Question: In a democratic society, is it permissible for army reservists to refuse to serve in a location or carry out a function designated by the army?

Answer: The foremost duty of a citizen in a democracy is to ensure that it remain democratic. Majority rule is a central principle of democracy, but it is not the only one. There are some things that a democracy is prohibited from doing. (Everyone is in agreement about that; the question is, which things?) So it is one's civic duty to refuse to perform undemocratic activities, even in the name of one's country. In our opinion, the lengthy occupation (35 years, including the transfer of Jewish citizens into occupied territories)--and, in particular, the means we are forced to use in order to maintain the occupation--are so anti-democratic that they override the principle of majority rule. Thus, the very refusal to carry out such orders is a true democratic act. Our refusal is not undermining the nature of the State of Israel as a democratic nation. On the contrary--it is strengthening it. Moreover, democratic governments everywhere, including in Israel, are known for never doing "the right thing" until they are pressured to do so by public opinion. It is the duty of a democratic citizenry to apply such pressure. When members of a minority feel that the democratic regime is too oppressive, or is forcing them to obey laws which are contrary to their conscience, they sometimes reach the point where they are ready to pay the price for refusing to compromise their principles. Sometimes it turns out that this minority is, in fact, not a minority at all. Only when it rises up and succeeds in mustering support for its stand is it then strong enough to influence majority opinion. The strike waged by the handicapped is a case in point. Another example: The Kfar Sava Municipality decided to drastically raise property taxes. Property owners in Kfar Sava decided not to pay the extra amount, even though they were charged fines and other surcharges. In the end, the decision was overturned, property taxes were restored to their former level, and all the surcharges were annulled. We have always been the "good guys" who carry out their obligations without asking too many questions. But the rules of the game have to change, and the time for change is now.

Question: If the government were to decide to evacuate settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, and soldiers who support such settlement refused to evacuate them, would you be as understanding?

Answer: Absolutely! Difficult as it may be, we will not force unwilling soldiers to evacuate settlements.

Question: What do you expect the army to do? To ask every soldier if he feels like serving in the occupied territories?

Answer: The army is considerate of the feelings of other sectors of the population. Ultra-orthodox Jews are not required to serve in the army. Special arrangements are made for outstanding athletes and musicians; only children; soldiers without family in Israel; soldiers from the lower socioeconomic strata of society, and many others. Gen. Uzi Dayan once said that the I.D.F. "must allow discussion of the moral aspects of service in the territories." To date, there is no avenue for a soldier plagued by moral questions to find solutions to his problems. Quite the contrary. Conscientious objectors are subjected to humiliation and vindictive behavior, forced to choose between prison or consultation with a mental health officer. And the army, by refusing to deal with the issue, loses out on one more soldier who could have made an important contribution in another post. The army must come to realize that moral values have the same restrictive effect on a soldier's actions as do medical or psychological disabilities. Why should we risk our lives, at the same time compromising our values? Our military and political leaders are obliged to explain to us what we are fighting for. What are our objectives? Who is the enemy? Is there really no other option? By evading political decisions the government is abandoning all of us to our fate. We need to have our faith restored, the faith that was lost long ago.

Question: We are at war. Don't you think that it is criminal to refuse to serve in wartime?

Answer: When the country is fighting for its life, we all have to take part in the struggle. Today we are not fighting for the survival of the state. We are fighting to maintain our role as conqueror and occupier of the territories. Our feeling is that the mutual acts of terror are not inevitable; the situation can be changed. The decision is a political one, not a military one. Declaring a state of "war" in order to induce an atmosphere in which people feel they are obliged to serve, is the same as declaring an area to be a "restricted military area" in order to evacuate the civilian population, or declaring a "state of emergency" in order to crush a workers' strike. It is a cynical use of power by governments (the journalist, Ofer Shelach, called our government a "military junta") in order to squelch legitimate protest. During the twentieth century millions of soldiers went off to what today are considered to have been unnecessary wars. We have decided to say: No!

Question: What's your problem? All you're being asked to do is to protect Israeli citizens who work or travel in the territories. How is that any different from protecting citizens anywhere else? For example, why is that different from patrolling an airport overseas?

Answer: The best answer we can give is a quote from Gen. (res.) Effi Etam [today a leader of Israel's militant right wing]. Etam wrote that civilians living in combat zones should know that they are likely to be hurt. He, of course, was referring to Palestinians living in Raffah, but his words are applicable to the Jewish settlers as well. These settlers are far from being innocent lambs. They refuse to allow the building of protective walls around their settlements, they refuse to bullet-proof their cars, and they refuse to adapt their way of life to the reality of living in a combat zone. They trick the army, setting up outposts behind its back and forcing it to split up its defense forces; they provoke conflict whenever things get quiet. They are not helping themselves--why do I have to help them?

Question: Your claims are political in nature. Political protest is legitimate, but the army stands outside of politics, doesn't it?

Answer: I have two answers to this question. First of all, the army has been engaging in politics for long time. It is more political today than it's ever been, and there's no use in pretending to be neutral. Witness some of the comments made by the Chief of Staff, the head of the Intelligence Branch, etc. Not to mention the lies put out by the Army Spokesman that have raised serious doubts as to his credibility. Second, its true that until now you have asked questions with a political flavor to them. But my refusal to serve in the territories is primarily grounded in moral reasons. We know what kind of activities the soldiers--especially the reservists--are being required to carry out. It's not about apprehending potential terrorists; it's not about demolishing artillery positions that are shooting at Jewish settlements inside the Green Line. It's not really necessary to recount the stories; you can read about them every day in the newspapers, including the Israeli press. You can see pictures on the foreign news stations, you can talk to soldiers who return home in shock from the checkposts. They are turning us into animals; they are giving free rein to the most sadistic elements among us. We are not prepared to be part of this. In all the accounts of the most vicious conflicts known to the twentieth century, people have always lauded those few who refused to take part in the atrocities and who offered their aid to the victims, whether openly or in secret. How many war movies have been made showing the "good soldier" who refuses to harm defenseless civilians? I feel that this is now our moment of truth, and every one of us has to decide if he is or is not a of the human race.

Question: That's all well and good, but you should be there at the checkpost, making sure that these things don't happen. What good does it do if you stay inside the Green Line?

Answer: That's a nice suggestion, but it's not practical. You have to be there in order to understand that one single soldier with a conscience cannot make an impact. The others will simply ignore him and do whatever they feel like doing. Not to mention the fact that the comman- ding officers usually back them up or turn a blind eye. True, I can lodge a complaint after the fact. But I'm not naive. I know what they do with my complaints. I'm also not trying to hide behind anything or be relieved of duty for psychiatric reasons. No, I am refusing to obey orders. I am refusing because I want my refusal to make waves, to arouse others to action, to create such an outcry that the foundations will shake--maybe then there will be an impact. Only numbers can make a difference, and when there is organized protest, there are numbers. That's how we got out of Lebanon, for example. Our hope is that the next time some cabinet ministers discuss whether to demolish a neighborhood or drop bombs near a school, they will remember that the people who carry out their instructions have other values besides obeying orders, and that to continue this policy is to weaken the public backing of the army.

Question: The Palestinians are trying to destroy us. They are slaughtering us in the streets and have vowed to annihilate us. There is no possibility of peace with such people. We have no choice but to fight.

Answer: It's important to understand that our criticism of the way our army is behaving in no way implies support for the actions of the other side. We can't allow their crimes to legitimize our foolishness. I feel responsible only for the actions of my country, and I can only protest against them, regardless of whether the other side is guilty or innocent. Furthermore, one mustn't use the same moral criteria to compare the terrorist acts of the Hamas with the military acts of a sovereign state such as Israel. The I.D.F. is not a terrorist organization. The I.D.F. is not an underground movement struggling against its conquerors. The I.D.F. is not meant to carry out acts of vengeance but to implement pragmatic political policy. We are asking Arafat to risk civil war, without giving him any political rationale for doing so. Even Ben-Gurion didn't disband the underground movements before he had a state in hand. The Palestinians' burning hatred towards us stems, in large part, from the very policies that we are protesting against. Extreme statements are being made daily by extremists on both sides. They must not be allowed to dictate policy while those who seek peace and choose life stand by and pay the terrible price.