Today in 2003: Israeli elite air force pilots publish refusal letter
24 September 2017
During the height of the Second Intifada, 27 Israeli reserve and active duty air force pilots – among them, a brigadier general and two lieutenant-colonels – published a letter stating their refusal to take part in “illegal and immoral” Israeli attacks on civilian population centers. The letter came after the killing of Hamas military leader Salah Shehade in Gaza City, which was done by dropping a one-ton bomb on a residential building where he was hiding, killing 14 others, including his wife and daughter, and causing dozens of civilian injuries. The letter stated, “We refuse to continue harming innocent civilians” and also declared “the continued occupation is critically harming the country’s security.”
The significance of this letter was the fact that such high-ranking officers publicly expressed opposition to specific Israeli policies. It is distinct from the Courage to Refuse Movement, which in 2002 published a letter by 51 reservists stating its refusal to serve in the Occupied Territories, and from the movement of conscientious objectors who refuse serve in the IDF all together, known as the “Shministim.” The pilot’s letter, as part of an ongoing wave of refusal letters every few months during this period, is often cited as a factor in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s decision to pull out of Gaza a few years later.
Learn the history of the occupation so that we can overcome it, because #50isEnough.
The occupation has gone on for 50 years. It’s a problem that must be addressed for Israel’s sake and for the Palestinians. Over 5 decades and in every month of the year, Israelis, Palestinians, Americans and others have made their mark on reality. Telling these stories is part of how our movement grows stronger. This series marks the watershed moments we all need to know about.