SCOI 1, refuseniks 0

The refuseniks are IDF reservists who refuse to serve in Gaza and the West Bank. The are acting out of conscience - they have a firm conviction that Israel is an occupier and that their beloved country's actions in those occupied territories is unjust (and brutal). They act of out concern for their own country's welfare, believing that the occupation exacerbates the tensions and thus ultimately harms Israel. The humiliation and suffering of the Palestinians under IDF rule form a pool of discontent which feeds the extremist networks of terrorists and suicide bombers.

Unsurprisingly, the refuseniks have been called traitors, and worse. I find that to be an unjust accusation, since they are truly operating out of love for their country. Whether their rationales are flawed or not is a matter of debate, but finding fault with their motives is a barbaric and dishonorable tactic. However, there has been support for the refuseniks in the general populace - see these three articles posted to UNMEDIA list for some background:

Support for Refuseniks
Israel's Conscience
Rebellion grows among Israeli reserve officers

(these links are to UNMEDIA archived copies, which have the URL of the original reference included. You can browse and search the archives without subscribing)

Public support is ultimately irrelevant though. The reaction from the IDF has been straightforward - their position is, that the refuseniks are in violation of their duties and has been jailing them. The refuseniks ultimately took their case to the Supreme Court of Israel (SCOI) to allow them to refuse to serve in the West Bank and Gaza on the grounds that the are "conscientious objectors" (which is a valid principle allowing citizens to be exempt from military service, both in Israel and here in the US during the Vietnam War draft).

The SCOI has now made its decision, ruling in favor of the IDF and denying "selective conscientous objection" to the refuseniks[1]:

Eight reservists who petitioned the court were part of a group of reserve combat soldiers who set off a national debate last year when they published a statement declaring their refusal to join "the mission of occupation and repression" in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, where the Israeli army is battling an armed Palestinian uprising. They were sentenced in military disciplinary hearings to prison terms ranging from 28 to 35 days.

The court rejected the reservists' request to nullify their convictions on the grounds that they were conscientious objectors. The panel of three justices ruled that the army could not recognize selective conscientious objection, in which soldiers refused certain missions but were ready to perform others. Under Israeli law, a military committee may grant conscientious objector status to people opposed to any military service.
"Yesterday the objection was to service in southern Lebanon. Today the objection is to service in Judea and Samaria," the court added, referring to the West Bank. "Tomorrow the objection will be to evacuation of various settlement outposts in the area. The people's army might turn into an army of peoples, made up of different units, each having areas where they can act in good conscience and others where they cannot. In a polarized society such as ours, this is a weighty consideration."

I agree with this ruling. Military service can not and should never be "selective" - it shoudl be all or nothing. If you are willing to serve, then your duty becomes to serve. While there are good arguments against draft militaries like Israel's, there does remain the conscientous objector allowance, so that is not really relevant. The main point is, if these refuseniks feel strongly that the IDF is acting unjustly in the West Bank, then they are obligated to refuse all service entirely, not selectively.

The refuseniks should withdraw from all military service if they wish to be consistent with their principles (and I for one, will support them, since I do agree with their position, not out of concern for Palestinians per se, but more for the security of Israel itself). The "selective" objector status that they sought would have ultimately been as harmful to israel as the continued actions of the IDF in the West Bank and Gaza. For that reason I applaud the ruling of the SCOI.

[1] The article requires free registration to access. I will post it to UNMEDIA list shortly.

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