Moral Low Ground

World

Israeli Military Reservists Refuse to Participate in Gaza ‘Massacre’

While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to continue the war in Gaza for “as long as is required,” a small but growing number of Israeli military reservists are risking alienation and even prison by refusing to participate in what one likened to the “gang rape” of Palestine.

Earlier this week, Israeli journalist and military reservist Yael Even Or published a petition in the Washington Post in which she lamented Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza, which she called “the brutal military operation now taking place in our name.”

More than 50 Israeli military reservists signed the petition:

To us, the current military operation and the way militarization effects Israeli society are inseparable. In Israel, war is not merely politics by other means —it replaces politics. Israel is no longer able to think about a solution to a political conflict except in terms of physical might; no wonder it is prone to never-ending cycles or mortal violence. And when the cannons fire, no criticism may be heard.

Appearing on Democracy Now on Friday, Even Or was asked by host Amy Goodman how she arrived at the decision to refuse to serve.

“For me personally, it started when I decided that I don’t want to go to my reserve duty, and that was after the attack on Gaza in 2008,” said Even Or, referring to Operation Cast Lead, in which more than 1,400 Palestinians —including 926 civilians, 429 of them women and children —were killed.

Goodman also interviewed Yonatan Shapira, a former Israeli Air Force captain who rose to prominence in 2003 when he led a group of 27 IAF pilots who refused to participate in military operations against Palestinians.

“There is a disease in my country, and the disease is spreading very fast, and it’s called fascism and racism,” asserted Shapira. “Fascism and racism is now the biggest threat of the Jewish people in the Middle East. And I can just cry and shout and ask everyone that hear us now to join the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement… to put enormous pressure on your leaders, wherever they are, that they, in turn, will help us stop this massacre, stop this ongoing slaughter of innocent people.”

Shapira called the Israeli war in Gaza, which has claimed more than 800 lives, mostly innocent civilians, and has involved the bombing of homes, schools, hospitals, mosques and even Gaza’s only power plant, a “war crime.”

Israeli leaders blame Hamas for the high number of civilian deaths, noting how the militant resistance group operates in densely populated civilian areas and launches and stores weaponry, including thousands of rockets fired indiscriminately against Israel, in homes, mosques, hospitals and schools.

Israel also claims its military goes to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties, including “roof knocking” and other warnings of impending attack.

Shapira challenges Israel’s claims of restraint.

“You hear all of the time how amazing and morally we act,” he told Democracy Now. “The whole discourse is how good we are and how willing to sacrifice and endanger ourself in order to be careful and not kill civilians while doing this crazy massacre.”

But what about the thousands of rockets fired from Gaza against Israel, Goodman asked.

“This is my family and friends there that are definitely suffering from the rockets, and their life are in risk,” said Even Or. “But… this escalation… started not with that, so I don’t think that was the reason to start this operation… The rockets started after some political efforts were being dismissed very easily by the Israeli government.”

“I’m here in Tel Aviv, and I have a 10-month-old baby, and I have to hug her and go to the shelter when the missiles are falling, but it’s really nothing compared to what the people in Gaza are experiencing,” said Shapira.

“Gaza is the biggest open-air prison,” he continued. “People inside cannot go in and out… Israel controls the air. Israel controls the sea and the land. And the little strip that Egypt controls is basically coordinated with Israel and the United States to keep this cage with those 1.8 million people.”

And:

“If I have to give one allegory to this whole thing, and this need of Israel… [for] self-protection, … I would imagine it as gang rape. And forgive me for using this hard language, but when you have a group of people raping someone, and this person that is being raped starting to scratch, the first thing you want to do in order to stop the scratches is to stop the rape. And what Israel… is trying to do is to continue the rape and deal with the scratches. I say, stop the rape, stop the occupation, stop the apartheid, stop this inhumane ghettoization of Palestinians.”

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