The “Democracy Now” broadcast of July 21 featured a debate (excerpted below) between refusenik ex-IDF helicopter pilot, Yonaton Shapira, and chair of the youth wing of the Meretz-Yahad party, Uri Zaki.
YONATAN SHAPIRA: In the year of 2003, I initiated… a group of Air Force pilots… and we published this letter… in which we declared our refusal to take part in these attacks on civilians. And … some of us formed … the group named “Combatants for Peace,” which is a group of Israeli former militants and Palestinian former militants who came together to the conclusion that there is no military solution to the violence and the conflict in the Middle East.
And my message here today is that if you will let the Israeli government to solve this conflict, it means the destruction of my country and the destruction of the neighbors’ countries….We finally understood that we are just part of this circle of mutual violence, circle of revenge. And once you understand that you are part of this circle, you understand that there is no much difference between the terror that you are suffering from and the terror that you are involved in….
But now the idea is we believe that people like us who were part of the Israeli Army, who were part of the core of the Zionist enterprise and still care about their country and their people and love Israel, and …. I have friends that are now sitting in shelters…. But we believe that it’s our obligation now to shout this and to call the world: if you care about my country, if you care about the Israeli people, as well the Palestinian and the Lebanese who are now suffering, you must put massive pressure on the Israeli government, and putting pressure on the Israeli government means putting pressure on your government.
URI ZAKI: …. unlike Yonatan, I differentiate between what’s going on in the Occupied Territories, meaning Gaza and the West Bank – and I’m saying Gaza, even though we withdraw from Gaza – and what’s going on in Lebanon. The way I see it, the peace camp, the camp that I’m a member of, proud member of, has been always advocating towards a withdrawal to international recognized borders by Israel.
And that’s what we did in Lebanon. We withdrew exactly by meter by meter, centimeter by centimeter, to the borders as were declared by the United Nations. Now, once these borders were determined, any violation of Israeli sovereignty beyond these borders, like Hezbollah did, meaning attacking Israel with rockets and killing some of our soldiers, kidnaping others, that has to be answered by force, because that was a violation of our sovereignty beyond our border.
YONATAN SHAPIRA: I have a question to Uri. The conclusion that you made, that has to be answered by force, who said that? Who said that by force we are going to save our country? Maybe it’s some conception that you were raised upon and all those values and all those principles that we got during our education, in processing Israel. I don’t believe and I think the rest of the world, the enlightened world, do not believe that there is a solution that will come out by using force and using the Israeli military. And just think about what the Israeli government is saying now. They refuse [a] ceasefire. They refuse to stop the war. And missiles are falling on our families in Haifa, and at the same time, our leaders refuse to stop the war.
URI ZAKI: Yonatan, I respect your act of refusal, even though I don’t necessarily support it. But I think because of your courageous act, you cease to differentiate between two different realities, the reality of occupation and the reality of a country defending itself. I think Hezbollah and also the Lebanese state, I mean the Lebanese government, did not try to prevent Hezbollah from standing on our border. I think Hezbollah is a terrorist group, a similar group to many groups that are now threatening the Western world.
We did nothing to provoke the Hezbollah from attacking us. I think it’s a different story than the Occupied Territories, which the activities there were the reason for your act of refusal. I think it’s a different story, and I think, yes, once a country is being attacked on its borders, I don’t see any other thing we can do. By the way, in a way, we tried another way. Israel – it’s not the first time that the Hezbollah attacked over our northern borders. The two past times that it was done, there was no reaction, no military reaction. And indeed for the third time, if we would have been silent right now, in a few months they would do another violent act, maybe more viciously.
YONATAN SHAPIRA: …. First of all, this morning I talked to one of the leaders of Meretz, [MK] Zehava Gal-On, and she agreed with me that international pressure must be applied on the state of Israel, on the government of Israel, to force them to stop this crazy operation that eventually can cause to a nuclear war. We know that the situation in the Middle East is very fragile, and the Bush administration do not need much… to get us all involved in a regional war and maybe a world war. These are things who are much more dangerous for us from missiles in Haifa. The situation can get much worse.
And tell me, please, why do you think that killing innocent Lebanese, by now 330, most of them civilians, children and women, why do you think that killing these innocent people will bring you some kind of security? It’s the same kind of logic to think that if you kill Lebanese civilians, you will force them to bring Israel security or to press the Hezbollah is the same kind of logic that maybe Nastrallah is trying to shoot Israeli cities and forcing, by that, the Israeli people to convince the Israeli government to stop this war. It’s the same kind of insanity.
And although – just last important thing – although it’s not the same situation in Gaza and in the Occupied Territories and in Lebanon, the same insanity and the same cruelty and the same stupidity of our leaders is now being on the spot. This is the danger, because the leaders of this country now and in the Lieutenant General, General Halutz, who is now leading this crazy war, will not hesitate to get Syria and to get Iran involved, and this is my greatest fear.
AMY GOODMAN: Uri Zaki, that first point, why you think the killing of Lebanese civilians is justified?
URI ZAKI: I don’t think that the killing of – God forbid – that the killing of the Lebanese civilians is the purpose of the Israeli assault. Of course, that happens in [the] situation of [offensives]. Now, I don’t think that the NATO forces, when they tried to bring down Milosevic, with what they did with the former Yugoslavia, wanted to hurt innocent civilians, and yet it did, and eventually Milosevic was tried in an international court of justice.
What I’m saying is – and by the way, Yonatan is right. We have different views in our own party, because in this operation I think Zehava is maybe the most extreme presenter of the view that Yonatan is presenting, but most of the party is not there….