Number of IDF Refuseniks Surges to 375 and Still Climbing

Since the start of the Israel Defense Forces' operation in the Palestinian Authority, there has been a surge in the number of reservists who are refusing to serve in the territories. Till now, some 375 officers and soldiers have signed the letter of refusal to serve in the territories.

On Friday, a group of the refuseniks demonstrated for the first time outside the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem, carrying Israeli flags to stress their ties to Zionism, and voicing calls against the unnecessary killing of their comrades in "the war for the peace of the settlements."

The spokesman for the refuseniks, Amit Mashiah, estimated that by Tuesday, some 20 officers and soldiers identified with the group would be serving time in jail for refusing to serve in the territories.

Twelve of the those who have signed the refusal notice and have already received orders to report for duty are refusing to go to the territories, while another nine told the Yesh Gvul peace organization at the weekend that they would not comply with such orders if and when they receive them.

One of the refuseniks was already on his way yesterday to face a military tribunal in Hebron; three are waiting for a decision on their status at the Central Command; and four reported to their posts yesterday, signed a refusal to serve in the territories and were sent home.

Over the past two days, Yesh Gvul has received dozens of calls from officers and soldiers who have decided to refuse to report for duty in the territories and are seeking advice and assistance.

"The principles and motives that six-and-a-half years ago led me to leave Australia, come to live in Israel and serve as a regular conscript in the Israel Defense Forces, and later as a reservist, are the same principles and motives that have prompted me, now, to refuse to serve in the occupied territories and play a part in carrying out immoral actions," Corporal (res.) David Pearlman told Ha'aretz on Friday.

Pearlman was sentenced last week to 14 days in detention for his refusal to serve in the territories.

"The IDF's demand that I serve in the territories," Pearlman continued, "left me facing a very difficult dilemma because I am willing to serve in any war whose objective is the defense of the State of Israel. But in no uncertain terms am I willing to take part in any activity that causes suffering and victims to both nations."

A second reservist, Elad Lahav, who is currently serving a 28-day jail sentence for his refusal to serve in the territories, said: "Since seder night, I have been living with a terrible feeling because of the horrific terror attack in Netanya, because of the government's decision to conduct an ongoing act of war the final outcome of which no one knows, and due to the fact that I am here - while my unit comrades are stationed in Hebron.

"I am a Zionist and a patriot and went to serve in an infantry unit out of free choice. When I informed [the army] of my refusal to do reserve duty in Hebron, around half of my friends in my platoon told me that they supported my actions. The others said they didn't agree with me, but understood me. This picture could change in light of the war that is going on at present. Even at this moment, I do not regret my refusal to serve in the territories."

On Friday, former Israel Air Force pilot, Major (res.) Nahum Carlansky, called on his fellow airmen to refuse to participate in actions that could lead to civilian casualties. "In my opinion, the IDF should be the Israel defense force, and not the army for the defense of the occupation and the safety of the settlement," Carlansky told Ha'aretz.

"The ongoing occupation is causing a dehumanization of Israeli society, reinforcing Palestinian hatred toward Israel and giving rise to a new generation of Palestinians who are prepared to lose their lives in opposition to continuing to live under the occupation," Carlansky added.