IDF Reservist Gets 28 Days for Refusing to Serve in Gaza

An IDF reservist was sentenced on Sunday to 28 days in jail for refusing to serve in the Gaza Strip. South African-born Sgt. (res.) G.S., employed at Tel Aviv University, reported to his base last week for duty, but told officers he was not willing to follow their orders to guard settlements in Gaza for 21 days.

G.S., who immigrated to Israel 12 years ago, said following his trial Sunday that his childhood in apartheid South Africa had been very influential on his willingness to go to prison for his beliefs.

"I lived in a society where one group's survival translated into injustice for others. That's the situation in Gaza and I don't want to be part of that," he said.

A year ago, G.S. signed a letter circulated by Courage to Refuse, the movement of reservist soldiers who refuse to serve in the territories, and he was subsequently transferred to a different unit. On Saturday, prior to the call-up for his latest stint of reserve duty, officers in his unit expressed willingness to allow him to perform guard duty at the Kissufim crossing, without going into the Strip itself.

On Sunday, however, the IDF authorities backed down from this proposal and put him on trial. G.S. said he believed the move was an indication of a change in IDF policy, with a hard line being taken against the left wing ahead of the disengagement. "They are using me to convey a message to the right at this point," he said.

Close to 250 reservists have been jailed since the outbreak of the intifada four years ago, according to Arik Diamant, director of Courage to Refuse.

On arriving at his base for reserve duty, G.S. says he was witness to the full extent of the phenomenon of "gray refusal": Of the around 130 reservists called up for duty in his unit last week, only 26 showed up. Around 50 were on sick leave, over 20 got off for "personal reasons" and 20 didn't show up at all, he said.