University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

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News Bureau . Schofield Hall 201 . Eau Claire, WI 54702
phone: (715) 836-4741
fax: (715) 836-2900

Two Young Israelis to Speak at UW-Eau Claire
About Refusing Military Service in Israel

 MAILED:  Oct. 27, 2004

EAU CLAIRE — Two young Israeli refuseniks, Noam Bahat and Shimri Zamaret, will speak about their decision to refuse service in the Israel Defense Forces at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 8, at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire's Schofield Auditorium.

Bahat and Zamaret are among a group of five students released this past September from an Israeli prison, where they spent nearly two years for refusing, after high school, to enlist in what Bahat refers to in his court testimony as an "army of oppression." The two are members of Shministim, a group of more than 300 high school seniors who have announced they "refuse to be soldiers for occupation." Their collective statements, the "High School Seniors' Letters" can be viewed online.

The Refuser movement has its roots in Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon, when 168 servicemen were jailed for refusing to serve in the campaign. Israel's response to the first Intifada generated many refusers, 200 of whom were jailed. In January 2002, in the midst of the second Intifada, the Refuser movement again grew when a group of 50 Israeli reserve officers and combat soldiers decided that fighting in Gaza and the West Bank was not protecting the lives of their friends and family but oppressing the Palestinian population and jeopardizing the security of the State of Israel through colonial expansion. Their belief that the occupation is inflicting pain and suffering upon millions of innocent civilians led them to draft a letter that became known as "The Combatant's Letter." The soldiers became known as refuseniks and established an organization called Courage to Refuse. This past year, Courage to Refuse was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Muli Linder, a physician and officer in the Israel Defense Forces who became the 67th refusenik to sign "The Combatant's Letter," spoke at UW-Eau Claire last April. The text of the letter can be viewed at the Courage to Refuse Web site.

Courage to Refuse currently has 628 signatories. According to the Web site of the Refuser Solidarity Network, the total number of refuseniks now exceeds 1300, and they are playing an increasing role in shaping peace and policy debates in Israel.

The presentation is free and open to students, faculty and the public. Voluntary donations will be accepted and related materials will be sold to support the efforts of the Refuser movement.

Bahat and Zamaret's tour is sponsored by the Refuser Solidarity Network and the American Friends Service Committee. Sponsors of the local event include the National Peace Foundation, the UW-Eau Claire Center for International Education and the UW-Eau Claire Geography Club.

Bahat and Zamaret also will speak at 7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 7, at the First Congregational Church of Christ in Eau Claire.

For more information, contact Paul Kaldjian, assistant professor of geography, at (715) 836-2321 or kaldjian@uwec.edu.

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 Judy Berthiaume, Director
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
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Updated: October 27, 2004