The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

“Refuse-niks” refuse to play oppressors' role in the occupied territories

Apr 15, 2002

“Refuse-niks” – that’s what they call themselves. They are reservists in the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) who are refusing to fight in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

In January, 100 reservists signed a published statement of refusal. February the number grew to 173. By the first week in April, with the intensified war-occupation, the number had grown to 390. Twelve more “Refuse-niks” were jailed.

One reservist said, “We were ordered... 'Whoever picks up a stone, shoot em.' This is an immoral order that we refuse to follow.” Another said, “We can't be nice occupiers. There is no such thing as a nice occupation.” A reservist about age 20 said, “Look at us. We are white and most of us have western backgrounds and are western educated. We are told to shoot and tear down houses and do whatever we want to people who are darker and mostly poor. What does that say?”

This is not the first time there has been resistance within the reserves of the IDF. During the war in Lebanon, those who refused to fight in Lebanon organized a small group called “Yesh Gavol,” Hebrew words which translate into “Enough! No more!”

Out of 30,000 men and women currently in the Reserves, 390 Refuse-niks is a very small number, a little over one%. But to refuse in this situation is very difficult. Their very existence shows that the Israeli population does not unanimously stand behind the oppressive policies of their own government.