Is It Courageous to Refuse?

17 02 2009

This came out on YouTube during the recent Operation Cast Lead, led by the Israeli Defense Force on Hamas in the Gaza Strip. It is a video of a demonstration, in Tel Aviv, titled “The Courage to Refuse,” following news that the IDF might be calling army reservists back to the service to help out in the military operation. A bunch of Israelis protested against going back to the service and against the war in general.



It might be absurd at first to see this. After all, it is your duty as a citizen to defend your country. Many commentators on YouTube said the same thing.

The more I replayed this video, however, the more I began to admire these Israelis, many of which are young. As a “refusenik” mentions, there are consequences to this action: court martial and possible jail time, not to mention societal pressure and accusations of un-patriotism. Yet, they willingly take on this risk. They act on what they believe is right and wrong.

It is courageous to refuse war, wherever it may be. It is courageous to refuse killing, bombing, any human suffering. Sometimes, it takes more guts to refuse than to conform and join. I searched on YouTube and from my notes during Operation Cast Lead for a protest by Muslims against the killing of Israeli civilians. I searched for a protest against Hamas. I found none. Living in an Arab and Muslim country for most of my life, I don’t find that surprising. I know that my Muslim fellows will immediately object to this statement, saying that the civilian killing committed by Hamas doesn’t compare at all to that done by the IDF, and that is true. The facts support this claim and the brutality of the recent military operation is evident for those who want to see it.

A civilian dead is a civilian dead anywhere, nevertheless. If anything, no-one other than victims of killing can understand the pain and suffering of losing someone dear. There should be an opposition to any war; any bomb unleashed by the IDF and any rocket fired by Hamas. All those who kill civilians must be held accountable, no exceptions. That is courageous.  


Note: The phrase “Courage to Refuse” first appeared in Israeli society in 2002, with the “Combatant’s Letter” that was signed by 50 reserve soldiers, refusing to serve beyond the 1967 borders following their duty in Gaza. There are 628 signatures today. You can check this out on the website




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