Yes, it’s that time of the year. You are, no doubt, hearing from many groups, asking for your support. We hope that you will be able to extend some of that financial assistance to the refuser movements in Israel.
It has been a challenging year, starting with Israel’s devastating attacks on Gaza infrastructure and people. The peace process has gone nowhere, with Israel flagrantly rejecting President Obama’s demand to freeze settlement activity.
A new “crop” of Shministim (high schoolers who announce refusal to be conscripted into the IDF) made themselves known with the publication of their letter, followed by jail terms for several. In addition, increasing numbers of reservists are again refusing to go to the Palestinian territories, many of them citing Gaza as the latest in a long and very depressing series of “last straws.” They are also paying for their conscience with prison sentences.
As part of its attack on Gaza, the Government of Israel also launched broad attacks on those within Israel who oppose its policies and actions towards Palestinians. Most notably, activists in New Profile were targeted for a criminal investigation and harassed by the police.
As is so often the case with this conflict, there is little good news to report. On the other hand, the refuser organizations have maintained and in some cases increased their levels of activity and impact.
We believe that the refusers remain among the most important voices and activists inside Israel (and, increasingly, among Palestinians as well, through Combatants for Peace). You will find detailed information from several of the refuser groups in this message. You can also find out much more by visiting www.refusersolidarity.net and then clicking through to the websites of the groups.
We hope that you will continue your support of these organizations with an end of year, tax deductible contribution. You can do so very easily with your credit card by visiting http://www.refusersolidarity.net and clicking on the Donate Now button. You will also find instructions on our website for donating by check.
Many thanks in advance for your support,
The RSN Board of Directors
Our movement was founded in 2005 by Palestinians and Israelis who had taken an active part in the cycle of violence in previous years and later on decided to put down their arms. CFP is a bi-national organization committed to non-violent activism and conscientious objection, i.e. the Israeli members refuse to serve in the occupied territories and the Palestinians publicly reject the armed struggle. It is a volunteer movement that solely relies on the energy and time of unpaid activists. We act upon the belief that only by joining Israeli and Palestinian forces it is possible to realize the vision of ending the Israeli occupation and establishing an independent Palestinian State alongside Israel.
CFP is a grassroots movement acting both in Palestine and in Israel. The movement’s core is 5 bi national local groups of activists, which operate in different areas of the West Bank and Israel. Each of these groups is in itself an example of Israeli-Palestinian partnership and acts as a regional base for various activities. These include tours in the occupied territories, which expose Israelis to the realities of the occupation in the West Bank; in house workshops, which are held frequently and serve CFP as a main tool for conveying its message to both publics; and joint protest actions and peace rallies, which bring together Israelis and Palestinians, enhance solidarity and promote mutual trust. We are also involved in assisting villagers and other Palestinian populations who experience unjustified difficulties as a result of the occupation (e.g.Olive harvests for farmers who have limited access to their land or accompanying Herdsmen who suffer harassments from settlers and army forces). Finally, we produce Special public high-profile events, such as the Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day Ceremony, which offers an alternative to the violence and de-humanization of the other by sharing the mourning over all victims of the conflict on both sides.
It is important to emphasize that while CFP has a couple of hundred listed members who comprise the bi national groups and steering committee, there are many additional hundreds of activists who participate in our actions regularly and many thousands who are exposed to our doing and support our messages in public events, field actions and through the media and internet.
The approach taken by CFP has proven itself effective and the movement has been growing stronger even as two bloody wars (Lebanon in 2006 and Gaza this year) stirred the local atmosphere, pushing many to the ultra-nationalistic aggressive path of hatred. In fact, while many organizations have been badly diminished following the Israeli attacks on Gaza, we have heightened our activities, and are more determined than ever to establish an Israeli-Palestinian dialogue. CFP regards its fortitude in these times as a proof of the dedication and faith of its members.
Further reassurance of the movement’s importance relies on the prizes awarded to CFP to this day: Search for Common Ground Award—2007; Livia Foundation’s Prize for Conflict Resolution—2009; The Courage of Conscience Award—2009; and this past September—The EuroMed Award for Dialogue between Cultures—2009.
Unfortunately, while experiencing exciting developments and progress, our movement is currently facing financial difficulties and in fact, by the end of this month will be forced to significantly narrow down its actions. After a number of years of significant expansion and making a growing impact in both Israeli and Palestinian societies, CFP is at a turning point. Capacity building is an absolute necessary step now and there is an urgent need to professionalize several fields while maintaining the voluntary nature of the movement, as a whole. Three months ago, we hired a part-time Israeli manager, who coordinates meetings and activities, updates the website, and handles day-to-day matters of the movement. We are looking also for a part time Palestinian manager, who will have similar responsibilities on the Palestinian side. As part of our capacity building efforts, we also recently became involved in systematic fundraising efforts (though strictly on a voluntary basis) in order to increase the movement’s budget and enhance its sustainability. Although we have already approached a number of foundations, processing the applications takes time and thus we are in need for some immediate support.
In order to continue our dedicated efforts to stop the violence in our region and promote peace and reconciliation, we have a dire and urgent need for funds that will cover some of the ongoing activities, as well as minimal operating and administrative expenses.
To contribute to Combatants for Peace, click here—and be sure to choose Combatants for Peace as the RSN Project.
In the course of the past year New Profile was subject to escalated attempts to silence the movement, including a criminal investigation into New Profile activities, as part of which many our activists were interrogated by the police, and their personal computers, and their families’ computers were confiscated. While the criminal charges were eventually dropped, in 2010 New Profile will still contend with the petition to the Israeli High Court to close the movement down as a non profit organization, with a recently announced explicit ban by Israel’s Ministry of Education on New Profile activists entering schools and addressing pupils and with ever higher levels of militarism in Israeli society in general.
The recent military incursion into Gaza and the continued occupation of Palestine is also complemented by increasing attempts to silence the active opposition to Israel’s policies from within, New Profile’s work included. This focus brings with it previously mentioned attempts to silence and discredit New Profile, as well as other organizations and individuals in the far left. But it is also evidence that our messages are becoming part of the public discourse and upsetting the status quo.
With the enthusiastic cooperation of the Israeli Ministry of Education, we are now in the midst of a massive surge in the other military occupation—not the occupation of Palestine, but the occupation of Israeli schools. Soldiers in uniform have been stationed in all Israeli high schools for more than a decade now, and officers are being sent in to address pupils ever more often. According to a new plan, schools and teachers will be financially rewarded for increasing the enlistment percentage of its graduates. Earlier this month, at a conference initiated by the Ministry of Defense, the Israeli army’s Chief of Staff addressed 600 high school principals at a conference on the subject of increasing recruitment levels among students. On our part, we are working on a campaign to raise public awareness and mobilize public sentiment against the phenomenon. This will include engaging with educators, parents and students, as well as appealing to the general public through satirical ads and banners.
In 2010 New Profile also plans to focus on collective work within the wider activist community. Keeping in mind that nonviolent protests and actions have long been central in the repertoire of Israeli activist groups in their actions inside Israel, as well as in joint solidarity actions with Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, we are also aware that there is no tradition of nonviolence training and nonviolent campaign planning in Israel. In view of the rapidly escalating levels of police and military brutality against protesters and the continued state repression against activists and organizations, nonviolence training has surfaced as a real need. Working closely with War Resisters’ International, the Coalition of Women for a Just Peace and other organizations, New Profile intends to create a nonviolence training project in Israel and develop techniques and strategies best suited to the special circumstances in which Israeli activists work, adapting to the country’s political and cultural climate.
Yet through it all we remain very focused on our goals and objectives. Undeterred by the criminal investigation mentioned above, we maintain our ongoing work counseling and providing legal aid to young men and women who question conscription and make choices not to serve in the military. Our youth groups, spread throughout Israel continue to provide safe spaces for deliberation and discussion on militarism, conscription and other political issues considered taboo in much of society. You can read more about New Profile’s activities on our website [PDF]
All these activities will continue throughout 2010.
To contribute to New Profile, click here—and be sure to choose New Profile as the RSN Project.
Almost 8 years have passed since the establishment of Courage to Refuse. Since then the movement has been a home for soldiers who decide to refuse serving in the occupied territories, bringing together a clear political statement against the occupation of the Palestinian territories and providing help to soldiers throughout the refusal process.
In the years that past since CTR website was designed, the internet has changed dramatically. Web 2.0 and its social networks changed the way we use and conceive the internet. In the year 2002 people used the internet basically to find information. Today we use the internet to learn, to create and to interact with members of our different communities.
We are looking to upgrade the website to address these changes.
We believe that focused contents are a major part of the refusal decision and want to help soldiers that weigh their possibilities with a much better entry point.
To contribute to the Courage to Refuse Web 2.0 refuser portal, click here—and be sure to choose Courage to Refuse as the RSN Project.
We, the undersigned young women and men, Jews and Arabs from all parts of the country, hereby declare that we will toil against the occupation and oppression policies of the Israeli government in the occupied territories, and in the territory of the land of Israel, and therefore refuse to take part in actions related to such policies, which are carried out in our name by the Israeli Defence Force.
We are all community activists and contribute in various ways to a variety of sectors in the Israeli society. We believe that contribution, cooperation and volunteerism are a way of life, and should not be limited to just two or three years. Our conscientious objection stems directly from our volunteer experience, from the values we believe in, from our love of the society that we are a part of and in which we live, from our respect of every human being, and from the aim of making our country a better place for all of its inhabitants.
The occupation creates an unbearable actuality for the Palestinians in the occupied territories. The checkpoint policy, land annexation, the building of the apartheid wall, paving of roads for Israeli’s only, settlement projects, and assassinations—all these have been sowing destruction in the West Bank for over 4 decades. The siege on Gaza and the prevention of importing materials, including basic food products and humanitarian aid, undermines the basic minimal living conditions of Gaza’s residents. We cannot tolerate such a reality.
The claim put forth by the spokespersons of the government and the army, that the continuation of the occupation arises from security reasons, has no substance. No country that has fought for its independence has ever been defeated by military means. The suffering of the Palestinian people and their subjugation is the cause of violent resistance. Israel’s public will never be safe as long as the Palestinian nation is under occupation. There is no military solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—only peace will ensure life and security for Jews and Arabs in this country.
The Israeli government frequently boasts that Israel is “the only democracy in the Middle East.” The occupation is a complete contradiction to this claim. Can a government that controls the lives of millions of people who did not take part in elections be called a “democracy?” Can military rule of a civilian population be considered anything other than a dictatorship?
The Israeli Army claims that it is “the most ethical army in the world.” However, time and again reality proves that occupation and ethics cannot stand together. When young armed men are sent on policing missions in the midst of occupied disenfranchised persons, when the government attempts to repress the struggle of the disenfranchised for independence by force—the stage is set for the injury of civilian population and committing of war crimes. Those who carry out such actions are not “exceptions” or “bad apples.” The occupation is the cess pool from in which such actions fester. The occupation has led the Israel Army to breach international treaties, UN decisions, and recommendations of the international court, and even Israeli law, time and again.
Settlement policy is racist in principle. In the name of a Messianic ideology, it has created a reality of apartheid in the West Bank. Disenfranchised Palestinians and privileged settlers live contrastive lives side by side. Settlers participate in the election of the government that administers their affairs, while the Palestinians live under military rule. Settlers enjoy social security benefits, and economic benefits, while Palestinians live a life of poverty and enslavement. Settlers are tried under Israeli law in Israeli courts, while Palestinians are tried at military courts with out the basic right of a fair proceeding. Any human opposed to racism finds this reality repulsive and untenable.
There are those who claim that we are objectors, although the Israeli government is the most consistent objector—in objecting to peace. The Israeli Army is not a “defence force,” but an aggressive occupation force. The Israeli government does not extend an olive branch, rather it upholds violent nationalism.
The occupation is a continuous crime against Israeli society. Employment of Palestinians under slave conditions in the Israeli job market causes a deterioration of conditions for all workers in the market and brings about a violation of their rights. Instead of investing in social budgets, the Israeli government has been investing for more than 40 years in the building of villas and by-pass roads in the settlements, in order to alter ground reality. The warped norms and the violence that young soldiers confess to in the territories have permeated the green line, and are expressed in a rise in violence and racism throughout Israeli society.
Out of sense of responsibility and concern for the two nations that live in this country, we cannot stand idle. We were born into a reality of occupation, and many of our generation see this as a “natural” state. In Israeli society it is a matter of fact that at 18, every young man and woman partakes in military service. However, we cannot ignore the truth—the occupation is an extreme situation, violent, racist, inhuman, illegal, non democratic, and immoral, that is life threatening for both nations. We that have been brought up on values of liberty, justice, righteousness and peace cannot accept it.
Our objection to becoming soldiers of the occupation stems from our loyalty to our values and to the society surrounding us, and it is part of our ongoing struggle for peace and equality, a struggle whose Jewish-Arab nature proves that peace and co-existence is possible. This is our way, and we are willing to pay the price.
Members of Senior’s Letter Group 2009—2010
To contribute to the Shministim, click here—and be sure to choose Shministim as the RSN Project.
Yesh Gvul (There is a limit!) is an Israeli peace group campaigning against the occupation by backing soldiers who refuse duties of a repressive or aggressive nature. The brutal role of the Israeli army in subjugating the Palestinian population places numerous servicemen in a grave moral and political dilemma, as they are required to enforce policies they deem illegal, immoral and ultimately harmful to Israeli interests. The army hierarchy demands compliance, but many soldiers, whether conscripts or reservists, find that they cannot in good conscience obey the orders of their superiors.
Yesh Gvul arose in response to the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, as growing numbers of soldiers grasped that the campaign, with its bloodshed and havoc, was an act of naked and futile aggression in which they wanted no part.
168 servicemen were jailed, some repeatedly, for refusing to serve in the campaign: the actual number of refusals was far greater, but their rising numbers deterred the army from prosecuting most of the refuseniks. The first Palestinian intifada in 1987 likewise prompted further refusals, with close on 200 jailed, though the army again backed down from jailing many of the recalcitrant soldiers, indicating that refusals were significantly more numerous. A notably high ratio of refuseniks are combat officers (ranking from sergeant to major) i.e. soldiers who have served with distinction.
From the outset, Yesh Gvul has fostered the refusal movement. Defying official intimidation—including close surveillance by police and security services—we counsel soldiers wrestling with the painful choice between serving policies they find abhorrent, or defying military discipline. Those who elect to refuse get our full moral and material backing, ranging from financial support for families of jailed refuseniks, to vigils at the military prisons where they were held. Whenever a refusenik is jailed, we bring his protest to the public notice, as a model for the broader peace movement, and for other soldiers in a similar dilemma.
Yesh Gvul is a small group with limited resources, human and financial. But the unique thrust of its campaign has galvanized the broader peace movement, inspiring it with the moral example set by individuals prepared to suffer for their convictions. Some peace movements confine themselves to verbal protest, balking at refusal and its direct challenge to authority. But Yesh Gvul rejects the shoot-and-cry syndrome; its own slogan advocates action: We dont shoot, we dont cry, and we dont serve in the occupied territories!—setting the group in the vanguard of the Israeli peace movement.
With members drawn from a range of political views, Yesh Gvul is not bound to any specific peace program. Its overall aim is to combat the misuse of the IDF (Israel Defense Force!) for unworthy ends, and terminate the occupation. The group is united on the two-state solution, as the key to peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in the interests of both peoples.
To contribute to the Yesh Gvul, click here—and be sure to choose Yesh Gvul as the RSN Project.