[In Hebrew, yesh gvul means “there is a limit”; it also means “there is a border”. A protest group by this name came into being in Israel following the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Its members pledged themselves to refuse to do military service in Lebanon. More recently, during the Palestinian uprising in the occupied territories, the group extended its pledge and it now covers refusal to take part in the Israeli repressions in those territories.]
[The following English-language appeal, in the form of a letter, was issued by Yesh Gvul in May 1988.]
As this letter goes out to you, nine reservist members of Yesh Gvul are in military prisons after refusing to take part in the campaign of repression in the occupied territories. The Palestinian insurgency is being met with brutal counter-measures which have claimed over 150 lives and left thousands injured and maimed; thousands more are under detention, many of them without trial. Flouting all standards of humanity or morality, the Israeli occupation authorities have adopted a systematic policy of collective punishment, penalizing entire Palestinian communities ‒ men, women and children ‒ in the hope of breaking their resistance.
The government’s rejection of negotiation in favour of untrammelled force represents precisely that philosophy against which Yesh Gvul has always campaigned. In its unique spearhead role in the Israeli peace movement, Yesh Gvul is joining with other groups in a continuous campaign of protests against this policy. A Yesh Gvul-sponsored declaration by reservists proclaiming their refusal to take a hand in suppressing the uprising has collected over 400 signatures. In response to the illegal means employed by the army, Yesh Gvul volunteers have distributed thousands of our booklets reminding soldiers ‒ regulars and reservists alike ‒ that it is their legal and moral duty to disobey unlawful orders; we are now preparing a second edition with information about selective refusal of service.
The “refusnik” movement, which had such a startling impact during the Lebanon warm, is indeed reviving rapidly, and we expect the weeks to come to bring a continuing sharp upturn in the number of soldiers who heed conscience in preference to the commands of their military superiors.
As the only group to offer “refusniks” moral and practical support, Yesh Gvul has its slim resources overtaxed. In particular, we are rapidly exhausting our support fund which aids the families of Jailed refusniks. On conviction, a refusnik is denied the official allowance for his family, which is often left without means of support. In such cases, our support fund helps with a modest grant (700 IS \ $440). The current rise in the numbers of refusniks is bringing increasing calls on the fund; without its constant replenishment, we will soon find ourselves unable to give the required aid.
Equally urgent is our protest campaign, whose needs are numerous and costly, e.g. paid advertisements, listing names of “refusniks” and reservists committed to resisting participation in repressive acts: experience shows that such publicity encourages other soldiers to do likewise.
Accordingly, your financial help is crucial.
Your moral aid too has a role to play: your message of support, your protest to the nearest Israeli legation, your efforts to publicize our campaign ‒ all these are of great significance to the “refusniks” as they defy the enormous social and legal pressure to which they are subjected,
You live thousands of miles away, but you cannot help being aware of events here. The current situation is grave, and it is deteriorating daily. The government is set on a reckless course whose only outcome must be continued suffering and bloodshed for both peoples, Israelis and Palestinians alike. As we saw in the case of Lebanon, nothing will ultimately deflect the government from its savage policy other than resistance from within ‒ above all, from soldiers condemned to enforce that policy.
It is the mission of Yesh Gvul to foster that resistance. Your help will be invaluable.
PO Box 33089, Jerusalem 9133002
PS., A group of Friends of Yesh Gvul has been formed in Berkeley, Calif. Contributions can be forwarded by way of them.