Monday, May 24, 2004


Israeli Refusniks

The results of an Israeli Democracy Institute poll conducted two months ago were recently published showing that 43% of Israeli teens polled support some kind of refusnik position (either refusal to serve in the occupied territories or refusal to evacuate settlements). While this can be seen as a positive sign for the Israeli left and those who oppose the occupation, I think that this statistic is a bit misleading. First of all, refusing to serve in the occupied territories and refusing to evacuate settlements are two totally different and seemingly ideologically antithetical stances. While there may be some overlap (pacifists or others who simply refuse to serve in the Israeli military no matter what the duty), refusing to evacuate settlers at the behest of the government is in effect civil disobedience in support of the occupation and refusal to serve in the occupied territories on grounds of disagreement with the Israeli treatment of Palestinians is essentially civil disobedience in defiance of the occupation.

Of course, this is somewhat oversimplified; indeed, the survey (which broke down the teens by political affiliation) showed that there was much broader support for refusal to evacuate settlers than there was for refusal to serve in the occupied territories. Personally, I believe this is because the political Left is generally more tolerant of civil disobedience and ideological refusal regardless of the motivation or cause whereas the political Right weighs the reasons behind refusal (or any action) more heavily in deciding whether or not to accept it.

Another interesting stat pulled from the survey: 60% of teens and 58% of adults polled expressed support for a "strong leader" at the head of the country "instead of all the debates and laws." Uh oh... debate and laws are good things, says I. Of course, the support for a "strong leader" was lower among Arab teens polled. Surprise, surprise.

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