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ISSUE 118 VOL 9 PUBLISHED 11/19/2004

Israelis reflect on army dissension

By Clare Kennedy
Arts Editor

Friday, November 19, 2004

Last Thursday, students gathered in Science Center 280 to hear two young Israeli men, Shimri Zameret and Noam Bahat, speak on behalf of the Israeli Refuser Movement. The Peace and Justice Resource Network hosted the event.

After a brief introduction by the president of Peace and Justice, Carolyn Albert '05, the two men recounted their personal defiance of the Israeli draft and discussed the political ramifications of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people.

Bahat and Zameret were sentenced to prison for refusing mandatory service in the Israeli military in 2002. Their refusal was grounded on their belief that the occupation of territories such as the West Bank and Gaza Strip is immoral and detrimental to Israel.

The men were court martialed, and, after a nine-month trial, sentenced to two years in prison in addition to the year and one month they had been in custody. Their sentences were reduced on account of good behavior, and Bahat and Zameret were released two months ago after serving 21 months in military jail. The men have been touring the United States in the interests of the Refuser Solidarity Network (RSN) since October. The RSN is an international organization which helps provide both monetary and moral support to Israelis who refuse to serve the occupation.

Refusers, such as Bahat and Zameret, object to the 37-year occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The continual violence between Israeli occupiers and Palestinian inhabitants has reached a critical point. In the last four years, nearly 1,000 Israelis and 2,900 Palestinians have died.

Bahat, Zameret and other refusers believe the solution is to cease occupation of the contested territories.

"We can't hold them forever, so why hold them at all?" Bahat said. "It is not in the benefit of Israel to continue to occupy these territories."

The two were critical of the current Israeli government's continuing settlement and of U.S. support of these policies.

Almost 2,000 people are involved in the refusal movement, and dissent has grown. In January 2002, 53 reserve combat officers and soldiers joined the refusal movement after publishing a letter declaring their refusal to serve in the occupied territories.

Bahat and Zameret believe the refusal movement is having an effect on the Israeli public.

Students who attended the event gave the speakers high marks.

"They were well spoken and I applaud them for sticking up for what they believe in,"Laura Barnard '07 said.

Others were pleased with the civility of the proceedings and were glad to get the chance to hear a new perspective.

"They were really open to everyone's point of view," Annika Jones '07 said. "I had no idea that this group even existed."

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