Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Story of Chen Alon

The Combatants for Peace movement was started jointly by Palestinians and Israelis, who have taken an active part in the cycle of violence; Israelis as soldiers in the Israeli army (IDF) and Palestinians as part of the violent struggle for Palestinian freedom. After brandishing weapons for so many years, and having seen one another only through weapon sights, we have decided to put down our guns, and to fight for peace.

I am a Major in the armored corps and was recruited for the IDF at the very beginning of the first Intifada. I feel emotional now because although I spoke many times in the past of my experiences from the time of serving in the occupied territories, I have never spoken about it in front of Palestinians until today, especially not ones that I may have even fired at.

I would like to briefly describe to you the process that I went through – from being a young Zionist Israeli, who was raised in a normal home and encouraged to become a combatant and an officer, to who I am today. It is important for me to tell my story, not because I seek forgiveness, but because I believe that it is a key to the success of this group.

In 1987-1988, when I began chasing Palestinians, perhaps even one of you, who were throwing stones at us in the refugee camps, I was told, and also told my soldiers, that we were protecting the State of Israel...

In 2001, on my last night in the occupied territories, I demolished a house not far from here, in El Chader. Later on during the same day, we initiated a curfew over the village of Husan and I could see Arab girls, at the same age as my daughter, in the village which in fact became a jail. While looking at these young Palestinian girls on the embankment which blocked the village, I was speaking to my wife on the telephone. She was troubled, telling me that no one can bring our daughter Tamar home from the kindergarten, and that she must find a solution. The memory of my daughter and the reality of the routine and the simple daily problems had shaken me.

I guess I was brought up with paranoia, thinking that everyone is out to get us. At the age of 32, after seeing the Palestinian girls on the embankment in the village which I closed off, and after demolishing a house the previous night, it hit me profoundly that these girls are no different than my own daughter. It was then that decided that I will no longer take part in this situation, no matter what price I would have to pay.

I believe that our voice can make a difference in our societies. I hope that we may be able to turn all those incidents in which we crossed the lines and carried out forbidden actions into means for finally ending the occupation before it ends our societies and leads to their total collapsing. I would like to act upon my realization, translate it into actions together with representatives from the other side and draw red lines for both of our societies.
  • We, reserve combat officers and soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces, who were raised upon the principles of Zionism, self-sacrifice and giving to the people of Israel and to the State of Israel, who have always served in the front lines, and who were the first to carry out any mission in order to protect the State of Israel and strengthen it.
  • We, combat officers and soldiers who have served the State of Israel for long weeks every year, in spite of the dear cost to our personal lives, have been on reserve duty in the Occupied Territories, and were issued commands and directives that had nothing to do with the security of our country, and that had the sole purpose of perpetuating our control over the Palestinian people.
  • We, whose eyes have seen the bloody toll this Occupation exacts from both sides,
  • We, who sensed how the commands issued to us in the Occupied Territories destroy all the values that we were raised upon,
  • We, who understand now that the price of Occupation is the loss of IDF’s human character and the corruption of the entire Israeli society,
  • We, who know that the Territories are not a part of Israel, and that all settlements are bound to be evacuated,
  • We hereby declare that we shall not continue to fight this War of the Settlements.
  • We shall not continue to fight beyond the 1967 borders in order to dominate, expel, starve and humiliate an entire people.
  • We hereby declare that we shall continue serving the Israel Defense Force in any mission that serves Israel’s defense.

The missions of occupation and oppression do not serve this purpose – and we shall take no part in them.

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