Testimony of Israeli refuseniks at court-martial









CO Haggai Matar speaks out of his already considerable personal experience with the occupation, to which he adds long quotes from the reports of human rights organizations as well as stories which he heard from military prison cell-mates who have been to the territories.

"In 1999, I joined a special of joint summer studies by Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian pupils. Soon afterwards I started correspondence with a Palestinian Administrative Detainee who was held in an Israeli prison for six years without trial. When at last he was
released I visited him in a house riddled by Israeli bullets and with broken furniture.

I joined actions of the Gush Shalom and Ta'ayush movements. We went to the territories to rebuild houses demolished by the army, to provide humanitarian help in towns hit by closure or curfew, to support Palestinian villagers who have been violently assaulted by settlers. Always, soldiers tried to block us and in many cases used violence against us.

In 2001, I met again with some of the Palestinian pupils of the summer camp and they told harrowing stories of being beaten up and arrested by soldiers. One told of witnessing his friends in Ramallah being shot to death. On August 20, 2002, three days before I was due to present myself for enlistment, I and several other activists got an emergency call to go to
Yanoun Village, a tiny place where settlers have so terrorized the inhabitants that the Palestinians all left. We came there and the empty houses were terribly depressing and somber sights. We were very
happy that due to our presence the people started coming back.

With all my experiences, I had no doubt: I absolutely don't want to be and can't be part of the Israeli army which I don't think has any longer the right to call itself an army of defence."

[The above is excerpted from a two-hour speech; full text in Hebrew and English available from Anat Matar <matar@post.tau.ac.il>]


































The philosophical analysis of CO Matan Kaminer, next in line, was no less impassioned.

"In this testimony I would like to describe the guiding lines of my conscience and explain why it is incompatible with service in today's Israeli army. For some people the basic value from which their
conscience is derived is God's word. For others it is loyalty to their country. For me the basic value is human liberty, human rights. I believe that all human beings have inalienable rights such as the right
to life, the right to equality, to welfare, to education, to association, to democracy.

All of these rights are violated in countless ways by the occupation -mainly violated as regards the Palestinians, but in many ways also regarding Israelis. The right of Palestinians to life is violated by the policy of liquidations (which indirectly causes also the loss of Israeli life, as we saw last week), and by the constant military activity in populated areas which causes the death and wounding of civilians. The right to equality, both of Palestinians and of Israelis living within the Green line is violated by the policy of settlement which takes land, resources and basic human dignity from Palestinians and which discriminates against most Israelis in the division of national resources.

The right of Palestinians to welfare and to education are violated by the ongoing closures and curfews which cause the sky-rocketing unemployment figures and the severe disruption of the educational system.
The most fundamental, though not necessarily the most directly painful, is the violation of the right to live in democracy. The very rule over another people which is denied the right to control it's own life and future is a flagrant violation of that right, and after 36 years the
pretense that the occupation is temporary wears thin.

The contempt for democracy is gradually crossing into Israel proper, with racist extreme right parties becoming an acceptable and common component of government coalitions. The deprivation to the right of democracy of the Palestinians is the root cause of all the crimes which accompany the occupation - both the
crimes of the occupier of which I described part, and the crimes of the occupied, pushed to immoral and inhuman ways of struggle. Neither set of crimes is in any way justified. Both are direct derivatives of the
occupation and can only be abolished by the occupation itself.

From all of this, it logically follows that service in the army, which is the main instrument for implementing the occupation is totally against my conscience. My decision to refuse enlistment does not mean that I
am against the state of Israel, against the people in Israel, or against the Israeli society of which I am part. On the contrary, I feel impelled to do all I can for the Israeli society. I did it in the past and intend to go on
doing it.

The occupation is a terrible crime; an immoral and malignant crime against another society which spreads also to our own society, strangling and poisoning it. Obviously, in such a situation I can't go into the army. I can only ask that my conscience be recognized and that I be provided an opportunity to do alternative civilian service for the benefit of the Israeli

[Summary provided by Matan himself and translated by Gush Shalom. Full Hebrew text available from: Noam Kaminer <noam.kaminer@exlibris.co.il>]



































At three in the afternoon it was the turn of Shimri Tzameret.

"Already for years I knew that I was not going to join the army. I knew it with as much certainty as I know that I will never kick a homeless person lying on the sidewalk, never rape a woman, and when I will have
a child - never abandon it. We all of us have our own reasonings and my reasons are a bit different from those who spoke before me. I feel that there is no need to detail what the occupation is doing to the Palestinians. What it is doing to ourselves is reason enough. First I want to talk about the suicide bombings. It is a very central part of our life here in this country and many of us are touched personally in
one way or another. It happened a bit more than a year ago, exactly on the day when I decided to tell my schoolmates that I am going to refuse to serve in the army, that a suicide bombing happened in which
the mother of one of the girls in the school was killed.

And later on the day it turned out that her sister was killed as well. It brought home to me what does it mean, that the life of this girl whom I knew will never be the same again; how terrible it is when something
like this is suddenly breaking in to a life. Some of my schoolmates were angry with me; they said: how can you refuse to go to the army when such things happen. I told them: that is exactly the reason that I am refusing: the army. Being in the territories is not a way to stop
terrorist attacks; it causes them.

Exactly because I told Merav that I feel committed to do whatever I can to prevent such things from happening again to others, I feel that one of the most important things which I as an individual can do, is refusing to serve in the army.

After all, everybody knows how the present situation will end: always in the last centuries the rebellion of an occupied people eventually ended in its freedom. The only question how much time it will take, and how
many more casualties there will be. I try to make both a bit less.

Another point: what the occupation is doing to our society. I want to tell about Rami, whom I met in the prison. I sat with him for hours, listening. It is incredible how many terrible things he had witnessed in just three months of service in the territories. He told me about the young boy who threw a stone at the lieutenant-
colonel's jeep which did not hit but the colonel still chased the child, caught him and beat him brutally with the butt of a rifle. And another child which a Shabak agent tied up, and then urinated on him. When
Rami tried to protest the man shouted: go away; I am conducting an interrogation. And he also told me soldiers looting a shop, and then destroying everything which they could not carry. And he told me about
how he could not stand it anymore, and how he sat in the toilet for several hours in the night, the barrel in his mouth, the finger on the trigger. In the end he ran away, and that's how he got into prison.

That's what happens to the sensitive people. The non-sensitive ones, those who get used to these Wild West norms, afterwards bring these norms into the Israeli society itself. We are corrupting ourselves. I am not willing to be part of the main instrument of corruption."