Israeli 'Refuseniks' Now Number
320 Combat Soldiers And Officers

Lieutenant Ishai Sagi
IDF Army Artillery

I was born in October 1976. Three years before, on that same day, the Yom Kippur War started. That was kind of symbolic since my father almost got killed that Day.
The first 4 years of my life I grew up on a Kibbutz near the Gaza Strip, but one that was inside the borders of Israel ('67 borders that is), and as such did not receive aid from the Israeli government like the settlements that were only a couple of miles south of that Kibbutz.
During the later years of my life I lived in a small village closer to the center of Israel (again-within our '67 borders).
On 2/4/1995 I was drafted into the IDF. After some failed attempts to join the special forces, due to the claims of some doctors, who claimed that my knees wouldnít stand up to the needs of an infantry soldier, I asked to join the Artillery corps, just like my father, who was a major in the Artillery corps.
As a soldier I was sent to Tul-Carem, which was then in Israeli hands, and I witnessed some horrible things - the way that Israeli soldiers treated the Palestinians going through the road blocks each day, as well as a personal "trip" I took with the special forces to one village at night to "capture" some people who were allegedly "wanted".
All of this was fairly exciting for me, and I, along with my other friends in my platoon, enjoyed myself. I later boasted about the "special operations" to my friends at home. It didnít cross my mind that any of this was wrong or immoral. Politically I was always on the "deep" left and voted for left-wing parties, but I believed that the IDF was doing what was necessary to keep my little brothers and sister safe at home. Besides- it was when we all thought that we are about to get out of there! The Oslo agreements were being discussed and a left wing party was at long last in control.
And then Prime Minister Rabin was Killed.
As the year drew to an end I was sent to Sergeants' Course, from there I moved on to Officers' Course and learned about moral values and the officerís duties. During that course, Bibi Netanyahu was elected Prime Minister and our relationship with the Palestinians began to deteriorate again.
As an officer, by a fluke of luck, I didn't return to the territories and I didn't think of my time there as a soldier until a year after I was released from the army in 1999.
Actually it was in December 2000, when I was called up to do reserve duty in the territories. I went, still thinking that this was a job that must be carried out.
When I went to report that day I got a leaflet in the bus station. That leaflet called me not to commit any war-crimes. I read it, but I dismissed it as rubbish. "The IDF is a moral army and doesn't commit War crimes or anything morally wrong", I thought.
A week later I changed my mind.
I was told to shoot anyone raising a stone (this order was changed 2 weeks after we were stationed there); I patrolled a road that is used only by Palestinians, the IDF and the settlers. To make that road safe for the last two groups, the olive trees on both sides of the road were cut down. We had orders to guard the settlers if and when they harassed a Palestinian (which apparently happens every few weeks). And so on.
I then realized that none of my actions were actually defending Israeli citizens. They were defending the settlers and the soldiers who were there. This meant that anything I did as a soldier beyond the '67 borders was a lie! I was there to risk my and my soldiers' lives for a few fanatics, an act that endangered the lives of my family back in Israel. I wasn't guarding Israel, I was compromising its security.
It was then that I notified my commanders that the next time I will refuse to participate in such actions that are contrary to my conscience and to the army moral code itself. My commander agreed with me on many points (he now denies it), but argued that if I won't do it some other man will - and do it in a more abusive way.
I thought about it long and hard during that year, and when August came I was called up once again to another part of the territories. I called my commander and reminded him of my decision, asking to be reassigned to a duty that does not require me to cross the Green Line, and in which I could protect Israeli citizens who live on Israeli soil.
I was told to report to my unit. On that day my commander gave me a direct order to go to a certain post in the territories. When I refused, he sentenced me to 26 days in Military prison number 6, which I served in August 2001. I refused to ask forgiveness (which is the only way to "appeal" in military law) because I believed in my way.
After my release, I found out who wrote the leaflet I had received the year before, the one that helped me to decide on whose side I was. I got in touch with Yesh Gvul and joined, becoming a "spokesman" for the press, who were very interested to interview an officer, who had been imprisoned.
Lately, I signed the Refusal letter under the heading of "Courage to Refuse - the Combatant Letter" on which 320 combat soldiers and officers have signed that they refuse to serve in the territories.
Computer Programmer in a well established solution provider, and technical advisor to Microsoft Israel.


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