Israeli refuseniks speak in London: a report

Submitted by on 13 November, 2002 - 2:23

Avi Mayorek witnessed no atrocities while serving as an Israeli soldier in the Occupied Territories - no massacres, no killings of children.

His family came to Israel after World War 2 from Poland, where, in the aftermath of the Holocaust, they faced continued anti-semitic persecution. He regards himself as an Israeli patriot. He believes that the Israeli state is one of the fairest and most easy-going in the world, for its Jewish citizens.
Yet he has been prepared to defy his government, and majority Israeli public opinion, by refusing to serve with the Israeli army in the Occupied Territories.
It was a tiny incident which convinced him.
He was at a checkpoint. A young Palestinian man, driving a car, had overtaken an Israeli military vehicle. The Israeli military does not allow that. The young Palestinian was stopped, ordered out of his car, slapped and insulted. He and his companions had no choice but to submit.

By serving in the occupying army, Avi concluded, he was upholding humiliation and oppression. He decided to refuse.

Avi and Rami Kaplan, another of the 500 or so Israeli army refuseniks, have been on a speaking tour in Britain. On 29 October they spoke to about 80 people at a Solidarity/ Workers' Liberty forum in London.

Rami spoke further of the horrors of the occupation. Fifty per cent of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories - subjected to curfews, cut off from their jobs - live on aid. Twenty-five per cent of children are malnourished.

But, asked by one speaker from the floor whether the occupation might not be made acceptable by making it less harsh, Rami was clear. No. The occupation is wrong in principle. It cannot be made acceptable. There must be a settlement which allows for two states, a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Rami was equally unambiguous in response to speakers from the floor who held that Israel itself represents an "occupation" of Palestinian land, and must be liquidated.

Israel is not a fascist state, he said. His refusal is not an anti-Israeli stance. The "right of return" of several millions of Palestinians into what is now Israel? There are "no forces in the political constellation which could make that possible". There must be negotiated resettlement of some Palestinians in Israel, but, fundamentally, Israel, in cooperation with other states, must help the scattered Palestinians resettle in decent conditions in their own state.

Both Avi and Rami argued that there is a large constituency in Israel which would be happy to see the settlements in the Occupied Territories abandoned, and the occupation ended.

At present the Israeli peace movement is feeble. Most of the population just don't want to know about politics.

The Israeli Labour Party is not labour, said Rami. "That's old news". Now it is no longer a peace party. But the Labour Party and Meretz draw support mostly from the upper classes. But the pressures of the cuts and unemployment can change things, opening the way for a peace movement based in the working class.

Rami also spoke about links between the Israeli left and Palestinian groups. These are weak and difficult, but important for the future.

Two other refusenik speakers, Tal Matalon from Women in Black and Dan Tamir from Yesh Gvul, are coming to Britain between 9 and 30 November.

For details of their tour, which continues until the end of November, see http://www.workersliberty.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=art…, or contact the tour sponsors:
Just Peace UK, justpeaceuk@yahoo.com, or 07957 486379.
Jews for Justice for Palestinians, jfjusticefp@yahoo.co.uk, or P.O. Box 37402, London N3 2XG

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