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      More Soldiers Say, "I Cannot Expel Jews"

      The phenomenon of soldiers refusing to adhere to disengagement-related orders continues to gain steam. Several soldiers stood trial for their intentions this week.
      By Hillel Fendel
      First Publish: 7/7/2005, 6:32 PM / Last Update: 7/7/2005, 7:10 PM

      Youths from Gush Katif visited several army bases in the western Negev earlier this week, in an effort to convince soldiers to refuse orders to remove them from their homes next month. The youths were able to enter at least one of the bases, where soldiers who will be deployed in the disengagement are already beginning to move in. The youths tied orange ribbons to tanks, fences, tents and other objects in the base, and called out, "Don't fulfill illegal orders! How will you be able to live with yourselves afterwards?"

      Many soldiers expressed sympathy with their visitors, even putting the orange ribbons around their necks. One was filmed making a clear statement: "We're against the disengagement! I can't take this army... They brought us down here by force [to take part in the disengagement]. If we would refuse, they're threatening us with 28 days in jail - you see what's going on here?"

      According to sources in Gush Katif, the above soldier was to be tried today by his commander for making the above statement. Some youths in Gush Katif tried to locate him and place him in touch with the Lev Yehudi organization, which is providing advice and assistance for those who feel they cannot carry out disengagement orders.

      Many soldiers are not scared off by threats of punishment. Hagit Rotenberg of B'Sheva newspaper reports that Chaim Atar of the Armored Corps was sentenced to 21 days in Army Prison 4 several days ago. Atar had informed his commander that he refuses to take part in the blocking-off of Gaza to Jews. He is a student in a hesder yeshiva, combining Torah study with army service, and was offered the opportunity of taking part only indirectly in the disengagement. He refused, and is currently serving his prison term.

      Among the many soldiers who have informed their commanders, or are planning to do so, that they will not be showing up for reserve duty in the near future is Rabbi Benny Chukat. He is the rabbi of the Rescue Battalion of the Homefront Command.

      One soldier, whose brigade has since been exempted from disengagement duty because of widespread refusal, said that he was originally offered the chance not to be part of the expulsion. He turned down the offer. When his commander asked why, he said that he did not want to circumvent the disengagement - but wanted the opportunity to openly and publicly refuse orders to take part in it.

      Corp. Avi Bieber, who was sentenced to 56 days in army prison for refusing orders, has had his sentence cut in half - and his lawyer is appealing to have it cut down to nothing. Bieber was arrested on June 26 after refusing to participate in the violent suppression of protestors who sought to prevent the IDF from demolishing abandoned structures in Gush Katif. As he was being led away from the scene, a reporter asked him what was going on. "They're beating up Jews, that's what's going on," he said, visibly upset. "It's not right. It's not right and it's not just." His lawyer said that the presiding commander who sentenced Bieber did not allow him to bring witnesses on his behalf, "but rather ruled based on media reports."

      Hagit Ritterman reports that a Herzliya Town Council member, Yaron Olami, has refused to take part in the expulsion. "Dozens of other secular reserves soldiers will similarly refuse," Olami said. 'I have served in Lebanon, Shechem, Ramallah, Hevron and Gaza. I've been shot at and had car bombs blow up near me, but I never ran away from a mission, no matter how dangerous. But I will not take part in immoral orders, not even the outer siege around Gaza. I have an inner truth, a Jewish heart, integrity and responsibility, and therefore I am unable to do 'transfer' to Jews. I would rather be judged by an army general than by history."