Between December 2001 and PN going to press, at least 11 Israeli and Druse men spent time in military prisons for refusing to serve in the Israeli Defence Force. Most served short sentences of between 14 and 28 days, although one refusenik, Rennan Amin Salameh was charged with desertion and remains in prison awaiting trial. If convicted he faces up to three years in prison.
Two of these conscientious objectors Yair Khilou and Igal Rosenberg (pictured above) had earlier signed a public declaration stating their intention to refuse to be conscripted into the Israeli military on their scheduled draft dates. The declaration - known as the “letter of the 12th-graders” - has been signed by 62 Israeli youths and was sent to Ariel Sharon last September.
In a move which even brought the issue onto the pages of British newspapers, a new declaration of refusal of service in the occupied territories was published in the Israeli independent daily Haaretz in January, bearing signatures of 52 reserve officers and other ranks, all from frontline combat units.
The declaration came from the signatories themselves, representing an initiative independent of existing CO groups, although CO group Yesh Gvul stated that they were “of course delighted!” adding that “It is a most significant development, indicating that our campaign, bringing home the grim facts that reservists observe during their service in the territories, is beginning to make inroads.”
One of those imprisoned during January 2002 (though since released), was 27-year-old vegetarian and pacifist Zvi Osmolovski. In a statement, he wrote: “People ask me why I do not eat meat - after all, by not eating that steak I cannot bring the slain cow or chicken back to life. I reply that I'm unwilling to share the blame or responsibility of killing that animal. All the more so, I will not be able to share the guilt of murdering people, even bad people, by joining the army that commits that murder.”