The refusnics in Capetown - "There is a price for the occupation!!!!"
Quotations from speeches of the three Israeli refusnics who arrived last week in South Africa for a campaign against Israel and its army. On Tuesday they held a special meeting of a few hundred students (including local Jews) in Cape Town university (UCT). In their speech - which included a harsh attack on Israel - they called on South African students to join the struggle against the occupation and to help the boycott of Israel in the world. The three, Yuval O. (20), Omer G. (20) and Sahar V. (19), summarized the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since 1948, pointing out parallels between the decisions of Israeli governments and those of the South African racial apartheid ones.
"From Soweto to Ramallah, bullets flew and tear gas filled the streets in the efforts to strangle the resistance", said Omer in her description of the first Intifada.
The refusnics told the students about their political opinions and about the roots of their decisions to refuse to be recruited to the army.
Yuval told them about the first time he participated in a demonstration against the building of the separation fence in the Palestinian village of Ni'ilin, in which the Israeli soldiers "sprayed" unarmed demonstrators with rubber-coated bullets and tear gas:
"This experience, repeated afterwards many times, made me understand that this army I used to regard as a protector, is in fact attacking me, my friends, and all that I believe in. Yuval told them about an adult Palestinian friend [Bassem] killed by Israeli soldiers during a demonstration while calling at them to stop firing: "This unarmed struggle is a threat for the occupation forces".
"Old friends grow cold when you refuse to enlist"
Omer told them that when she had toured Cyprus during the second Lebanon war she was exposed for the first time to uncensored pictures of the war, and these caused her to understand how little she really knew about what is happening in Israel. "When it was clear that the Lebanon war was in vain, and no one in the Israeli government was admitting it, I not only lost my belief in the 'humanity' of the Israeli army, but started to doubt in the ability of this army - sent by this government, to defend me. I remember that after a demonstration in Tel Aviv against the government I told a friend: 'I am not going to take part in it... This government doesn't represent me any more. There must be another way".
Omer added: "The problem is that young Israelis are not exposed to the true reality. 99% of them have never been to the occupied territories or met Palestinians, and their first encounter with them is when they are in uniform and armed. As we (the refusnics) visited the occupied territories before enlisting, our eyes were opened to the reality. Once you saw it, there was no other way to take."
Omer described the hardship of life as a refusnic: "When you refuse to serve the society you live in or enlist, you involve your friends and family members in your decision, so there are a lot of outcomes to the choice of opposing that immoral act [of enlisting in the army of occupation]. Old friends grow colder, and sometimes the family does not show any support."
At the end of the assembly, the three called on the South African students to participate in the struggle against the occupation and to boycott Israel: "The international community must understand that the only way to save the Israelis and the Palestinians is to show the Israeli authorities that there is a price to pay for their unjust policy. There is a price for the occupation and for harming innocent people."
Yuval added that as in the time of apartheid, there is a need to boycott the Israeli academic establishment and companies, and more so those involved in military innovations and building in the colonial settlements. Omer added: "The occupation is corrupting Israel from within. It creates aggressive people and extreme chauvinism and makes people forget values such as solidarity and equality. The mandatory conscription to the IDF army is only the tip of the iceberg of that militarist state. Reservist service transforms Israel into a state in which each parent, teacher and employer continues to function as soldiers".
* The three refusnic activists were involved in the previous wave of high-school refusnics. All served a few months' time in prison, and participate in the Israeli Anarchists Against the Wall initiative.