Free Palestine

"I believe that my God and Rachel's is not only the Christian God - though that is our background and faith - not only the Jewish God, the Muslim God, or the God of any single religion. I believe that He/She is a God of us all working powerfully in many of us to create a more loving, saner world. I believe my God will help me somehow to always be connected to the spirit of my daughter - to the beautiful, loving, magical light that she was in my life. I will do what I can to work for the community Rachel envisioned..."

Cindy Corrie, Mother of Rachel Corrie
Coalition of Women for Peace, Tel-Aviv

I Can No Longer Serve in The IDF

Translation of the letter that sergeant Shamai Leibowitz sent to the communications officer of his army unit. Leibowitz is a lawyer specializing in human-rights. He was among the original 50 or so Ometz L'sarev (Courage to Refuse) reservists who signed an open letter stating their refusal to serve in the Occupied Territories.

I am writing you with the request to let me appear before the "conscience committee" at the Army Conscription Center since my conscience does no longer allow me to serve in the IDF. Paragraph 36 of the 1984 Law of Military Service states that the Minister of Defence is authorized to exempt those who have done their compulsory service from their reservist obligations for reasons including conscientious objection.

Ever since 1967, Israel, by means of the IDF, has been imposing a violent, cruel and bloody regime, on 3.5 million Palestinian people who are without fundamental human rights. The IDF has, thus, become an army that is enforcing its military rule on millions of people who are under a continuous siege. This situation, which includes exterminations, torture, home demolitions, the destruction of property, land expropriation, and the obstruction of freedom of movement, has created feelings of profound hatred towards the Israeli people and subjects the two nations who live in this land to ongoing bloodshed. Under these circumstances, with the entire IDF acting as a tool of oppression for the purpose of maintaining and continuing this regime, my conscience does no longer allow me to serve in the Israeli army.

I believe that each soldier serving in the IDF becomes, whether he wants to or not, complicit in the violent oppression of an entire nation and thus collaborates in the illegal and immoral domination of millions of people. We Jews, in our daily prayers, remember the days of forced labor during our slavery in Ancient Egypt. I cannot go on praying while at the same time participating in this colonialist system that enslaves and dominates the Palestinian people. One of the main lessons our forefathers learned from the subjugation of the Hebrews in Ancient Egypt is to warn us against the possibility of committing similar acts, once we would have a state of our own.

"And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him. But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God" (Leviticus 19:33-34).

This injunction is repeated thirty six times in the Bible in order to stress how carefully we must guard against any form of discrimination against the foreigners who dwell amongst us. This is part of the moral codex of Judaism. Participation in an army that cruelly occupies an entire nation does not go hand in hand with these injunctions and undermines the very foundations of Jewish tradition.

The voice of conscience is as strong as the force of life. It is stronger than any law or order. Since my conscience obliges me not to commit transgressions, whether they be moral or criminal, but rather commands me to uphold these values, I cannot go on serving in this army whose daily routine consists of the oppression of millions and their exclusion from human rights. It is from concern for the character and the very existence of Israel that I refuse to further serve in the IDF.

I would like to ask to be called as soon as possible for a hearing so that I can present my arguments to the committee and be released from military service.

Shamai Leibowitz