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An article by Itai Swirski
Itai Swirski

"It is I who Refuses" A Personal Letter


It is I, who was born to parents who with Zionist passion left their homeland at the age of 20 and immigrated on their own, without their families, to Israel.


It is I who as a child learned to know and love the landscape of my country by foot, with great joy and passion.


It is I, who as a teenager looked for and finally found a Kibbutz where I was able to work during the summer as a volunteer doing farming, just to taste the traditional Zionist dream.


It is I who volunteered to the paratroopers unit.


It is I who volunteered for the combatant officer's school in order to contribute more to my country.


It is I who have learned there what it means to be an officer, what are the responsibilities, what is "civil courage", what is self-sacrifice, what is setting a personal example.


It is I who learned and absorbed there, that an officer is not only a company or platoon commander, but first of all a person. A thinking, serious, responsible, caring person, who is able to make good judgments.


It is I who learned there that the character and responsibility as an Israeli officer are not supposed to suddenly disappear when you exit the gate of your army base or when you are released from the army, but rather continue to accompany us in our civilian life.


It is I who still proudly wears, at the age of 28, the graduation gift I received at the officers school, a watch with the logo saying I am an "officer 24-hours a day".


It is I who educated tens of cadets with deep belief - these very same values.


It is I, who towards my release from regular army, gave up the pleasant position of assistant company commander of basic training, in order to stay with my old company of field fighters, and go with them to Lebanon.


It is I, who together with my platoon, prevented with our very hands deaths of  IDF soldiers and residents of northern Israel, and we were proud to do that.


It is I, who in continuation with all the things mentioned above, refuse now to serve in the Occupied Territories.


It is I, who refuse to continue the routine of closing my eyes, my ears and my heart to what is happening to my Palestinian neighbors.


It is I, who know from personal experience, that there is no way to serve in the Occupied Territories without hurting and humiliating a population of thousands of Palestinians, without thereby encouraging Palestinian terrorist actions.


It is I, who feel great pain looking at how my country is damaging its moral strength and those values which I was raised on, and I refuse to keep quiet.


It is I who refuse to close my eyes to what is clear, that the Occupation and the settlements are an unnecessary and dangerous adventure, that has continued 35 years too long, and that each additional moment that the Occupation continues lessens the chances we will ever live here in peace with our neighbors.


It is I who want to live in this country, and to raise children here.


It is I who refuse to believe that there is no other choice, that refuses to accept the reality of the Occupation as something obvious.


It is I who understand that after 35 years of blindness to the reality of the Occupation, to the expansion of settlements and their infrastructure, and the oppression of two uprisings - this adventure has already become a matter of inertia, inertia that politicians in our days dont have the power or courage to stop, no matter how much of the population actually want it to be stopped.


It is I who understand that in this terrible gap between the publics wishes and our leaders' policies in the Occupied Territories, occupation will probably continue for a long time, certainly as long as we -- the small percent that continues to proudly serve one month of reserve duty each year -- continue to loyally serve as tools of its implementation and imposition, in definite contradiction with our conscience.


It is I who understand that the call against active participation in the Occupation of the Territories and the protection of the settlements should come from us, those who serve the country and the army in a loyal manner for many years, those who are also with their finger on the trigger, those who determine who shall live and who shall die, who should pass the checkpoint and who should not, who will lose his days wages and who will not.


Therefore, It is I, and it is us, that are now taking responsibility, demonstrating the same civil courage mentioned above, sacrificing our names, reputation and positions and exposing ourselves to (false) claims about dodging and destroying democracy. Its us who now lead and mark the way for our friends, who lye on  the barbed wire fence to allow others the way to hope and change.


It is us who refuse to remain passive or pessimistic, who refuse to let blind and near-sighted leaders lead us to a dead end full of blood and with no hope or future.


It is us who refuse to continue to support with our own hands the political use of the army and all for the benefit of such a small sect of the citizens.


It is us who refuse to do stay indifferent to the non taking of responsibility and lack of courage of our leaders.


It is us who refuse to serve in the Occupied Territories, It is us the Zionists, It is us who care.


It is us who will bring a change.



Itai Swirski

March 2002


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