When Is It Ever Enough?
by Mary La Rosa
April 19, 2003
April 17, 2003:
At 18:00 the Israeli army parked a tank in front of the Mosque in Rafa and began firing two bursts of machine gun fire down the street. They shot 7 year old Alva Omar in the shoulder while he was inside of his home and 17 year old Ahmed Radwan who was standing in the doorway of his house.
Alva and Ahmed
Lambs' blood on door posts.
While the Angel of Death
passes over the stain of Tom and Rachel's sacrifice as well.
The Four Children.
When Is It Ever Enough?
Consider the power of numbers:
I know One.
One watches all.
I know Two.
Two are the tablets,
that say: thou shall not kill.
Two are these last shot.
Five books of Torah and Jusef in Tulkarem
bleeding into the cup of Elijah
When is it ever enough?
It is enough for Jonathan Ben-Artzi. .
He is a young Israeli pacifist and a conscientious objector. He and those of similar thinking and action are known by the term "refusnik". He is one of six Israeli conscientious objectors presently awaiting court martial and further sentencing.
Jonathan filed as a pacifist two years ago, when he was first called to serve his country in the military. This is Jonathan's statement to the Israeli Defense Force authorities:
"I, Jonathan Ben-Artzi, am refusing to join the army on grounds of pacifism. My profound convictions in non-violence began when I was a small child, and developed over the years into a broad political philosophy. Because of my beliefs, my own country is going to imprison me, in defiance of international laws, basic moral values and fundamental human rights. I will go to prison proudly, knowing that this is the least I can do to improve this country, and the cause of pacifism."
After two years and many postponements, Jonathan Ben-Artzi, is still not recognized as a conscientious objector ...basically because the Supreme Court of Israel decided not to interfere with the IDF. He is currently serving his seventh consecutive prison sentence. His parents have said that although Jonathan was not allowed to speak after finishing his fourth prison term, he wanted to address the court and his situation. This is what he had fervantly planned to say but was denied the right to do so:
"According to Amnesty International, more than 50 children under the age of 12 have been killed by Israeli Army fire, during the first seven months of 2002 alone. You have not sentenced even one of the perpetrators of these crimes. But you're sentencing me for the fifth time, just because I refuse take part in such activities."
He is joined by five others who feel that it is also enough and that it simply must stop with them.
They are Noam Bahat, Haggai Matar, Matan Kaminer, Shimri Tzameret and Adam Maor.
In June 2001 a group of high school students met to discuss such military issues facing them with concerns towards peace and justice between Israel and Palestine. A letter was written and signed by 62 students. Although this Shministim (high school students) Refusal Movement, was in miniature like many other pro peace groups that faction over various degrees and methods of
active versus passive dissidence, they agreed without committing to one solution, to condemn the occupation of 1967 and Israeli war crimes, and to consider the connection between Israel's aggression and the increase in attacks on Israeli citizens by Palestinians.
A year later the signatures quadrupled. In September of 2002, a new letter addressing the newer and more heinous acts of the Israeli Defense Forces under the auspices of the Prime Minister was again addressed. This second and newer letter also expressed a desire and dedication to the purpose of expanding the movement from high schools into the general public and into the international community at large. It is enough for them and by their example are we blessed.
Noam Bahat was one among those signatories. His first sentencing began in December 2002. In January of this new year he began a hunger strike that lasted sixteen days protesting the imprisonment and the mistreatment of conscientious objectors, such as himself.
Not only the high school kids were expressing concerns about their future military service...but within the IDF itself there are those soldiers, reservists, who refused to enter the Occupied territories because of the terrors and atrocities committed there.
According to New Profile, a movement for "civil-ization" in Israel and greatly involved in anti military statistics, Israel is capable of wanting and determining a politick of peace. Their research regarding the avoidance of compulsory military service, tells us that some 25% of young men and women up for military service avoid such service via health concerns because there is no place for the conscientious objector within Israeli society.
Consider the case of 27 year old reservist Itay Rib. Because he refused to contribute to human rights violations against the Palestinian population, he has been imprisoned as of this April 6 2003. In his letter to his unit, he states:
"I've thought it over, and I entertain no willingness to take part in, or support, policing duties i.e. imposing a non law whose sole purpose is injury, repression and restriction of those subject thereto, a non law imposed solely upon one ethnic group, thereby creating an intolerable racist system – imposition of non law upon a civilian population that the IDF has set itself the objective of reducing to utter disintegration.
I've thought it over, and come to the conclusion that I have no wish to belong to 'our forces', not so long as their resolute stand comes at the expense of the blood and land of the Palestinian people; not so long as arbitrariness and the itchiness of a trigger finger determines who is to live and who to die, and the road-blocks generate their daily dose of repression; not as long as the national borders along which 'our forces' are deployed constitute a criminal apparition. I've thought it over, and it is not my intention to rub shoulders with 'our soldiers', on duty night and day, but never inquiring as to the purpose of their duties. Especially, I am unable to serve as an officer – I bear more than enough responsibility and shame as an Israeli citizen in these dark days."
For Itay Rib and some 200 other reservists, it is enough already.
Enough Is Enough.
What absurd justice prevails that a young man is jailed for refusing to do what another young man did to Rachel Corrie or Tom Hurndall?
How hideous for a country to have as its standard ....a bulldozer. Or to train to shoot into groups of children or into the faces of peace activists.
I think sometimes, that between what I know exists in Israel and Palestine and what I know has been perpetuated in Iraq, I am part of some panoramic surrealistic dreamscape.
While addressing the issues that the children of Palestine suffer on a daily basis, I have gotten into the habit of depicting them as sad counterparts to Bruno Bettleheim's "Children of the Dream".
I have considered the Palestinian children to be, in contrast, "Children of the Bad Dream From Which They Can Not Wake Up".
But in Israel..the Real Children of the Dream are stirring and awakening!..and they are bright from their sleep and they are just and righteous. They bring me hope when all hope seems futile or has failed.
It is my wish that those in prison as conscientious objectors could be contributing their many talents towards a better society wherein knowledge and understanding has no borders and no prisons. Most of the refusniks have traded their youth and the exciting years that could have been spent at university for years in prison. We may never know what their contributions might have been if allowed to evolve on their own. Science and Math and the Arts will have to wait and while it is our sad loss as well as theirs, they are our most powerful gain towards a better Israel and a better Palestine.
Generations across space and time have followed the vision of Jerusalem in the celebration of Passover.
Freedom and the value of freedom is the sacrifice (pesah) of the conscientious
objectors. Their freedom and their value of freedom has been given to the world, rather than to the tribe, in order to celebrate the world in community and peace.
I consider them and their sacrifice. They are the children of my heart.
And with that consideration in love and pride, I send the blessings of the parent at Passover:
You are the leaders who carry our traditions with pride.
May the Eternal bless you and keep you.
May the Eternal bring you warmth and protect you.
May the Eternal embrace you and grant you peace. Amen.
Mary La Rosa is a librarian and artist living 20 miles from New York City. She can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org. She respectfully asks you to consider the following links:
* Amnesty International~Take Action: http://web.amnesty.org/web/web.nsf/pages/iot_action
* New Profile: http://www.NewProfile.org
New Profile, P O Box 48005 Tel Aviv 61480.
* Shministim Israeli Youth Refusal Movement http://www.shministim.org