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Courage to Refuse > Frequently asked questions
What is Courage to Refuse?
David Zonshein replies:
Courage to Refuse is a movement that has grown out of what the media referred to as The Combatants’ Letter – a letter which was first published on January 2002 and was since then signed by hundreds of combat reserve soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces. The signers of the letter declare that they will not take part in any activity whose objective is to perpetuate the occupation, and hence they refuse to serve beyond the ’67 borders. Over 280 of the signers have served prison terms for their refusal to serve in the occupied territories.

Why are you refusing?
Moshe Ingel replies:
Because the activities we are told to carry out are immoral and have nothing to do with Israel’s security. On the contrary – they damage Israel’s security and constitute a threat to its very existence. Their sole purpose is to strengthen the settlements. For years a large, stable majority of the Israeli public has supported the evacuation of the settlements. The price Israel pays for occupying the territories and protecting the settlements is far greater than any benefit this brings. Today everyone knows that the settlements are destined to be evacuated, and that every extra day we spend there means further loss of life on both sides, continued damage to the economy, increased moral corruption and the erosion of Israel’s democratic character.

Refusing is illegal – how can you justify your act?
Arik Diamant replies:
The situation in the occupied territories nowadays is itself illegal. Israel defines itself as a democratic nation – and yet denies 3.5 million people, over a third of its population, the most basic civil rights. The occupied territories are paved with new roads that are restricted for Jews only. Road blocks, massive demolition of homes and other means of collective punishment are applied for Arabs only, as are the imprisonment of people for years without trial, the punishing of relatives rather than culprits, the limitation of the freedom of movement, extra-judicial executions and the list goes on. All these acts contradict democracy. We refuse in the name of democracy, because democracy means more than just majority rule. The democratic system is a full set of values, and these values preclude the items listed above. We refuse to be sent, “in the name of democracy”, to implement things that are so blatantly undemocratic.

And what would happen if everyone were to refuse to serve in the territories?
Ori Rot-Levi replies:
Then the occupation would end. The occupation is not a The Will of God. It is maintained by a few thousand people against the will of millions. We must emphasize again that we are all active combat reserve soldiers. We are not refusing to fight, and are not advocating that Israel’s security be neglected.

But in the meantime terrorists are blowing themselves up on Israel’s streets – what do you suggest?
Youval Tamari replies:
Palestinian terrorism is cruel and brutal. But if there is one thing the current Intifada has taught us, it is that terrorism cannot be beaten by force. At the moment the Israelis and Palestinians are caught in a vicious circle, where acts of terror and assassinations follow each other in an endless, bloody succession. It would be incredibly unwise to sustain this gridlock, which has already taken a heavy toll, killing thousands and injuring tens of thousands. The first step towards breaking the cycle is to minimize the friction and give both sides some hope. It takes a climate of total hopelessness for such hatred and disregard for human life to develop. We do not claim that leaving the territories will magically bring an end to the conflict, but it is preferable by far to staying there, because our being there fuels the hatred – and with it, the terror. No people in the world would be willing to live under occupation. From within clear boundaries, both geographical and moral, we would be able to defend ourselves much more efficiently, just as evacuating the “Security Zone” in south Lebanon has only served to improve our condition.

Would you justify soldiers who refused to evacuate settlements?
Dror Lutzati replies:
Not all refusals are similar. We are not automatically in favor of anyone’s right to refuse any order they don’t like. Each and every case must be looked at individually. Our refusal is intended to uphold values that lie at the foundation of the state of Israel. Israel defines itself as a democratic state. A refusal to evacuate settlements arises from values that are not part of the democratic agenda – for instance, the sanctity of land. We therefore oppose to this kind of refusal; although that does not necessarily mean that we think such refuseniks should be forced to act against their conscience.

While you refuse, your friends and comrades go on serving. How do you feel about that?
Rami Kaplan replies:
Very bad. Because we don’t want them to serve in the territories either. This is what we are fighting for. But we can’t do things that go against our conscience, harming millions of innocent people, simply because our friends do.

Why don’t you serve in the Territories, and simply refuse to carry out illegal orders, should you be given any?
Youval Andorn replies:
Because the illegality is built into the situation. From the moment that we, as soldiers and commanders cross the ’67 borders, we have no choice but to treat every human being as an enemy. We have no choice but to discriminate between Jews and Arabs. We have no choice but to take part in the occupation, which is immoral by definition.

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