Courage to Refuse's first Demonstration in the Occupied Territories
Dozens of members of Courage to refuse demonstrated today at the Rimonim roadblock, in protest of what was termed by the IDF officials as "collective punishment". The demonstration was held following the imprisonment of a reserve soldier who refused to participate in this illegal activity.
Tom Mehager, 27, is an Israeli reserve soldier who had served for many years in a combat unit. On November 4th 2003, Tom was summoned for reserve service in a place called Rimonim, located east of Ramalla. He was ordered to man an IDF roadblock in that region. When he inquired about the purpose of this roadblock, his superiors gave him a full brief: His mission was to punish the habitants of the surrounding Palestinian villages.
It appears that 10 months ago a terrorist group emerged from one of the nearby villages, and the local population have been subjected to collective punishment ever since. The roadblock actually prevents any normal life in the region. It is opened and closed arbitrarily, for up to 12 hours at a time, preventing the habitants of the nearby villages from commuting to work, from reaching school or visiting relatives.
Tom announced that he'll take no part in this illegal activity, and was immediately court-marshaled and sentenced to 28 days in prison. The next day at , several dozen members of Courage to Refuse set out to the Rimonim Roadblock to demonstrate their support of Tom's courageous act of moral dignity. Tzahal, they protested, was established to protect our country, not to punish innocent civilians.
The event was covered by the local press, and Tom managed to "sneak" a call from prison and give his live testimony on a radio talk show. (thus subjecting himself to an additional 10 days in prison for talking to the press without the consent of the military authorities).
Tom Mehager decided to sign the Combatants' Letter, and is now a member of Courage to Refuse . His testimony will soon be available in English at our website.