I was planning to e-mail Yesh Gvul as soon as I got home from work today (no Hannuka vacation for me, sadly) to inquire about the source of the number on their counter (“Where are the names, dammit?”). I’m feeling a bit fluey today so luckily a kindly person beat me to it, and e-mailed me the link to the page that explains that this is actually a fusion of a few refusenik lists. Read all about it here. I don’t really think this is a good enough explanation and I wonder what some of the actual signatories would make of it. You see it mixes up different kinds of refusals. Some refuse to do army duty at all; some are willing to do their duty protecting their country, but only within the boundaries of pre-1967 Israel; others limit their refusal to certain missions that they interpret as amoral. So you see sticking them all together is extremely misleading and renders the number on the counter completely meaningless, in my view.
I think well intentioned but partially informed people who stick counters on their sites, with apparently meaningless numbers of supposed IDF refuseniks, are missing something. They seem to think that if their counter shows an increase in numbers, then refusing is becoming more socially acceptable in Israel, along with a growing opposition in Israel to this government and its policies. But this is just not the case. Not that everyone is crazy about this government, mind you, but the Israeli Left is still seen as far less attractive. I do suspect the drop in Sharon’s popularity has much more to do with suspicions about his corruption, and that of his sons, than to dissatisfaction with his government’s policies, even if such dissatisfaction does exist (and it does, to a point), and is on the rise (and it is, again, to a point).
So what does linking to said counters accomplish in aid of furthering World Peace in Our Time? Beats me. As far as I’m concerned, it just means the linker is less interested in what regular Israelis think, feel, and fear, and has regard mainly for those that in Israel are widely regarded as hallucinatory kooks if not outright traitors (not that this is necessarily what I personally think, but it is hardly an uncommon sentiment). Refusal to serve in the army at all, or specifically in the territories, or on certain missions that they dislike, still an extremely marginal phenomenon (most of the infamous “refusenik” pilots, for instance, were not even in active combat service, rendering their so-called refusal quite meaningless in operational terms), is seen by many as an act that serves to strengthen Palestinian incentive to perpetrate murderous acts of terrorism against Israeli civilians. As if choosing not to participate in the protection of those civilians is not bad enough. This is still not regarded as a legitimate mode of protest, even by most moderate left wing Israelis, I believe.
Pim, however, (who looks very lovely in her photo, by the way) has linked not only to said meaningless counter, but to my blog as well, meaning she is interested in a more mainstream Israeli point of view. I am grateful for this, and pleasantly surprised (I am once again reminded that I constantly have to work on my prejudices). I would like to apologize, in advance, to her and to any of her readers who wander over here, if some of the things I say are less than pleasant for them to read. But she should know that she’s far more likely to hear views similar to mine on the street in Israel than what she might or might not have been reading over at the Yesh Gvul site. (I’m not being arrogant, quite the contrary. The things I say are nothing special).
If you really want to do your little bit to further peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and not just be seen to have trendy opinions, you have to try to really understand the problem with an open mind. This can be achieved, hopefully, by studying different aspects and complexities of both sides, and not just the suitably palatable margins.
And that goes for Israel sympathizers, as well.
(Does this mean I have to read Gideon Levy? No! No! Don’t make me do it! I’ll do anything…)
Sunday, December 21, 2003