Thurs 15 March: Meet Yuval Lotem from Yesh Gvul 
Yesh Gvul (There is a limit!) is an Israeli peace group campaigning against the occupation by backing soldiers who refuse duties of a repressive or aggressive nature. The brutal role of the Israeli army in subjugating the Palestinian population places numerous servicemen in a grave moral and political dilemma, as they are required to enforce policies they deem illegal, immoral and ultimately harmful to Israeli interests. The army hierarchy demands compliance, but many soldiers, whether conscripts or reservists, find that they cannot in good conscience obey the orders of their superiors. 

Organized by Jews for Justice for Palestinians and the Jewish Socialists' Group

At 7.15 for 7.30pm,  Rudolf Steiner House, 35 Park Road NW1 London.
Situated close to Regent's Park and five minutes from Baker Street underground station. Buses 2, 13, 18, 27, 30, 74, 113, 139, 159, 274

Israeli refusenik guards only his principles
Chris McGreal in Jerusalem, The Guardian 18 Oct 2002

Yuval Lotem phoned another defiant old soldier who refuses to serve in the Israeli army just to remind himself what prison felt like. Then the 45-year-old former paratrooper reported to the local barracks, expecting a swift transfer to an army jail.

"I arrived at the base and told them I'm not going to the West Bank," he said.

"Some of the other soldiers got upset. They started arguing and shouting. Then they said, 'OK, but surely you can do a few days training new soldiers'.

"No I can't. If I'm not prepared to go to the occupied territories, I'm not going to train someone else to do it."

Lieutenant Lotem, a film-maker, was called up this week to guard isolated Jewish settlements in the West Bank. He spent yesterday at a depot in Tel Aviv waiting to find out whether his refusal will earn him a third spell in prison or whether the army will quietly rid itself of a troublesome soldier.

He is not alone: nearly 500 Israeli soldiers have signed a petition refusing to serve in the occupied territories.

They form a tiny proportion of the citizens' army, which numbers several million, but their defiance irks the defence force and the government because many of them are men with a record of exemplary service who question the morality of Israel's policies.

"The Israeli army is doing terrible things in the occupied territories," Lt Lotem said.

"I regard it as real crimes, always in the name of protecting our women and children."

Most of those who have signed the petition say they are willing to fight in defence of Israel but they condemn military service in the territories as the "war of the settlements" and "nothing to do with the security of our country".

They are not without support. More than 300 academics at Israeli universities have signed a petition in support of refusenik students who face prison and a lifetime of official discrimination when applying for education and social benefits.

But Israeli public opinion generally takes a different view. Support for the prime minister, Ariel Sharon, has surged since he ordered the army to crack down on the Palestinian territories in response to suicide bombings.

"Some people call me a coward or a traitor. That's not the worst thing that can happen to me," Lt Lotem said.

"The worst thing that can happen is that I kill a 10-year-old Palestinian boy the age of my daughter."

One of his stints in prison led him to form an unlikely alliance.

Five years ago he refused to guard Palestinians in one of Israel's notoriously harsh internment camps. A newspaper article on his defiance caught the eye of Imad Sabi, a Palestinian detained indefinitely by the Israelis for "political activity".

Mr Sabi tracked him down in an attempt to understand his unusual attitude.

They began a public correspondence which revived the long-extinct debate between Israelis on the nature and extent of detention without trial. They finally met when they were released.

But while a condition of Mr Sabi's freedom was his exile, Lt Lotem was released to face an annual ritual of refusing to serve.

Perhaps the army will send him to prison again, perhaps it will seek a compromise. But he is less ready than ever to give ground.

"There was a time when if they had said I could do a desk job then I would have done it," he said. "But now I won't do it if there is a single piece of paper that crosses that desk that is connected with the occupation."