Monday, July 24, 2006

Letter urging The Washington Post to cover protests in support of cease-fire

I forwarded a July 24 letter from the Refuser Solidarity Network to Scott Wilson, the primary Washington Post Jerusalem bureau reporter in response to an article by him printed July 22 about the moral clarity troops felt compared to the murky feelings about enforcing the occupation. He responded by saying that a piece on Israeli cease fire protesters would be coming in a few days and thanked me for the note. Cover letter, Wilson's response, and RSN letter follow:

Refuser supporter,

JG

Dear Scott Wilson,

Your article (For Troops A Sense of Moral Clarity, Sat July 22) was a good start under deadlines in a fluid reporting environment. I understand that anything written can become outdated in a day like a computer manual can become outdated in 6 months. However the article still minimized the clarity that over 1000 soldiers feel against the West Bank occupation from within and Gaza from without. Deadlines cut off the Sat July 22 protest mention in the article that ran stateside that day. Will any mentions of it be in near future articles beginning with a sentence such as "Meanwhile, in separate events...." I have mentioned the founding of combatantsforpeace.org in other communications through the clickable byline email method. Message from USA-based refuser organization with an Israel-based contact Peretz Kidron of Yesh Gvul follows for more background.

Mr. Wilson's response:

Thanks for the note, and yes, we'll be doing a whole piece in the
demonstration/calls for cease-fire here in coming days.

Best regards,
Scott

RSN letter:

Dear Friends and Supporters of the Refuser Solidarity Network:

We write to you at an excruciating moment in the ongoing Middle East conflict, in order to ask you to renew and increase your support for the refuser movements in Israel. As the Israel Defense Forces steps up its military action in Lebanon, it must increasingly rely on reservists in the West Bank (an initial group of 5,000 were just called up), and when it does it will once again be confronted by the dramatic and powerful act of refusal.

In fact, we have just learned of the first Lebanon War II refuser, Iztik Shabbat, a signer of the Courage to Refuse letter, who refused on July 19 to go to the Territories to free other soldiers for the invasion of Lebanon.

As one demonstration of the power of refusal, refuser groups, in particular Yesh Gvul, were heavily involved in organizing (with a wide range of groups) a large protest of between 2,500 and 5,000 Israelis on Saturday, July 22 (if that sounds small to you, please recall that the population of Israel is approximately 1/40th that of the United States. So a comparably-sized protest in the US would have resulted in between 100,000 and 200,000 people!). Clearly, Israeli society is not uniformly in favor of this war -- and the Israeli peace movement is just getting started. [You will find at the end of this note a letter from Peretz Kidron of Yesh Gvul with more information about this demonstration.]

It is, therefore, a crucial time to make sure that the refuser groups, from the group that got its start in the first Lebanon War (Yesh Gvul) to the brand-new collaborative between Israeli and Palestinian refusers (Combatants for Peace) are able to project their voices loud and clear into the national debate raging through Israel about this latest war.

To recap the situation for you briefly:

* Israel Air Force bombs have killed hundreds of innocent civilians, including more than 100 children. They have also destroyed much of the Lebanese infrastructure, from bridges to roads to power generators. Half a million Lebanese have been forced from their homes;

* Hezbollah missiles rain on towns across northern Israel, killing dozens of civilians and causing widespread damage, and strengthening Israeli public support for the devastating attacks on Lebanon;

* Israeli soldiers remain captives in Lebanon and Gaza, while thousands of Palestinians, including dozens of members of the Palestinian Parliament, are held indefinitely in "administrative detention";

* Dozens of innocent civilians have been killed by IDF operations in Gaza, which continue with little attention now that war has broken out between Israel and Hezbollah.

These actions raise many complex moral, legal, and practical issues. Israel, the United States, the American Jewish community would like to have you and the rest of the world believe that these issues can be addressed in simple, black-and-white terms terms which mean in the short run that bombs and missiles will continue to kill innocents.

We certainly believe that Israel has the right and obligation to defend its citizens. Hezbollah must end its bombardment of Israeli towns if there is to be any hope of peace. Yet the bombing of Lebanon is massive and indiscriminate, not only inflicting awful casualties, but also weakening the Lebanese government and radicalizing another generation of Lebanese and sympathizers in the Arab world. There is absolutely no justification for the path that Israel has taken.

The Refuser Solidarity Network joins the growing chorus around the world in a call for an immediate cease-fire of all hostilities. We call on Israel to end its bombing of Lebanon and withdraw its soldiers from that country. We call on Hezbollah to end its shelling of Israeli territory. Everyone knows there is no real military solution to this conflict, short of cataclysm. A negotiated path to peaceful co-existence is the only possible solution.

We agree, however, with Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice that a cease-fire is not the same thing as a permanent resolution to the conflicts. And once again the actions of the refusers point the way to peace. To paraphrase a popular saying, you can't have a war if the soldiers stay home.

As Yonatan Shapira, leader of the Air Force Pilot refusers and co-founder of Combatants for Peace said this week, In order to defend my country, I ask the world for its support to make my government stop. Itzik and the entire the refuser movement now need our support more than ever.

As the operations in Lebanon and Gaza continue and expand, we fully expect that other refusers will become the first and most prominent line of opposition within Israel to continued war. Please respond to Yonatans call!

Take a public stand in your community, contact your elected representatives to pressure them to support an immediate cease-fire, write a letter to your local newspaper. And please make a donation to RSN so that we can pass on your contribution to the refuser groups, strengthening their work and lending them support as this horrifying and crucial time.



We thank you in advance for your support,

The RSN Board of Directors

Letter from Peretz Kidron of Yesh Gvul

Saturday's peace march in Tel Aviv was mounted by a coalition of left-wing parties and non-parliamentary peace groups, Yesh Gvul included. Participation turned out much larger than anyone had foreseen ("over 2,500" according to Ha'aretz, "almost 5000" by Uri Avnery).

Bystanders looked on in amazement as the noisy demonstration chanted slogans against the war (one offered a Hebrew version of a Vietnam era cry: "Defence Minister Amir Peretz, how many kids have you killed so far ?"). The Israeli media have promoted the false impression of 100% unity behind the attack on Lebanon, and citizens seemed stunned to hear such outright voices of dissent.

Among the speakers at the concluding rally, Yesh Gvul coordinator Ishai Menuchin focussed on the war crimes being committed daily, calling on soldiers to refuse any part in such excesses, and warning that perpetrators will ultimately face justice, before Israeli courts if possible; if not, he promised that the movement would act to bring them before foreign courts.

Further protests are in preparation. The anti-war coalition is determined to step up its efforts, and we rely on our friends and supporters worldwide to spread the word about internal Israeli opposition to the war. We need your help and solidarity !

To soldiers and reservists: Yesh Gvul is operating its hot line with counselling for those refusing to take part in the Lebanon offensive (02.6250271)

Photographs from the march and rally will shortly go up on our website www.yeshgvul.org

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