Courage to Refuse
was founded following the publication of The Combatants Letter in 2002, by a group of 50 combat officers and soldiers. The initiators of the letter, Captain David Zonshein and Lieutenant Yaniv Itzkovits, officers in an elite unit, have served for four years in compulsory service, and another eight years as reserve soldiers, including long periods of active combat both in Lebanon and in the occupied territories.
During their reserve service in Gaza, in the midst of the second Intifada, the two realised that the missions confided to them as commanders in the IDF had in fact nothing to do with the defence of the State of Israel, but were rather intended to expand the colonies at the price of oppressing the local Palestinian population. Many of the commands issued to them were, in fact, harmful to the strategic interests of Israel.
Like all soldiers of the IDF, David and Yaniv were prepared to fight in order to protect their families back home. In January 2002 it became apparent to them that fighting in Gaza and in the West Bank would achieve the opposite result: by obeying orders they would not be protecting the lives of their dear ones. Although only young officers at the time, David and Yaniv understood what is today widely acknowledged by Israel's most decorated generals (including the current IDF Chief of Staff): The Occupation poses a threat to the security of Israel.
Finally, it was the unbearable pain and suffering inflicted upon millions of innocent civilians in the name of the "settlements" that had lead them to draft one of the most shocking documents ever written about the IDF. Over the years, their statement came to be known as The Combatant's Letter
In the letter, the soldiers pledge their ongoing commitment to the security of Israel, but declare that they will take no part in missions intended to prolong the occupation.
To date, 625 combatants from all units of the IDF and from all sectors of the Israeli society have signed the letter and have joined Courage to Refuse
. The members of the movement, often called "refuseniks", continue to do their reserve duty wherever and whenever they are summoned, but refuse to serve in the occupied territories. They are not considering their personal benefit, but rather Israel’s safety and its moral character. Over 280 Members of Courage to Refuse
have in fact been court martialed and jailed for periods of up to 35 days as a result of their refusal.
It was the selflessness and determination of the members of Courage to Refuse
that won a warm place for the movement in the hearts of many Israelis. Their act of self- sacrifice, their willingness to serve prison terms in order to voice their cry of distress opened the eyes of many who have been morally blinded by fears and pain of war and terrorism.
By and by, well-known public figures expressed their support to the members of Courage to Refuse
. Hundreds of University Professors have signed support petitions
, and the word SERUV (the Hebrew word designating refusal), which a few years ago was synonymous with treason, has won its place in the Israeli political discourse as a legitimate and sound act of civil awareness.
Sami Michael, the reputed author and the acting chairman of the Israeli Association for Human Rights has gone as far as saying that refusing the occupation is, in fact, not only an act of morality, but is also the purest form of patriotism practiced in Israel today.
According to a survey conducted by Yaffee Center for Strategic Studies, over 25% of all Israelis sympathize with our struggle and acknowledge our civil right and moral duty to refuse to serve the occupation. Courage to Refuse
accepts new signatories every week. Its members, beyond refusing to serve in the occupied territories, take part in many demonstrations, cultural events and other activities of public education aimed to end the occupation and bring peace to Israel.