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To Serve Or Not to Serve: As More Israeli Reserve Officers Refuse to Serve in the Occupiedterritories, a Counter-Movement Blooms

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Israeli warplanes and Apache helicopters attacked the Palestinian Authority’s security headquarters in Gaza Cityyesterday after Palestinian armed groups fired a new type of homemade rocket into Israel. The attack came at a timeof changeover between morning and afternoon shifts at nearby schools, and streets were crowded with youngsters whoran away from the explosions, some screaming in panic. Almost 40 people were injured in the assault, four critically.It was the second air strike on Gaza City in two days.

Meanwhile, inside Israel, battle lines of a different kind were being drawn. In the biggest challenge to the army’sauthority since the second Palestinian intifada began 16 months ago, a growing corps of Israeli reserve officers hasbegun to refuse service in the occupied territories. Almost three weeks ago, 52 officers signed a public petitiondenouncing the occupation and refusing to take part in it through military service. The petition was published inone of Israel’s leading newspapers, and reads like this:

“We hereby declare that we will continue to serve in the Israel Defense Force in any assignment that will serve thedefense of the state of Israel. The assignment of occupation and repression does not serve that aim–and we willhave no part in it.”

Since its publication, several hundred more reserve officers have added their names to the petition, while streams ofothers have risen to condemn it. As of last Friday, the army had suspended nearly 50 petitioners, and a countermovement has emerged with its own letter denouncing the officers. The streets of Israel are buzzing with debate,marking perhaps first time since the second intifada began that the national consensus has been fractured. Today,we’ll have our own debate.

Guests:

  • Yair Halper, Conscientious Objector. Just finished serving 3 months in prison for refusing to be draftedinto the army. He is 18 years old.
  • Uri Avnery, journalist, peace activist, former member of the Knesset, and leader of Gush Shalom, the mostmilitant part of the Israeli peace movement. He is also a highly decorated war veteran, who served in an elite unitof the Israeli army.
  • Dr. Yoram Peri, political science teacher at the Ankori high school, the largest private school network inIsrael. Before that, he was a high-ranking army officer.

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