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Fighting for peace

dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians



Israelis and Palestinians together. It's no utopia, it's beautifully true. It's what the association Combatants for Peace, formed by former Israeli soldiers and Palestinians militiamen, represents: the union for one goal, saying no to the use of armed force. They organize meetings both in Israel and in Palestine to help both populations get nearer eachother and overcome mistrust


They started many initiatives, including the commemoration of all victims of the Mid-Eastern conflict on the day when Israel mourns its fallen: "Yom HaZikaron", recurring on 15 April this year.


Within this path of shared memory, on past 4 April some representatives of this organization visited Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. On that day they also seized the occasion to remember together some Righteous Muslims, i.e. the Islamic faithful who risked their lives to rescue some Jews during the Holocaust.


A brave step forward. As brave is the action of this association, created in 2005, which has channeled into concrete actions its dissent against the use of armed force to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. These men and women have left the army to undertake a path of dialogue and encounter. 


As Liri, a young former soldier of the Israeli Navy, tells the online review of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: "Every two weeks my fellow combatants and I were on leave and we shared our experiences of the territories. This is how I began developing more critical an approach. Then something else happened in 2004 that helped me make this choice: in the wake of a terrorist attack in Egypt I had a 36-hour shift to retrieve the wounded. There was a wounded man on the ground who asked to be recovered. They told me they could not give their clearance unless it became clear whether he was Israeli or Palestinian. These events have prompted me to ask myself some questions".


Einat, too, former Tsahal soldier, decided to join Combatants: "Israel and Palestine are really insulated from eachother. So it happens that the Palestinians only know about the settlers or Israelis identify the Palestinians only with the terrorists or the militants of armed groups. None of them know about the normal part of the other people". 


This is not the only form of dissent, though. In Israeli territory there more and more cases od people refusing to serve the army for reasons of conscience. They are against the use of armed force but also persuaded that Israel violates the human rights of the Palestinians in the occupied territories. 


Yet, in Israel the conscription is compulsory for everybody, men and women from 18 to 29 years old. There are few exceptions, mainly concerning ultra-orthodoxes and Arabs. Conscience objection is though not considered. Therefore many youths such as Natan Blanc, Noam Gur, Omar Sa'ad are jailed for refusing to abiding of the law. 
This situation sparked a wide-spread debate in the Israeli society, with someone demanding the possibility upon request to replace conscription with civil service, and others demanding a more wide-spread conscription including also the people who were exempted until now.


This topic will spark many more debates, but will surely find a positive input right from the former soldiers of Combatants for Peace and all those who are encouraging the path of dialogue within a conflict which unfortunately seems to be endless. 

12 April 2013

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