Notice of Departure from Service
By Eyal Rozenberg
Corporal Eyal Rozenberg, military ID number 6963386.
Colonel Shaul Shahar, unit [****] commanding officer.
Unit [****] secretariat.
Unit [****] base camp headquarters.
On December 6th, 1998, I was conscripted into the Israeli army,
for a period of 36 months, according to the 'Law of Security
I did not welcome my conscription. Although my moral resistance to the values of the 'Israeli Defense Forces' (a.k.a. IDF) and its actions wasn't nearly as deep and resolved as that which I now harbor - I intuitively resented having to sacrifice 3 years of my life because of an 'order from up above'. Despite this fact, I did not consider then, even for a moment, the option of objecting conscription: all of my friends enlisted; every member of my family born in Israel had enlisted when they were my age; all of my school-mates enlisted; my parents fostered in me the belief that the conscription is a positive act, to be accepted without question, as did the glorious Israeli educational system (an impressive feat on its part, I should note, in light of the intense hostility towards itself it simultaneously inspires in its attendees) - I viewed working for the Israeli Military as a 'service' I owed to my surrounding society. In addition to this, I was tempted by the various courses of service proposed to me, as professional stepping-stones: 'Talpiot', 'Intelligence Corps Talpiot' and, finally, the unit I have heretofore been a member of.
As I have done in my interrogation at the Unit of Field-Security at the Qirya in Tel-Aviv a while ago, I would compare my personal state in late 1998 to that of a child pushed beyond the threshold of a slide: if you don't hold on tightly to the railing, you will end up in the sandbox at the bottom.
And at the bottom I arrived. The basic training period ('Tironut') subjected me to well-engineered behavioristic abuse - a via dolorosa, the journey through which for a month as a 'zombie' leaves you with neither will nor ability to resist an order - be its content as it may. A 'Tironut' in the Israeli Military, even of the '02 Rifleman' kind, is a scar that is painfully difficult to erase from one's soul (if this is at all possible).
Time crawled on, agonizingly slow, the basic training was over, and I now found myself in a unit in which the conditions of service are uncommonly comfortable in comparison with most army units - work in a civilian compound, out of uniform, with soldiers possessing a high level of technical know-how - in short, a 'cr?me' unit. The cr?me acted to soften the deposit of bitterness the basic training period had left in me; although it was not all smooth sailing, I adopted an attitude the main principle of which was to 'make the time go by' - get up in the morning, go to work, work and go back to my apartment at the end of the day. And how bad could a position be in which one sits in front of powerful computers, with access to the Internet, developing software in an advanced and aesthetic programming environment?
But the cognitive blow the 'Tironut' had been for me set in motion
an on-going process of study of my self and my surroundings: an
exploration of the nature of the Israeli 'Defense' Forces, and of
the social and political systems which hurl us into it. And as time
went by, as I pieced together, in my mind's eye, detail-to-detail,
both socially and historically, I found myself beginning to doubt
some of my most fundamental suppositions: the necessity for the
Israeli Military, the merit of my military 'service', the
truthfulness of the values the Israeli Military boasts - one of
which being the title of 'Defense Forces', and the positive effects
of its past actions, for me personally and for those who surround me.
Why, then, have I stayed in the Israeli Military, in your unit, until now?
Since I was conscripted, this question has risen forth within me time and time again, with increasing frequency. Why indeed do I lend my hand to all of this? Can the justification invoking the protection the Israelis' physical existence, attainable in many other ways, satisfy my conscience?
And until now, I have answered this question half-heartedly: "The military is not 'all bad'," I told myself, "you are in Tel-Aviv, in a 'good' unit, well-fed - and even able to participate in socio-political activity in your after-hours... why 'rock the boat'? Why would you need the arrests, the trials, the punishment, the harassment? And if you go back home to Haifa, what will be of the social connections you've established here? Your friends from the unit? Your activities? After all, before you were conscripted your social activism was minor in comparison with your activity while within the military... in fact, maybe you're doing more good than harm in your present state? And besides, the parents will give you hell!"
And it was thus that I answered this question consciously, when I was specifically asked it by the lovable interrogator 'Tomer' (so lovable as to buy me a soft drink, at the Ministry of Defense's expense!). But he has reawakened an inner voice I had sought to repress... I had thought that my activities outside the military, within the frameworks of Hadash' (Democratic Front for Peace and Equality) and the Green organizations, coupled with my request not to rise in rank, was excuse enough for the rest of my actions. But it is not so.
Later in the course of the interrogation, 'Tomer' asked me (the quotes are inaccurate, of course): "Seeing that you are undergoing a process of self-study and increasing awareness to your surroundings - how can 'we' be assured that you will continue to sympathize the IDF enough so as not to sabotage its activities?" Although in his question 'Tomer' expressed a fear I would become some sort of a second Udi Adiv - That I would place some of Ehud Barak's dirty laundry on display for his friends in Syria, Iraq or Iran - the question, as posed, continued to bother me, and I answered 'Tomer' that whichever course I may choose to pursue in the future - I will do so openly.
And from that time I have traversed another stretch-of-road, over the course of which I was ousted from my unit, and I now feel that in reciprocity to the military's having finally recognizing me for what I am and acting accordingly, I should do so as well.
In my meeting with the acting unit commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Efi Yerushalmi, on September 9th, 2000, he said a sentence that I have kept memorized: he said that the principle which must guide me is the question whether, at the end of the day, when I look at my face in the mirror, I can accept what I see.
I have to answer this question by saying that as long as I continue working for you while you slaughter a conquered people, while I repress my views in obeying commands and laws that keep me in the military - I am living a lie, and this lie will reflect upon me from the proverbial mirror. When I peel off all of the fluff from my answer to 'Tomer', I am left but with the fear of the sanctions that the military might impose on me if I were to refuse continuing being a part of it.
I may not be a person of strong character, but I feel somewhat secure as I state before you that I will never again work for the Israeli military, and that I will not be deterred by bars, locks, harassments, physical abuse or any other sanction I may be facing.
Lieutenant-Colonel Yerushalmi told me: "If you wish to express your views, why not do it in an effective way - in a way that would make them clear to those around you?"
I hope that this time my acts are sufficiently effective and clear.
I hereby declare my refusal to serve in the 'Israeli Defense Forces' - in any fashion, in any position, in any unit, in any rank, at any time and under any condition - effective immediately.
This refusal means non-attendance of my former unit, refusal of all orders of the soldiers of the 'Israeli Defense Forces', a repeal of my oath to protect the state of Israel and a demand to be considered by the authorities as a citizen who is no longer part of the 'Israeli Defense Forces'.
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This is a translation of the letter Eyal Rozenberg gave his
commander in which he requests to be released from the IDF.
Eyal was home for the weekend after completing his second prison term for refusing to wear a uniform.
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