration.

During the week that has passed since then, it became clear that the army is ready to make some cha nges to the path of the wall, but not to change its basic concept. The "improved" path still creates enclaves for th e Palestinians and limits their freedom of movement, if less than the former path. Some of the farmers will be reconne cted with their land. Nothing more.

Now comes the International Court of Justice and announces principles that are much closer to those supported by the Israeli peace forces that have demonstrated against the wall. It says that the wall itself is illeg al, except where it follows the Green Line. All the sectors built inside the occupied territories violate internatio nal law as well as conventions and agreements signed by Israel.

The court says that those sectors of the wall must be removed, the situation restored to what it wa s before, and the Palestinian compensated for the damage inflicted on them. All the countries of the world are called upon to abstain from giving any aid to the building of the wall.

Will this have any impact on Israeli public opinion? I am afraid not. During the last few months, t he official propaganda machine has been preparing the public for this day. The judges of the International Court, it was s aid, are anti-Semites. It is well known that all the nations, with the possible exception of the United States, want to de stroy the Jewish State. Some years ago a jolly song was very popular: "All the world is against us / But we don't give a da mn…" So, to hell with them!

Will it have an impact on world public opinion? Probably, though the court's "advisory opinion" is not binding and the court has no army or police to enforce its decisions. There is no point in submitting it to the Sec urity Council, where it will automatically be shot down by an American veto. At any time, and even more so on the eve of elections, an American administration will be loath to offend the pro-Israeli lobby, both Jewish and Evangelical. The US w ill ignore the court and go on financing the wall.

But in the veto-free UN General Assembly there will be a wide-ranging debate that will shine a spot light on the real character of the wall. The propaganda machine of the Sharon government, aided and abetted by most o f the world's media, has produced an image of the wall as a necessary means for the prevention of suicide attacks inside Israel. The debate in the General Assembly may help to publicize the real purpose of the monster.

The day before the judgement I was in a big tent at A-Ram, just north of Jerusalem, a town that is one of the principal victims of the wall. A hunger strike of Palestinians and Israelis against the wall has been taking place there. The place has attracted pilgrims from all over the country.

Inside the tent, the world premiere of a film took place. Its director, Simone Bitton, an Israeli o f North African origin living in Paris, shows the wall as it is.

In the film, Palestinians describe what the wall has done to them. A Jewish Kibbutz member calls it a disaster for Israel, a disaster of our own making. The Director of the Ministry of Defense, General Amos Yaron (who was relieved of his army command by the Kahan Inquiry Commission for his involvement in the Sabra and Shatila affair) explai ns that the Palestinians themselves are to blame for their suffering. After all, if they just stopped resisting the occupati on, there would be no need for the wall.

But the most moving sequence of the film was purely visual, a sequence without words. One sees gree n fields and olive groves stretching to the horizon, and occasional villages with their soaring minarets. A crane lifts a hug e concrete slab into place on the wall. It hides a part of the landscape. A second slab is raised and hides some more. The thi rd slab blocks the landscape entirely - and you realize that before your very eyes, another village has been cut off from life f orever, with the huge, 8-meter-high wall enclosing the village from all sides.

But at the same moment a thought crossed my mind: After all, the same crane that puts the blocks th ere can also remove them. It happened in Germany. It will happen here. The decision of the judges of The Hague, coming from 1 5 different countries, has made a contribution to that.

Perhaps it is an irony of history: the judges who represent European culture demand that the wall b e removed. If Herzl had witnessed that, he would have been puzzled.

[] Gila Svirsky: Thank you, your honors...

From: Gila Svirsky

Thank You, Your Honors Gila Svirsky

In a carefully reasoned but unequivocal decision, the International Court of Justice in the Hague d id the expected: It found that Israel's construction of its security wall inside Palestinian territory is illegal ac cording to international law.

As an Israeli deeply concerned about the security of my country, and a Jew deeply concerned about t he moral implications of building this barrier, I applaud this decision.

Israel's security claims in favor of the wall are seriously flawed: As it is now being constructed , the wall does not follow the 1967 border, but rather reaches deep into Palestinian land, a route that will ultimately leave hund reds of thousands of Palestinians on the Israeli side. How will this prevent Palestinian suicide bombers from entering Israel?

On humanitarian grounds, the wall is unconscionable. It prevents Palestinian access to farmland, s chools, hospitals and jobs. Picture your children having to wait at the wall twice a day for soldiers to show up and unlock the gate, allowing them to get to and from school. Picture the farmer who made a living from his olive trees, which are now inaccess ible or have been felled to make way for construction. Imagine that you suddenly need to see a doctor, but have no permit to get th rough. Imagine that you simply want to visit your elderly mother, but the wall now comes between you. According to B'Tselem, the Israeli human rights organization, when the wall is complete, some 38% of Palestinians will find their lives disrupted and their livel ihoods discontinued.

The presence of the wall is not only cruel to Palestinians; it will ultimately harm Israeli securit y as well, as it intensifies the bitterness and hatred directed toward us. Is this the security that the wall will provide?

Unlike Palestinians who can hardly avoid it, most Israelis have never even seen the wall; it is bui lt inside Palestinian territory, where only Israeli settlers (and the soldiers sent to protect them) now venture. If oth er Israelis saw it, I hope they would be shocked. In several places, the wall does not simply wend through Palestinian towns, it actually surrounds them entirely, penning the residents inside - their right to enter or leave left to the whim of young so ldiers guarding the gate.

In these localities, civilian populations are now entirely encircled by a 30-foot-high, gray concre te battlement interrupted only by watchtowers from where soldiers train binoculars and automatic rifles on the residents belo w. Lights mounted on the wall shine down into the streets, making constant surveillance that much easier. As a Jew whose an cestors were confined to ghettoes during anti-Semitic periods of history, I find this horrifying. Will keeping 100,000 Pale stinians penned in ghettoes and enclaves serve the security needs of Israel? Did forcing Jews into the ghettoes of Europe serv e the security needs of those countries?

Last week, the Israeli Supreme Court acknowledged the grave violations of Palestinian human rights resulting from the wall, and ordered the army to reroute it in specific locations. While our government is hoping that this Israeli court ruling will make it possible for Israel to ignore the Hague tribunal - on the grounds that "the wall is an inte rnal security matter that we are dealing with" - most Israeli peace activists do not agree. Construction of the wall within Occ upied Territory - meaning on somebody else's property - is a violation of basic rights, no matter how you look at it. And claim s that the wall provides security are undercut by the large numbers of Palestinians who will remain on the "Israeli" side.

Ultimately, the best way for my country to achieve security is to negotiate peace with the Palestin ians, and sufficiently improve the lives on both sides so that there is a vested interest in maintaining the peace. The w all, however, does just the opposite. As a result, it is not only bad for Palestine, but bad for Israel too.

A few days ago, I watched an old Palestinian woman surveying with dismay her family's olive trees t hat the army had cut down, shaving a swath on which the wall will rise. "Those stupid people," she said, careful not to name them, "If not for their stupidity, we could have lived in peace with each other."

____________________ Gila Svirsky is a peace and human rights activist in Jerusalem.

Coalition of Women for Peace

[] Military Court of Appeals Hears Jonathan Ben-Artzi's Case

------- Forwarded message follows ------- From: Matania Ben-Artzi

Pacifist Jonathan (Yoni) Ben-Artzi's struggle reached a new level on July 9, 2004, when his case ca me in front of an extended panel of five judges in the Military Court of Appeals in Tel Aviv. Among the judges were four Major-Generals, including a f ormer commander of Israel's Central command, a former head of military personnel, and the former and current Presidents of the Court of Appeals.

Yoni has spent nearly two years in military jail and detention, until the army decided to release h im for "incompatibility due to lack of motivation". However, his Court Martial process hasn't ended. He has appealed his "technical" con viction by a lower military court (for refusing to enlist) and his sentencing (in April 2004) to two additional months in jail and 2000 NIS (or two mo re jail months).

At the appeal hearing, the prosecution no longer claimed, as it did in the lower court, that Yoni i s not a pacifist. Indeed, such a claim would be difficult to defend, given the scandalous testimony of the head of the army's "conscience committee ", and the lower court's subsequent ruling that effectively recognized Yoni as a pacifist. The military prosecutor, who laced his arguments with en dless contempt for pacifists, argued that even if the army should have recognized Yoni as a pacifist, and even if the law exempted him from military service, he should have still obeyed the order to enlist, and should thus be convicted. At times, the prosecutor, flustered by relentless questioning by the judges, seemed to have a personal vendetta against Yoni, and the entire court seemed amused by his high-pitched ranting. Among many "pearls of wisdom", he said that Yoni decided to become a pacifist because it is "sexy" (as compared to dodging the service on "psychological" grounds).

Defense lawyer Adv. Michael Sfard, a prominent human rights lawyer in Israel, compared Yoni's situa tion with that of Antigone, the heroine of Sophocles' tragedy. He said that, as a pacifist, Yoni could not obey the order, which was itself il legal and contradictory to basic justice. He could simply not have acted otherwise.

As for the judges – they seemed genuinely troubled by the petty nature of the prosecution's argumen ts, and by the scandalous nature of the "conscience committee". The Court's President, Maj.-General Yishai Bar, asked the skull-cap wearing prosecutor, whether a religious Jew, who receives an order to eat pork, and refuses, should be convicted. The prosecutor did not answer. When the pro secutor stated that Israel views negatively the idea of pacifism, Maj.-General Bar asked if this applied also to the Biblical Prophets' vision. The prosecutor's reply was that this was a scenario for the latter days. Maj.-General Gideon Sheffer, former head of military personnel, and current he ad of a committee exploring the issue of civil service, commented on the lack of such an alternative to military service in Israel. In the unlike ly event, that Bar, Sheffer and their fellow judges, in a show of public and judicial courage, offer Yoni an alternative civilian service, it wo uld be a major milestone in the struggle against militarism in this country.

[] Refusnik Reservist Chaim Feldman to be imprisoned tomorrow

From: Ram Rahat,Yesh-Gvul

èëñè áòáøéú îï äùåìç äî÷åøé

A Letter to a Liaison Officer Chaim Feldman is a combat reservist. He was jailed for 21 days last year for refusing to serve the occupation. I it is very likely that tomorrow (Monday July 12) he will be jailed again. This le tter to his unit's liaison officer explains why:

To Second Lt. Adi Boneh, Liaison Officer, Unit 02043 Shalom, My message is brief and clear - I have no intention of wearing the uniform of the so-called Israeli Defence Forces, and will not serve it in any capacity. I won't be connected to an organization that fires tank shells into a crowd of human bein gs that includes children and adults. I won't be connected to an organization that builds a crude and racist concrete wall that separates simple peo ple from their work, their fields, their football pitch and even from their cemetery.

I won't be connected to an organization that defends the fascist law-breaking settlers who cut down and burn olive groves, attack children, damage property and humiliate normal people.

I simply won't be attached to an organization that commits crimes. The IDF should have remained a small, dynamic army, but in fact the state turned it into a monster; for this state is alienating itself from its neighbors in the Middle East by building racist apartheid walls in order to rabidly protect its shi tty Jewish character!

By so doing it tramples the amazing potential for co-existence with the Arab people, a people who a re no less talented or good than the Jews. Just imagine what a wonderful country this could be if we only got closer to them and if we all learned to speak Arabic before English. But no, we didn't learn the big lesson of the holocaust. We continue to hate and we still isolate ourselves within ou r Polish ghetto.

All my actions are geared to a real peace, between all the people who dwell here, and between the p eople and our environment. This is the real service that I have to do here in Israel, and if people would use their energy on this, and not on the army, this would have been a better place long ago.

Now, in July 2004, I am coordinating the struggle against the Trans-Israel Highway, which threatens to destroy the Menashe Heights. Our tent was put up amongst the olive groves and peach orchards of the Kapher Kara'a village, where the trees are fa ted to be uprooted. In addition I have been active in the struggle against the terrible Apartheid wall which threatens to raise up more hatred against us from the ranks of the Palestinians and the Israeli Arabs.

In the impoverished camps of the Palestinians some other good souls and I are trying to help set up gardens and farm plots for food for the villagers. In addition I have to help support my unemployed parents and be responsible for the upke ep of our home, so please release from this criminal burden. I have no intention of lowering my military Fitness Profile [a common method of ge tting discharge from miltary service and avoiding imprisonment. ed.] . I am a combatant and proud of what I am - and now my real battle is for peace between the people and with the land.

Even if you decide to send me to prison for two years, I will refuse. I have no regrets. Anything i s better than being a criminal in IDF clothes. Thank you, Chaim Feldman If Chaim is jailed tomorrow he will join: Reservists Eldar Kirsh, 25, a student who was sentenced to 25 days at Prison 4 this past Monday.

Matan Koren, a student who was sentenced to 28 days at Prison 6 on June 30th. Eitan Lerner,41, Feldenkreiss teacher, sentenced to 28 days at prison 6.

Draftees Daniel Tzal, Adam Maor, Naom Bahat, Shimri Zameret, Matan Kaminer and Haggai Matar In their honour Yesh Gvul is holding a Solidarity Vigil at Prison 6 (Athlit) next Saturday, July 17 th, 2004 at 12:30pm. (Transport details will be announced during the week.)

[] Breaking the Silence – soldiers' testimonies from the Territories

from: èëñè áòáøéú îï äùåìç äî÷åøé

Last week, the exhibition of photographs and testimonies “Breaking the Silence – Fighters Tell abou t Hebron” closed, after being on display during June at the Gallery of Geographic Photography in Yad Eliahu, Tel Aviv.

During the month, over 6,00 0 visitors came to the exhibition, from all over the country; many themselves were soldiers, many of those soldiers brought their families with the m, and at the exhibition told their families what they felt and what they do during their own military service.

The exhibition became an unending gallery discussion during which not only did we talk about how we felt and what we had done in our military service, but also man y of the visitors to the exhibition decided to break their own silence and be gan to talk. We heard from many about experiences they had undergone which were similar to ours. From many others, we also heard of different things , tough experiences, things we found unbelievable, things that require checking, investigation and exposure.

We understood that what we had displayed at the exhibition about our Hebron experience was only the tip of the iceberg – most of which is still hidden from view. We understood then that an opportunity has fallen into our laps – the right to b reak a small tip of that iceberg, to break the silence.

Amongst visitors to the gallery were people who expressed their wish to give witness about things t hey had seen, things that happened in their presence, things they were part of, things they initiated and carried out. Dozens of soldiers deci ded after their visit to the exhibition to write new testimonies about some of the situations they had been in during their military service: situations they felt should be brought to the attention of the Israeli public. We understood that we had opened a crack in the door…

We understood that our role was not over, we understood that we had to continue, to listen and reco rd what these soldiers have to say, and put all this material together and expose i t to our fellow Israeli citizens. We understood it is our duty to discuss in our homes what happens there, in the occupied territories.

Breaking the Silence is moving on, into its next stage. At the exhibition, we concentrated on Heb ron. We are now opening “Breaking the Silence” to all.


In our intention to open the crack of the door wider, through which the Israeli public will receive information about what their sons and daughters do during their military service in the Occupied Territories, all of which we are undertaking with care to safeguard both the confidentiality and the identities of the soldiers who decide to break the silence, as we did at the exhibition.

During the coming months we intend to cover the whole country, to gather more testimonies from figh ters about their military service in the Occupied Territories; these testimonies we intend to display on our website: and thro ugh the media (very soon we shall be publishing the testimonies we collected during the course of the exhibition)

. We intend to take the exhibition to exhibition spaces outside the centre of the country. To set up meetings and discussions at youth clubs, schools, universities and private houses. To set up frameworks where fighters who are interested can break the silence.

We learnt something else during the exhibition. “Breaking the Silence” exhausted our bank account.

To set in motion the work programme we have set ourselves during the coming months, we need your help. Your help is important to us, not only in o rder to fund our activities, but also in order to receive the support and encouragement which it is in your hands to give. In order to give a testimony, contact: or leave a message at: 068-454725

To arrange meetings and gatherings in public halls as well as in private housesleave message at: 06 8-454725 Or: For contributions: Bank Hapoalim, Account Number 315451, Branch 608 Cheques should be made out to “Breaking the Silence” and may also be posted to POB 68150, Jerusalem 91681. The website address (still in the process of being designed):

# Truth against Truth - opposite views on the history of the conflict
in 101 steps

Hebrew / òáøéú


# Palestinians draw the map for understanding the Disengagement Plan

# Boycott List of Settlement Products (newly updated)

Hebrew / òáøéú


# Eye-witness reports from the Occupied Territories:
(Israeli women monitoring the checkpoints)
(internationals throughout OT)

- films, expositions, refusnik links

# The "Breaking the Silence" sold iers' exhibition

photo gallery at:
stories (Hebrew only)
article in English:

# Refusniks

Constantly-updated refusniks lists:

English -
Hebrew / òáøéú -

English -
Hebrew / òáøéú -

Help us free our children from the military prison! (parents of The
For ENGLISH details please click
For HEBREW please click
Homepage with lots of information: /

-- Gush Shalom website, how to donate / subscrie to emails etc.: (òáøéú/Hebrew) (English) (selected articles in

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