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An article by Noam Livne
Noam Livne

A Moment Before the Abyss


Recently I have been asked more than once "Why did you refuse to serve in the territories?" To all those who are democratic, humanistic and rational, I will try to explain my decision. It is hard for me to carry out a dialogue with those who are not. I'm sorry about that. But first I'd like to begin with a quick overview.

Israel today is rapidly, vigorously and arrogantly approaching its end. To me, the possibility that the State of Israel will exist in another 30 years seems to be fantasy. We have felt this way for some time, we speak about it occasionally in passing, but we never speak about the subject in depth. The general feeling is that every possible conflict in the country has worsened. Here are some examples:


The parasite-host relationship that has developed between one sector and the rest of the country has grown out of control beyond every conceivable limit. In the Knesset, there sit people who are willing, without even the blink of an eye, to send you to work harder in order to bring money to their constituents. At the same time they make certain that their constituents will not be required to bear the same burden as you. Meanwhile, you are risking your life and may possibly die for a piece of land that seems to them important enough for you to pay that price. All of this is being permitted by people, whom you have sent to the Knesset to represent you.


Day by day, the poor are becoming poorer and the rich are becoming richer. In the Knesset, there sit people who understand the meaning of this, and the severe damage to society. They know exactly what needs to be done to stop this process, but they don't do anything, because having their seat means more to them then the purpose of the seat itself.


The government has no policy for security. In fact it has no policy at all. It is hardly a government. Certainly it has no security. The only thing it can be secure of is that tomorrow will be worse. In fact, Sharon has no message for the people, no idea, suggestion, direction, something. The actions that we are mistakenly referring to as "policy" are a collection of emotional reflexes in the worst case and a desire for ratings and favorable public opinion in an even worse case. There is no logic between action and result. There is no attempt to delve into the situation to examine its more basic foundations. That is to say, for Sharon, there is nothing wrong with the paradigm: Terrorist attack-escalation-assassination-escalation-attack-escalation and so forth … apparently Sharon thinks that we are only a few assassinations away from peace. As if in a short time we will kill the last of our haters (because there are not many of them. After all, why should people hate us?).


The alienation that exists today between Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews has never been greater. The October events, where 13 Israeli citizens were killed, were not just a catalyst but rather, just an indicator.

This is just a small sampling. The overall feeling is that everything is dissolving in our hands. We are at the zero hour in the test of our existence. Groups of phalanges have been formed, not a country. Try a thought experiment: close your eyes and try to envision what will be here 30 years from now.


In addition to all of this, the left-wing in the country is displaying apathy. As if in fact, all of this does not bother anyone. Everyone is busy with their own material existence, and they just hope that the next terrorist attack does not hit them or their family. While they have been busy working in hi-tech, the only group that appears to be willing to stand up for an ideology and is willing to suffer casualties for its beliefs, are the settlers.

Apparently there is some deep contradiction. How can such a large public that suffers so much from the situation, be so minimally involved in what is happening around it? What is going on here? Where has the left-wing ideology disappeared? How many leftists today can say that they are patriots? I can speak for myself and say: I am not a patriot.


All my life I volunteered. I did one year of community service. I was in a combat unit. I was an officer. I volunteered in public service organizations. But today I can say with confidence (and much anguish): I don't like my country. In fact, I am embarrassed by it. I was taught that patriotism is a value. But if patriotism is automatic, then it has no meaning, and if it has no meaning then certainly it has no value. And if it isn't automatic then it requires some thought before deciding to be a patriot. And if so, show me what logical thought can cause me to love my country today.


The bare truth is that 200,000 citizens are holding the other 9 million hostage in a violent blood bath that has continued for 35 years. And this vicious cycle of blood and violence takes precedence over every other problem. It allows for all the evil and corruption that I mentioned. It is time to lay the cards on the table: the country would not look like it does today if there were no settlements. People, wake up! This is now! Now it is happening! Just a few kilometers from where you are sitting now there is a war taking place, a brutal, awful, idiotic, derisive, unjust, voluntary war. We are fighting a war that we cannot win, that we were never justified in, and most of us never wanted, for territories that we will eventually need to leave. In any case, Jews will never be able to live in these territories in peace. We are sacrificing our sons, brothers and fathers. We are ignoring every other problem we have in the country: the handicapped, poor, elderly, the roads - everything becomes an afterthought to Kfar Darom, Netzarim, Beit-El and the detached, crazy settlement at the heart of Hebron.


And you my friends, receive brown envelopes [for reserve duty], grumble to yourself, and after 60 days (by law) you pack up your bags, put on your shoes and go take your part in the Parade of Folly of our questionable history. Deep inside, you know what is the moral consequence of what you are doing. You are able to point to 'gray spots' in history, to unnecessary wars, to unnecessary killing, to soldiers who acted as thoughtless pawns for megalomaniac leaders, drunk with power. Through misjudgment they agreed to fight in those unnecessary wars and to end their lives wastefully. But somehow you don't see yourself in the same light. According to you, when it deals with here and now, there is no limit to your obedience.


You are hiding behind the word "democracy." And in doing so, you are trampling every democratic ideal that you were raised and educated on. The roadblock is in the name of democracy. The curfew is in the name of democracy. The complete demolition of towns is in the name of democracy. The "pinpoint killings" (including those who are killed as "collateral damage") is in the name of democracy. South Africa was also a democracy for the whites living there.

You are hiding behind security considerations. And you don't understand that the teenager, whose brother was killed yesterday, is the terrorist of today. And the kid who saw his father humiliated at a roadblock some years ago is the suicide bomber of today. Our presence in the territories creates terror, it doesn't prevent it. It is possible to fight the reasons for terror, but not the terror itself.


You are saying: I will go there and "influence from the inside." Then you arrive there and once again you realize that in the eyes of the Palestinian at the roadblock, all soldiers are the same, and it is the same roadblock and the same occupation. The 9-year-old changes at night and becomes a "14-year-old youth." He innocently strolls "too close" to the fence, becomes "enemy sabotage" and the shooting because of lack of good judgment becomes "shooting in self-defense," according to the army spokesman. And suddenly you can't remember why you went there in the first place.


You say: for the sake of solidarity, for the sake of unity, for the sake of togetherness. So you go do, and see that which disconnects you even more, which separates you from them, which cuts you off from the country. And when you return, you crawl even deeper into your shell.


You are afraid to go against the flow. And you don't realize that the current is flowing downwards, into the abyss. And paradoxically, your passiveness makes you the biggest activist of the occupation. You are the occupation.
Friends, it is very simple. The truth demands courage. It takes more courage to refuse to fight and withstand the calls of "coward", than it does to agree and fight for the title of "hero." It takes courage to leave this cycle. Don't let fear paralyze you. It may kill you; it may kill all of us.


My answer to the question "Why did you refuse to serve in the territories?" is the more troubling question, "Why, my friends, did you agree?"


Noam Livne (translated by Mike Raphaeli)


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