GREETINGS FROM THE REFUSER SOLIDARITY NETWORK!
The summer 2010, issue of the RSN newsletter includes reflections on the Israeli raid on the Gaza Flotilla as well as updates from the organizations we support and links to current activities by military Refusers in Israel/Palestine, Europe and North America. A number of these stories have appeared on RSN’s website, www.refusersolidarity.net
WHO WE ARE: The Refuser Solidarity Network (RSN) was formed in April of 2002 to provide support for the growing Refuser Movement in Israel. The initial impetus for the establishment of the RSN was the publication in January 2002 of the Combatants Letter by a group of 52 reserve officers, which later became Ometz Le’sarev or Courage to Refuse. RSN now supports Combatants for Peace, Yesh G’vul, the Shiministim, New Profile and other Israeli organizations advocating peaceful conflict resolution in Israel/Palestine and working to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories seized in 1967. A 501(c)3 charitable organization, RSN makes grants to refuser groups to support their work financially. RSN is funded entirely by contributions from individuals in the U.S. and around the world. Our mission statement is as follows
RSN builds support for, seeks to increase the visibility of, and educates the public about the Israeli refuser movements, with the objective of working together with refusers to end Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.
To learn more about RSN, visit our website at www.refusersolidarity.net.
NEWS FROM THE REFUSER MOVEMENT
Reflections on the Israeli Raid on the Gaza Flotilla
by RSN Board Member Cathy Schneider
On May 31, 2010, at 4:30am, Israeli commando units parachuted onto five vessels sailing under the aegis of the Free Gaza Campaign and the IHH, a Turkish humanitarian group. This was the FGC’s second attempt to break the Israeli blockade on Gaza by sea. Israel has refused to allow an independent investigation, although it has agreed to allow two international observers (David Trimble, a Noble Prize winning politician from North Ireland, and Canadian jurist Ken Watkin) to participate as non-voting members in its own investigation. Unfortunately, non-voting members will have little or no impact on the investigationâ€”and any criticism is likely to be dismissed by the Goverment of Israel as “anti-semitism” or an “attack on Israelis right to exist.” A completely independent, UN-directed investigation is the only effort that can both obtain a full understanding of what happened, and make recommendations that could have a lasting impact.
A key issue in dispute, one that may never be resolved without an independent investigation, is whether the commando units fired live ammunition while parachuting onto the Mavi Marmara, the lead ship of the flotilla, or whether they fired rubber bullets and switched to live when some of those aboard attacked them with knives and pipes. Other issues, however, are beyond dispute. First, the ship was not carrying any weapons, and the only equipment carried in defiance of the blockade was cement for building. Second, the organizers clearly declared that their intention, in addition to supplying humanitarian relief, was to draw attention to the illegal blockade. Third, Israel ordered a pre-dawn commando assault on a civilian ship sailing in international waters, and the assault resulted in the deaths of nine passengers and crewmembers and serious injuries to many others.
Israel’s deadly attack on the Mavi Marmara, and the arrest and deportation of hundreds of activists and journalists, has drawn attention to the blockade of Gaza in a way no previous effort had managed. This may be a turning point, in much the same way police repression in Selma, Alabama helped turn the tide of the American civil rights movement. And much like the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, the impetus must come from within.
Among those at the forefront of the resistance and struggle to end the occupation of Palestine are the soldiers, former soldiers and citizens who refuse to serve the occupation. These groups include Yesh Gvul (“there is a limit”, formed after the 1982 Israeli occupation of Lebanon and now dedicated to exposing and combating Israeli war crimes), New Profile (a feminist organization working against militarism and helping support high school students who refuse to serve), Shiministim (high school students who refuse to serve) Combatants for Peace (made up of equal numbers of Palestinians and Israelis who have renounced violence in their search for a just peace), and Breaking the Silence (former soldiers who have gathered oral, written and photographic testimony from those who have served the occupation).
Combatants for Peace Condemns Israeli Raid on Gaza Flotilla
“Combatants for Peace” condemns the aggressive take-over of the international flotilla on the dawn of the 31st of May 2010 and the killings of over 10 activists on the deck. The raid on civilian boats far out of the territorial waters of Israel, in an attempt to silence and prevent a legitimate act of protest and empathy, constitutes an additional step in the reduction of the available space for protest in Israel.
Read more here.
Combatants for Peace is a Bi-national movement of Israelis and Palestinians who lead a non-violent struggle against the occupation, and support a peaceful solution of two states for the two peoples: Israeli and Palestinian. The movement was formed in 2005 by Palestinians and Israelis who had taken an active role in the cycle of violence, and decided to drop their arms and work together to promote a peaceful solution through dialogue and non-violent action. Originally, the activists on both sides were solely ex-combatants: the Israelis as soldiers in the Israeli army (IDF) and the Palestinians as participants in the violent struggle for Palestinian freedom. Today, members of the movement include also men and women who have never taken an active role in the violent struggle in the area.
Read their latest newsletter at here.
Among those in the forefront…
A coalition of international Jewish organizations dedicated to peace with justice in Israel/Palestine is sending a Jewish Boat to Gaza. It is scheduled to sail from an undisclosed location in the Mediterranean this July. It will head toward Gaza in an effort to break the siege imposed by Israel in 2006. Passengers will include Jews from Germany, the U.K., and the United States, including at least one survivor of the Nazi Holocaust.
The boat is the initiative of the German EJJP group, Jüdische Stimme für gerechten Frieden in Nahost. European co-sponsors include Jews for Justice for Palestinians (UK). In the U.S., support is being organized by American Jews for a Just Peace (AJJP).
Read more from the organizers here.
In the U.S., information can be found here.
New Profile is a group of feminist women and men who oppose the militarization of Israeli society. NP works for a truly democratic civic education, teaching the practice of peace and conflict resolution, rather than training children to enlist and accept warfare. More information is available at New Profile’s website. RSN recently sponsored a tour of the West Coast. Read more here.
Yesh G’vul (“There is a limit!”) is an Israeli peace group campaigning against the Occupation by backing soldiers who refuse duties in the Occupied Territories. Yesh G’vul arose in response to the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. It offers counseling to soldiers who wrestle with the painful choice between serving policies they find abhorrent and defying military discipline. The organization provides moral and material backing for those who elect to refuse, ranging from financial support for families of jailed refuseniks to vigils at the military prisons where they are held. The oldest of the refuser groups, Yesh G’vul continues to struggle against illegal military actions in the Occupied Territories.
See their website here.
Yesh Gvul has compiled a report on Israeli War Crimes and Yesh Gvul leader, Ishai Menuchin, is hosting a new radio show and has a new radio show called “Radio for Peace”. Listen here.
RECENT REPORTS ON THE STATUS OF ISRAELI FREFUSERS AND CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTORS
Please see the following articles:
Reports on Israeli youths and soldiers refusing to serve the occupation
Conscientious Objector Shir Regev in Prison and Updates on Other Objectors
Conscientious Objector Diane Kogan in Prison
THE SHMINISTIM – ISRAEL’S YOUNG CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTORS
The Shministim are Israeli high school students who have been imprisoned for refusing to serve in an army that occupies the Palestinian Territories. Click here to read a brief and informative article about the Shministim from the Alternative Information Center.
And a somewhat repetitive but nonetheless engaging You Tube short made during last winter’s letter writing campaign conducted by Jewish Voice for Peace in support of the Shministim can be found here.
OTHER LINKS TO ANTI-OCCUPATION ACTIVITIES IN ISRAEL/PALESTINE
Occupation Magazine reports on opposition to Occupation. Read it here
The Free Gaza Movement has sent ships to Gaza to break the siege and express nonviolent solidarity with the people of Gaza. Read more at here.
The Israeli Palestinian confederation, founded on June 10, 2010, has presented 6 candidates, 4 for parliament and 2 for president. It is looking to present many more candidates in 300 districts in Israel and Palestine. Read more here.
ICHAD-USA, the American counterpart of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, sponsors a variety of educational activities as well as a summer camp during which volunteers rebuild the home of a Palestinian family whose house has been demolished by Israeli authorities. Read more here.
B’tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, maintains an active web site detailing Israeli human rights violations in the Territories and resistance by Israeli-Palestinian peace groups. Read more here.
RSN NEEDS YOUR SUPPORT!
You can help the efforts of both Palestinian and Israeli refusers and peace activists!
Forward this newsletter to your own peace and justice networks and encourage others to learn about our work.
Send news and links to articles about refusers and anti-occupation work in Israel-Palestine to our newsletter address, [email protected]
And most important, donate to RSN. RSN is the only charitable organization established in the United States that provides grants to refuser organizations.
• Donate to the Refuser Solidarity Network
• Read or subscribe to the Refuser Solidarity Network’s Newsletter.