Refusing to serve

by Dheera Sujan


Listen to the audio fileOmer Goldman is 19, she's Jewish, lives in ...

Omer Goldman
Omer Goldman: Choose to go to prison rather than serve in the Israeli army
But since she was eight years old, she also had another dream - she wanted to work with an organization like Amnesty International, hoping she could help make a better world. Right now, her way of doing that is by going to prison. Choosing to go to prison rather than serve in the Israeli army - a compulsory requirement for all young Israeli citizens.

And Omer Goldman was not destined for prison. For most of her life she thought she'd join the army, and become a hero for her country. After all, her father is a former deputy head of Mossad, and still considered one of the most powerful men of the Israeli security establishment. Her older sister and most of her friends all did their military service without question.

But the second Lebanon war began to change Omer's mind. She visited Hebron, and started going regularly to the West Bank and saw how Palestinians lived, how they were treated.

Protest group
She took part in demonstrations, and she was with a protest group in a West Bank village and they were trying to pull down a checkpoint that had been built unnecessarily in the middle of the village

"It shouldn't have been there", she says, "they only put it up to harass the villagers." And suddenly the soldiers started firing on the group of demonstrators.

"This is the army that I was brought up to think was protecting me, helping me", she says, the shock of the event still evident in her voice. She was shot in the hand by a rubber bullet, and knew then and there that she would never wear the uniform of a force that committed such actions.

Meaningful time
On the day she was supposed to sign up, she turned up with about a hundred supporters. And she publicly refused to join the army. She was immediately taken to a cell, and then to a military court where the judge - a high ranking officer - tried to convince her that she could become a soldier and change things from the inside.

"You could give toffees to the Palestinian children on the checkpoints", he told her, apparently without irony. Her reply - "giving out toffees doesn't change the fact that I will be there illegally" - so incensed him that she was immediately given a harsher sentence than other conscientious objectors who stood out that day.

Omer has spent two spells in jail - despite her fear of prison, and her acknowledgement that it was an awful experience to be locked up in a middle sized cell with forty other women - she says that in retrospect that time was amongst the most meaningful in her life.

Shunned by friends
Omer is now exempt from conscription on medical grounds, but she continues to turn up to demonstrations, to speak out against what she sees as injustices committed by her countrymen and her government on an innocent civilian population. Her stance has cost her dearly. Friends have shunned her, strangers have physically attacked her, and her father refuses contact with her anymore.

So then why keep on? Why take such a stand? Her answer is firm. "Because when this Occupation ends - in twenty years or thirty, though I hope it will be sooner - I want to be able to say I did something, that I didn't just stand by and watch this being in prison has not helped one Palestinian I know, but at least I made a stand for what I believe to be right - to say that violence is not the answer."

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Comment by Ron on January 31, 2009 at 4:10am
Second; what does the phrase "Never Forget" on the signs at Dachau mean? "Never forget what?"

This is 1st grade level language; I'm hoping you can comprehend this question.
Comment by Ron on January 31, 2009 at 4:08am
I presume you weren't forgiving of the USS Cole being attacked.

How do you feel about Israel having attacked and killed 34 and wounded 170 American sailors on the USS Liberty? You said you are an American citizen. How do you feel about Israel wounding and killing members of your Navy?

Is that simple enough language for you?
Comment by Ron on January 31, 2009 at 2:25am
You wrote Jews don't care about what happened in 1930's; all those Jews that were rounded up in the 1930's and put in boxcars don't mean a thing to you and Jews anymore. You've thrown their memories into the trash; not me.

So; answer questions if you are capable; or don't if you can't dialogue intelligently. Deny your Jewish ancestors before 1940; you know them better than I do. Maybe they don't deserve to be remembered as you say.

You didn't know Israel existed before 1948 or Palestine existed before the League of Nations... ok, you just aren't educated about the history of your people and the region.

Truthfully, your lack of humanity has done more to show Americans what the Palestinian people have to deal with for years from Israel and it's supporters. You've done a lot for the Palestinian Cause and sympathy for Palestine.

So, deny Jews before 1940; deny pogroms of Russia; deny the veterans of the USA. You are doing the Palestinian cause wonderful things.

Friends don't do to friends what Israel has done to the USA. Lots of people in the USA either forgot or never knew Israel attacked the USS Liberty. It's my duty to make sure their memories are respected.

Thanks for the help.
Comment by Ron on January 30, 2009 at 2:03pm
Dror... that you deny Jews who lived in the 1930's suffering, that you say you don't shed a tear for Palestinian children, that you say you support Israel killing more American sailors on the USS Liberty than were killed on the USS Cole and
you don't think these are matters of substance; that you didn't know Palestine existed before the League of Nations or Israel existed prior to 1948 shows the depth of your knowledge and soul.

I asked you what does the plaque in Dachau mean "Never Forget" and you have forgotten or never knew?

I think that's serious. The fact that all the other supporters of Israel on this group allows you to diminish the memory of the Jews who suffered and died in 1930's and earlier shows either they don't take you seriously or they also disrespect Israel's history and the memory of the struggles of those who have come before you.

So; celebrate the murders of your USA countrymen; the betrayal of trust of Israel when they recruit people exactly like you to spy on your own country (Pollard etc)

You are a traitor to the USA. You sit in Florida enjoying the benefits of citizenship but betray the Country that provides
that citizenship.

So, to all American Israeli supporters; this is what you've become; supporting the betrayal and deaths of your Country men Military members by someone who dismisses the sufferings of those Jews who have gone before you.

The new Israel.
Comment by Ron on January 29, 2009 at 6:18pm
Dror... this might be why this woman doesn't want to do this to people.
Does anyone know what happened to this soldier who was "investigated' by the Israeli Army? I can't find anything about this investigation.
Comment by Ron on January 29, 2009 at 5:24pm
Dror... what point do you think is the point other than the point she saids she's making? Why is her observation of what she sees for herself in the West Bank less credible than the view you see from your safe haven in Florida?
Comment by Ron on January 29, 2009 at 4:26pm
What point do you think she's making Dror?
Comment by Farida Magdalena Gillot on January 29, 2009 at 12:39pm
The secret of happiness is freedom. The secret of freedom is courage.

– Thucydides (B.C. 460 – 400)


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