From the Worldwide Faith News archives

[PCUSANEWS] Decision goes against objectors

Date 19 Feb 2003 15:41:57 -0500

Note #7596 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:

Decision goes against objectors

Decision goes against objectors

Court says soldiers may not accept some duties, refuse others

by Alexa Smith

WEST JERUSALEM, Israel - The Israeli High Court of Justice rejected a
petition from eight soldiers, officers and reservists who had refused to
serve in the occupied territories for reasons of conscience.

A panel of three justices, including Supreme Court President Aharon Barak,
ruled in December that selective conscientious objection could not be
recognized because it would "weaken the ties that bind us as a nation."

The 12-page decision went on to say: "Yesterday, there was opposition to
serving in Lebanon; today, the opposition is to serving in Judea and Samaria;
and tomorrow, there will be opposition to evacuating settlement outposts." 

The justices warned that "the people's army might turn into an army of
peoples, made up of different units each having its own spheres in which it
can act conscientiously, and others in which it cannot. In a polarized
society such as ours, this consideration weighs heavily." 

The petitioners belong to a growing movement here known as Courage to Refuse.
These "refuseniks" are not classic conscientious objectors or pacifists,
because they are willing to serve the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in Israel;
but they won't cross the "Green Line" to serve in the occupied territories. 

The movement began more than a year ago with a handful of soldiers, but
quickly grew to have more than 500 members. Signatories commit themselves to
"not continue to fight beyond the 1967 borders in order to dominate, expel,
starve and humiliate an entire people." 

The court, the highest in Israel's judicial system, did recognize that the
soldiers' petition was motivated by conscience and not by politics, as some
had contended.

In Israel, all young women and men put in three years of compulsory military
service. Afterwards, Israeli men under 45 serve in the reserves and are
activated for about one month of each year. Since the Intifada began, more
than two years ago, that duty has included guarding checkpoints and
settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as fighting in Palestinian

The court ruling means that those who selectively object to such duty can be
sentenced to as much as 35 days in jail for refusing a reserve call-up or
defying an order. About 200 reserve soldiers have served 28 to 35 days in the
past 18 months; some have served more than one term. 

One of the petitioners, Lt. David Zonshein, a founder of the Courage to
Refuse group, told Israeli radio that his time in jail was the "most
significant reserve duty ever." He said he hoped his experience would cause
Israeli citizens to ask why the state is sending some of its "best soldiers"
to prison. 

Zonshein said the state is losing its moral authority by its occupation of
the West Bank and Gaza, and is "fighting against itself." 

The court did not rule on another petition in which the soldiers argued that
the occupation itself is illegal. 

Israel seized the West Bank from Jordan and the Gaza Strip from Egypt during
the Six-Day War of 1967.

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