Part of the Do'a Iftitah

"Verily my solats, my ibadah, my life and my death I surrender to Almighty Allah, Creator and Lord of all the worlds. Never will I associate anything with Him. So am I commanded and I am of those who are Muslims."

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Sunday, January 04, 2009

Israeli teenagers jailed for refusing to serve in Zionist army

Peace activists in Israel and around the world are participating on Wednesday in a day of action to call on Israeli authorities to release teenagers imprisoned for refusing to serve in the army for reasons of conscience.

Tamar Katz, Raz Bar-David Varon and Yuval Oron-Ofir are three conscientious objectors who are all serving their third prison sentences. At least six other teenagers – male and female – have been jailed in recent months for refusing to enlist and at least two more, both young women, are at risk of imminent imprisonment.

Their refusal stems from their opposition to the Israeli military occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) and to the practices of the Israeli army there. They believe that by enlisting they would participate in committing human rights abuses in which they want no part.

Amnesty International has added its voice to the campaign. The organization considers these teenagers to be prisoners of conscience and calls for their immediate and unconditional release.

© Shministim">Tamar Katz, aged 19
Tamar Katz
Military ID 5396326
Military Prison No. 400
Military Postal Code 02447, IDF
Israel
Fax: 972-3-9579389

Tamar Katz, aged 19, has already spent 50 days in jail and is serving her third prison sentence.

In her declaration of refusal she stated:
"I am not willing to become part of an occupying army... I am not willing to become one of those holding the gun pointed indiscriminately at Palestinian civilians, and I do not believe that such actions could bring any change except ever more antagonism and violence in our region."
She has been held in isolation and deprived of family visits as punishment for refusing to wear a military uniform in prison.

© Shministim">Raz Bar-David Varon, aged 18

Eighteen-year-old Raz Bar-David Varon, also serving her third prison term, said :

"I oppose oppression.

Oppression, going by the dictionary here at my side, means submission, forcing an individual or a population, disallowing free speech (and other rights).

I oppose any form of oppression –whether it is practiced by a society against an individual member, by the whole of humanity against the other living species on this planet (I am a vegan because I want to avoid participating in the oppression and murder committed by the meat, egg, and dairy industries), by men against women, or by people who consider themselves to belong to one nation against those they associate with another nation.

I refuse to accept acts of hatred and violence as legitimate in problem resolution, even if the problems themselves involve violence.

When a society reacts with violence towards another society, I believe, it instills violent norms in its membership and in doing so it harms itself. As a result the need for vengeance and injustice in the other society mounts, thereby provoking more counter-violence against itself.

The violence – or, in other words, the terror – which the Israeli army, in the name of the state, inflicts on the Palestinian people, is not only excessive and – as history bears out – has not solved the conflict in our region: it actually escalates the conflict and entrenches oppression (directed against almost anyone) as a norm in Israeli society.

I use the word terror because a soldier who

* drops bombs on people in Gaza or on the West Bank from his fighter plane;
* demolishes homes;
* shoots at people and sows fear and enmity;
* enforces a tyrannical, undemocratic military regime;
* rules over (nearly) all aspects of the lives of three and a half million Palestinian men and women;
* stands guard at the army checkpoints which seriously limit Palestinians' freedom of movement;
* enters people's homes (with state permission) in order to conduct searches at any hour of the day or night;
* humiliates, at a whim and unsupervised, old people, children, men and women,

is indeed a terrorist, just like – if not more than – the Palestinian who blows himself up along with other people in a bus within the boundaries of the state called Israel.

Perhaps more because a person who lives under an ongoing occupation and gets to meet only one type of Jewish citizen: the soldier; someone who has no future choice or hope – perhaps such a person can be said to have been cornered into this position (as he is exploited, both by Israel and by fundamentalist Islamic organizations, each for their own purposes).

An Israeli soldier, on the other hand, whose background is often more affluent and comfortable and can, usually, look ahead to a future in which he is in control of his choices.

I don't think there is any justification for terrorism.

The cynical use of the phrase "self-defense", widespread in Israel, is disgraceful in my opinion.

No one should have the right – just because they wear a uniform and have signed up as members of a certain organization – to mess up or even destroy the lives of others, whatever their background or nationality.

No one has the right to do such things. Occupation is not the same as self-defense.

When emergency laws are activated in order to do things that run counter to Israel's professed democratic principles (the Nazis, too, by the way, used such laws in order to gain access to power) – this is not self-defense.

Such acts are the outcome of the economic/personal interests of those who are financially and otherwise powerful. They are a choice and not dictated by necessity. We can always choose against violence and for peace.

The army, moreover, as an organization, is non-democratic. It is a hierarchical body which supports nationalist values (and hence, again, it is non-egalitarian); the army is patriarchal and believes in blind obedience and/or unlimited control over others, in traditionally "masculine" values such as aggression, abuse of power, and violence – all of which are seen as legitimate methods when problems need to be solved, and all of which negate alternative approaches, especially those that could be considered "feminine".

The latter include sensitivity, conflict solution through dialogue, gentleness, and so on – modes of communication that are, on this view, inferior.

As a result, there's a prevailing view of women (except those who prove they are "like a man") as subordinate (so, for instance, in the army the Hebrew for "female" is used to denigrate soldiers in training) and a generally chauvinist mindset among the young men and women who enlist for military service. (And the army then significantly contributes to their further development in life.)

While instilling and perpetuating these stereotypes, the army also causes those women who act according to them to feel inferior.

This is why the majority of women in the army take marginal functions – they do secretarial or clerical work ; this is why during military service, women are much more likely to experience sexual harassment than in their civilian life; this is why women's surroundings become increasingly violent.

And since the army takes such a very central position in the civilian lives of Israelis, the above phenomena spill and spread beyond the army, into their daily existence: women are kept out of positions of power, they internalize masculine oppression and prejudice and learn to regard sexual harassment as a social norm.

It is because of these fundamental characteristics and activities of the army that I absolutely refuse to serve in it. They clash with my own principles and beliefs regarding equality and justice. Not only are the army's acts immoral and wrong, they also undermine peace and co-existence, the objectives for which I struggle.

This is why, as I mentioned at the start of my statement, I request to be exempted from mandatory military service on conscientious grounds and to do alternative national service. I ask, therefore, to appear before the military committee that authorizes such exemptions.

* Due to the inbuilt chauvinist tendency of both the Hebrew and English languages, this letter, even where using a "neutral" masculine, means to refer to a society that is heterogeneous and plural in terms of sex and gender.

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© Shministim">Yuval Oron-Ofir, aged 19
Yuval Oron-Ofir
ID number 201205580
Military Prison No. 6
Military Postal Code 01860, IDF
Israel
Fax: ++972-4-9540580


Yuval Oron-Ofir was jailed for the third time on 14 December. The 19-year-old explained his reasons for refusing to enlist:
"There is another way, which is not the way of war. This is the path of dialogue, of understanding… of peace. This is why I shall not join an army behind whose actions I cannot stand and whose behavior I cannot justify."
Teenagers who refuse to enlist because they do not want to find themselves in a situation where they may contribute to or participate in committing human rights abuses are generally sent to jail for months.

There is no civilian service alternative to military draft in Israel and, although a "conscience committee" exists within the Israeli army, exemption is only usually granted to those who refuse to serve on religious grounds. Those who make it known that they are unwilling to enlist on grounds of conscience – because they are pacifist or oppose the army's practices in the OPT – are routinely imprisoned.

At the same time, Israeli soldiers who commit grave human rights violations, including war crimes, such as unlawful killings of unarmed civilians, reckless shelling of densely populated residential areas or wanton destruction of homes, are routinely granted impunity.

"Such a policy sends the wrong message to Israeli society and to young people in particular," said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International's researcher on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. "All conscientious objectors should be given the opportunity to present the grounds of their objection to a decision-making body which is impartial and independent.

"Amnesty International calls on the Israeli authorities to ensure that such a body is established, and in the meantime to immediately and unconditionally release the conscientious objectors currently detained and not to imprison others."

Here's Yuval Oron Ofir's full declaration as to why he refuses to serve in the Israeli Zionist Army :

"I would like to ask you to recognize that I have a conscientious problem with enlisting in the army.

I believe that the Israeli army has lost its mission as the organization that defends the country's citizens within its borders.

For 41 years now, Israel has been imposing an occupation of lands that are not its own.

Lacking any moral justification or values, it rules over these lands by armed force. It is very clear that this occupation has not been dictated by fate: it is the outcome of nationalist policies that are aimed to expand the boundaries of the Jewish state into territories inhabited by another nation.

To maintain control over the Palestinian people and its land, Israel corrupts its own state machinery: those who are in charge of the legal system turn crime into legal action; those who have the mandate to judge release their sure grip on justice, and those with executive power find themselves forced to soil their hands as they obey orders.

A human being among other humans, I, Yuval, feel committed to some basic values without which we cannot exist.

I have been studying and learning about the occupation these past years, I feel its pains and as I do so I am becoming familiar with the ills of humankind.

What I see is that with every additional day when Palestinians are kept by force on their lands, my country manages to crush one more value, one more rule.

What I see is a country guided by the inanity of its leaders, a country in thrall to an insatiable hunger for another street, another tree to cram into its shattered borders.

I see with what ease our parents close their eyes to the atrocities that are being committed in our name.

I see how we are all turning inwards, just so we may not have to hear the screams that are reaching us from the other side.

All known human atrocities have been possible only because of blind obedience, silence, and an indifference to the fate of the other.

It is because of all this that I regard it my moral duty to refuse serving in the (Israeli) army.

My conscience does not allow me to join an organization that demolishes, by fiat of the state, the homes of innocent people, kills children who are not part of the armed fighting, and which prevents sick people from getting due treatment.

The army interferes with the freedom of movement, undermines human rights and robs people of their land because they are not Jews.

Implementing government orders, the Israeli army brings oppression and terror upon three and a half million Palestinians.

With every day that passes, more people sink into this mire – these people are not bad, they are ordinary people, Jews and Palestinians who don't resist evil and do bad things, things that are too bad. They have been told to do these things, things that are drenched in pain as well as things of whose evil they are unaware.

Today I know what they want me to do and in what they wish me to participate and I understand that I was not raised to do such things, things that I will not want to tell my children.

Nobody should have to do such things.

I am convinced that it is no one but ourselves who determines that it is our fate to live by the sword.

There is another way, which is not the way of war.

This is the path of dialogue, of understanding, of concession, forgiveness, of peace.

I believe that a person should take responsibility and feel reconciled to the way he chooses.

This is why I shall not join an army behind whose actions I cannot stand and whose behavior I cannot justify".

Yuval Oron-Ofir
November 2008

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Those of you who would like to learn more about the actual situations going on there in Occupied Palestine, would do best to check out https://israel.indymedia.org

This site exposes the truth as to what many Israeli citizens are facing and are at times arrested by the Zionist regime and thrown into prison themselves.

The world only gets to know what the media moguls decide and very often the true situation is masked by the media giants of the West and if not for the presence of independent websites such as these and many others, we will still be oblivious to the real tragedies taking place there in the Middle East!

I salute these brave young Israelis for standing up to the might of the Israeli regime and for their sacrifices in not wanting to be a part of the brutal oppressing Israeli Zionist terrorizing regime out there in Occupied Palestine.

Surely their efforts will not be in vain.

You might also want to visit http://wri-irg.org

They are War Resistors International. The site owners are doing a great job in reporting about the latest news of those who have been arrested for refusing to serve rogue armies of dictators and illegal states such as the Israeli Regime.

You should also visit : http://palestinethinktank.com/2008/12/31/gaza-its-terrorism-its-slaughter-crime-can-be-reported/

Palestine Think Tank is a site which reports on the latest situation there.

News Update :

Israeli Ground Rogue Forces have begun sweeping into Gaza!

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/04/world/middleeast/04mideast.html?th&emc=th
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