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Courage to Refuse > Press > 13 Sayeret Matkal reservists join refusal to serve in territories - by Amos Harel and Mazal Mualem
13 Sayeret Matkal reservists join refusal to serve in territories - by Amos Harel and Mazal Mualem 22/12/2003
 
 

The letter - signed by soldiers and officers - was delivered to the Prime Minister's Office, which refused to comment on the content of the letter. Among the 13 signatories are nine who still do reserve service in Sayeret Matkal, while the most senior is an officer with the rank of major.


Thirteen reservist soldiers and officers in the elite Sayeret Matkal unit of the Israel Defense Forces on Sunday evening signed a letter declaring their refusal to serve in the territories.

The letter - signed by soldiers and officers - was delivered to the Prime Minister's Office, which refused to comment on the content of the letter.

Among the 13 signatories are nine who still do reserve service in Sayeret Matkal, while the most senior is an officer with the rank of major.

"We say to you today, we will no longer give our hands to the oppressive reign in the territories and the denial of human rights to millions of Palestinians," reads the letter addressed to the prime minister, " and we will no longer serve as a defensive shield for the settlement enterprise."

Although Sayeret Matkal - the IDF General Staff's elite special-operations force - is rarely involved in operations in the territories, the announcement carries weight because of the group's standing in Israeli society.

In 1972, Sayeret Matkal commandos, led by former prime minister Ehud Barak, raided a Sabena plane hijacked by Palestinian terrorists. In 1976, the elite troops carried out a daring operation at
Entebbe airport in Uganda to rescue some 100 hostages on an Air France plane hijacked by terrorists.

In response, the IDF Spokesman said, "It is grave when reservists use their military records and the name of their unit for the purpose of expressing their political ideas."

Political figures who served in the elite army unit sharply criticized the announcement. Barak, who served as commander of Sayeret Matkal, called on signers of the letter to "immediately" retract their decision. According to Barak, it was a grave mistake, but "it's not too late correct it, and it's important to do so."

"In a democracy there's no place for refusal because it is the elected government that issues the orders to the army. As much as we are divided over the hesitant and confused policy of
Sharon's government which is endangering Israel, it is essential that this battle be waged in the public sphere, and for the army to defend all of us. Every soldier has the right and the obligation to refuse an blatantly illegal order, but I am convinced that the IDF, under Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon, would never lend a hand to the giving of blatantly illegal orders to soldiers, including those in Sayeret Matkal."

MK Matan Vilnai (Labor), a major general in the reserves who served as deputy commander of Sayeret Matkal, also criticized the letter. "Refusal is a phenomenon that must cannot be accepted in any manner. It cannot be denied that we are not speaking of a few isolated instances, but rather a phenomenon that stems from the feeling of lack of purpose in government policy."

"Refusal harms society's strength," said MK
Dan Yatom (Labor), a major general in the reserves who served in Sayeret Matkal. "I condemn any form of refusal. No person or group has the right to determine which missions are to be carried out." According to Yatom, "The government of Israel must be attentive to the distress expressed by such quality groups as the pilots and Sayeret Matkal, and to respond appropriately."

Deputy Defense Minister MK Ze'ev Boim (Likud) said the reservists were exploiting their military uniform for political purposes, and were unworthy of wearing it, Channel Two TV reported. Meretz MK Yossi Sarid said that while he opposes refusal to serve in the territories, this latest letter was another example of the failure of the occupation.

MK Ophir Pines (Labor) said that in light of the letter, a serious discussion should be held on the issue.

Minister Effi Eitam, Chairman of the National Religious Party, said that he sees the letter as a break in Israeli society and that he expected the wave of refusal to grow.

Meretz MK Roman Bronfman called the letter a brave step intended to save
israel from the occupation, while MK Shaul Yahalom (NRP) said that jail was the proper place for the signatories.

The Sayeret letter is the third such public declaration of reservists refusing to serve in the territories since the outset of the current intifada. In early 2002, the "Courage to Refuse" movement released a letter signed by reservist soldiers and officers refusing to serve in the territories, which to date has over 570 signatories. In September of this year, a group of Israel Air Force pilots announced their refusal to carry out air strikes in the territories.

 

Link to the source: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/374325.html


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