Israeli journalist and blogger Noam Sheizaf – whom I recently met in Tel Aviv – is currently on reserve duty in the West Bank. It’s an interesting role for somebody so utterly opposed to the occupation. In his latest post, he tries to explain his thinking. Welcome to the tortured mind of the progressive Israeli:
As I write this, I still have 10 days until the end of my reserve service in the West Bank. It is my first service in the Palestinian territories in nine years. Until then I was a platoon commander in an infantry unit, and served on a regular basis in the West Bank and on Gaza strip, both during mandatory duty and on reserve. Seven years ago I decided I will not take part in the occupation anymore, and refused to enlist to my yearly service. I was sentenced to 28 days in army prison no. 6, and later removed from my commanding post. When the next call came, I was transferred to a civil defense unit (again, as platoon commander), which usually doesn’t carry out such missions. But lately the army changed its policy, and my unit was called for a 26 days service in the Jordan Vally area. Not “hardcore occupation” like the things I used to do in Hebron or Ramallah, but still, inside the West Bank.
What do I do here? That’s what I’ve been asking myself in the last two weeks. I don’t think I have the best answers yet, but I will try to share some of my thoughts on the matter here.
My first conclusion is that I just got weak. Nine years ago, after serving in South Mount Hebron, I understood there are no more excuses for taking part in what’s going on there. I explained this to my commanding officers, and when they insisted on calling me to serve, I was willing to do what I though was right. Military prison itself wasn’t that bad, but the whole process was emotionally demanding in a way that none-Israelis might find hard to understand. Explaining my actions to the people I worked with and to my family – repeating the same arguments over and over again – was extremely exhausting. Then, when an officer in my unit was killed in Jenin, confronting the rest of my friends in the army became almost impossible. The truth is I just didn’t want to go through all of this again.