Israeli Commandos Refuse To Attack Palestinians
Tuesday, December 23 2003 @ 03:26 PM EST
Israeli occupation soldiers in a raid on Balata refugee camp in the West Bank
"The move came after 27 reserve and active duty airmen signed a letter addressed to Sharon, refusing to carry out 'immoral' raids on Palestinian .."
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM - Thirteen members of Israeli army's most elite commando unit publicly refused to serve in the occupied Palestinian territories, saying the army's operations there are as oppressive as immoral, Israeli press reports said Monday, December 22.
The commandos, from the Sayeret Matkal special operation unit, wrote a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, saying they will no longer participate in the "rule of oppression".
"We will no longer give our lives to the rule of oppression in the territories and to the denial of human rights to millions of Palestinians and we will no longer serve as a defensive shield for the settlements," read the letter, cited by local television stations and carried by Agence France-Presse (AFP).
"We will no longer corrupt the stamp of humanity in us through carrying out the missions of an occupation army..., we have reached the boundary of oppressing another people," it added.
"We will no longer cross this boundary," said the commandos in the letter.
The move came three months after 27 reserve and active duty airmen signed a letter last September addressed to Sharon, refusing to carry out "immoral and illegal" raids on Palestinian civilians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The Sayeret Matkal, or General Staff Reconnaissance Unit, is Israel's most elite commando unit and has often been compared to the U.S. military's Delta Force or the British army's SAS, Reuters reported.
After the outbreak of the Palestinian Intifada in September 2000 which followed the condemned visit of the then defense minister Ariel Sharon to Al-Aqsa mosque, Sayeret Matkal has spearheaded Israel's campaign against Palestinian resistance groups by detaining or assassinating senior members.
Nine out of the 13 signatories still do reserve service in Sayeret Matkal, while the most senior is an officer with the rank of major.
The "refusenik" movement swung into the spotlight in January 2002, when 52 reserve officers and soldiers signed a letter saying they would not serve in the Palestinian territories.
The letter is likely to send shockwaves through the defense establishment due to the seniority of the unit, highly regarded for its participation in the rescue of 106 passengers from a hijacked plane at Uganda's Entebbe Airport in 1976.
The unit was supposed to carry out the lately uncovered 1992 plan to assassinate the ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, but was aborted at the last minute.
Yossi Sarid, of the left-wing Meretz party, told Haartez that the phenomenon of refusal would raise as long as occupation persists.
"As long as the occupation and oppression persist, I suppose that the phenomenon of refusal, which I see as negative one, will become contagious among military units, especially throughout the elite forces," Sarid said on Monday, December 22.
Sarid had earlier threatened earlier to unveil "confidential information" over the Nusseirat raid .
"The new refuseniks know by now that hard times are ahead for them, they saw the treatment that the pilots received, and yet they nevertheless decided to take a stand, which is a telling sign of their internal conviction," Sarid said.
Minister Effi Eitam, Chairman of the National Religious Party, also expected the wave of refusal to grow as he considered the letter as a break in Israeli society.
Opposing opinions conflicted in commenting on the letter as Meretz MK Roman Bronfman called it a brave step to save Israel from the occupation, while Parliament member Shaul Yahalom (NRP) said that jail was the proper place for the signatories.
However, the Israeli radio said that the legal and constitutional committee at the Knesset is to hold an urgent debate on opening criminal procedures against "refuseniks" in the coming days.
The committee wants to broaden the scope for prosecution outside of the military tribunals.
The Israeli government harshly reacted to the September letter, which said occupation of Palestinian territories was eating at the moral fabric of the state of Israel. Some of the signatories were dismissed after refusing to retract their statements.
Source: IslamOnline.net + News Agencies