U.S. immigrant Avi Bieber declared, "This is not right - this is not just" and refused orders after seeing his officers beating Jewish residents yesterday. Twelve of his comrades have now followed suit.
Bieber, a soldier in the 603rd Combat Engineer Battalion, approached his commander a week ago, and informed him that he is unable to take part in the implementation of the Disengagement Plan. Avi's father Ralph told Arutz-7 that the commander dismissed the 19-year-old, telling him that the matter would be discussed two months from now, when the actual expulsion of Jews from Gaza and northern Samaria is due to begin.
On Sunday, Bieber’s unit was brought to an area near the beachfront community of Shirat HaYam and ordered to destroy eleven abandoned structures. The government wished to ensure that the buildings would not be used to house anti-expulsion activists flooding into Gush Katif.
As violent scuffles ensued, Avi, who according to his father did not plan on publicly refusing orders, felt compelled to cry out against the beating of the protesters, young and old alike. “Soldiers do not beat Jews! A Jew does not expel a Jew!” Bieber cried out. He was immediately relieved of his weapon and taken into custody, as friends from his unit looked on.
Many of his fellow soldiers of 15 months, it turns out, do not disagree with him. Twelve of the soldiers from Avi’s unit informed their brigade commander last night that they refuse to take part in any future actions having to do with the Disengagement Plan. They received a reprimand on their permanent records.
Some of the soldiers were also not pleased with the way they say they were deceived into taking part in the expulsion. "If we had been informed that we were being taken to a mission of this sort, we would have refused along with Avi," some of the soldiers told Yediot Acharonot.
"We were always told that [our] weapons ... are against Arabs. How can you do such thing against Jews?” one soldier said.
“My wife and I are very proud of what our son did,” Ralph Bieber told Arutz-7. “It took a lot of courage to do what he did. He is usually a very quiet kid, but he saw something that moved him emotionally and brought him to speak out.”
Bieber said his son had been stationed in Gush Katif for the past six months and has grown to admire the community, which he took great pride in protecting. “Now they bring him to kick them out?” Bieber asked.
Ralph Bieber made Aliyah (immigrated to Israel) for the first time in 1978, fighting in the Peace For the Galilee War as a combat engineer. “If it is a crime to bring up a son who loves the Land of Israel and stands up for what is right, then I am guilty,” Bieber said.
After a stint in Passaic, New Jersey, the Bieber family made Aliyah together in 1996. Ralph Bieber said that his American upbringing and decision to make Aliyah may have contributed to Avi’s ability to stand up against the IDF and the government for what is right and just. “My son was brought up like I was brought up - to love the nation of Israel and the Land of Israel.”
The Biebers say that ever since news of Avi’s refusal hit the headlines, their phone has been ringing nonstop. “I really believe the majority of this country knows this plan is insane,” Bieber said. “I have gotten calls from Herzliya, Netanya, Tel Aviv – people who tell me that they are not religious, but agree with my son and will stand with him. I got a call from the Chabad house in Tokyo. A father and son from Tel Aviv approached us, and the elderly father, a Holocaust survivor, said, ‘What your son did really moved me. If the Jewish people would have done what he did in the time of the Holocaust, things would have ended differently.’”
Bieber had not heard about the refusal of twelve of his son’s comrades, but when informed of the development by HaLevi, he was pleased. “It’s starting. This is just the beginning," he said.
Avi (ben Miriam) Bieber is currently being held on his army base, and is able to move freely and speak to his parents on the telephone. An IDF committee is deliberating upon whether to grant his request to be tried in an IDF military court, where he may be represented by a lawyer, or have his commander try and sentence him without legal counsel.