Open Letter to an Israeli Settler: I Will Not be Your Guard!

Against the Current, No. 57, July/August 1995

Sergio Yahni

[Two members of the Alternative Information Center in Jerusalem, Nathan Krystall and Sergio Yahni, have served prison terms this year for refusing military service. Krystall refused on political rounds to enlist in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), stating that the character of Israel as a “Jewish state” inherently entails the violent suppression of Palestinian rights.

[Sergio Yahni refused to serve his reserve duty in the Gaza Strip. It is the third time he has served time in military prison for refusing military service in the Occupied Territories. This time, ordered to guard the settlement of Neve Dekalim in Gaza, he explained in the following Open Letter why it was out of the question for him to obey.

[We consider these acts of resistance to be of special importance in view of the disintegration of the post-Oslo “peace process.” Indicators of this collapse include the escalating confiscations of Palestinian land, administrative detentions and the exclusion of Palestinian workers from jobs in Israel — in short, the Rabin government’s systematic construction of an Apartheid system — and the death under torture and medical neglect of four Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons in the first four months of 1995.

[We also recommend to interested readers the Alternative Information Center’s publication News From Within, well worth the $60 subscription price. Write NFW, POB 31417, Jerusalem, Israel.]

THERE ARE PEOPLE who are still trying to convince us that we have already achieved peace, but the fact that I was ordered to do reserve service in the Gaza Strip attests to the fact that the occupation continues and, in fact, the number of Palestinians killed by IDF bullets is alarmingly rising.

As long as the occupation continues I will be obliged to refuse to serve there. When first drafted into the regular army I wrote to the Minister of Defense: “I will not take part in the oppression of another people;” nothing has happened to make me change my position.

Even if they were to send me to serve at one of the checkpoints between Israel and the Gaza Strip, I would refuse — because such checkpoints do not constitute border crossings between two independent entities, but rather a means of enforcing a closure which is designed to harm and humiliate the Palestinian population.

They tell us that separation will bring us security. If so, why are you still in Gaza, you settlers of Neve Dekalim, and why am I supposed to protect you? How can you expect me to accompany your children on their way to piano lessons, when dangerously ill heart patients are forbidden to enter Israel to receive needed treatment?

Let Aharon Megged and A.B. Yehoshua [two prominent liberal Zionist writers, who have recently been defending the settlers against the so-called “libels” of the more consistent sectors of the peace movement] stand guard at Neve Dekalim. For my part, when I am released from Military Prison #6, I may join the protest actions of the residents of Dugit, who have demanded for a year and a half to return home to Israel, in peace.

I refuse to stand guard for you, settler, because the very existence of Neve Dekalim violates international law, because your presence has been forced on your neighbors; because keeping Gush Khatif (the block of Gaza settlements — ed.) in place is placing an obstacle in the path of peace; and above all, because you and your friends are deliberately and with malice murdering any chance for a peace between Israelis and Palestinians that would be based on equality and mutual respect.

If you choose to remain where you are, then learn to manage on your own; if the government forces you to stay in the occupied territories, then join the protests of the residents of Dugit, and I will be there with you.

I am sorry to have to be telling you one more time: When it comes to the struggle for peace, you are my enemies, and my conscience renders it impossible for me to protect you.

ATC 57, July-August 1995