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[israel] Rebellion grows among Israeli reserve officers (Reeves, Phil)

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  • Aziz H.Poonawalla
    http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/story.jsp?story=117594 Rebellion grows among Israeli reserve officers By Phil Reeves in Jerusalem 01 February
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 31, 2002

      Rebellion grows among Israeli reserve officers
      By Phil Reeves in Jerusalem
      01 February 2002

      Israel's armed forces are struggling to contain the most serious internal
      challenge of the 16-month Palestinian intifada after more than 100 combat
      reservist soldiers signed a petition saying they would not serve in the
      occupied territories.

      At least four of the signatories have been stripped of their command
      positions, and the army's chief of staff, Lt-Gen Shaul Mofaz, declared that
      "there is no place in Israel's military forces for such occurrences". The
      petition, which by last night had attracted 104 signatures, has prompted a
      national debate, and a backlash within the army. Another group of several
      hundred reservists has signed a counter-petition accusing the petitioners of
      "lies, distortions and unbridled defamation of the army".

      The issue erupted when a group of reservists, led by two young lieutenants,
      published an indictment of Israel's 35-year occupation in the newspaper,
      Yedioth Ahronoth, saying that it was "corrupting the entire Israeli
      society". Some of the signatories are officers and others are from frontline
      units - the paratroops, infantry and armoured and artillery corps.

      The petition said soldiers had been issued commands while serving in the
      occupied territories that "had nothing to do with the security of our
      country", and had "the sole purpose of perpetuating our control" over the
      Palestinians. "We shall not continue to fight beyond the 1967 borders in
      order to dominate, expel, starve and humiliate an entire people," it stated.

      The reservists' protest is the most compelling example of the simmering
      dissent within Israel over the conflict. In September, more than 65 Israeli
      teenagers signed a letter to the Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, saying that
      they would refuse to do compulsory military service because of the
      "aggressive and racists policies of the Israeli government and army".

      A fortnight ago, an article appeared in the Ha'aretz newspaper by Dr Yigal
      Shochat, a physician who used to be an Israeli fighter pilot, who called on
      F-16 pilots to refuse to bomb Palestinian cities. At the same time, the army
      faced intense domestic criticism for demolishing 60 Palestinian homes in a
      Gaza refugee camp, while the Israeli left has begun to accuse the army of
      war crimes. The divided opinion in the military ranks was further exposed by
      revelations that a group of senior reserve officers, led by a
      brigadier-general, were planning to present the government with proposals
      for the reoccupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and the destruction of the
      Palestinian Authority.

      Refusals to serve are not a new problem for the Israeli army. There were
      conscientious objectors in the 1982 Lebanon war and the first intifada, from
      1987 to 1992. According to a group that represents Israel's refusenik
      soldiers, Yesh Gvul (translated as "There is a limit"), 49 have been jailed
      this time round for refusing to go to the occupied territories, 14 of them
      regular soldiers. Most Israeli men and women are conscripted into military
      service at age 18 -- men for three years, women for 21 months. Israeli men
      also usually serve up to one month of reserve duty every year until the age
      of 45.

      Organisers of the reservists' petition say they want to attract the support
      of at least 500 reservists. They have declined to speak to the foreign
      press, for fear of fuelling international anti-Israel sentiment. But the
      Israeli media has pounced on the issue. Itay Sviresky, a lieutenant in a
      reserve paratroop unit, told Channel Two TV that, "as a human, a citizen and
      as a Zionist, I feel that there are certain things that I can't take part
      in. You have to be an occupier -- you can't be an enlightened occupier, you
      have to be ... a cruel occupier."

      The Israeli army has countered with a statement saying that the petitioners
      were unrepresentative, and pointing out that there is no place for soldiers
      to choose what jobs they do and do not want. A press officer cited the
      example of a 56-year-old Tel Aviv lawyer, Avraham Dviri, who finished
      reserve service eight years ago, but volunteered again last year.

      After several Palestinian suicide attacks, Israelis feel even more embattled
      than ever. Mr Dviri represented the mood of many when he said he "despised"
      the refusing reservists. "An officer who says that he cannot serve somewhere
      should not command other soldiers. He should be dismissed with dishonour,"
      he said.
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