Friday, December 28, 2007

[ePalestine] The Burden of Draft Dodging: 'I was a commander in the army - what are you?'

Dear friends, 

The mere fact that the event below took place, as sad as the results were, is another crack in glass of occupation.  The rising militarism in Israel (not to mention the world) is scarier than ever before.

On another note, I'd like to propose everyone start the new year by taking a simple action in their own community.  Although I can take issue with their call for a Jewish-only state, I applaud Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace, efforts in trying to educate Rabbis on the essence of the Israeli military occupation.  If each community prints and binds copies of the below guide and hand delivers them to each Rabbi in your city, it would be well worth the effort.  This could also be launched in your community as a public effort to be covered by your local media.  Education is a big part of seeing the light.

"A Rabbinic Guide to 40 Years of Occupation"

Last but not least, remember you can always manage your subscription to ePalestine via the instructions at the end of every posting.  You can also also pass the instructions to your friends to subscribe as well.

Saluting those speaking out with actions,


Occupation magazine

Commentary on current events

The Burden of Draft Dodging: 'I was a commander in the army - what are you?'
By Peleg Sapir
Hagada Hasmalit
Translated from Hebrew by Daphna Levit

I want to relate an incident that happened to me and my friends, which clearly and disturbingly illustrates the violence that is developing over the issue of 'draft dodging' (I prefer the term 'evasion') and possibly predicts the future. This article was originally written as a letter to Gideon Spiro, but the decision was made to publish it in its entirety. Yesterday (Thursday, December 13th) a gathering was held at the Sheraton Hotel in Tel Aviv to launch the forum 'Parents for an Equal Burden', which primarily dealt with 'the danger of draft dodging'. Actually, it seems that their entire concern was with 'the danger of draft dodging', as appropriate to any proto-fascistic society. My friends and I came to the meeting to protest - the meeting was free and open to the general public. We entered with one of our friends bound in chains, shouting: 'Here, we caught a draft dodger! Teach him a lesson! Draft him!' 

At first, the participants reacted with a mixture of derision and anger, which quickly turned into shouting and a somewhat justifiable (in my opinion) non-violent attempt to get us out of the hall. But a few seconds later, as we were on our way out, a commotion started. We had to move along the wall since there were chairs preventing us from going directly to the door, and some of the parents used this to block our progress, to push us to the wall and, simply, to pounce upon us. The first violent act - certainly not the last - was when one of the fathers (I later found out it was Shlomo Vishinski) grabbed a friend of mine, named Dan who, ironically, had served in the army, and turning red with rage, choked him vehemently shouting: 'I was a commander in the army -- what are you?!' 

At this stage, the commotion was under way. Many of the people in the hall surrounded us, some of them shouting at us, some of them trying to hit us (one of my friends, Alex was pushed to the floor, another, Yonathan, was vigorously kicked). They looked as though they wanted to kill us, although I assume they did not intend to kill us, but they did want to show us their rage. Somehow we managed to drag the entire riot outside, while the more moderate among them - perhaps the mothers - shouting at us 'Shame on you! You are Scum! Etc.' At this time there was an attempt to prevent our exit by using the well known method of holding us to the floor and hitting us. I loath violence, am afraid of it, and I managed to run away more quickly, to get less of the violence and the beatings and to raise myself above the commotion to discover that the guards were not allowing us to exit. One of the organizers shouted to them to prevent us from leaving and they obliged by using force. The answer to my question: 'Is there no freedom of expression here?' was 'Freedom of expression? You will have none of that you scum! The police will show you what freedom of expression means!' or some similar response, which clarified that we as draft dodgers are entitled to nothing. I have no idea how my friends and I finally got out of the hall and the hotel. The security guards ran after us for a while but we escaped. The parents called the police, which had it functioned properly, should have arrested them for the attack. I had never before in my life seen an attempted lynch, and maybe that is why, one day later, I am still in shock. 

The violence demonstrated by the parents astounded me - they were more violent and enraged then the soldiers I had seen in demonstrations in the occupied territories. My friends, all experienced 'fighters' against the police and other fascists at demonstrations - were all equally astounded by the response that was so totally out of proportion to our actions, which were, admittedly, provocative. On the other hand, whoever is leading a political campaign should be aware of the possibility of a response like ours, which was in no way violent. All in all it was a performance that exaggerates and ridicules the audience and the purposes of the forum. But, ironically, the participants took our performance as an exaggeration of their own behavior and realized it. 

This morning, I was amazed to read in the newspaper (I am not sure why we are still subscribed to Yediot Aharont) that we are 'violent leftist activists' who hit a bereaved father (I think that was the man who attacked Dan and who was apparently hurt when prevented from beating and choking him to death) and that the forum of 'Parents for an Equal Burden' has no intention of pursuing draft dodgers. Furthermore, it appears that we verbally abused the parents, shouting things like 'Neo Nazis' etc. This is amusing since we are all the grandchildren of holocaust survivors and we avoid the usage of such terms in all our discourse. It was, in fact, one of the mothers who yelled at us 'you are the ones who sprayed the words neo-Nazi on my house yesterday! Which one of you did that?' In the MaAriv article we were identified as members of New Profile, which some of us are active in but we did not act here on its behalf. 

While the violence I saw yesterday surprised me, the lies in the media destroyed the rest of my faith in people. We used no violence. Anyone who was there can testify that some of those present had to prevent the parents and other young people from injuring us more seriously, that enraged people pounced upon us to beat us up, that a group of people in the hall held Alex on the floor to prevent his escape, while they were punching him in the face with their fists, that they blocked our way out and altogether - the violence came from the parents. 

Since this horrifying campaign began, under the leadership of the ultra-fascist Eliezer Stern, I am more horrified daily. Since the signs were placed on almost every third bus, at the cost of thousands of Shekels if not millions, I feel threatened. Since yesterday, I am afraid, really afraid. Because the violence of people who demand military service for all is insane. Afraid because when the parents for the draft are violent - we are described in the media as violent activists. Throughout my political activity I was convinced that the activist community has exaggerated the description of the behavior of the police, the soldiers and the nationalists. Yesterday I saw with my own eyes. On the contrary, the behavior has been softened. We must point out and shout about the real danger - people are becoming more violent and nationalistic. The country is being pushed - no, pushing itself - towards increasing fascism. Even today, many citizens of the State of Israel are under military authority, a large number has no equal rights. The day is not so far that we too will be in that situation. 

I don't know if I have managed to entirely convey the horror I saw yesterday and I am sure that this is not news to some of the activist readers and even to some of my friends mentioned here. Nevertheless, I felt the need to write about the violence. (On the subject of the fascist campaign and militarism in Israel I still have a lot to say). I hope this story will arouse some interest.  

I pray that the situation does not deteriorate, that we find ourselves in a saner society. 


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