Courage to refuse

PHILADELPHIA – A capacity crowd of nearly 400 gathered at the Congregation Mishkan Shalom here June 2 to watch the “60 Minutes” special report on the Israeli reservists who have refused to serve in the occupied territories and hear from one of the refusers, Lieutenant Noam Sheizaf.

The special television report showed why 450 Israeli officers have refused to “dominate, expel, starve and humiliate an entire people.” Lt. Sheizaf, one of the signers of the Courage to Refuse declaration, told of his experiences in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Sheizaf carried out orders that he detested. He used Palestinian homes as a lookout point. He confined Palestinians to a single room in their own homes. He drove other Palestinians from their homes. He expressed pride in the Jewish traditions of fighting persecution and shame that Jewish leaders have been seen as oppressors since the Zionist takeover in 1948, shortly after the 1947 United Nations two-state declaration.

He was proud to announce that he never fired his rifle at any Palestinian people. He said that he knew of no Israeli occupation unit that was directly ordered to shoot or kill any Palestinians. However, he said that the occupation was not a defense of Israel but was a war to control other people. In lands occupied by unwanted troops, the war becomes a war against civilians, even against women and children.

Sheizaf declared himself to be a Zionist of a new type, one dedicated to the protection of Israel, but not to the racist and expansionist foreign policy of the Sharon government. His views, he said, are in keeping with the 1947 founding of the State of Israel in a U.N. declaration that called for two states, one Jewish and one Arab, but neither exclusive. Even though he had misgivings about President Yasser Arafat, Lt. Sheizaf was clear that the Palestinian people have the right to decide on their own government.

Sheizaf was given a standing ovation after his talk and applause throughout his presentation. Two nights later, on June 4, as part of his tour, Sheizaf spoke before another capacity crowd here at the Law School auditorium of the University of Pennsylvania.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org