THE ISRAELI ‘REFUZNIKS’ …. WHO ARE THEY?

By Milena Rampoldi. In the following my interview with the pro-Palestinian activist Olivia Zemor of Europalestine about Israeli Refuzniks. In my opinion, this tiny group can change the militarist and colonialist system in the State of Israel from inside. 

The Refuzniks – a tiny hope for peace in the Middle East?

Who are the Refuzniks and from where does this term come from?

Today, the term Refuznik is used to define the young Israelis who refuse to serve in the occupation army of their country and declare this in public (while many others try to avoid the military service by leaving the country and without proclaiming their refusal in public).

The term comes from Russian (Otkaznik: “отказник” which derives from the substantive “отказ” meaning refusal, opposition). In the past, Refuzniks were the people who were denied their visa by Soviet authorities. In this case, the term refers to Soviet Jews in particular (even if not all Soviet Refuzniks were Jews).

Why are the Refuzniks important to promote a change within Israeli society?

The Israeli Refuzniks are very few, and they know that their number does not suffice to empower a real change in Israeli society. However, they have to be recognised as brave opponents who prefer remaining in custody for a couple of weeks or months instead of going against their conscience.

There are such a few Refuzniks because only very few Israelis who have been indoctrinated since their childhood by patriotic and victimhood propaganda (“we or them”) are able to distance from it and from the hatred and rubble-rousing against Arabs.

Which are the typical steps in a Refuznik’s life?

At the date of her/his calling up to the Israeli military service, the Refuznik declares that she/he does not want to serve in the Israeli occupation army and declares this in public. She/he asks for recognition as conscientious objector in Israel where this status does not exist.

First, the Refuzniks are condemned to a first time in prison of normally three weeks. Then they are brought to senior military officers who ask them to justify themselves. In general, their justifications and motivations are not accepted, and the Refuzniks go back to prison for another couple of weeks. This period in prison can be repeated several times.

How many Refuzniks are there, and who supports them?

The Refuzniks are between 1 and 3 per year being imprisoned at the same time. We know a couple of dozens of them.

They are supported by the Israeli association Masarvot.

Since a couple of years, the majority of the Refuzniks have been women. Why?  

Perhaps men – more than women – worry about being defamed as weak and as traitors to their country. Probably women are also more sensitive to any form of violence in Israeli society, perceived by them as the consequence of illegal occupation, its brutality, and its dehumanizing characteristics.

How can we support the Refuznik movement from abroad?

It is essential to support the Refuzniks to show that all Jews and all Israeli do not automatically support Israeli politics.

We have to talk about them, publish their photos, write to them, compliment and encourage them. We can also help them financially because they make important, financial sacrifices by renouncing to all the advantages related to military service (study grants, student housing…)

Many Refuzniks call for the boycott against Israel. So, if we support them, we will automatically extend the international BDS campaign.

 

Originally posted AT

3 Comments

  1. Tim Hadfield said,

    December 4, 2017 at 16:47

    Is there a refusnik support organisation?

  2. desertpeace said,

    December 4, 2017 at 17:44

    not sure ,,,, sorry

  3. December 5, 2017 at 05:06

    Thank you so much! I haven’t heard about Refuzniks for a while, but I’m so glad to know you’re still there – doing what is right!


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