December 22, 2003

Elite Israeli Commandos Refuse to Serve in Palestinian Territories

Agence France Press: Fifteen members of the Israeli army's top commando unit have written to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon refusing to carry out missions in the Palestinian territories, private television reported..."We will no longer corrupt the stamp of humanity in us through carrying out the missions of an occupation army... in the past, we fought for a justified cause (but today), we have reached the boundary of oppressing another people. "

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Published on Sunday, December 21, 2003 by Agence
France Presse
Elite Israeli Commandos Refuse to Serve in Palestinian Territories

Fifteen members of the Israeli army's top commando
unit have written to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
refusing to carry out missions in the Palestinian
territories, private television reported.

We will no longer corrupt the stamp of humanity in us
through carrying out the missions of an occupation
army... in the past, we fought for a justified cause
(but today), we have reached the boundary of
oppressing another people.


According to the report, 15 reservists from the elite
Sayeret Matkal unit, said they would no longer
participate in the "rule of oppression" and the
defense of Jewish settlements in the Palestinian
territories.

"We will no longer give our lives to the rule of
oppression in the territories and to the denial of
human rights to millions of Palestinians and we will
no longer serve as a defensive shield for the
settlements," the television quoted the letter as
saying.

"We will no longer corrupt the stamp of humanity in us
through carrying out the missions of an occupation
army... in the past, we fought for a justified cause
(but today), we have reached the boundary of
oppressing another people," it added.

"We will no longer cross this boundary."

Since the outbreak of the Palestinian uprising in
September 2000, Sayeret Matkal has spearheaded
Israel's campaign to round up militants, tracking down
and arresting senior wanted Palestinians, rounding up
"terror units" and searching for weapons caches.

The letter was likely to send shockwaves through the
defense establishment due to the seniority of the
unit, best known for its spectacular rescue of 106
passengers from a hijacked plane at Uganda's Entebbe
Airport in 1976.

Army radio said the letter would be presented to
Sharon's office later Sunday.

Last week, the Israeli press revealed a 1992 plan to
assassinate former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, after
Iraq fired 39 Scud missiles at Israel during the 1991
Gulf war.

The plan was to have been carried out by the Sayeret
Matkal unit, but was aborted at the last minute.

The latest refusal to serve comes three months after
27 airforce pilots sent a petition to airforce head
General Dan Halutz outlining their refusal to
undertake missions in the Palestinian territories.

The "refusenik" movement swung into the spotlight in
January 2002, when 52 reserve officers and soldiers
signed a letter saying they would not serve in the
Palestinian territories.

As news of the letter spread, several politicians who
served in the unit heaped condemnation on the
signatories, saying the army was not a forum in which
to raise political issues.

Former premier and head of the unit Ehud Barak, called
on them "immediately" to retract their decision,
saying it was "a serious mistake", army radio
reported.

"Within a democracy there is no place for refusal...
it is essential to conduct the struggle against the
government's policies in the public sphere," he said.

Labour MK Matan Vilnai, who served as deputy commander
of Sayeret Matkal, said the refusal to serve was "a
phenomenon that must cannot be accepted in any
manner... One must change policy with democratic tools
and not through the army."

Ehud Yatom, a deputy from premier Ariel Sharon's
right-wing Likud party who also served in the unit,
called for the signatories to be brought to justice
and said they were hurting the army's fighting
capacity.

And the army's Chief of Staff, Moshe Yaalon said
anyone who has anything to say about the army's
actions should "do it within a military framework,"
the radio said.

The legal and constitutional committee at the Knesset
(parliament) is to hold an urgent debate on opening
criminal procedures against "refuseniks" in the coming
days, the radio said.

The committee wants to broaden the scope for
prosecution outside of the military tribunals.

Copyright 2003 AFP

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Posted by richard at December 22, 2003 10:06 AM