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

PROFILES IN COURAGE ~~ ISRAELI TEENS REFUSE TO SERVE IN ARMY

 Israeli teens enter jail rather than take part in army crimes against Palestinians
Submitted by Ali Abunimah
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On Monday, Israeli teenager, Noam Gur, began an initial ten-day prison sentence because she publicly refused to serve in the Israeli army. A second teen, Alon Gurman, presented himself at the military base in order to refuse service, along with Gur, but according to a tweet from Gur was sent home without being jailed.

@GNoam
Noam They are afraid! Alon just got a 21 profile so he free and going home. Even thought he told the mental office his refusal is political.
Apr 16 via Twitter for Android Favorite Retweet Reply

In a short video produced by Jillian Kestler d’Amours for the Alternative Information Center, Gur explained – at the gate of the military camp where she is serving her sentence – why she has chosen to resist conscription:

I’m in prison because Israel is committing crimes. Israel has been committing crimes since Israel was established… It committed crimes since 1948, when the Nakba occurred. People were banned away from coming here, which is a crime that Israel is still committing, not allowing them to come back… Israel is committing crimes when its occupying and killing people, not allowing them to have any kind of human rights, it takes land and water resources. It’s committing crimes in the siege of Gaza. Concluding all of that, it makes sense that I would not want to serve this country.

“I don’t want to be silent”

In an interview with The Electronic Intifada last month when she first announced her intention to refuse, Gur explained the importance of doing so publicly, rather than just seeking to avoid conscription quietly as many other Israelis do:

Noam Gur: Ten years ago, there was a huge movement of refuseniks and in the last two or three years, it’s kind of disappeared. I’m the only refusenik this year, so for me it was trying to let people know that it still exists, first of all.

Second of all, I don’t want to be silent. I feel like [since] high school, we’ve always been silent. We always let our criticism be known only in small circles. The world doesn’t know, Palestinians don’t know. I don’t know if it will change anything, but I can only try. I feel better with myself knowing that I tried to make even the smallest change.

Noam Gur “in solitary confinement”

Noam Gur tweeted all the way into the military base where she’d begin her imprisonment.

@GNoam
Noam We made it. Can hear the prisoners inside. Shit.
Apr 17 via Twitter for Android Favorite Retweet Reply

@GNoam
Noam Guess what we are doing? Right, waiting! http://t.co/z1JxExYq
Apr 17 via Twitter for Android Favorite Retweet Reply

@GNoam
Noam Last twit. Im inside the base. Love and peace and comfy beds to all.
Apr 17 via Twitter for Android Favorite Retweet Reply

However, a supporter continues to tweet updates using Gur’s account. They latest update was that Gur had refused to wear a uniform and thus had been placed in solitary confinement:

@GNoam
Noam Refuser @GNoam in prison, refusing military uniforms & so in solitary confinement. #refusing2occupy.4 support letters shministim@gmail.com
Apr 17 via TweetCaster for BlackBerry Favorite Retweet Reply

 

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