Monday, October 03, 2005

film - On The Objection Front

On The Objection Front (2005)
(Documentary — Hebrew w/English subtitles)

5 / 5

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In 2002, the world was shaken by news that some members of the IDF - the Israeli Defence Forces, were refusing to serve in the expanded, post-1967 borders of Israel, in the so-called "occupied territories" where the Palestinians live. Their famous written announcement, the "Combatants' Letter," explained their rationale for not wanting to participate in the "War of the Settlements" which, in their words, was found to control the Palestinian people using methods to "dominate, expel, starve and humiliate an entire people."

In this riveting 63 minute documentary, introduced by a member of Jews For A Just Peace Winnipeg, six refuseniks from(Courage to Refuse, one of a handful of refusenik suppprt groups, is featured. The footage shows them telling their stories but also going about daily life. Some of the stories about "missions" easily contained elements of human rights abuse, yet we only hear about allegations from the Palestinians, which often fall on skeptical ears of folks, many of whom paint them as all being terrorists. Here, you actually see military members, some senior officers, recounting the stories themselves and expressing incredible grief for it. They also show you footage of a class of young officers being told by a LCol about how IDF military officers are supposed to be humane to both the enemy and their own troops. They are supposed to act with a conscience and question options in situations, but must follow orders. The six soldiers, Maj Tomer (28), an F-16 pilot; Dr. Itai Berger (42);David Zonshein (33), a lieutenant in a Special Paratrooper Unit of the Reserve Army; Chen Alon (35), a major in the Reserve Army Armored Corps; Yair Meyuchas (25), Staff-Sergeant in the Special Commando Unit, Reserve Army and Guy Grosman (32), a lieutenant in a Special Paratrooper Unit of the Reserve Army.

There's footage of a refusenik support group meeting on a hill, and letting loose balloons, as they watch refusenik prisoners. The groups wave to each other and the balloons float away, one at a time. Even more interesting are the rallies that the refusenik support networks and their opposition hold. One man repeatedly heckled a refusenik, telling him to go to Arafat.

The film shows criticism of the refuseniks, even within their own families. In a couple of scenes, family members sit around the living room and peacefully explain their support or disappointment in the rufusenik family member. The documentary clearly allows the viewer to draw his or her own conclusion without trying to preach its own perspective.

Courage to Refuse was formed in 2002 by the initiators of the Combatant's Letter, Captain David Zonshein and Lieutenant Yaniv Itzkovits.

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David Zonshein

David Zonshein, 33, a lieutenant in a Special Paratrooper Unit of the Reserve Army, presently works in the high-tech field. David Zonshein (together with Yaniv Itzkovich) wrote the Combatants' Letter which appeared as an announcement in Ha'aretz newspaper in January 2002. He defines himself as belonging to the mainstream of Israeli society, and describes his life as a perfect example of Zionist upbringing at its best. David was sent to prison for his refusal to serve in the occupied territories. He is no longer called up for reserve military service, in spite of his desire to contine doing his duty.

Today, there are approximately 663 Israeli soldier refuseniks, with thousands of non-military supporters and hundreds of Israeli academics, also lending their support. And the movement is growing. The Refusers Solidarity Network cites over 1660 refusers.

Other refuser groups include: The Shministim, a group of 300 high school seniors.
Yesh Gvul - Israeli peace group campaigning against the occupation by backing soldiers who refuse duties of a repressive or aggressive nature.
Air Force Pilots - 27 reserve pilots have now signed the letter declaring their refusal to take part in aerial attacks on populated Palestinian areas in the territories. The website is in Hebrew only at this time.
New Profile - Movement for the civil-ization of Israeli society providing a wide range of support services and education to those who refuse military service.
Refusers Parents’ Forum - Network of parents and family members supporting working together to support current and future high school senior conscientious objectors (Shministim) – including those in, or released, from prison.

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Courage to Refuse

Combatant's Letter.
* We, reserve combat officers and soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces, who were raised upon the principles of Zionism, self-sacrifice and giving to the people of Israel and to the State of Israel, who have always served in the front lines, and who were the first to carry out any mission in order to protect the State of Israel and strengthen it.

* We, combat officers and soldiers who have served the State of Israel for long weeks every year, in spite of the dear cost to our personal lives, have been on reserve duty in the Occupied Territories, and were issued commands and directives that had nothing to do with the security of our country, and that had the sole purpose of perpetuating our control over the Palestinian people.

* We, whose eyes have seen the bloody toll this Occupation exacts from both sides,

* We, who sensed how the commands issued to us in the Occupied Territories destroy all the values that we were raised upon,

* We, who understand now that the price of Occupation is the loss of IDF's human character and the corruption of the entire Israeli society,

* We, who know that the Territories are not a part of Israel, and that all settlements are bound to be evacuated,

* We hereby declare that we shall not continue to fight this War of the Settlements.

* We shall not continue to fight beyond the 1967 borders in order to dominate, expel, starve and humiliate an entire people.

* We hereby declare that we shall continue serving the Israel Defense Force in any mission that serves Israel's defense.

The missions of occupation and oppression do not serve this purpose -- and we shall take no part in them.

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Director Shiri Tsur

On The Objection Front has won the Ecumenical Award at the 2005 Berlin Film Festival and it played as part of the 2nd Annual Canada-Palestine Film Festival, in Winnipeg, Canada.

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