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The weapons are lowered

Israeli war veterans and militant Palestinians now join forces in a new peace organization to end the suffering of civilians.


[Israel] On Monday, April 10, a hundred Israeli soldiers and a hundred Palestinian activists gather in a village outside Jerusalem. They will lay down their weapons and refuse to be enemies anymore.

They call themselves Combatants for Peace, the new organization to be launched on Monday. To be a member, you must have served in Israel's armed forces or participated in a militant Palestinian organization. And then you have to put down your weapons for good, and promise to work peacefully for a solution to the conflict.

The former officers, activists and deserters do not jump off because they are satisfied with the status quo. They put down their weapons to break the spiral of violence. To end the suffering the civilians are experiencing on both sides, and to end Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories, is the stated goal.

Even the Israeli soldiers who have joined the Combatants for Peace have acknowledged that lasting peace requires the existence of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, alongside Israel.

- We are hated by everyone. The Palestinians have a hard time trusting us, and our own are turning their backs on us, says Avichai Sharon to Ny Tid.

He is a former infantryman in the IDF, the Israeli Army. He describes a situation where violence is glorified on both sides of the conflict, and where pacifist attitudes are seen as a threat.

- Almost all Israeli boys dream of becoming pilots. I did too, and I had Dad as a role model. He was the leader of his own squadron in the 1970s, and I wanted to do as he did, says Yonatan Shapira.

Yonatan Shapira is the captain and former fighter pilot in the Israeli Air Force. A couple of years ago, he led a riot in which 27 pilots deserted at the same time.

They no longer believed in the work they were doing. After numerous raids against Palestinian activists and civilians, the pilots up close had come to see the devastation they were causing, and they saw nothing good in what happened. On the contrary, there was a recognition that what they were doing contributed to more conflict and violence.

"We, who are both veterans and active pilots, who have served the State of Israel for long weeks over many years, oppose carrying out attack orders that are illegal and immoral, such as the attacks Israel is now carrying out in the Palestinian territories," the pilots wrote in an open letter when they deserted.

The mass iteration first created a scream, then the case was thrown down. Laying down the weapons is no uncontroversial act, even though the population is war-weary.

Yonatan tells Ny Tid that he feared a longer prison sentence, but he escaped.

- They prefer to imprison those who desert alone, or those who are less profiled. When 27 decorated fighter pilots do it at the same time, the attention to a trial would be too massive. That is why I am still a free man, he says.

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