Shoks Mnisi Mzolo – Cii News | 29 July 2014/02 Shawaal 1435

With well over 25,000 Palestinians taking to the streets from West Bank to Jerusalem, last week’s protest march, amid Ramadan Massacre, was the largest in decades, says Diana Bhutu, a human rights lawyer who also took part. An otherwise peaceful march, billed as 48K (so named to symbolise the 1948 al-Naqba and the many subsequent massacres), was marred by the Israeli military whose firepower claimed the lives of Mohammed al-Aaraj and Majed Sufyan. Hundreds were injured.

“Indeed, we had thousands of people who marched, very peacefully, from one of the refugee camps – just outside Ramallah – heading towards Jerusalem… to try to break the siege, to try to get to Jerusalem to be able to pray at a holy site. To be able to visit our brothers and sisters who are living in Jerusalem, in Bethlehem. Unfortunately our protest, our march was met very violently with the Israelis,” Bhutu told Cii’s Sabahul Khair. “There are reports of at least two Palestinians who have been killed and a number of them who are currently on life support as well as hundreds who are injured as Israel fired teargas, live (ammunition) and other types of action that they took.”

Bhutto, noting that Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority tends to distance itself from resistance and the demands made by Gaza – especially the lifting of the siege – feels 48K is a turning point. Seeing Palestinian factions united in their call for self-determination struck a note. In its conquest project, Israel exploited the Fatah-Hamas rift so well, conceded the erstwhile advisor to the Palestinian Liberation Organisation of Yasser Arafat. “Everyone is united in demanding one thing, which is freedom for Palestine and for Palestinians,” noted Bhutu. Arafat would approve.

Meanwhile, the Ramadan Massacre, which started shortly after the birth of Palestine’s unity government, has taken more than 1000 lives since July 8 when the Israeli Defence Force launched terror attacks in Gaza. West Bank, where civilians are killed as a matter of course, has also suffered as of Thursday’s 48K march that started at 9 pm until way past 2 am. While the IDF, which has lost 35 members in the past three weeks, targets Hamas in Gaza, why is it that 90% of the Palestinians murdered are civilian (including unarmed women and children)? Al Jazeera reported last Saturday that 76 bodies were recovered from the rubble across Gaza were brought to hospitals in this territory.

Bhutto believes 48K, amid Ramadan Massacre (which itself is part of a protracted genocide), is a turning point. Is she too hopeful? The chronology is no different from what the world has seen many times before. Tel Aviv clashes with Hamas, bloodshed follows, ceasefire, then talks-about-talks for a two-state solution. Next time, one side fires rockets. The other retaliates. Blood is shed. Ceasefire follows. The whole tragic cycle repeats itself every two years or so while the world forgets about the real point – what Palestinians want: self-determination, freedom and security.

“All that we’ve seen is that over the course of the past 21 years – while negotiations have been taking place – we’ve seen nearly a tripling of the number of Israeli settlers who are living illegally in the West Bank. We know that these talks are simply designed to give Israel some normalisation and some legitimacy,” Bhutu observes, before tackling revolutionary Vladimir Lenin century-old question: what’s to be done?

“It’s time that we lift the veil of this legitimacy and start piercing Israel – pierce that veil exactly where it hurts Israel the most. (That) is really trying to address this question of whether Israel could be treated as a nation just like any other nation. As you will know, from your experience in South Africa sanctions under apartheid, one of the issues that worked was the fact that the world united,” Bhutu told Cii. “I think that now we have to, as Palestinians and supporters of Palestine, have to stand united. Be pushing for boycott, be pushing sanctions, be pushing for disinvestment and be pushing for an arms embargo on Israel because it’s clear that they do not know how to use weapons responsibly.”

Long before the latest series of massacres, the media reported cases of frequent indiscriminate IDF terror that killed visibly defenceless Palestinians (including children and the elderly) who posed no threat. On the other hand, activists speak of Israel’s “collective punishment” meted to the Palestinians. As the UN asserts, deliberately targeting civilians is “strictly prohibited” in all circumstances. If so, will Israel be tried? Will the world impose sanctions, including the arms embargo that the likes of Bhutu favour? Or will it be back to occupation-invasion-retaliation-bloodshed-ceasefire tragic cycle all over again?

LISTEN to Cii Radio’s Interview with Diana HERE

Why dozens of Israeli reservists are refusing to serve


Protest in Haifa against the brutally excessive IDF offensive.

By: Yael Even Or


Whenever the Israeli army drafts the reserves which are made up of ex-soldiers there are dissenters, resisters, and AWOLers among the troops called to war. Now that Israel has sent troops to Gaza again and reserves are being summoned to service, dozens are refusing to take part.

We are more than 50 Israelis who were once soldiers and now declare our refusal to be part of the reserves. We oppose the Israeli Army and the conscription law. Partly, that’s because we revile the current military operation. But most of the signers below are women and would not have fought in combat. For us, the army is flawed for reasons far broader than “Operation Protective Edge,” or even the occupation. We rue the militarization of Israel and the army’s discriminatory policies. One example is the way women are often relegated to low-ranking secretarial positions. Another is the screening system that discriminates against Mizrachi (Jews whose families originate in Arab countries) by keeping them from being fairly represented inside the army’s most prestigious units. In Israeli society, one’s unit and position determines much of one’s professional path in the civilian afterlife.

To us, the current military operation and the way militarization affects Israeli society are inseparable. In Israel, war is not merely politics by other means it replaces politics. Israel is no longer able to think about a solution to a political conflict except in terms of physical might; no wonder it is prone to never-ending cycles of mortal violence. And when the cannons fire, no criticism may be heard.

This petition, long in the making, has a special urgency because of the brutal military operation now taking place in our name. And although combat soldiers are generally the ones prosecuting today’s war, their work would not be possible without the many administrative roles in which most of us served. So if there is a reason to oppose combat operations in Gaza, there is also a reason to oppose the Israeli military apparatus as a whole. That is the message of this petition:

We were soldiers in a wide variety of units and positions in the Israeli military a fact we now regret, because, in our service, we found that troops who operate in the occupied territories aren’t the only ones enforcing the mechanisms of control over Palestinian lives. In truth, the entire military is implicated. For that reason, we now refuse to participate in our reserve duties, and we support all those who resist being called to service.

The Israeli Army, a fundamental part of Israelis’ lives, is also the power that rules over the Palestinians living in the territories occupied in 1967. As long as it exists in its current structure, its language and mindset control us: We divide the world into good and evil according to the military’s categories; the military serves as the leading authority on who is valued more and who less in society who is more responsible for the occupation, who is allowed to vocalize their resistance to it and who isn’t, and how they are allowed to do it. The military plays a central role in every action plan and proposal discussed in the national conversation, which explains the absence of any real argument about non-military solutions to the conflicts Israel has been locked in with its neighbors.

The Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip are deprived of civil rights and human rights. They live under a different legal system from their Jewish neighbors. This is not exclusively the fault of soldiers who operate in these territories. Those troops are, therefore, not the only ones obligated to refuse. Many of us served in logistical and bureaucratic support roles; there, we found that the entire military helps implement the oppression of the Palestinians.

Many soldiers who serve in non-combat roles decline to resist because they believe their actions, often routine and banal, are remote from the violent results elsewhere. And actions that aren’t banal for example, decisions about the life or death of Palestinians made in offices many kilometers away from the West Bank are classified, and so it’s difficult to have a public debate about them. Unfortunately, we did not always refuse to perform the tasks we were charged with, and in that way we, too, contributed to the violent actions of the military.

During our time in the army, we witnessed (or participated in) the military’s discriminatory behavior: the structural discrimination against women, which begins with the initial screening and assignment of roles; the sexual harassment that was a daily reality for some of us; the immigration absorption centers that depend on uniformed military assistance. Some of us also saw firsthand how the bureaucracy deliberately funnels technical students into technical positions, without giving them the opportunity to serve in other roles. We were placed into training courses among people who looked and sounded like us, rather than the mixing and socializing that the army claims to do.

The military tries to present itself as an institution that enables social mobility a stepping-stone into Israeli society. In reality, it perpetuates segregation. We believe it is not accidental that those who come from middle- and high- income families land in elite intelligence units, and from there often go to work for high-paying technology companies. We think it is not accidental that when soldiers from a firearm maintenance or quartermaster unit desert or leave the military, often driven by the need to financially support their families, they are called “draft-dodgers.” The military enshrines an image of the “good Israeli,” who in reality derives his power by subjugating others. The central place of the military in Israeli society, and this ideal image it creates, work together to erase the cultures and struggles of the Mizrachi, Ethiopians, Palestinians, Russians, Druze, the Ultra-Orthodox, Bedouins, and women.

We all participated, on one level or another, in this ideology and took part in the game of “the good Israeli” that serves the military loyally. Mostly our service did advance our positions in universities and the labor market. We made connections and benefited from the warm embrace of the Israeli consensus. But for the above reasons, these benefits were not worth the costs.

By law, some of us are still registered as part of the reserved forces (others have managed to win exemptions or have been granted them upon their release), and the military keeps our names and personal information, as well as the legal option to order us to “service.” But we will not participate in any way.

There are many reasons people refuse to serve in the Israeli Army. Even we have differences in background and motivation about why we’ve written this letter. Nevertheless, against attacks on those who resist conscription, we support the resisters: the high school students who wrote a refusal declaration letter, the Ultra orthodox protesting the new conscription law, the Druze refusers, and all those whose conscience, personal situation, or economic well-being do not allow them to serve. Under the guise of a conversation about equality, these people are forced to pay the price. No more.