Reflections on Palestine Day by a former Israeli Refusenik

Demonstration of israeli refusniks in front Dan Haluz the head of IDF. “refuse to be war criminal”, July 2006. (credit: Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)
What brought an Israeli Jew to that point of refusal?

By Charles Lenchner | CounterPunch |  Dec 2, 2021

Imagine looking at the moon, without realizing you only ever see half of it. Then one day you learn, it rotates in such a way as to keep the dark side hidden from human eyes, for eternity. Such was the logic of Israeli education, at least for Jews. Suddenly I got to see the other side.

About 34 years ago I willingly walked into the processing center for draftees in Israel. This was after an intense 18-month period of organizing, wherein I helped create a group of Israeli Jews willing to publicly commit to refusing to support the Occupation.

As it happened, I was the first one to be called up from those that signed our official letter. It had 16 names. This was before the first Intifada, a time when Israelis thought the Occupation was cost free and would last forever.

At the age of 16, I was one of a very small number of Israeli Jewish young people with Palestinian friends. That year I visited Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza with a group of Palestinian citizens of Israel. It’s hard to describe how aberrant that was, or how angry my mom would have been had she known what I was up to that day. Jabalia is where the first Intifada, or uprising, would begin while I was serving in the Israeli army.

At the time, I was active in two youth movements that brought Jews and Palestinians together on a regular basis. One of them was about half and half Jewish and Arab. The other one was almost entire Arab, though some Jewish chapters existed where I lived. Through those movements I met adults who had been refuseniks in the past.

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