As Ariel Sharon's siege continues, the focus of the Israeli-Palestinian war is shifting to a growing group of Israeli reservist soldiers who are refusing to fight. By April 8, the number of these "refuseniks" had grown to 404. They include officers, paratroopers, combat infantry, engineers—the entire gamut of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). Over the weekend, a group protested in front of Sharon's home in Jerusalem. Thirty-two have been sent to jail, according to the Israeli paper Ha'aretz.
Statements by two reservists provide a glimpse of their thinking. Reserve Corporal David Pearlman, who refused to serve in the territories and was sent to prison for 14 days, said, "The principles and motives that six and a half years ago led me to leave Australia, come to live in Israel, and serve as a regular conscript in the Israel Defense Forces and later as a reservist are the same principles and motives that have prompted me, now, to refuse to serve in the Occupied Territories and play a part in carrying out immoral actions."
A second reservist, Elad Lahav, sentenced to 28 days in prison, said, "Since seder night, I have been living with a terrible feeling because of the horrific terror attack in Netanya, because of the government's decision to conduct an ongoing act of war, the final outcome of which no one knows, and due to the fact that I am here while my unit comrades are stationed in Hebron. . . . I am a Zionist and a patriot and went to serve in an infantry unit out of free choice. When I informed [the IDF] of my refusal to do reserve duty in Hebron, around half of my friends in my platoon told me that they supported my actions. The others said they didn't agree with me but understood me."
The refuseniks' statement, in part: "We, reserve combat officers and soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces, who were raised upon the principles of Zionism, sacrifice, and giving to the people of Israel and to the State of Israel, who have always served in the front lines, and who were the first to carry out any mission, light or heavy, in order to protect the State of Israel and strengthen it.
"We, combat officers and soldiers who have served the State of Israel for long weeks every year, in spite of the dear cost to our personal lives, have been on reserve duty all over the Occupied Territories, and were issued commands and directives that had nothing to do with the security of our country, and that had the sole purpose of perpetuating our control over the Palestinian people. We, whose eyes have seen the bloody toll this Occupation exacts from both sides.
"We, who sensed how the commands issued to us in the Territories destroy all the values we had absorbed while growing up in this country.
"We, who understand now that the price of Occupation is the loss of IDF's human character and the corruption of the entire Israeli society.
"We, who know that the Territories are not Israel, and that all settlements are bound to be evacuated in the end.
"We hereby declare that we shall not continue to fight this War of the Settlements.
"We shall not continue to fight beyond the 1967 borders in order to dominate, expel, starve and humiliate an entire people.
"We hereby declare that we shall continue serving in the Israel Defense Forces in any mission that serves Israel's defense.
"The missions of occupation and oppression do not serve this purpose—and we shall take no part in them."
SCIENTISTS TOLD TO COOL IT
The Bush administration is borrowing a tactic long employed by the religious right in an effort to change environmental policies it doesn't like. This involves less of an attack on the policy itself, but more on the science that underpins it. Last week, the Natural Resources Defense Council made public a memo from ExxonMobil to Bush, written in the early days of the administration, laying out a game plan for getting rid of government scientists raising alarms over global warming.
The main target of the oil company's attack then and now is Robert Watson, who has been chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) since 1996. This 2,500-member group, under UN auspices, provides governments around the world with information issued in consensus and widely respected as authoritative when it comes to global warming. Its third comprehensive assessment of climate science, issued last year, said, "There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the past 50 years is attributable to human activities" and predicted that temperatures around the world would rise from 3 degrees to 10 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century.
These conclusions were confirmed last spring at the request of the White House. But so what? In a memo dated Feb. 6, 2001, the environmental lobbyist in ExxonMobil's Washington office referred to Watson as being "handpicked by Al Gore," along with three other Gore adherents promoting their own "aggressive agendas" in reaching an assessment "driven by a political schedule to help the Gore campaign." Under "Recommendations," ExxonMobil urged the Bush administration to "restructure the U.S. attendance at upcoming IPCC meetings to assure none of the Clinton/Gore proponents are involved in any decisional activities." And get rid of Watson. Last week, the coal and electric utilities industries, along with the automakers, all called on Bush to get rid of Watson.
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ARYANS DIG SUICIDES
Always ready to grab a headline, the white power crowd wants to cash in on the Palestinian women suicide bombers. A statement posted on the Aryan Nations website last week by the group's Pennsylvania state officer, Joshua Caleb Sutter, warned that unless the U.S. stops providing support to Israel and lays off Saddam Hussein, we may see a rash of suicide bombings in the U.S. "Is there a price to be paid for our inaction?" he asked. "Will it be your son or daughter next who is the suicide bomber—not in the distant land of Palestine, but here on American soil? Will the sons and daughters of YHVH God be joining with the zealous soldiers of Mohammed, rising up in righteous indignation? Will the Phineas Priests and Phineas Priestesses begin awaking all over this country" to carry out vengeance?
While the far right in recent years has concentrated on small underground cells to carry out its revolution, there has been a growing tendency for its adherents to act as lone figures in carrying out the white revolution. These lone attackers have gone after abortion clinics, Jewish temples and anything else they don't like. Eric Rudolph, wanted in a North Carolina abortion clinic death and for the bombing of the Atlanta Olympics, is arguably in the Phineas priest tradition, based on a Bible story in which Phineas rose up and slew a mud person (i.e., a Jew or person of color) whom he caught screwing a white woman. However, no one has ever suggested that anyone on the far right has the guts to be a suicide bomber.
Additional reporting by Gabrielle Jackson, Meritxell Mir and Michael Ridley.