"We Refuse The Occupation" demo of Friday --
a healing experience followed by traumatic news from the ISM

Refusniks and CO's of all hues and members of many groups in solidarity with their ongoing struggle, many activists of the Women's Coalition, of Ta'ayush and of Gush Shalom - among them Uri Avnery - and the gays and lesbians of Kvisa Sh'hora - all together walked in procession around a park, caught up between major highways opposite Tel-Aviv's Arlozorov Street Railway Station.

"Lo namit velo namut/Besherut Hahitnachlut!" they chanted ("neither kill nor die/in the service of the settlements"). Colourful banners were unfurled and waved at the goggle-eyed stalled motorists: "Occupation is terror - the refuser is the true hero"; "The Army puts conscience behind bars"; "I refuse to serve in the occupation army and to buy settlement products". 

In the park, all of the 1500-strong crowd got together; young refusniks who just embarked upon their struggle with the military authorities; reservists who had been at it since the 1982 Lebanon War and earlier; veteran Israelis and immigrants from the former Soviet Union (imprisoned refusniks had recently discovered among their fellow prisoners several Russians who had been struggling all by themselves, unaware of the existence of support organizations). Then there was the distinctive group of Druze from the Galilee, parents of imprisoned refusers, with their signs in Hebrew and Arabic "My son will not serve in an army of occupation!". (Druze are the only part of Israel's Arab cititizens subject to conscription - and many of them resent it). And there were the girl refusers, often ignored because unlike boys they don't get into prison - but they are going through a hell of humiliation and verbal abuse by officers and officials before getting their discharge.

All were enjoying being together and feeling that "the refuser community" is growing. Those who climbed the podium were different kind of refusers, Ishai Shagi of the Officers Letter ("Refusal that is Zionism"), Noa Kaufman of the Highschool Letter group "refusal to take part in occupation as a way of life", the Yesh Gvul veteran Peretz Kidron who let Itai Rib speak to the crowd - from prison through the cellular phone: "The State of Israel has made the whole West Bank into one big prison; the choice before us: to go there, or to the military prison instead. From the podium a call was made of solidarity with the 3 UK soldiers and 1 US marine, imprisoned for their refusal to join the War Against Iraq.

Two outside personalities gave the happening exra flavor: Grand Lady of the left, Shulamit Aloni who fulminated against the lawlessness of imprisoning conscript COs again and again for the same thing; popular singer Aviv Gefen who sang the song which he wrote himself: "Let's march into the dream/Where there are no races and nations/Let's try/Until things get better. Let's bury the guns/And not the children/Let's try/Until things get better.Let's conquer peace/And not the territories/Let's try/Until things get better."

Veteran refuser and poet Yitzchak Laor, very calm this time, made sure that nobody could become too self-satisfied: "It's not enough to refuse military service! Our friends of the International Solidarity Movement remind us that we have to be THERE, protecting the Palestinians with our bodies." When he said it, some of us felt a bit annoyed: isn't our task as Israelis in the first place to erode the "occupation consensus"? But retroactively, he spoke those words at the very moment that in Rafah a 21-year old Briton was shot in the head while trying to be the human shield to two Palestinian children.

"After coming home from a good demonstration in support of the increasing number of refusers of military service in Israel, we found the terrible news on the Ha'aretz site. Another ISM activist shot at and in extreme condition. Tom Hurndall from the UK is in the Jarusi hospital in Khan Younes."(*) [Gush Shalom message, Friday, April 11.]

The words of Laor were resounding, "Not Enough!"

11 April 2003
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refusing to kill