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[israel] Support for Refuseniks (Gordon, Neve)

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  • Aziz H. Poonawalla
    http://www.thenation.com/docPrint.mhtml?i=special&s=gordon20020509 COMMENT | Special Report Support for Refuseniks About three weeks ago, Moti Perry, an
    Message 1 of 1 , May 11, 2002

      COMMENT | Special Report

      Support for Refuseniks

      About three weeks ago, Moti Perry, an economics professor from Hebrew
      University, organized twenty-eight of his colleagues and together they
      published a letter supporting students who refuse to serve in "Operation
      Defensive Shield" as part of their reserve duty. "[Military] service [in the
      occupied territories] too often involves carrying out orders that have no
      place in a democratic society founded on the sanctity of human life," the
      professors wrote, adding: "For thirty-five years an entire people, some
      three and a half million in number, have been held without basic human
      rights. The occupation and oppression of another people have brought the
      State of Israel to where it is today." Cognizant of the fact that there are
      currently a number of students in jail, the professors also stated that they
      would help imprisoned students academically, administratively and
      financially, similar to the help offered by the university to students who
      return from reserve duty.

      The refusenik community has grown dramatically in the past months, and now
      comprises more than 1,000 conscientious objectors, twenty-nine of whom are
      currently serving time in military prison. About half of these belong to the
      new movement "Courage to Refuse"(www.seruv.org.il/defaulteng.asp), while the
      rest are either members of Yesh Gvul ("There Is a Limit," www.yesh-gvul.org)
      or 18-year-olds who have completed high school and are unwilling to be
      conscripted. Considering that the average sentence of a reserve soldier is
      twenty-eight days, the number of refuseniks who have been in prison since
      the outbreak of the second intifada is about 100 and not merely the
      twenty-nine who are currently incarcerated.

      Following the publication of the professors' statement, a group of students
      and lecturers at Hebrew University distributed an anonymous flier that
      provides the names of the twenty-nine signatories, characterizing them as
      "poisonous weeds that need to be uprooted before we will all sink into
      anarchy." "Some of them will not be among us," the flier declared; "we will
      drive them out." One of the right-wing students groups also filed an
      official complaint against the professors with the police.

      Simultaneously, Limor Livnat, the minister of education, was called upon to
      intervene. Livnat did not hesitate, passing the names of the professors to
      the attorney general and asking him to check whether their letter
      constitutes "an incitement"and "an act of rebellion against the State."

      In response to the education minister's threat, Anat Biletzki, a professor
      from Tel-Aviv University, organized an additional 225 professors who were
      willing to sign the letter, so currently there are more than 250 signatories
      from five different universities who support the refuseniks. "If the State
      chooses to indict professors for incitement," Biletzki stated, "it should
      know that it is dealing with quite a few scholars, and that among the
      signatories are recipients of the Israel Prize [the most prestigious award
      the state bestows] as well as members of the esteemed Israeli National
      Academy of Sciences."

      Meanwhile, the empire struck back. Hebrew University's president, Menachem
      Magidor, published an ad in the Israeli daily Ha'aretz on Friday, May 3,
      stating that the lecturers who back the conscientious objectors do not speak
      in the university's name. The following Sunday, more than 100 professors
      from Hebrew University also published an ad, expressing their support for
      students who have served as soldiers in Operation Defensive Shield while
      condemning their colleagues who support conscientious objectors. Their ad
      was formulated in such a way as to lead the reader to believe that the
      refusenik supporters intend to give preferential treatment to students with
      whom they agree politically, while punishing those with whom they don't.
      Among the signatories of this ad are esteemed liberal scholars like Avi
      Ravitzky from Jewish Studies.

      None of these professors raised their voice when the Israeli military
      ransacked the educational infrastructure in the occupied territories,
      ruining computers, laboratories and libraries. They certainly did not
      publish a paid ad condemning these actions.


      Aziz H. Poonawalla
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