A surprising New Year’s blessing from Israel

Here is the best gift imaginable for Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, which begins this Friday: The refusal to serve of 25 Israeli Air Force pilots. To understand why this event will shock Israelis reading their morning newspapers today, you must know that Air Force pilots are the heroes of Israel, epitomizing the best, brightest, and bravest.

Below is my quick translation of the internet article prepared by Yediot Aharonot, Israel’s largest circulation newspaper by far. Read it and savor the impact that this will have, undermining support for the occupation.

This letter is a blessing. May it catalyze a speedy end to the occupation, and presage the dawn of reason and, ultimately, peace — in the Middle East and everywhere.

Shalom / Salaam from Jerusalem

Air Force Pilots in Reserves: We Refuse to Attack in the Territories!

Pilots in Reserves and Air Crew sent the following letter today to Air Force Commander, Dan Halutz: “We are opposed to carrying out attack orders that are illegal and immoral of the type the State of Israel has been conducting in the territories.”

Twenty five pilots, former pilots, and air crew sent a petition today (Wednesday) to General Dan Halutz, Commander of the Air Force, in which they declared that they will not participate in attack missions in the territories.

An article to be published in the weekend magazine of Yediot Aharonot reports that the most outstanding name among those who signed is that of Yiftah Spector, a Brigadier General in the reserves. Spector is a mythological pilot in the Air Force, who commanded squadrons and bases, participated in the bombing of the nuclear reactor in Iraq, and was a candidate for corps commander. Young pilots are raised on battle stories about Spector and on books that he himself wrote. He still flies in the Air Force as a trainer in the reserves for the flight school.

According to those who signed the letter, “gray refusal” is already widespread in the Air Force, and includes even pilots in the standing army. There are dozens of pilots who refuse to participate in assassinations, but get out of them quietly in private arrangements with the commander of the squadron.

The weakness of the list of refuseniks, so far at least, is that only two pilots of attack helicopters signed the letter. Pilots of attack helicopters are those who carry out almost all the assassinations.

In a response to Channel 10, the Commander of the Air Force said, “This is not an earthquake in the Air Force, and it’s important to keep this in proportion. This is the first I hear of a letter like this. We have the most humane and morale army there is. This is political refusal. I don’t understand how one can refuse in advance to carry out an order that was not yet given. Political refusal is the mother of all dangers to this nation. Refusal should not be a part of our language.”

The Full Letter

“We, Air Force pilots who were raised on the values of Zionism, sacrifice, and contributing to the state of Israel, have always served on the front lines, willing to carry out any mission, whether small or large, to defend and strengthen the state of Israel.

“We, veteran and active pilots alike, who served and still serve the state of Israel for long weeks every year, are opposed to carrying out attack orders that are illegal and immoral of the type the state of Israel has been conducting in the territories.

“We, who were raised to love the state of Israel and contribute to the Zionist enterprise, refuse to take part in Air Force attacks on civilian population centers. We, for whom the Israel Defense Forces and the Air Force are an inalienable part of ourselves, refuse to continue to harm innocent civilians.

“These actions are illegal and immoral, and are a direct result of the ongoing occupation which is corrupting all of Israeli society. Perpetuation of the occupation is fatally harming the security of the state of Israel and its moral strength.

“We who serve as active pilots - fighters, leaders, and instructors of the next generation of pilots — hereby declare that we shall continue to serve in the Israel Defense Forces and the Air Force for every mission in defense of the state of Israel.”

Signed: Brigadier General Yiftah Spector, Colonel Yigal Shohat, Colonel Ran, Lieutenant Colonel Yoel Piterberg, Lieutenant Colonel David Yisraeli, Lieutenant Colonel Adam Netzer, Lieutenant Colonel Avner Ra’anan, Lieutenant Colonel Gideon Shaham, Major Haggai Tamir, Major Amir Massad, Major Gideon Dror, Major David Marcus, Major Professor Motti Peri, Major Yotam, Major Zeev Reshef, Major Reuven, Captain Assaf, Captain Tomer, Captain Ron, Captain Yonatan, Captain Allon, Captain Amnon