Dead Men Left

Monday, October 18, 2004

ESF: briefly on Palestine

The plenary on "What future for Palestine?" on Friday afternoon deserves a mention. Aside from - once again - being crammed, the 1,500-capacity meeting space being filled way beyond capacity, Yonathan Shapira's contribution from the platform was outstanding. Shapira was a helicopter pilot within an elite unit in the Israeli Defence Forces, until he, with a few colleagues, initiated a letter stating their refusal to fight in the Occupied Territories. Eventually, 27 pilots signed, and sparked off a movement within the IDF and amongst those facing conscription against upholding a murderous occupation. Aside from delivering a very moving and well-constructed speech, Shapira concluded with concrete proposals for the Palestinian solidarity movement: to support sanctions on Israel, to boycott Israeli goods, and to divest from Israel. This was, I think, quite exceptional; that the refusenik movement can move beyond simply a moral opposition to gross immorality, and begin to construct this sort of political programme, is a very positive development. He received a prolonged standing ovation.

(Yesh Gvul, the main refusenik organisation, can be found here. English translation available on the site.)