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Gush Shalom: Talk Don't Bomb

"Talk - don't bomb!" - hundreds protest in Tel-Aviv [] "The illusion of 'in-depth incursion'" - a Sderot inhabitant speaks out [] Open Letter to Minister of Defence re call-up order ***

[] "Talk - don't bomb!" - hundreds protest in Tel-Aviv

Once again, the drairy parking lot opposite the Defence Ministry in Tel- Aviv, the place where we find ourselves when horrors fill the TV screens. Some three hundred people, representing a variety of groups, came there today to once more express shock, anger and disgust.

"We have come here because civilians are being killed by the dozen every day, houses demolished in multitude, trees and whole orchards made into desert, in a feat of primitive vengefulness which is immoral, dangerous and achieves the opposite of the declared government aims" said Uri Avnery to the Associated Press camera. On the opposite side, police and security operatives were massing as to defend the ministry gate from a rush of furious demonstrators.

It was Gush Shalom which took the initiative to organize a protest, in spite of a feeling of futility "but, still this is the least we can do, and we have to do it", and gradually the others came to join. Courage to Refuse was conspicuous with their "It won't end, if we don't refuse" banners. The Anarchists arrived directly from their confrontation with the wall-builders at Beit-Awa where they had been subjected to police clubs and teargas. The Hadash Communists wore Che Guevara T-shirts while waving the signs "Enough of the occupation and its crimes". From Jaffa came a large group of Arabs, many of them with relatives at Jabaliya Refugee camp, the focus of the army rampage. Among all this, the Gush Shalom two-flag emblems were held aloft together with the text: "Sderot and Jabaliya - both victims of the occupation." - A pregnant woman with a sign "Mom, what is your boy doing in Gaza?" Alex Maor, father of the recently released CO Adam Maor asked "Dad" the same question. At his side, a big cartoon of Sharon riding a tank, with the caption "Death and destruction in the service of the occupation."

The veteran Latif Dori held a sign in Hebrew and Arabic "Sharon, you have murdered the peace dove!" At his side, youths were waving the European Rainbow peace flag. Meanwhile, the Gush spokesperson Adam Keller, just back from a coast-to-coast US tour and hardly recovered from jet-lag, ran around between journalists dragging with him the sign "Tayas Amitz Lo Maftzitz!" (a daring pilot doesn't bomb).

Upon the arrival of a whole bunch of youngsters the chanting started. "Peace - Yes! Occupation - No!", "Stop Killing - Start Talking!", "Soldier Listen - You Can Refuse!", "All the Ministers, War Criminals!", "Soldier Stop! War Crime!", "Pilot Stop! War Crime!" ("A pilot can't stop in mid-air" shouted somebody, whereupon the slogan was amended to "Pilot, Turn Back!"). Meanwhile, organizers from different groups discussed the idea of a follow-up action for the coming Saturday (October 9).

On the way to the bus, a blaring TV news broadcast from a nearby cafe: "Army forces at Rafah mistakenly shot to death a 13-year old girl on the way from school." The poor girl had been thought to have explosives in her schoolbag. "It's the first time this week, that they didn't say they killed one more terrorist" remarked an activist.

[photos soon at http://www.gush-shalom.org/english/index.html] ***

[] "The illusion of 'in-depth incursion'" - a Sderot inhabitant speaks out

[Defence of the town of Sderot is the main justification given by the Sharon government for its lethal invasion of the Gaza Strip. It seems, however, that not all inhabitants of the Negev town feel happy with this role. The following is a translation of the article published on October 4 in Ma'ariv, by Arele Cohen, Director of the Center for Development Towns (euphemism for impoversihed places in great need of development). Cohen is from Sderot, itself a Development Town.]

Last week a Qassam Missile fell near my home. All the windows were broken, and untill we got the repaired we had to live in a completely open house. My son found it difficult to fall asleep, and after he did I still heard him sobbing.

At first we were not so disturbed by the Qassams since for a long time they didn't hurt anybody, and we just thought of them as background noise. But things changed after the child Afik Ochayon and a grown-up were killed. We felt more and more anxiety, especially in the past two weeks when the Qassams were falling every day, houses were damaged and people wounded from sharpnel.

The fear increased since th Succot Holiday when two children were murdered by a Qassam. We felt not only frightened, but also angry at the government for not providing us protection. After all we are not a settlement or an outpost, but a proper Israeli city.

Since the first Qassams fell in Sderot, the army several times went in and out of the area fromn which they were shot. Part of its activity there was to "uncover" the area by destroying houses and uprooting orange groves. So, also this time, the Security Cabinet instructed the army to launch "Operation Days of Repentance" in the course of which large forces were sebt to Beit-Hanoun and Jabaliya with the intention of preventing the shooting of Qassams by taking over territory as deep as the range of the Qassams. But strangely, the latest Qassams fell when all these forces were already there, deep inside the Gaza Strip. Thus, the concept that the answer to the Qassams is the use of force on our side was exposed in all its nakedness. Clearly, the military operation does not provide an answer.

I am not a military man, and I can not point to a concrete solution, but clearly the army's entering the Gaza Strip is temporary, and there is a complete concensus among the Israeli public that there is not return to the days of ruling Gaza. So, what will happen when the army leaves the territory it now took over? The scenario is clear enough: the Qassams will intensify and with them our fears. So, what is the real solution then? To reinforce the roofs in Sderot, as proposed by Minister Lapid? Or should we look for more profound solutions?

Recently, there are more and more fissures in the concept that "we have no partner." First, there is very much talking about the fact that understandings did exist with people in the Palestinian Authority, regarding the prevention of launching Qassams at Sderot, and that these understandings collapsed for various reasons. Secondly, we hear the Minister of Defence telling the press that while Arafat is no partner, we will in future talk with pragmatic forces in the leadership of the Palestinian Authority. Why in future? Why wait for five or ten years? Is there nobody with whom we can talk already today, in order to prevent the killing of civilians and the destruction of houses?

The Prime Minister must give up his concept that there is no partner to talk to. He must find these "pragmatic forces" in the Authority and talk with them under the auspices and with the backing of the United States, Europe and Egypt. It is no use to send the army into the Gaza Strip whenever a Qassam is falling. It is an illusion to think that the solution for force is to use more force. ***

[] Open Letter to Minister of Defence re call-up order

[Elana Wesley translated the following letter, example of somebody wrestling with his conscience]

To:

Minister of Defense Mr. Shaul Mofaz Commander-in-Chief General Moshe Yaalon Commander of Battalion 8208, Colonel Tamir Ben Gal

re: Open Letter re Call-Up for Reserve Duty September 22-October 20, 2004

Dear Sirs,

Every year for the past eight years during which I have served in the Army Reserves, I have had the honor of willingly volunteering to serve to uphold state security alongside dear friends of mine (their number gradually decreasing). In almost every call-up notice, I have encountered the statement "your mobilization is dependent upon your signature on a letter of agreement; I ask you to confirm your willingness to sign the agreement...". Every year, and sometimes more than once a year, I have encountered these sentences that have become like brothers in arms (less beloved) to me, so that I made the acquaintance of the cursed "yearly service beyond that permitted by law" and its buddy "shorter notice than that mandated by law" that is even more annoying.

Whether as part of the upright tradition of unquestioning volunteering or due to the carelessness and disdain of members of the adjutancy and communications - all those of us serving in the reserves recognize the reality of volunteering beyond what is mandated by law and the emotional scene of a long line of those putting in an appearance who have left work, family, and leisure behind to sign for their army gear and to sign their agreement as being taken for granted. But this time the situation was different; I am writing to you, my commanders and my respected minister, to say clearly: I do not volunteer! You do not have and will not have my agreement to serve beyond that which is legally mandated. I do not volunteer (and shall not do so any longer) to be occupied with "forcing understand" and "forcing payment of the price" on the part of a people groaning under the weight of the occupation and denied its human and civil rights. I will not volunteer to plant hatred in another generation of our Palestinian neighbors. I do not volunteer to be part of what I consider to be a daily fatal blow to the security of the state and the nation of Israel and to transgress the rules of human and Jewish morality.

As a person with many responsibilities, I do not refuse to serve, and in view of the need for my agreement to be mobilized, that question is not currently a matter of dispute for me. But my heart is with those courageous human beings who are ready to pay the personal price and stand on their principles, whose actions will yet brighten this era in the history of the Jewish people and the history of humankind with the sparkle of a moral and human aura that are so lacking. I call upon the few who are carrying the burden of reserve duty to weigh their decision to volunteer and to sign the written agreement just because of the broad network of moral considerations and because of their feelings of personal responsibility. My comrades for reserve duty, every day that you volunteer, you are fully responsible for your actions and failings, without the moral defense (weak as it is) of abiding by the law and upholding democracy, since it is your lawful right not to do so. S/He who volunteers to act outside the moral call-up of her/his conscience, is volunteering to commitment a crime!

Faithfully,

Shay Cohen

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