INDEPENDENT NEWS

Israeli-Palestinian Grp. Maintains Dialogue In War

Published: Thu 22 Jan 2009 11:01 AM
From the radio newsmagazine
Between The Lines
http://www.btlonline.org
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Between the Lines Q
featuring progressive viewpoints
on national and international issues
under-reported in mainstream media
for release Jan. 21, 2009
Distributed by Squeaky Wheel Productions
http://www.squeakywheel.net
Israeli-Palestinian Group Strives
to Maintain Dialogue During Gaza War
RealAudio MP3
Interview with Nomika Zion,
a founding member "Other Voice" in Sderot, Israel
conducted by Melinda Tuhus,
Between The Lines Week Ending Jan. 16, 2009
While more Hamas rockets fall on Israeli towns and Israeli troops continue their ground operations in Gaza, the Israeli town of Sderot on the Gaza border is a flashpoint. Israel says it attacked Gaza to stop the rockets from falling on Sderot and other nearby towns, and most Israelis reportedly support the military action of the Israeli Defense Forces, or IDF. But a group of Israeli citizens of Sderot and other parts of southern Israel near Gaza have formed a group called "Other Voice." The group makes common cause with the suffering Palestinians in Gaza and calls for a renewed ceasefire on both sides -- a cease-fire they say Israel broke first.
Other Voice members have been in touch with Gazans by cell phone and email. They planned a joint bike ride along both sides of the border last August to demonstrate their mutual support for peace, but that plan was derailed by internal conflicts in Gaza. Communication has become much more difficult since Israel's recent military assault, which Sderot residents said included bombing cell phone towers in Gaza.
Between The Lines' Melinda Tuhus spoke with Nomika Zion, a founding member of Other Voice. She is director of the Center for Social Justice at the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem, but works mostly from home in a "safe room" to provide protection from the dozens of incoming Hamas rockets launched across the border daily. Though they have caused very few injuries, these rockets take a heavy emotional toll on residents. Zion explains that the cross-border dialogue is vital to ensure that the human dimension of the conflict on both sides is kept in perspective.
NOMIKA ZION: We found that we shared together the same attitude, the same feeling -- that we want to create a dialogue with the people from Gaza. We wanted to open a human channel. It was very moving for me and very, very important, because many times I felt that I was almost alone here in this voice, to see our neighbors from Gaza as partners, that we’re living in the same area, and not as enemies -- to see the human face of the other side and not just see them as people with no face, no voice, no pain. We are not speaking in one voice -- all the time we ask questions and we need to define our identity again and again in this group But what everybody agree in the group is to create connection with the people from Gaza -- talk to them, listen to them, the human voice. Unfortunately, we couldn’t meet each other, so we did it via cell phone, and it was very painful dialogue because of the closures, they cannot get out, they are locked in a very tiny place – the biggest prison in the world, and so on. They don’t have enough supplies, and so on. So this is what is talked about with them. And we tried to organize mutual activities together. The bicycle ride was one of them, and we were quite disappointed because we thought they’d come with a group of Palestinians to a hill in front of a kibbutz. There’s a hill there and you can see the people from the other side. But they didn’t show up, because Hamas and Fatah started to fight each other at that time, the beginning of August. We realize it’s very difficult to find Other Voice group of Palestinians from the other side We spoke to them many times about it. Why can’t you organize a group of Palestinians to be an Other Voice in your group? Of course, there is no democracy there. They can’t gather like that, like us, every week; they cannot express their opinion freely. It’s very, very difficult. They risk their lives sometimes because they were very afraid from Hamas. But over this year, over this time, we built a relationship only by voices, yes, with the other side, and we heard about their lives and they heard about us. This is what happened mainly.
BETWEEN THE LINES: How has your life been since the escalation of hostilities that began on Dec. 27th?
NOMIKA ZION: For me, it’s very, very difficult. I hardly can work or focus on nothing but this war. In our group at the moment, there are many different voices. Some of the people support the war; some of the people don’t, like me. We communicate all the time via mail -- we express our feelings, our views, our attitudes about what happened. Everybody, our hearts are broken because of what happened in Gaza. Even those people in Other Voice group which support the military action feel broken from the pictures in Gaza. I can’t identify with this brutal, brutal, brutal military operation. I can’t identify; I don’t feel protected at the moment. We should remember that the IDF broke the ceasefire. They entered there because of one of the tunnels, and then they invade again and killed around 20 Palestinians, and then we realize we are going to face another round of escalation. And we were very, very afraid. So Other Voice group, we wrote a petition to Edud Olmert and Ehud Barak and we asked them -- we begged -- we tried to explain that it was very, very important, crucial, critical for us, this cease-fire. It was so important. It was the only option for people to get back to normal life, to get more strength, to have normal life again. And we begged, and we said, "Try to find any channel for a dialogue, to achieve agreement, secret agreement, long-term agreement, to get another ceasefire for long-term. We may not cope with another escalation, with another round of violence, okay? We wanted to explain all of this and ask them to do whatever they can do as a government to find a way for a dialogue, for agreement, and to choose always the non-violent option.
BETWEEN THE LINES: Did you get a response from the Israeli government?
NOMIKA ZION: They didn’t show up, and I’m not sure we have enough strength to face another escalation. And this is what happened. When the IDF broke the cease-fire, we knew exactly what was going to be.
Visit the Other Site website, launched by an Israeli and a Palestinian from Gaza, both participants in the cross border dialogue, at Gaza-Sderot.blogspot.com
Related articles:
• U.S. Chapter of Peacenow.org at peacenow.org
• Other Voice -- A group for a civil solution in the Sderot-Gaza region at www.othervoice.org
*************
Israeli Reserve Soldier Explains
His Refusal to Serve in Gaza
RealAudio MP3
Interview with Yitzchak Ben Mocha,
an Israeli Army reservist,
conducted by Melinda Tuhus
Between The Lines Week Ending Jan. 23, 2009
The vast majority of Israelis support their government's current war on Gaza, believing it's the only way to stop rocket attacks coming from the Hamas-led territory, and no doubt many also hope the Israeli military can eliminate Hamas as a threat once and for all.
But there is a smaller group of Israelis who oppose their country's action, and some are found within the Israeli military, called the Israel Defense Forces, which Palestinians label the "Israeli Occupation Forces." Yitzchak Ben Mocha is one of a number of reservists who have refused to serve in Gaza. Now a 25-year-old student, he joined the IDF at 18, like most Israelis do. He served three years in an elite paratrooper unit, much of it in the West Bank. While in the West Bank he observed soldiers using civilians as human shields, beating Palestinians, and destroying private property, including homes and olive groves. He came to the conclusion that the conflict with the Palestinians would not end until Israel ends their occupation of Palestinian land.
Ben Mocha is still a reservist in the Israeli military, but when he was called up to serve in the ongoing conflict in Gaza, he refused. Although the government is putting some refusers on trial, Ben Mocha has not yet been prosecuted -- but told that he may be called up again, in which he says he'll again refuse. Between the Lines Melinda Tuhus reached Ben Mocha by phone in Israel, and asked him to explain why he is refusing to fight in Gaza.
YITZCHAK BEN MOCHA: I know there is more people like me who refused in the last week to be part of the fighting, and the Army just released them from the army service; it did not judge them as it judged refusal years before, and we think it’s because they understand if you put them in jail, it gives them much more power, and the media does articles on them, and gives them a much, much louder voice, and the army do not want that. They want to create an image of the reality in which all the combat soldiers are united and believe in the idea of the war. They want to make a picture of ideal belief in that fighting.
BETWEEN THE LINES: Yitzchak ben Mocha, you wrote in your essay, “For over 40 years society and leadership of the State of Israel have avoided formulating a clear and unambiguous resolution regarding the destiny of the Palestinian people and the future of the Occupied Territories. As a result, they send their sons to become soldiers – and occupants and oppressors. Yet it seems like among the young generations in Israel the understanding grows that this is not another "we had no choice"-war. Not like the wars in the stories which we were brought up on. They understand that there are better ways to resolve the conflict; and they understand that ultimately violent measures will only take us back to the same point again and again.” How much of a change do you see now among young people who are unwilling to serve in the Israeli army?
YITZCHAK BEN MOCHA: When you’re talking about 20 years ago and even before that, it seems like there was a very, very isolated people who refused to serve in the military for conscience idea. And nowadays, as long as the occupation continues, the numbers are going up. I cannot say it’s most of Israeli society, definitely not, and it’s not a very large number, but they’re definitely going up. And we’re talking about more people who are 18 and refuse from the beginning to go to the army service, to be part of it, and they have much, much better ways to quit the army if they are afraid or just want to do other things, but they prefer to stay and say very clearly that they are refusing for the reason that they don’t want to be part of the occupation, and they are sent to jail, for years. And so on for a number of reserve soldiers who are refusing to be part of the occupation, and those numbers are going up also – maybe not as big as we want them to be, but definitely going up. As I wrote, it seems like the beginning of understanding. And you should understand that for anybody refusing to serve in the army, there is much more people who disagree with the occupation.
BETWEEN THE LINES: What would you most like Americans to know about what motivates your refusal to serve in the IDF, except for training purposes?
YITZCHAK BEN MOCHA: Israel has the right to defend herself, and we definitely want to defend from the Hamas rockets. But we should see this work not as a defense from Hamas but part of a much larger view of the occupation. We cannot separate this war from the occupation – it’s one thing. And, until the occupation stops, the war will continue. It’s hard for me to make myself clear in English, and maybe it’s a better idea to say to the American audience another thing, like the media in Israel maybe don’t want you to hear about that, but there is another voice in the Israeli society and between the Israeli soldiers, and that’s the voice of peace, and that’s the voice of non-violence, and that’s the voice we are saying, that’s our voice. And it’s making a picture of a more courageous society in Israel, a more sane society, in Israel. And we are hearing similar voice from the Palestinian society also in the last years. I think that’s the important thing for the American nation to hear.
For more information on Israeli soldiers refusing to serve in Gaza, visit Courage to Refuse at www.couragetorefuse.org.
Related articles:
"Hardline Jewish Settler Violence Against IDF Has Alienated Many Israelis," Interview with Hagit Ofran, conducted by Melinda Tuhus, Between The Lines Week Ending Dec. 19, 2008
• U.S. Chapter of Peacenow.org at peacenow.org
• Other Voice -- A group for a civil solution in the Sderot-Gaza region at www.othervoice.org
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Between The Lines Radio Newsmagazine
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Dear Friend of Between The Lines:
In the spirit of President Barack Obama's inaugural address ushering in a new era of responsibility, we share his quote to those around the world: "Know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more." With the two Between The Lines Q below, we bring voices of peace during the recent Israel-Gaza conflict.
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Checks can be made payable to our tax-exempt fiscal sponsor, "The Global Center" and mailed to:
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