The Dialogues Against Militarism (DAM) delegation has arrived in Be’er Sheva, Israel, a small city that sits in the middle of the Negev Desert. Our travels from San Francisco, CA lasted two days, including a twenty hour flight and a long ride through the Sinai Desert. As with crossing any border, the terrain was heavily militarized. As we ventured across the Sinai, we passed military checkpoints and abandoned compounds, which became more frequent the closer we got to the border. When we got to the Israeli side, we were “greeted” by 18 year old soldiers with machine guns strapped to their chests. The three weeks of the DAM delegation has begun.
Why did a group of US war resisters, conscientious objectors, and anti-militarist organizers decide to fly across the world here to Israel/Palestine?
We are all interested in resisting militarism in our own countries. Some of us have resisted it with our bodies, refusing to participate in unjust wars, choosing prison and military abuse over deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan. Some of us have the knowledge of these wars written in our bodies and minds, having been deployed to fight in these wars. All of us have lent our efforts to the powerful civilian and GI resistance movements that have arisen in opposition to US military aggression.
However, we recognize that in order to address U.S. militarism in the Middle East, we must also look to the U.S.- supported Israeli occupation. We see these two governments working ever more closely as the U.S. and Israeli wars drag on, with the continued occupation of Iraq, escalating attacks and bombings in Afghanistan, and last winter’s brutal attacks on the already besieged Gaza Strip, as well as the continuing state violence against Palestinians manifested through bloodshed as well as constriction of peoples’ lives, rights, and movement and theft of their land and resources. It reveals two arms of a project to establish control through military dominance in the region – all funded by the U.S., with us, as citizens, as the underwriters.
Israelis resisting militarism are our close peers. We both live in states where deep racism is woven into the social fabric, and ongoing occupation and colonization has become a normalized part of existence. In August of last year 100 Israeli high school students signed an open letter to the government of Israel stating they would not enter into the mandatory two years of service in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) upon graduation and instead risk imprisonment, with another group of high school students making a similar refusal this August. These refusals were based on their unwillingness to enter into a situation where they were going to be forced to participate in the occupation of land and the subjugation of a people. These are just a few instances of a large number of Israeli youths who have decided to enter the ranks of the Refusenik movement rather than those of the IDF, while simultaneously ex-soldiers are increasingly speaking out in opposition to Israeli policy based on their own experiences.
We are here because we want to learn from the brave acts of resistance that shine out of this occupying state, from Israeli refusers to Palestinians resisting occupation. DAM hopes to connect antiwar activists and war resisters from the US with those in Israel/Palestine to build relationships and work more collectively against the militarism of our societies. We will unite across borders to learn from each other’s strategies for confronting war and occupation while engaging the effects of militarism. A film will be produced to document these dialogues and investigate the effects of militarism on Israeli and Palestinian life. The documentary will support organizing within the U.S., Israel, and Palestine.
Dam is the phonetic spelling of “blood” in both Hebrew and Arabic. It was chosen as the name of our project because blood is what we all share and spill in war and occupation, as well as through our struggle for peace.
In our next update, we’ll share what we’ve learned from our first day of the delegation, from meeting with anti-militarist Israeli organizers and conscientious objectors, exploring the streets and histories of Be’er Sheva (Bir a-Sab’a), and visiting one of the 36 unrecognized Bedouin villages to learn about their struggle and conditions faced by Palestinians inside Israel. Tomorrow we head to Tel Aviv and will post our next dispatch from there.