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Ear to the Ground

Israeli Soldiers: ‘When the Cannons Fire, No Criticism May Be Heard’

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Posted on Jul 25, 2014

Photo by takomabibelot (CC BY 2.0)

Fifty reservists in the Israeli military—the majority of them women—have written an open letter expressing opposition to the institution’s discriminatory culture and policies, the current operation in Gaza, and the militarization of their society.

“Whenever the Israeli army drafts the reserves—which are made up of ex-soldiers—there are dissenters, resisters, and AWOLers among the troops called to war,” the letter begins. “Now that Israel has sent troops to Gaza again and reserves are being summoned to service, dozens are refusing to take part.”

The current campaign against Gaza, which began July 8, is “inseparable” from the way “militarization affects Israeli society,” they continue. “In Israel, war is not merely politics by other means—it replaces politics. Israel is no longer able to think about a solution to a political conflict except in terms of physical might; no wonder it is prone to never-ending cycles of mortal violence. And when the cannons fire, no criticism may be heard.”

The tone of the letter is that of regret for performing a service that the authors, who held a “wide variety” of positions in the forces, once thought to be relatively harmless. “In truth, the entire military is implicated,” they write. “[I]n our service, we found that troops who operate in the occupied territories aren’t the only ones enforcing the mechanisms of control over Palestinian lives.” Hence, they say they refuse to participate in the current operation.

In one of the letter’s most inspired sections, the authors state:

The Israeli Army, a fundamental part of Israelis’ lives, is also the power that rules over the Palestinians living in the territories occupied in 1967. As long as it exists in its current structure, its language and mindset control us: We divide the world into good and evil according to the military’s categories; the military serves as the leading authority on who is valued more and who less in society—who is more responsible for the occupation, who is allowed to vocalize their resistance to it and who isn’t, and how they are allowed to do it. The military plays a central role in every action plan and proposal discussed in the national conversation, which explains the absence of any real argument about non-military solutions to the conflicts Israel has been locked in with its neighbors.

The Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip are deprived of civil rights and human rights. They live under a different legal system from their Jewish neighbors. This is not exclusively the fault of soldiers who operate in these territories. Those troops are, therefore, not the only ones obligated to refuse. Many of us served in logistical and bureaucratic support roles; there, we found that the entire military helps implement the oppression of the Palestinians.

Furthermore, rather than being “an institution that enables social mobility” insisted upon by its leaders, the military “perpetuates segregation”:

We believe it is not accidental that those who come from middle- and high- income families land in elite intelligence units, and from there often go to work for high-paying technology companies. We think it is not accidental that when soldiers from a firearm maintenance or quartermaster unit desert or leave the military, often driven by the need to financially support their families, they are called “draft-dodgers.” The military enshrines an image of the “good Israeli,” who in reality derives his power by subjugating others. The central place of the military in Israeli society, and this ideal image it creates, work together to erase the cultures and struggles of the Mizrachi, Ethiopians, Palestinians, Russians, Druze, the Ultra-Orthodox, Bedouins, and women.

Read the rest of the letter and see the authors’ names at AlterNet.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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