Mike Raphaeli

December 2001 was the last time that I crossed the Green Line as a soldier - and it will also be the last time. I spent my time there enforcing that the Arabs in the territories remain second-class citizens - on the good days they were not allowed to travel on the roads, on the bad days they were not even allowed to leave their villages. Of course, no such restrictions were ever put on the Jewish settlers. The roads, though, are not the main issue here, but they provide a good example of how The Occupation has completely destroyed any semblance of normalcy in the lives of the Palestinians.

We do not bear the sole responsibility for creating The Occupation, but that is not the issue now. Arafat and Sharon, on the nightly news broadcasts, resemble two second-graders in the schoolyard running to their teacher, pointing their fingers at each other and shouting, "He started it." Someone wrote once "Politicians think about the next election; Leaders think about the next generation." We need more leaders and fewer politicians.

The endless checkpoints, continual curfews, repeated "targeted killings" and expanding settlements are only making this explosive situation even more volatile. There will never be peace in the region as long as we continue with these policies. As a soldier serving The Occupation and therefore perpetuating it, I was ordered to partake in these policies and in fact did so. My participation in The Occupation forced me into actions that went against the values that I was raised on, the most fundamental of which is respect for a fellow human being.

I don't think I need to justify my action - my decision to refuse. The ones who need to justify their actions are those who are continuing to serve in the territories and continuing to perpetuate The Occupation. Let there be no mistake, The Occupation is destroying the State of Israel: economically, ethically and spiritually. We Israelis must wake up to some basic facts: There is no such thing as an enlightened occupation; an occupying people cannot be a just people; occupation and peace cannot occur simultaneously. History will not judge us favorably; as these days will forever be remember as when the oppressed people of the past finally became oppressors themselves.

For more than ten years I have been doing reserve duty in the territories. Each time I would return home and ask myself, "Why did I do that?" But when called to reserve duty the following year, I would once again report, because being part of the establishment is much easier than going against it. The obedience that once made me proud is now making me ashamed. I will no longer do as others and turn a blind eye to what I know is right.

In the army I acquired the courage to fire tear-gas into schools, the courage to shoot rubber bullets at stone throwers, the courage to drive an armored jeep recklessly through Arab villages and the courage to show disregard for human life. Now I have acquired one more thing, but this time it wasn't from the army, that is the courage to say, "I will do this no more." The Courage to Refuse.

Mike Raphaeli