Tuesday, December 23, 2003

More on refuseniks
Marjolein has sent me her explanation of why she has the Yesh Gvul refusenik banner on her site:

I have a counter on my site. Not because I think it becomes more socially acceptable in Israel, but because I think it is still not acceptable at all. As you say: the majority of the population does not agree. Standing up for your believes *against* what society thinks is right, getting maybe a few favorable reactions but mainly very aggressive and angry reactions but still following your own conscience is a very very brave thing to do. Admitting that you do wrong things, as a lot of those folks do, is hard to do too. Combining the two, saying that what happens in the occupied territories (as most refuseniks do) is wrong and that it made you do immoral things which you do not want to do anymore and which you do not want your country to do anymore is very very hard.

I think the people who dare to do that are heroes and my counter is only a sign of support. I wish I could do more for them.

I disagree but fair enough.

Once I was a very committed JuBu. I floated round my workplace serenely, adorned head to toe in embroidered velvet, quite secure in my belief that my having meditated peacefully in the office during the late shift the night before had released the negative energies in the room for ever more. I couldn’t quite grasp why everyone began yelling and shouting as usual, when they arrived in the morning. Couldn’t they feel the change?

It wasn’t that my floaty quality was unpopular. I was fondly referred to as the Flower Child and people came to me for advice about alternative medicine, a subject which not only bored me, but about which I was completely ignorant.

It gradually dawned on me that the main effect my spiritual practice had on my workplace was that I was increasingly socially isolated, and not because I was being shunned, quite the contrary, but by my own choice. You see, if you believe that you are on some sort of special path, and no one else is, then you tend to feel a bit superior. You are the only one who has seen the light. That this is completely false is beyond your comprehension. The end result is that, in many instances of your life, you have no one to talk to, at least, not in the same language. It goes without saying that no one else will be affected by your self-perceived personal growth, or in any way benefit from it, besides seeing you as a bit of a weirdo.

Refuseniks truly believe that they are doing the right thing, the brave thing, following their consciences. But besides their personal feelings of gratification and self-righteousness, the immediate results of their brave acts and their reward for their isolation, what real good are they doing?

They are setting themselves apart, separating themselves from the people, and therefore losing their ability to influence. People who live in a society have a responsibility to others in that society, and not only to their consciences. No man is an island and all that. The hard thing is not refusing to man a checkpoint. The hard thing is standing in that checkpoint, day after day, week after week, and behaving humanely. And making sure everyone else behaves humanely. And then, on finishing your army reserve duty, going home and using your power as a citizen in a free democracy, to demonstrate, to write letters, to meet with Knesset members and government ministers, to try to interest the media in your point of view. In short, to try to change peoples views as an equal, as a peer, and not as some supposedly enlightened, self-appointed Don Quixote-type who feels superior and therefore above the law.

Another thing that foreign supporters of IDF refuseniks don’t seem to realize is that legitimizing left-wing refusal also legitimizes right-wing refusal. If it’s okay to refuse to guard settlements in the disputed territories, its also okay to refuse to forcibly dismantle them, when the time comes. Supporting refuseniks could very well be tantamount to supporting a future bloody civil war in Israel (God forbid). Surely, well meaning foreign supporters of peace in this region could not want that.