Israeli soldier brings refusal movement to BrandeisReleased on April 25, 2002
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"The decision to refuse has a high price. You are shunned; called a traitor. You lose your friends. But the alternative is morally wrong. After 35 years of people living with no basic human rights, it is time to tell the reality of the occupation. It is cruelty."
With those powerful words, Lt. Guy Grossman, a reserve officer in the Israeli army, drew a standing ovation at Brandeis April 24th.
It was the first of a number of campus talks planned for the Boston area by organizers of Ometz Le-Sarev. A standing-room-only crowd squeezed into the Usdan lower lobby to hear the 30-year-old philosophy student speak. Sporting a clean-shaven head, and casual, well-tailored civilian clothes, Grossman proved a commanding, calm presence.
Scanning the room, he stopping briefly several times to make eye contact. "I will expose myself to you today," he said. "It will be personal." Speaking in clear, quiet tones, he recalled the pivotal moment when he decided to refuse to fight in the occupied territories.
Trained as a member of an elite paratrooper unit specializing in anti-tank combat, Grossman spoke somberly of the reality of war. He talked of his own experience in a raid on a refugee camp in which he and his men were stoned. "We fired shots. Five Palestinians were killed. And the worst part is, it was all legal. Everything is legal in Israel. That's what's so frightening."
Grossman said the experience led him to question his role as an officer in the occupied territories. "I asked myself: what do these casualties have to do with defending Israel?"
Grossman was one of the first to sign "Courage to Refuse" declaration. More than 400 soldiers have added their names, stressing they will continue to serve in defense of Israel -- but not beyond the 1967 borders.
"I grew up in a Zionist household. My parents told me to love my country and honor the codes of justice. I was also taught not to blindly follow orders," said Grossman.
"The Israeli army is very moral. It is the occupation that is wrong," he added.
There is a myth that the occupation is necessary for the long-term security of Israel, said Grossman. "Long term security of Israel depends on the world. And we are very close to the point where the world will force Israel to end it. I hope that does not happen. We need to be in a position of strength when the occupation ends."
He called for :"100 percent evacuation of the settlements and a return to the borders of '67." But he stopped short of offering Palestinians a state of their own. "I am a Zionist. If you annex Israel, it will not be a Jewish state," he said. Rather, Grossman envisions a nation where peace is achieved through the restoration of human rights.
Palestinians must also bear responsibility for their role in the violence, he added. "They have done a very good job at doing all the wrong things to put us in this position. If they think they will build a state on blood, it will not last."
What's needed now is trust, said Grossman. "Our movement is a beginning of such trust. But I do not know exactly how it is to be done."
"It is time to raise your voice," he implored students. "It is a very powerful voice. We are young. We have nothing to lose. We have no political aspirations."
The Courage to Refuse tour of Boston is a test of the Jewish diaspora's support of the movement. Organizers hope to raise awareness across the United States and the rest of the world. Funding is also critical; a growing number of refuseniks are being imprisoned for their stance, and the movement is seeking donations to help their families with legal fees.
The event was sponsored by Hillel, the Program in Peace and Conflict Studies, and the International Center for Ethics, Justice, and Public Life.