Israeli refuseniks oppose war on Lebanon

On July 21, Israeli reserve officer Yonatan Shapira, a helicopter pilot and signer of the pilots’ letter refusing to perform assassinations in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, spoke out against Israel’s attack on Lebanon on Democracy Now! The following quote is part of a debate between Shapira and a member of what Democracy Now! oddly refers to as Israel’s “peace party,” Meretz. Only one of six members of the Knesset from Meretz has expressed opposition to Israel’s attack on Lebanon:

YONATAN SHAPIRA: Just to refer with a few points to what you said now. First of all, this morning I talked to one of the leaders of Meretz, Zehava Galon, and she agreed with me that international pressure must be applied on the state of Israel, on the government of Israel, to force them to stop this crazy operation that eventually can cause to a nuclear war. We know that the situation in the Middle East is very fragile, and the Bush administration do not need much things to happen in order to get us all involved in a regional war and maybe a world war. These are things who are much more dangerous for us from missiles in Haifa. The situation can get much worse.

And tell me, please, why do you think that killing innocent Lebanese, by now 330, most of them civilians, children and women, why do you think that killing these innocent people will bring you some kind of security? It’s the same kind of logic to think that if you kill Lebanese civilians, you will force them to bring Israel security or to press the Hezbollah is the same kind of logic that maybe Nastrallah is trying to shoot Israeli cities and forcing, by that, the Israeli people to convince the Israeli government to stop this war. It’s the same kind of insanity.

And although — just last important thing — although it’s not the same situation in Gaza and in the Occupied Territories and in Lebanon, the same insanity and the same cruelty and the same stupidity of our leaders is now being on the spot. This is the danger, because the leaders of this country now and in the Lieutenant General, General Halutz, who is now leading this crazy war, will not hesitate to get Syria and to get Iran involved, and this is my greatest fear.

Ha’aretz on July 21 also noted remarks from Shapira:

“There isn’t a chance that I am going to don the uniform of the army that is doing what it’s doing,” he says defiantly. “At the moment here there is a lot of male virility that is trying to burst out after years of war on a low intensity. Now it is easier for them morally and they have an opportunity to shake off all the inhibitions and release all the aggressions. I agree that the Hezbollah violated Israeli sovereignty, but we have transformed this into a battle of machismo – where our machismo wants to destroy villages in Lebanon, impose closure on its cities and feel like it is defending the country. The actions that the air force is carrying out now are promoting quiet in the same way that Nasrallah’s rockets are promoting it. The one-ton bomb on Gaza, in the wake of which we signed the pilots’ letter, looks very innocent relative to what we have done since then.”

Today Shapira views the pilots who are bombing Lebanon from a distance. Many of them are still his friends, but, he says with some bitterness, the refusal letter just cleansed their consciences in a way that provides them with an excuse to continue to do what they are doing. “They tell me that there’s been a change in the air force, part of which they credit to us,” he says. “The result is that most of the pilots are agonizing less today than they were a few years ago. These are very nice people, but history is full of nice people who did terrible things. Even the Nazis were probably nice people and most likely Hezbollah people, too.”

Ha’aretz also noted:

Two days ago the first instance of refusal was recorded: Staff Sergeant (res.) Itzik Shabbat, a 28-year-old television producer, did not obey the emergency order that was to send him to the territories, to replace regular army soldiers who have gone to Lebanon. In the past he refused to serve in the territories, did time in prison and joined the Courage to Refuse effort. The first refusenik in the Lebanon War II is, ironically, an inhabitant of Sderot.

“Someone needs to be the first to crack the false consensus around this war,” Shabbat said this week. “I know that I will be accused of refusing when Qassams are falling on my mother and Katyushas on the inhabitants of the north,” he predicted. “But this war was born of mistaken and deceptive calculations.”

Also in the same article, refusenik and human rights lawyet Michael Sfard comments:

“I don’t believe a single word of the reports that are coming from the IDF via the media,” he says angrily. “Soon we will start to hear what we have really done in Lebanon. In criminal terms, I already have a suspicion, but I don’t have enough evidence to file an indictment. Therefore I am finding myself on the borderline. I don’t know what I would do if there were an entry by land into Lebanon. I’m from the old school, which still distinguishes between the morality of the war and the morality of the warfare. I refuse immoral warfare, I fight an unjust war on the public level. In this case, there has been a crude violation of all the rules of war by the Hezbollah, and Israel has the moral and legal right to respond – I just don’t know what kind of warfare is being waged there. After all, the chief of staff, as the commander of the air force, told me explicitly what he thinks about killing civilians: He just feels a slight tremor on the wing.”

See last posts on the Lebanon crisis and the refuseniks.