Michael Riordon

the view from where I live

Israel’s choice: Everyday brutality or nonviolent resistance

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Two recent items from Israel stand in stark contrast to each other, as alternate signposts to the future.  Already the norm, the first is far more likely, but the second is not impossible, not yet.

Noam Gur, with her refusal statement.  Photo: Activestills

First, a biting commentary on the Israeli military by Uri Avnery, titled The Iron Man: “Stupid and Mean and Brutal.”  It’s followed by a plea from New Profile to support Noam Gur, currently imprisoned for refusing to serve in the machine that Avnery describes so graphically:

“In blood and sweat / A race will arise to us / Proud and generous and brutal…”

Thus wrote Vladimir (Ze’ev) Jabotinsky, the founder of extreme right-wing Zionism, who was also a writer and a poet.  Present-day Likud leaders see him as their forefather, much as Stalin saw Karl Marx.

The world “brutal” stands out, because it seems implausible that Jabotinsky really meant it.  His Hebrew was not very good, and he probably meant something like “hard” or “tough”.

If Jabotinsky saw today’s Likud, he would shudder.  His was a 19th century mixture of extreme nationalism, liberalism and humanism.

Paradoxically, brutality is the only one of the three traits that is prominent in our life today, especially in the occupied Palestinian territories.  There is nothing there to be proud of, and generosity is something associated with the despised leftists.

THE ROUTINE, everyday brutality that governs the occupied territories was caught on video this week.  A searing flash in the darkness.

It happened on Route 90, a highway that connects Jericho with Beth She’an along the Jordan River.  It is the main road of the Jordan valley, which our government aims to annex to Israel one way or another.  [Continue reading Uri Avnery here…]

At the same, this encouraging message arrived from New Profile, an Israeli feminist organization that tries to counter the ‘everyday brutality’ which, as Uri Avery argues, is inevitable under any colonial regime:

Conscientious objector Noam Gur refuses to join the Israeli Army.

Noam Gur, 18 years old, from Kiryat Motzkin near Haifa, arrived on Monday morning, 16 April, at the army Induction Base in Tel Hashomer.  There she declared her refusal to serve in the Israeli Army.

In her refusal declaration Noam wrote:

“For years I have been told that control over the Palestinian people is supposed to protect me, but information about the suffering caused due to the terrorizing of the Palestinian population was omitted from that story.  The road to dismantling this apartheid and achieving true and just peace is long, and hard, but as I see it, actions taken by the Israeli army only push it further away.  Over this past decade, the Palestinian people have been increasingly choosing the path of nonviolent resistance, and I choose to join this path and to turn to a popular, nonviolent struggle in Palestine, rather than to serve in the Israeli army and continue the violence.”  [Military refuser, activist and journalist Haggai Matar interviews Noam Gur here.]

Noam was immediately sentenced to 10 days in military prison for her refusal.  Normal practise is to renew such sentences until the person agrees to join the army, or is released for a variety of reasons.

Ruth Hiller of New Profile adds:  “Please note that Noam is being held in solitary confinement.  She really needs your support now.  Since the prison authorities often block mail from reaching imprisoned objectors, you can send support letters to: messages2prison@newprofile.org, or to shministim@gmail.com.  We will make sure she gets them.”

Recommended Action

1)  Please circulate this message and information as widely as possible, through e-mail, websites, social networks, conventional media, and word of mouth.

2)  For those who live outside Israel, it would be very effective to send protests to your local Israeli embassy or consulate.  You can find their addresses here.

Here is a generic sample letter, which you can use in sending appeals to authorities on the prisoners’ behalf.  Please feel free to modify it, or write your own:

Dear Sir/Madam,

It has come to my attention that Noam Gur (military ID 6084062), a conscientious objector to military service, has been imprisoned for the second time for his refusal to become part of the Israeli army, and is held in Military Prison no. 6 near Atlit.

The imprisonment of conscientious objectors such as Gur is a violation of international law, of basic human rights and of plain morals.

I therefore call for the immediate and unconditional release from prison of Noam Gur, without threat of further imprisonment in the future, and urge you and the system you are heading to respect the dignity and person of conscientious objectors, indeed of all persons, in the future.

3)  Writing op-ed pieces and letters to editors in Israel and other countries could also be quite useful in indirectly but powerfully pressuring the military authorities to let go of the objectors and in bringing their plight and their cause to public attention.

[It does help.  As Haggai Matar explained to me in Our Way to Fight, international attention helped win his release after two years in prison for refusing military service.  Ruth Hiller also notes: “I am pleased to let you know that Iliya Fox was successful in his appeal, and he has been released from doing military service on the grounds of pacifism.”

Nonviolent resistance.  It’s worth the fight.]

Contact details for the main media outlets in Israel:

2 Karlibach Street
Tel-Aviv 67132
Fax: +972-3-561-06-14
e-mail: editor@maariv.co.il <mailto:editor@maariv.co.il>

  Yedioth Aharonoth: 
2 Moses Street
Fax: +972-3-608-25-46

 Ha’aretz (Hebrew): 
21 Schocken Street
Tel-Aviv, 61001
Fax: +972-3-681-00-12

  Ha’aretz (English edition): 
21 Schocken Street
Tel-Aviv, 61001
Fax: +972-3-512-11-56
e-mail: letters@haaretz.co.il <mailto:letters@haaretz.co.il>

    Israel Hayom: 
2 Hashlosha Street
The B1 Building
e-mail: hayom@israelhayom.co.il <mailto:hayom@israelhayom.co.il>

Jerusalem Post: 
P.O. Box 81
Jerusalem 91000
Fax: +972-2-538-95-27
e-mail: news@jpost.co.il <mailto:news@jpost.co.il> or
letters@jpost.co.il <mailto:letters@jpost.co.il>

Author: Michael Riordon

Canadian writer and documentary-maker Michael Riordon writes/ directs/produces books and articles, audio, video and film documentaries, plays for radio and stage. A primary goal of his work is to recover voices and stories of people who have been silenced or marginalized, written out of the official version: First Nations (aboriginal) youth, Mozambican farmers, inmates in Canadian prisons, traditional healers in Fiji, queer folk across Canada, Guatemalan labour activists. Michael also leads courses, workshops and seminars for community organizations, trade unions, schools, colleges and universities.

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