IDF jails soldier who refused to serve in West Bank

Anshel Pfeffer
(Haaretz - June 24, 2009)

A soldier was sentenced to 30 days in military prison after telling his commanders he would refuse to continue participating in his unit's operations in the territories.

Corporal D., 19, a combat soldier in the Haruv Battalion of the Kfir Brigade, was sentenced not for refusing to serve in the West Bank, but for refusing to perform his duties.

D. announced his refusal after taking part in a March 26 operation in the village of Kifl Hares, in the northern West Bank. The soldier, several of his friends and several Palestinians present said Palestinian prisoners were abused during the operation.


The Military Police is now investigating these events.

Two months ago, due to this event and others D. said he witnessed, D. informed his commanders, starting with his platoon commander, through his company commander and up to the battalion commander, of his decision - both verbally and in writing.

In his letter, D. described how his friends abused and hit Palestinian detainees, destroyed property and harassed Palestinians at roadblocks.

"Their weapons give them the feeling of control and power, and therefore they allow themselves to humiliate those passing through the roadblock in order to ease the boredom and pass the time," he wrote. "The common opinion among Haruv Battalion soldiers is that Arabs are wild animals who should be destroyed, and not people ... They have full opportunity to verbally abuse and beat bound people who cannot protect themselves," wrote D.

He also accused officers of knowing the problem existed but not addressing it.

D., whose family immigrated from Russia, said these things reminded him of his relatives' stories about pogroms.

Despite his letter and his conversations with his commanders, D. was not tried immediately, but only after he and his unit returned from a vacation. The unit began preparing for another round of duty in the territories, and he refused to take part.

Only then was he tried by his battalion commander, Lt. Col. Ilan Dickshtein, for refusing to perform his duties.

Soldiers from the Kfir Brigade, who do almost all of their military service in the territories, have been involved in a long list of violent incidents against Palestinian civilians.

Col. Itai Virob, the brigade commander, recently caused a storm when he testified in military court on behalf of one of his officers, who was accused of assaulting Palestinians.

Virob told the court, "Violence and aggressiveness to prevent the situation from escalating, and the need for stronger violence, is not only allowed, but sometimes required. A hit, a shove, even when the people are not involved in an operational situation in a manner that could advance the mission is certainly possible."

The head of the Central Command, Maj. Gen. Gadi Shamni, reprimanded Virob and said his words do not reflect IDF practices. Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi stated that the IDF absolutely prohibited beating West Bank civilians while arresting them.

The IDF Spokesman said: "The soldier in question has served as a combat soldier in the battalion for a year and four months. For a large part of his service he has tried to leave the unit for various reasons. A month and a half ago he decided to use refusal as a 'conscientious objector' as a reason to leave the unit. As evidence, even after a talk with his commanders and even though he was not sent on any operational missions, the soldier continued to refuse to carry out administrative tasks such as kitchen duty."

Note from Yesh G'vul:

Save The Date : Sat. 4/7 afternoon :  Solidarity Vigil With Imprisoned Refusenik D. Details will follow.